Article by Joanna Sarah-Freedman
The humble Christmas sandwich may have started as a haphazard amalgamation of leftovers pulled together on Boxing Day, but nowadays pretty much every high-street establishment has its own version on shelves from mid-November.
From the Pret Christmas sandwich to the Marks and Spencer Christmas sarnie to the slightly fancier offerings of bakeries like Paul and Gails, what was once a sloppy affair, made at home after a few eggnogs, has become a winter right-of-passage – purchased on lunch breaks and enjoyed in the weeks before the Big Day by millions around the world.
Naturally, as the festive sub has grown in popularity, each brand has vied to outdo the other with a combination of flavours more Christmassy than the last.
But getting the balance right is a fine art: it needs just the right amount of cranberry sweetness; stuffing that’s packed with flavour (not claggy and bland); and perfectly moist turkey (or an alternative meat), which is a challenge in itself.
Only one of these elements needs to be off for the sandwich to turn into the festive mouthful from hell. However, when it’s done right, there really is nothing better.
So, who has nailed it this year?
Here at Twisted we rate our discerning tastebuds pretty highly – it is our job, after all. So, our whole team got together to blind-taste 16 of the ‘hero’ high-street Christmas sandwiches 2022 has to offer, chosen and sent over by the brands themselves.
In the interest of fairness, we asked everybody from our chefs to our videographers to get in on the ranking, and we all had no idea where any of the sandwiches were from. The only thing we were considering were two essential factors: Taste, and Overall Festive Vibes.
Ordered from bottom to top, here’s our analysis of this year’s selection:
Co-op’s Boxing Day Feast Christmas Sandwich (£3.25)
What is it?: “Smoked turkey, smoked ham, winter slaw and spiced chutney. No mayo”.
Average score: 4.1/10
Twisted’s verdict: Co-op’s Boxing Day Feast Christmas sandwich fell out of favour for one key reason – the meat to coleslaw ratio.
If you’re promising a Boxing Day feast, that’s what you’ve gotta deliver, but unfortunately this one tasted more like turkey salad.
Whilst there was nothing wrong with the smoked ham and turkey (or the spiced chutney, which was a nice touch) it’s safe to say the majority of the team thought the slaw was too abundant.
Of course, Co-op may have been trying to mix things up by avoiding the likes of red cabbage or cranberry, but the overall consensus was that the Christmassiness was lacking.
Sainsbury’s Ultimate Christmas Dinner Feast Sandwich (£4.50)
What is it?: “Seasoned and sweetened roasted carrot and parsnip, ham hock, gravy mayonnaise, apple and apricot chutney with orange juice and champagne, smoked turkey, cranberries and spinach in a white roll with gravy granules.”
Average score: 5.4/10
Twisted’s verdict: Let’s be honest, this sandwich wasn’t a looker to begin with, but it probably didn’t help that we had to chop it into messy taste-test sized pieces shortly after this picture was taken.
With a name like Taste The Difference Christmas Dinner Feast we expected quite a lot from it, nonetheless. Stuffed with loads of delightful sounding bits like roasted root veg, two fruit chutneys, smoked turkey, ham and a bun infused with gravy granules, there’s no denying this was a sandwich that did everything it could to pull out all the stops.
But ultimately, like with Co-op, it was the accompaniments that let this sandwich down. The combination of roasted veg, an apple and an apricot chutney meant that everything just tasted a little bit too sweet for some of the team’s taste.
Saying that, there were others who gave Sainsbury’s props for being inventive, and bringing something different in a sea of turkey sandwiches.
Gail’s Christmas Sandwich with Smoked Turkey and Swiss Cheese(£7)
What is it?: “White sourdough, delicately roasted turkey and creamy Mayfield Swiss, a sweet and creamy Emmental style cheese from Alsop and Walker in East Sussex, all topped with lashings of sweet bacon jam, smokey chipotle aioli and rocket.”
Average score: 6/10
Twisted’s verdict: A crusty sourdough sarnie is always a lovely thing, especially when the bread is freshly baked.
So, there weren’t many complaints about Gail’s addition to the Christmas sandwich rankings. In fact, it tasted like a sandwich you’d knock together at home, if you had some really good quality ingredients knocking about.
