Muffaletta Sandwich Recipe

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Whether you’re making a Muffaletta Sandwich for your Mardi Gras celebrations or serving a hearty lunch to a small crowd, this famous New Orleans sandwich will help those good times roll!

What is a Muffaletta Sandwich?

As my husband and I learned, a vacation in New Orleans’ famous French Quarter often involves waking up with a hangover. Nothing cures one of those like a hearty meal, especially if you don’t have to fix it yourself. Lucky for us, the shop next to our hotel had a sign bragging about their Muffuletta Sandwiches. He popped over and picked one up for us. It instantly became our favorite!

The following year, I hunted down a Muffuletta Sandwich Recipe on our anniversary and did so again every year that he was alive. Plus, I made them now and then for Sunday football when his team was doing well. (It gave me a good excuse to enjoy them, too.) Now our son, who grew up with these sandwiches as part of our family celebrations, asks for this famous New Orleans sandwich recipe every Mardi Gras.

The Muffaletta’s Italian Roots

It seems every beloved food or beverage has a bit of controversy about its origins. Take, for instance, the arguments over the margarita’s creation. There’s plenty of debate over the ancestry behind the Muffaletta Sandwich, too. The controversy is partially due to the name. Muffuletta refers specifically to a Sicilian round, sesame bread. As Italian migrants became more numerous in New Orleans, the muffuletta loaf began appearing in Italian grocery stores.

The Famous New Orleans Sandwich

The version we eat today originated at the tiny but legendary Central Grocery and Deli in the French Quarter. According to the store’s owner’s daughter, her father saw that Sicilian farmers would order salami and other cured meats, a little olive salad, some cheese, and bread. Then they would sit on barrels, balancing their food on their knees, trying to eat. One day inspiration struck, and he suggested making a sandwich out of it all. Thus, the Famous New Orleans Muffuletta Sandwich was born.

How Do You Pronounce or Spell It?

Sicilians referred to their round sesame loaf as muffuletta. By the time the sandwich caught on, the Louisianans had made it their own. Folks in N’awlins put their Southern spin on the pronunciation, so the Muffuletta loaf became the Muffaletta Sandwich.

And, really, most of the time, I heard it pronounced Muff-letta, but why quibble? Muff-OO-let-tah, muff-uh-LET-tah, muff-LETTA — no matter how you pronounce, if you ask for it in Louisiana, it’ll be so good! And now you can make it at home, too.

How to Make a Muffaletta Sandwich

A Muffaletta Sandwich is basically a peasant-style loaf of round bread filled with olive salad, mortadella, salami, and provolone cheese.

Meats Reflect the Italian Heritage

The best Muffaletta Sandwiches feature freshly-sliced meats and cheeses. Be sure to ask the deli clerk to cut the meats and cheeses on the thin side, or your sandwich will be too big to eat! Some folks add ham. Others use prosciutto instead of mortadella, a bologna-style meat containing at least 15% chunks of pork fat. (Yep, this is not for the calorie-conscious!)

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Olive Salad is a Must in a Muffuletta

It’s not a Muffaletta if it doesn’t feature olive salad. Olive tapenade isn’t a good substitute — it won’t have the same bite that the New Orleans version does. Fortunately, it’s an easy spread to make.

Just pulse black and green olives, capers, garlic, flat-leaf parsley, olive oil, and red wine vinegar in your food processor. Or chop everything by hand if you’d rather. Then stir in the oil and more vinegar. Let the prepared olive salad sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes (or up to 4 hours) for the flavors to combine. That really brings it all together you won’t regret it.

