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What is a Submarine Sandwich?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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A submarine sandwich, sometimes called a sub sandwich or simply a sub, is a substantial sandwich made from a variety of cold cuts, sliced cheeses and condiments such as shredded lettuce and sliced tomatoes. The ingredients are assembled on a long roll or baguette and finished off with an oil and vinegar dressing. The roll's resemblance to an actual military submarine gives this sandwich its name.

There are a number of different theories on the origin of the submarine sandwich, from an Italian immigrant's recollection of a raised submarine to a Boston, Massachusetts sandwich maker's most popular offering to nearby naval personnel. In general, the shape of the often specially baked bread roll resembles the rounded tubular shape of a genuine submarine, although modern subs do not always adhere to that standard.

Considering the number of meats, cheeses and condiments available, a modern submarine sandwich could be anything from a basic ham and cheese sandwich to an overstuffed Dagwood-style monstrosity. Most feature two or three cold cuts, typically ham, salami and bologna, and a mild cheese such as provolone, American or mozzarella. A generous supply of shredded lettuce and thinly sliced tomatoes give the sandwich some moisture, and a dash of an oily vinaigrette adds a slightly acidic bite.

If the sandwich is created in an authentic Italian deli, it may contain spicier Italian cold cuts such as salami, prosciutto and pepperoni. Olives, pickles, pepperoncinis and other flavorful condiments may also be added to make it more savory. Although the original submarine sandwiches were served cold, a modern one may be heated under broiler elements until the cheese melts and the meat has been warmed thoroughly.

There are subtle or not-so-subtle differences between various cold cut sandwiches, but the same basic submarine sandwich may be known as a hoagie, a grinder, a bomber or a hero in different regions of the United States.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to DelightedCooking, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By anon195847 — On Jul 12, 2011

a truly great sub must be heated in a pizza oven to melt the cheese and toast the bread. The shredded lettuce should be saturated in oil and vinegar italian dressing until wilted.

By LisaLou — On Jun 08, 2011

I always think of Subway as being the company who really made subs popular, and the first submarine sandwich franchise. I don't know what makes some more popular than others, because there have been many of them, but some have not done very well. I always like Quizno's, but you don't see as many of them as Subway.

We often make subs at home, but when ever we take a trip we almost always stop at a Subway somewhere. You know the quality of food will be good and the prices are reasonable. It is also nice that everyone can choose what they want on their own sandwich too.

By myharley — On Jun 07, 2011

We always have subs when we go camping because they are so easy. If someone were to ask me how to make a submarine sandwich, I would tell them there is no way you can go wrong. To me it is just a matter of putting on whatever you like. You can be as creative as you want and use all kinds of different bread and toppings.

I will eat them hot or cold, but toasted subs are my favorite. I love the melted cheese and warm bread. If I can't have it toasted, I will usually put it in the microwave for a little bit to warm it up.

By julies — On Jun 06, 2011

One of my favorite things about sub sandwiches is that they are great for feeding a crowd. When my kids have lots of friends over, making subs is something we do often.

It is much cheaper than going to subway and the kids enjoy making them. Because everyone likes different toppings, I jus lay out the bread, condiments, meats, vegetables and cheeses and let them make their own.

Everyone is happy and likes what they have and the clean up is a breeze.

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick


As a frequent contributor to DelightedCooking, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
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