‘Why didn’t it score higher, then?,’ you’re probably asking. Firstly, if we’re being honest, it wasn’t that festive at all, minus the turkey. Secondly, some of the team weren’t sure about the addition of a Swiss cheese – or any cheese, for that matter – in a Christmas sarnie.
That’s a debate for another day, but if you’re after an under-stated (but admittedly tasty) Christmas sandwich, by all means give this a go.
Waitrose Pigs Under Blankets Christmas Sandwich (£3.69)
What is it?: “A sandwich made with pork sausage, cranberry and redcurrant chutney, smoked bacon and mayonnaise in sliced malted bread.”
Average score: 6.3/10
Twisted’s verdict: If Gail’s was a little too subtle, Waitrose may as well have said pass me the sausages. They sent us their Pigs Under Blankets sandwich, which was packed full of porky bangers (and good quality ones, at that).
Like your mum’s festive canapé platter stuffed between two slices of malted bread, taste-wise, there was no complaints from the Twisted team, here. Although, it wasn’t a standout, either.
To bring out the Christmassy vibes and moisten it up a bit, this could have benefited from a heftier dollop of cranberry and redcurrant chutney. Otherwise, it could easily be confused for a sausage sarnie.
Saying that, a meaty mouthful of sausage and bacon is never a bad thing – even if eating the whole thing could send you into a food coma.
Morrisons Christmas Lunch Sandwich (£2.75)
What is it?: “A sandwich made from turkey, bacon, stuffing and cranberry chutney on malted bread”.
Average score: 6.4/10
Twisted’s verdict: Ever fancied a stuffing sandwich? Honestly, at Christmas, anything goes.
That’s pretty much what Morrisons’ Christmas sandwich offers – and we’re not that mad at it. You’ll also find some turkey, bacon and a vague hint of cranberry in the mix here, but really, the stuffing is the main event.
Was this the most refined Christmas sandwich we’ve ever eaten? No. But whilst definitely…stodgy, there was a pleasant herby-ness to the Morrison’s offering. And, really, who doesn’t enjoy a bit of stodge at Christmas?
The chutney stopped this sandwich from tasting too dry, but it could have done with another saucy component, and perhaps a more generous helping of bacon.
Paul’s Christmas Turkey Sandwich (£5.15)
What is it?: “A delightful combination of turkey, smoky bacon, fresh spinach, mayonnaise and horseradish sauce all housed in a Paul sage, onion and cranberry baguette”.
Average score: 6.8/10
Twisted’s verdict: Another bakery offering, and this one doesn’t muck about. Paul presented us with a sage, onion and cranberry baguette stuffed with turkey, bacon and plenty of trimmings, and very decent it was, too.
Now, it’s worth noting that we were sampling 16 sarnies, the vast majority filled with turkey and bacon, so trust us when we say this one is actually worth ordering.
There was high praise for the bread itself and for the smart addition of spicy horseradish into the mix, although one of our videographers did complain that it was “too meaty”. Surely, in a Christmas sandwich, there is no such thing?!
Our only conclusion as to why this didn’t score higher was that, whilst a proper nice sandwich, it just paled into the background a little amongst some of the more festive offerings.
Pret’s Christmas Lunch Sandwich (£5.95)
What is it?: “Thick slices of British turkey with port and orange cranberry sauce, herby pork stuffing and baby spinach leaves. Finished with a dab of free range mayo and crispy onions.”
Average score: 6.9/10
Twisted’s verdict: To many, Pret a Manger are the undisputed Kings of the Christmas sandwich… but how would they fare when subjected to a blind taste test? Turns out, middle of the road.
This doesn’t take away from the fact that the Pret Christmas sandwich is objectively good. Texturally, this sandwich benefited from a decent crunch, thanks to the herby stuffing. Plus, the layer of spinach helped to cushion the meatiness nicely and ensure everything wasn’t too heavy.
They didn’t scrimp on the port and orange chutney, either, which made things distinctly festive. However, some of the Twisted team thought it was a little too sweet compared to some of the other Christmassy condiments.
Costa’s Brie, Bacon and Cranberry Christmas Panini (£5.25)
What is it?: “Creamy brie slices with maple cured bacon and sweet cranberry sauce in a stone-baked sourdough panini”.
Average score: 7.2/10
Twisted’s verdict: Costa decided to send us a toastie this year, and we were all for it. In fact, this one only just missed edging it into the top half of our list.
