The Essential California Sandwich Recipe

The Essential California Sandwich

Back when we lived in the Silicon Valley, whenever I ordered a sandwich, I would invariably and happily go for the California sandwich. Not only did it sound most appropriate given the location, but avocado is among my best friends, and sprouts are a fantastic addition, adding the perfect peppery crunch to its comforting and sweet tenderness.

I have had many different types of California sandwiches, with different types of bread and cheese, some vegetarian and some with turkey or even bacon, some with tomatoes and some with roasted red pepper, some without greens and some with spinach leaves.

But to me, the essence of the California sandwich lies in the combination of avocado and sprouts, hugged by excellent good-for-you bread and a mellow kind of cheese.

So when I got avocados in my Campanier order the other day, I quickly started a batch of sprouts. When the avocados were ripe and the sprouts had grown, I bought mozzarella and multigrain bread, for a delighful trip down memory lane, flying on the wings of this simple and scrumptious sandwich.

The Essential California Sandwich

– 2 slices of multigrain bread
– 30 g (1 oz) buffalo mozzarella
– half of a small avocado
– a handful of mixed sprouts
– salt, pepper, piment d’Espelette (or red pepper flakes)

(Serves one. Selfish, I know.)

Slice the avocado and the mozzarella thinly. Arrange the mozzarella one of the bread slices, avocado on the other. Sprinkle both with salt, pepper and piment d’Espelette.

Arrange the sprouts on top of the avocado, and close the sandwich by carefully flipping the mozzarella-lined bread slice over the sprouts.

Press with your hand so everything adheres together. It’s best to give the flavors a little time to meld, so wrap the sandwich in pastic wrap and store in the fridge for a few hours if you can. Take out of the fridge about 30 minutes before eating, to bring back to room temperature.

  • I had never heard of this before, but it sounds great. The turkey additon sounds good too. Maybe I should try both :-)

  • Ah, you’re almost making me miss California :) I’m thinking this would also work nicely as a wrap, possibly even *more* convenient to eat than a sandwich.

  • When I first moved to California, I was shocked at the abundance of avocados. Now when I return home to Chicago or back to the East Coast, I’m shocked that I can’t find avocados anywhere. This sandwich makes me want to run out and make my own. Mmmmmmm.

  • On the east coast these kinds of sandwiches often have a little vinaigrette added. Sometimes it’s just lemon juice and olive oil, sometimes it’s a heavy balsamic vinaigrette that wilts the sprouts. A little acid is good for the sandwich, but you have to add it right before you eat it so it doesn’t make everything soggy.

  • Alberto – Yes, turkey works very well with this! Crispy bacon too, although not as good for you, hence not as Californian! :)

    Nattie – You’re right, wraps are great too! But in Paris, grocery stores sell only one brand of tortillas, and it’s not that convincing… Oh how I miss Trader Joe’s tortillas!

    Jenny – Most avocados in Paris haven’t left me a very lasting impression, but these, maybe because they were organic, were excellent!

    Jeremy – Very true, something tangy would be a great addition. I considered spreading a little mustard on one of the bread slices, it may work without making the sandwich soggy…

  • As a native Californian, and a Northern Californian at that, I admit that you have hit the nail on the head with this sandwich. There were many years where you couldn’t get an avocado sandwich without sprouts, on wheat bread too, that’ s a must. I myself really really don’t like sprouts. In our family with have a yummy alternative to the sprout and avocado sandwich. Dad calls it the “ALT” – Avocado, Lettuce, and Tomato – on toasted French bread. It’s sort of like a BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato), except with avocado. My favorite of course is the ALT with bacon – the BALT.

    All to avoid sprouts.


  • Didn’t the California avocado growers’ association have billboards out advertising the BALT (or, rather, the “vowel missing from your BLT”)? I love sprouts on sandwiches, and being able to spell BLAST with my lunch is just a bonus =)

  • Denny’s used to serve a very similar grilled veggie sandwich.

    It was served on sourdough bread and it was probally cooked, using a sandwich press, because it was always served with a very consistant form of crunchy flatness.

    And salsa.

  • Elise and Yami – I love the acronymic names of these sandwiches! And Elise, what is it you dislike about sprouts? Because they actually come in all tastes and textures, depending on what seeds you use…

    Jacob – Good Lord, I had forgotten about Denny’s! Terrible terrible food we had there… They took the concept of “bland turkey sandwich” to a whole new level I had no idea existed!

  • Well, I guess it wouldn’t be fair to say I dislike “all” sprouts, just mainly the alfalfa sprouts they put in sandwiches. Perhaps it was from having too many sandwiches in my youth with about an inch thick layer of these sprouts. Too much. And now I simply don’t like them. Don’t like bean sprouts either – you know the kind that go into Chinese stir-fry?

    However, I love radish sprouts and sunflower seed sprouts – very spicey and nutty. BTW, here’s a good link showing the different kinds of sprouts –

  • Caitriana

    I, too, am a displaced Californian, currently living in New York City and soon to be further displaced to the European continent. The idea of being able to “start a batch of sprouts” and then have it within the time it takes for an avocado to ripen is fascinating to me. I was hoping to get more information about this process. What sorts of supplies are involved? What sort of conditions work best? I am also a passionate gardner lacking any venue, currently, in which I can placate my desires for freshly grown ingredients. Do you, by any chance, know of any other plants that might flourish despite being apartment bound?

  • Elise – Thanks for the link, it is very interesting indeed!

    Caitriana – I think sprouts are pretty forgiving. You just need to get a sprouter and some seeds, put them some place warm, and water them twice a day… Another nice thing to grow in an apartment is a herb garden (basil, mint, tarragon, thyme…) when spring comes back. They can live in your kitchen or on the window sill.

  • In Portland, Oregon, we call the BALT the “BLT & A”. I like the wordplay. (T&A = Tits & Ass)

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