Whenever we need a quick yet comforting treat, a homemade fried bologna sandwich never disappoints. It combines the salty, meaty goodness of fried bologna slices with the heartiness of buttery bread and tangy condiments. Making this sandwich only requires a few ingredients and 10 minutes. And to take it to the delicious next level, we spoke to two top chefs for their tricks for perfectly fried bologna, plus delicious ways to upgrade this childhood staple.
The ingredients in a classic fried bologna sandwich
A traditional fried bologna sandwich consists of pan-fried bologna slices, mayonnaise and white bread. Some folks also like to add in mustard for a zesty kick. Once sliced, the bologna is pan-fried in bacon grease, oil or butter until the slices golden brown and crispy. Afterwards, one to four bologna slices are layered onto each sandwich along with the other fillings.
The origins of fried bologna sandwiches
The exact history of the fried bologna sandwich isn’t widely known. But, bologna’s rise in US popularity during the 20th century as an accessible lunchmeat option is believed to have inspired this sandwich’s creation in the South. In this region, bologna has long been fried and added to sandwiches for breakfast or lunch. The love for this sandwich eventually spread throughout the country, where it’s considered to be a quintessential childhood lunch or afternoon snack.
The secret to making the best fried bologna sandwich
Although frying the bologna creates a crunchy exterior, the slices tend to curl up in the pan because they’re so light, which prevents the bologna from cooking evenly. The easy solution? Simply start with thicker slices — since they’re denser and weigh more, they don’t curl up. You can try Oscar Mayer’s Hearty Thick Cut Bologna Deli Lunch Meat (Buy from Walmart, $2.48). But Robbie Shoults, celebrity chef and owner of Bear Creek Smokehouse, prefers his even thicker and likes to use slices that are ¼-inch thick, which you can request from your local deli counter.
The other secret for a perfect fried bologna sandwich? Maria J. Silva, chef and appliance expert for OvenWave.com, scores her slices before frying, which helps them to stay flat. “Make a 1-inch ‘X’ in the center of each slice of bologna,” she says. “This will help to release the air and prevent the bologna from curling up.”
Our favorite classic fried bologna sandwich recipe
A traditional fried bologna sandwich is mouthwatering and hard to beat. Below, Shoults shares his simple recipe that comes together in less than 10 minutes.
- 2 slices country-hearty bread
- 1 thick-cut bologna slice
- Mayonnaise to taste (enough for both sides of bread)
- 1 Tbs. unsalted butter, bacon grease or olive oil
- Heat small skillet over medium heat.
- Score bologna so there’s 1-inch “X” in center.
- Place butter, bacon, grease or oil in pan and allow to heat for few seconds. Add bologna to pan and fry for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown and cooked through.
- Remove bologna slice from pan and let cool for 1 minute. Spread desired amount of mayo on both sides of bread. Place bologna on 1 of bread slices and top with the other. Enjoy!
- Note: This recipe doesn’t include mustard, but you can smear it on the bread as you’re building the sandwich.
10 ways to upgrade a fried bologna sandwich
Looking to give your fried bologna sandwich a flavor boost? Silva has plenty of ideas that will satisfy your taste buds. Here are 10 ways she suggests taking a sandwich to the next level.
- Use a different type of bread. Consider options like sourdough, ciabatta, rye bread or even artisanal rolls for extra flavor and texture.
- Grill or toast the bread. Toasting or grilling the bread before assembling the sandwich adds a delightful crunch and enhances the overall taste.
- Experiment with gourmet or flavored condiments. Try using Dijon mustard, honey mustard, spicy mayo, chipotle aioli or even a tangy relish for an exciting twist.
- Add caramelized onions to the sandwich. Sauté some thinly sliced onions until they turn golden brown and caramelized. Layer them on the sandwich for sweetness and depth of flavor.
- Infuse the sandwich with a spicy kick. If you enjoy heat, add some sliced jalapeños, banana peppers or spicy pickles.
- Try melting different kinds of cheese over the fried bologna. Consider using provolone, Swiss, pepper jack or gouda for a gooey and flavorful experience.
- Unlock the flavor power of pickles. Try using bread and butter pickles or dill pickles to add tanginess and zing to your sandwich. Also, pickles can balance the richness of the bologna.
- Include avocado in your sandwich. For a creamy and fresh element, layer slices of avocado or spread some guacamole on your sandwich. This adds a rich, buttery texture and a burst of flavor.
- Freshen up the sandwich with leafy greens. Add a pop of freshness by including some crisp lettuce leaves, baby spinach or arugula in your sandwich. They provide a contrasting crunch and a healthy touch.
- Smear tomato jam on the bread. Instead of using plain tomato slices, spread some sweet and tangy tomato jam on the bread for an elevated flavor experience. Try: Mrs. Miller’s Homemade Tomato Jam (Buy from Nuts.com, $6.99)
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