Gone are the days when Christmas sandwiches were the preserve of Boxing Day, using up the scraps from the main event. Now leftover-inspired sandwiches appear in the shops up to two months before Christmas – and these sarnies are big business. Any supermarket or high street lunch purveyor worth its salt has its own offering, and normally not just one, but up to a dozen different options for the festive sandwich connoisseur. So how do you make the decision when faced with so may choices? Never fear: Spectator Life is here to do the hard work for you. Our Vintage Chef, Olivia Potts, led our crack team of tasters who sampled a selection of festive offerings and reports back with the results…
Pret A Manger
Alongside a menu including festive winter salad and a ham hock and sprout macaroni cheese, Pret have three main Christmas lunch sandwiches this year: one for meat-lovers, one vegetarian and one vegan. 50p from each sandwich goes to Pret’s homelessness charity trust.
Pret’s Christmas Lunch Sandwich (£3.75)
Turkey breast, pork and apricot stuffing, baby spinach, crispy onions and a port and orange sauce. The fêted Pret Christmas sandwich is back: but does it live up to the hype? Mostly, yes. Good quality meat and stuffing make this a strong choice for a Christmas lunch sandwich: the orange in the cranberry sauce is lovely, if slightly unusual, and the spinach breaks up what can otherwise be a rather beige affair. 8/10
Very Merry Christmas Lunch Sandwich (£3.50)
Pret’s Vegan Christmas Sandwich combines grilled carrots, vegan stuffing, spinach, pecans, crispy onions, and a port and orange cranberry sauce. This was super popular with our testers: sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, and the vegan stuffing was a hit – and it features the same cranberry sauce as the turkey Pret sandwich. ‘You wouldn’t know it was vegan!’ exclaimed one of our testers, which we took to be a compliment. 8/10
Pret’s Veggie Christmas Lunch Sandwich (£3.50)
Butternut squash is the main player here, combined with pesto, rocket, a yoghurt and mayo dressing and crispy onions. The butternut squash gives body to Pret’s veggie offering, the pesto is delicious and what person in their right mind passes up on crispy onions? But it lacks a festive je ne sais quoi, despite the pesto which Pret describe as a ‘nutty Christmas pesto’. It’s a great veggie sandwich, says one of our testers: but is it a great Christmas sandwich? 6/10
Marks and Spencer
The Marks and Spencer sandwich range is bigger than ever this year, offering everything from the traditional Christmas lunch sandwich to lobster thermidor brioche buns via roast beef with add-your-own Yorkshire pudding scraps. 5% of the sale of each sandwich goes to the homelessness charity Shelter. As well as vegetarian and vegan options, a gluten free turkey feast is also available.
Help Shelter Turkey Feast (£3.50)
M&S stick close to the archetype here with this malted bread sandwich filled with turkey, stuffing, bacon, mayo and cranberry sauce. A well-filled sandwich that, despite the lack of greenery, looks brighter and more attractive than its contemporaries. Neither the bread nor the sandwich fall apart when picked up, and the filling is not only generous, but delicious: well-seasoned stuffing, moist turkey, the right amount of both mayonnaise and cranberry sauce, and not too sweet. No gimmicks here, just a really, really great sandwich Even our salad-fiend judge concedes that its lack of foliage can’t stop it being a stand out winner for meat eaters. Winner, winner, turkey dinner. 9/10
Help Shelter Vegan Chestnut Roast Wrap (£2.80)
A red pepper wrap filled with nut roast, mixed grains and a grape and cranberry chutney. An elegant and prettily coloured wrap makes this a visually tempting sandwich, but the filling didn’t live up to this promise: less generously filled than the M&S meat sandwich, the grains were a welcome addition, but the nut roast and chutney were uninspiring, and a little sloppy. ‘I don’t think I’d try this again’, said our veggie tester. 4/10
Starbucks have a few new Christmas sandwiches on their menu this year, alongside a proliferation of Christmassy drinks: the turkey feast panini, a turkey club flatbread and two vegetarian options – the three cheese cranberry panini and (inexplicably) a poached egg hollandaise Croissant Bun.
Turkey Feast Panini (£4.60)
The Starbucks panini contains turkey, bacon and cranberry and tastes, to be honest, a bit tired. There’s a reason why we tend to stuff our Christmas leftovers into doorstep wodges of bread. The lack of cheese means that – although it’s nice change to have a hot sandwich – the panini feels lacking in cohesion, and unsatisfying. That’s not to say there isn’t room for a truly excellent Christmas toastie, but this isn’t it. ‘It sort of fails at being both a panini and a Christmas sandwich, doesn’t it?’ says one of our more brutal testers. 2/10
Waitrose have been ballsy this year in their Christmas sandwich selection and eschewed the traditional turkey sandwich in favour of a ‘pigs under blankets’ meat option.
Pigs under Blankets (£3.75)
A pretty simple offering from Waitrose for their main meat Christmas sandwich: just pork sausages, beechwood bacon, and cranberry sauce on malted bread. A pleasant Christmas sandwich, well structured with great bread, and good quality meat, but a little bit Christmas-sandwich-by numbers. 6/10
Wensleydale & Roasted Winter Vegetable (£3.70)
Creamed Wensleydale cheese and maple roasted veg are paired with a kale and sprout mayo on granary bread. Our testers weren’t sure about this on first taste, but it’s a real grower. The sprout mayonnaise is delicious, although does get a little lost alongside the Wensleydale. The roasted vegetables are great, with the parsnip adding real festive flavour, and the Wensleydale is fab. For one of the testers, this was the best veggie sandwich on offer. 8/10
The Sainsburys range this year includes a normal turkey sandwich, a turkey feast wrap, a pigs under blankets (very trendy, this year), a pretty uninspiring veggie option of brie and grape, and an extremely silly bun-based sandwich, packaged to look like a snow globe.
Turkey Feast (£3.25)
Turkey, bacon, stuffing, cranberry sauce, greenery. This is a fine sandwich: there’s nothing to particularly recommend or criticise: it’s moist, well-filled, and the leaves break up what could otherwise be a little bit stodgy, but it’s not terribly memorable. 6/10
Snow Globe (£3.50)
A brioche bun filled with turkey breast, beechwood smoked bacon, pork stuffing, Brussel sprout slaw, cranberry and port sauce, spinach, and mayonnaise. The packaging is designed to make this bun look like its inside a snow globe but the icing on the cake are teeny tiny gold stars stuck to the top of the bun. This is a bonkers sandwich, there’s no denying it. For something which is most likely to be eaten as a desk lunch, the enormous packaging and tiny gold stars seem… otiose. But do you know what? This is an absolutely cracking Christmas sandwich. Great brioche bun – not too sweet! – good filling, and the sprout slaw is a really nice addition. Gimmicky it may be, but our testers were impressed. And the price point is lower than its appearance suggests. 8/10
Boots aren’t messing around: the Boots Christmas sandwich has been on the shelves since the beginning of October. Their range includes the classic turkey feast, another sausage and bacon sandwich called – like Waitrose and Sainsburys – ‘pigs under blankets’ and a veggie parnsip fritter and butternut squash. All the Christmas sandwiches are included in Boots’ meal deal.
Turkey, Bacon, Stuffing & Cranberry (£2.75)
A straightforward choice from Boots: turkey, bacon, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Does what it says on the tin. There’s a good amount of meat in this sandwich, and the bacon is lovely – there’s a lot of mayo which split our tasting panel, some liked it, otherwise found it overwhelming, complaining there was nothing to cut through it. Fine if you’re craving a Christmas sandwich, but nothing to write home about. 5/10