A brief respite from all of the turkey, this warm, cheesy offering went down a treat with a lot of the Twisted team (despite the ‘cheese in a Christmas sandwich’ debate rearing its head again).
The cranberry sauce reminded us all that this was a festive affair – and a lot of cranberry there was, too.
It’s fair to say there wasn’t a lot of complexity of flavour in this sandwich, compared to some of the others on offer, and this probably explains the mediocre ranking.
But you can’t go wrong with brie and cranberry, can you? A solid lunch time choice if you pass a Costa.
Caffé Nero’s Turkey Feast Focaccia (£5.25)
What’s in it?: “Butter basted turkey, beechwood smoked bacon, pork stuffing with cranberry sauce in a rosemary focaccia.”
Average score: 7.2/10
Twisted’s verdict: A focaccia… at Christmas? You’re likely as surprised as Twisted‘s co-founder, Tom, that this tied with Costa.
That being said, not even he could argue with the fact the focaccia – whilst untraditional – made a nice change from all the malted bread, and the taste was on point, too.
This toasted Christmas sandwich was filled with more of the same… turkey, bacon and pork stuffing, but it benefitted from being served warm, and from the fact the bread was crispy and well seasoned.
They didn’t scrimp on the cranberry here, either, which was welcome. However, despite the overall pleasant taste, a lot of people couldn’t quite get their heads around the idea of a focaccia being festive, which affected the overall rating.
Put your Christmassy preconceptions away and we reckon you’ll enjoy this one.
ASDA’s Jolly Festive Feast Christmas Sandwich (£3)
Whats in it?: “Turkey breast, pigs under blankets, stuffing, gravy mayo and cranberry and port sauce on malted bread”.
Average score: 7.3/10
Twisted’s verdict: There’s no denying that ASDA threw everything and the kitchen sink at their festive sarnie this year. Gravy mayo, cranberry sauce, pigs in blankets, turkey and stuffing? They’re basically offering a roast dinner in some bread.
It could have been chaos, but there was actually strong praise for the balance of this well-packed sandwich. Crispy sausage slices and bacon added bite alongside the turkey, stuffing brought a nice density and the two sauces glued the whole thing together nicely.
We all know that gravy on Christmas dinner is a must, so why haven’t more brands thought to use gravy mayo? This was also a winner, and added a nice saltiness which complimented the sweet cranberry sauce.
Some people thought this one could have had a little bit more sauce (perhaps because it was so meaty), but you can’t win ’em all. The general consensus was that we’d all eat this one again.
Greggs’ Pigs Under Blanket Christmas Baguette (£3.50)
What’s in it?: “Perfectly cooked pork sausages with smoked sweetcure bacon topped with pork, onion & sage stuffing, wonderfully garnished with cranberry and port sauce in a freshly baked crusty white baguette”.
Average score: 7.4/10
Twisted’s verdict: Ah, Greggs. We know they’re the bosses of the sausage roll game, but how do their Christmas sandwiches fare?
They sent us a toastie to try this year, and took pigs in blankets as their filling inspo. Now, at this point, we’d all eaten a lot of pork, but Greggs’ offering was tasty enough that we managed to wolf it down, too.
The fact that it was toasted was a nice touch, and you could definitely taste the fresh, white baguette that had likely come out the oven not long before we ate it.
Unsurprisingly, the sausage was on point here, too, and this – alongside a generous helping of crispy bacon and just the right amount of festive cranberry and port sauce – meant that this festive baguette pleased the crowds.
Aldi’s Turkey and Trimmings Christmas Toastie (£1.75)
What’s in it?: “Béchamel sauce and grilled cheese topped white bread with cooked butter basted turkey, pork, sage and onion stuffing, grated mozzarella, chunky cranberry chutney and beechwood smoked streaky bacon.”
Average score: 7.5/10
Twisted’s verdict: If this guide shows one thing, it’s that a hot Christmas offering is always going to gain some fans. Aldi’s Turkey and Trimmings Christmas toastie is the cheapest of the bunch, and yet it still made it into our triumphant top five.
Not too dissimilar to a croque madame, this sandwich was coated in béchamel and cheddar cheese, and stuffed with mozzarella, which oozed delightfully as you bit into it.
