Fried bologna sandwiches are a retro favorite, courtesy of Dad

I’ve written before about how my mom was the primary cook for our family during my childhood. It’s not that my dad didn’t like to cook or that he wasn’t good at it, but the division of labor was set up so that he primarily worked outside of the home while my mother mostly worked within. (Now that he’s retired, my dad spends much more time preparing meals for himself and my mom.)

After his family-famous sweet potato pies and beloved beans and cornbread, one of the next foods I associate with my dad is fried bologna sandwiches.

My dad grew up eating fried bologna sandwiches, a dish that has been passed down through generations. I have vague memories of him making them for my brother and me as a late-night snack or perhaps packing them to take with us on a Saturday morning fishing trip.

The sandwiches are rather simple. Slices of bologna, which for us always came from the familiar yellow and red Oscar Mayer package, are fried - or, more accurately, griddled - in a skillet until browned to your liking. (Like with hot dogs, I prefer them to be a little charred.) Then grab a couple of slices of sandwich bread, add a good squiggle of yellow mustard, and you’re in for some mighty fine eating.

My brother claims there was also “sandwich spread” - which is sort of a mix of mayonnaise and relish (and something I completely forgot existed until now) - but all I can remember is the mustard.

In honor of Father’s Day, I decided to revisit this classic Southern sandwich and staple of my youth. However, I didn’t want to write a recipe that was just bread, bologna and mustard. Instead, I wanted to create a sandwich with a few extra bells and whistles that captures my palate in this phase of my life.

It all starts with the bologna.

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d eaten bologna, but revisiting this sandwich might make me add it to my next grocery list. Instead of the prepackaged variety you’d find in the aisle with the rest of the refrigerated deli meats, head over to the deli counter. One of the main reasons is that you can ask the deli clerk to cut the meat into thick slices to make the sandwiches feel more substantial. The other is that the brands you can find there are often more flavorful. (I enjoyed the flavor and texture of Boar’s Head beef bologna when developing this recipe.)

Bologna slices have a tendency to curl and cup when they’re frying in a pan. The one trick that any fried bologna aficionado will tell you, regardless of what kind of meat you use, is that you need to cut slits into the slices to help them stay flat while cooking.

Further upgrades to this super sandwich include adding pimento cheese for creamy tang, potato chips for extra crunch, and an array of more standard sandwich toppings, such as lettuce, pickles, tomato and onion. But that’s just the beginning. In a question I posted to social media, people told me that they’ve also added fried eggs, coleslaw, chow-chow, different types of cheese, and, quite surprisingly, peanut butter and jelly (though never on the same sandwich). Take this as encouragement to griddle some deli meat and make the fried bologna sandwich of your dreams.

And to address the elephant in the room: Those looking to limit their sodium intake may be aghast when they look at the nutritional info for this recipe. Remember, this is not an everyday lunch sandwich. It’s a deluxe version of a nostalgic favorite, and a treat worth revisiting every now and then.

Ask the grocer or butcher for ¼-inch thick slices of bologna for frying. Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky

Fried Bologna Sandwiches

The fried bologna sandwich is a Southern classic, and this version takes the recipe to new heights by adding pimento cheese for creamy tang, potato chips for extra crunch and your favorite sandwich toppings for a special treat. It starts with slices of bologna that are griddled until browned and a little crisp. While the standard packaged slices will work, bologna cut into thick slices at the deli counter gives the sandwiches great texture. Beef bologna often has better flavor, so we recommend choosing it if given the option.

Where to buy: Ask for bologna slices that are ¼-inch thick at the grocery store deli counter.

Two (¼-inch-thick) slices bologna, preferably beef (6 ounces total; see Substitutions)

Neutral oil, such as peanut or vegetable

½ cup (3½ ounces) pimento cheese, store-bought or homemade (see related recipes)

4 thick slices white or whole-wheat sandwich bread, lightly toasted

1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce

Tomato slices, pickles, sliced onion or other sandwich toppings (optional)

1 cup (1 ounce) lightly salted potato chips, plus more for serving

2 teaspoons spicy brown mustard

2 teaspoons mayonnaise

Starting from the edges toward the center, cut four evenly spaced 1-inch slits into each slice of bologna. Heat a medium (10-inch) or larger skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly brush the pan with oil, then add the bologna and cook, pressing as needed with a spatula to help keep it flat, until browned to your liking on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the bologna to a plate.

Evenly divide the pimento cheese between two slices of bread, and top each with a slice of the fried bologna followed by half of the shredded lettuce (½ cup). Layer on the tomato slices, pickles and/or sliced onion, if using, and top each stack with half of the potato chips (½ cup). Spread half of the mustard and mayonnaise on each of the remaining slices of bread, then place on top of the fillings, pressing down gently to help everything adhere. Serve right away, with chips on the side.


Instead of bologna sliced ¼-inch-thick, you can use the same amount by weight of your favorite packaged bologna (2 to 3 slices per sandwich), with a slight adjustment to the cooking time.

For pimento cheese, you can substitute your favorite sliced cheese. You may also want to add more mustard and mayonnaise to moisten the bread.

Serves 2 (Makes 2 sandwiches)

Nutritional Facts per serving (1 sandwich) | Calories: 725; Fat: 44 g; Saturated Fat: 15 g; Carbohydrates: 53 g; Sodium: 1,713 mg; Cholesterol: 94 mg; Protein: 22 g; Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 9 g

– From staff writer Aaron Hutcherson.

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