Muffaletta Sandwich Recipe

Created at the Central Grocery in New Orleans from the foods that Sicilian farmers ate for lunch, the Muffaletta is a big, easy sandwich full of bold flavors.
Print Recipe
Muffuletta Sandwich Recipe
Prep Time:30 mins
Resting Time:4 hrs 30 mins
Total Time:5 hrs

Equipment

  • Food processor or cutting board and knife
  • Measuring spoons and cups

Ingredients

  • 1 cup black olives drained
  • 1 cup green olives drained
  • 1 tablespoon capers drained
  • cup roasted red bell pepper
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large round peasant-style loaf of bread
  • lb. Genoa salami thinly-sliced
  • lb. mortadella thinly-sliced
  • lb. provolone cheese thinly-sliced

Instructions

Make the Olive Salad

  • In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the garlic cloves until finely minced. Add the parsley and roasted red pepper and pulse five more times.
  • Add the olives, capers, vinegar, and olive oil. Pulse repeatedly until the olives are chopped but not minced. Transfer the olive salad to an air-tight container and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes so the flavors combine.

Make the Sandwich

  • Slice the bread loaf in half horizontally. Using your fingers or a spoon, hollow out the soft parts of the bread leaving a 1/2 inch shell. Be careful that you don't make holes in the crust.
  • Spread the bottom half of the loaf with half of the olive salad. Add the mortadella, followed by a layer of salami, then a layer of cheese.
  • Spread the remaining half of the olive salad on top of the meats and cheese, pouring on any juices that have accumulated in the bowl. Top with the other half of the bread and press down firmly.
  • Wrap the entire sandwich in plastic wrap or butcher's paper and refrigerate for at least 4 hours while flavors combine. (You can make this a day ahead — it'll taste even better!)
  • To serve: unwrap the sandwich and cut into 6 or 8 wedges, like you would a pie. Serve at room temperature.

Notes

Storage: 
Wrap in cling film then add to a resealable bag and refrigerate or freeze whole or sliced. If freezing, defrost it in the refrigerator overnight. Always allow the Muffaletta Sandwich to reach room temperature before serving.

Nutrition

Serving: 1wedge | Calories: 381kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 51mg | Sodium: 1951mg | Potassium: 222mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 652IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 231mg | Iron: 1mg
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 381kcal
Author: Katie Berry

Muffaletta Sandwich Recipe Tips

Make Your Muffaletta Sandwich in Advance

Maybe one of the reasons this big sandwich is so beloved in The Big Easy is because it’s, well, easy. In fact, it’s best when you make it ahead of time. Resting time in recipes gives a chance for flavors to combine. In this one, the resting time lets the olive salad soften that huge loaf of bread just a bit while spreading the flavor through the meat.

Hollow the Bread a Bit

That round peasant bread can dislocate your jaw if you try biting into it without a bit of preparation! So, be sure to hollow the loaf a bit before you add the rest.

To hollow a loaf of bread, slice the loaf in half horizontally. Then, using your fingers or a spoon, scoop out as much of the bread as you can without making holes in the crust. This step makes room for your sandwich ingredients and, again, ensures you’ll be able actually to bite through a slice.

Layer the Muffaletta Ingredients

Once your olive salad is ready, spread some on the bottom half of the bread loaf. Get it all the way to the edges, so you get that big flavor in every bite. Top this with a layer of mortadella followed by layers of salami and cheese — or cheese and salami, the order doesn’t matter. When you’ve finished piling on the meats, top them with the rest of the olive salad, including any liquids in the bowl.

Wrap and Wait

Next, top with the other half of the bread and press down on the sandwich a bit, so the juices on the olive salad work their way through. Wrap the whole thing up tightly in plastic wrap or butcher’s paper and refrigerate it for a couple of hours. To serve, unwrap and slice it into 6 to 8 wedges like you would a pie.

Serve Muffaletta Sandwiches at Room Temperature

An authentic Muffaletta Sandwich is served at room temperature and never heated. I know it’s tempting, what with all the yummy cheeses and layers of meat, but the flavor completely changes when it’s hot. This is not to say you can’t heat it — but be prepared for a completely different taste and texture if you do.

Storing or Freezing

You can refrigerate or freeze leftover Muffaletta Sandwich, whole or sliced. For convenience, I usually slice it into several pieces. Whichever you choose, wrap it in cling film and tuck it into an air-tight container. If you’ve frozen it, defrost it in the refrigerator overnight. Remove slices from the fridge 15-20 minutes (or 45-60 minutes for whole Muffaletta Sandwiches), so it reaches room temperature before serving.

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