Truth be told, it didn’t scream Christmas, but the turkey reminded us that this wasn’t just any cheese toastie, as did the chunky cranberry chutney and the addition of smoked bacon.
Even the biggest ‘cheese on Christmas sandwich’ naysayer was converted by this one, proving what we all know to be true – you just can’t argue with a béchamel.
Lidl’s Turkey Feast Christmas Sandwich (£1.99)
What’s in it?: “British turkey breast, smoked streaky bacon and pork, sage and onion stuffing with cranberry sauce, smooth mayonnaise and fresh onions, on rich malted bread.”
Average score: 7.7/10
Twisted’s verdict: Would you believe it? Lidl made it into the top four. This is another bargain Christmas sandwich we’d heartily recommend.
The amount of meat packed into this sarnie was truly impressive, and not only that, the Twisted team found its flavours to be some of the most balanced of the lot. There was a decent sauce to meat ratio and each ingredient got a chance to sing.
Special shout out to the fresh onions in this, and to the mayo, which ensured that not a crumb of stuffing tasted dry.
This could have been improved with the addition of some fresh herbs, but for under two quid, you can’t argue with the Christmassy vibes.
M&S’ Christmas Club Sandwich (£4.50)
What’s in it?: “Three slices of toasted oatmeal bread with succulent roast British chicken, maple bacon, tangy cranberry chutney, stuffing, spinach, spiced pickled red cabbage and our signature gravy mayo.”
Average score: 7.8/10
Twisted’s verdict: Marks and Spencer literally invented the boxed sandwich (no joke, you can read about that here) so it shouldn’t come as too much of a shock that they landed in our top three.
They brought a triple decker club sandwich to the table, which is always going to be a winner in our books. We mean, who can argue with a sandwich so big that it needs two hands to pick up?
The extra layer meant extra room for flavour, and the good folks at Marks and Spencer certainly delivered that. They packed it full of chicken, bacon, and an incredible gravy mayo (yes, the second one of the day).
The pickled red cabbage was the only point of contention amongst the Twisted team, much in the same way that there’s always a few people who steer clear it when it’s passed around the Christmas dinner table.
Still, the sandwich was well balanced, generous and distinctly Christmassy. You can’t ask for much more than that.
Starbucks’ Pigs Under Blanket Christmas Roll (£4.89)
What’s in it?: “Pork sausage, smoked bacon, sage & onion mayonnaise, Cheddar cheese and cranberry chutney on a Vienna roll.”
Average score: 8.1/10
Twisted’s verdict: This Starbucks Pigs Under Blanket roll combined a lot of the best aspects of a high-street Christmas sandwich.
Rather than throwing half of the Christmas dinner table at us, Starbucks achieved their runner up spot by offering meat that was good quality and festive flavours that were present but not over-stated.
The sage and onion mayo pulled everything together and complimented the onions perfectly. Plus, they easily offered one of the best breads of the day – a Vienna roll with a crispy outer shell and a soft centre.
By this point, you’ll know that everyone in the office is a sucker for a warm sarnie, so that definitely kept us sweet, too.
Bonus points for being the only Christmas sandwich that left the Twisted team unanimous. Trust us, that’s no mean feat.
Tesco’s Turkey and Trimmings Christmas Sandwich (£3)
What’s in it?: “Turkey breast, mayonnaise, sausage, cranberry sauce, sage and onion stuffing, sweetcure bacon in malted bread”.
Average score: 8.4/10
Twisted’s verdict: We have a winner, folks! Truth be told, we didn’t really rate Tesco’s Christmas sandwich last year, but this year it’s only gone and landed itself top of the list.
We’re gonna have to say that word that everyone hates, because it’s particularly relevant, here. The reason that Tesco scored number one is because it was moist, thanks to a tart cranberry sauce and the healthy dollop of mayo that sat alongside it.
Not only that, the wholegrain bread was tasty, there was a generous amount of turkey and just the right amount of stuffing and bacon to make up a proper festive mouthful. If we had a check list, this sandwich would be pretty much be ticking all the boxes.
Of course, we’re not saying this is the best Christmas sandwich ever. There are independent sandwich shops which quite frankly thrash all of these on the ‘reg. But if you’re looking to grab a Christmas sandwich on the high-street this year, then there are certainly some strong contenders out there.
And with that, we wish you a merry lunch-break!