What is a fruit sandwich?
A fruit sandwich, or fruit sando (フルーツサンド), is a Japanese sandwich that is simply two slices of bread, stuffed with seasonal fruit, and whipped cream. It's the kind of sandwich that a kid might make if you told them they could add anything they wanted to it, which makes it more of a dessert than something you'd pack for lunch.
Although Japan seems like an unlikely place for a sandwich to be invented, the Fruit Sandwich has a history dating back over 100 years. These days, it's a popular snack and can be found everywhere from cafes to convenience stores all over Japan.
History of the Fruit Sandwich
The first claim is attributed to a fruit stand called Yaoiso, which was founded in 1869 in Kyoto. Although they didn't start their cafe until 1972, the claim is that they were selling fruit sandwiches from their fruit stand long before they opened their cafe.
This claim is credible because western bread first became popular in the Kansai region of Japan, which includes Kyoto. To this day, Kansai residents spend the most money on bread per capita.
The second claim is from Sembikiya, which opened its first fruit parlor in Tokyo in 1868. There is no historical record of when Fruit Sandwiches were put on the menu, but it remains a popular menu item in their cafes and shops around Tokyo.
Whoever invented the Fruit Sando, it seems likely that it was created as an easy way to turn ripe fruit into a shortcake.
Why this recipe works
- To balance the water content of the fruit, it's best to use a cream with a high percentage of butterfat. This keeps the sandwich from tasting watery.
- Sweetening the cream with sweetened condensed milk gives the cream a milky flavor that boosts the creaminess of the sandwich.
- Regardless of what fruit you use, the key to a visually pleasing fruit sandwich is to line the fruit up symmetrically along the lines you plan to cut the sandwich up so that you get perfect cross-sections of the fruit when you cut the sandwich.
What are the ingredients for a Fruit Sandwich?
- Shokupan - Also known as "Japanese Milk Bread" outside of Japan, Shokupan literally means "eating bread," and it's a sliced sandwich bread which has a fluffy texture that's juxtaposed by springy chewiness that makes the bread deceptively substantial. It works well for overstuffed sandwiches like this because it's elasticity allows it to stretch around the filling without crumbling apart.
- Heavy cream - Cream with a high ratio of butterfat works best for Fruit Sandwiches because the juicy fruit inside waters down the cream. "Heavy Cream" in the US is required to have in excess of 36% butterfat, but if you check the label, you should be able to find premium creams with even higher percentages. I used one with a 45% butterfat ratio.
- Sweetened condensed milk - Instead of using just sugar, I like sweetening my whipped cream with sweetened condensed milk. This adds a wonderful milky flavor that boosts the creaminess of the cream.
- Vanilla extract - Vanilla makes just about any sweet dish better, and the cream for this Fruit Sandwich is no exception. I used a vanilla bean paste made by Nielsen-Massey. You can also substitute other flavorings here. For instance, when I'm making fruit sandwiches with stone fruit like cherries or peaches, I often add almond extract to the cream.
- Strawberries - Strawberries and cream are a classic combo that works so well together. Whether you mix them with other fruit in the sandwich or add them solo, strawberries add great flavor and color to your Fruit Sandwich.
- Kiwifruit - If you're going for a colorful fruit sandwich, green kiwis are hard to beat.
- Mango - Mango brings the orange color to our sandwich, and although there are many other fruits that are orange in color, this is my favorite one for adding to Fruit Sandwiches.
What other fruit can I use for a Fruit Sandwich?
The possibilities here are pretty endless. I've seen everything from blueberries, to peaches, to melon, to persimmons being used. When choosing fruit for Fruit Sandwiches, there are three qualities you want to look for are:
- Ripe fruit - The most important thing is that you're using ripe fruit, which is both sweet and flavorful. This is why the fruit used in these sandwiches usually changes with the seasons.
- Vibrant colors - While this isn't usually a problem, as most ripe fruits are also colorful, you'll want to think about the color palette of your sandwich as you pick the fruit out.
- Not too juicy - while citrus fruit like oranges and grapefruit can be supremed and added to a fruit sandwich, they are so watery that they need to be eaten right away or the cream will start to dissolve.
How do you make a fruit sandwich?
The first thing you need to do is prepare the fruit so they will fit in the bread, and are all roughly the same thickness.
For the Kiwifruit, I like to slice them into ¾-inch thick coins, and then I peel the rounds.
For the mango, I start by peeling it with a curved paring knife. The pit of a mango is broad and flat, so you can usually tell the orientation of the pit inside by looking at the shape of the mango. Stand the mango up on its narrow edge and then slice both sides of the mango off, getting as close to the pit as possible without actually hitting it. Then you can trim off the curved edges to make a block and cut the mango into ¾-inch thick batons.
For the strawberries, how you cut them will depend on how big they are. I usually start by trimming the stems off, and then if the strawberry is very large, I'll slice it in half. Otherwise, you can use them whole.
To make the cream, add the cream, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla extract to a cold bowl and whip it using a whisk, egg beater, or mixer. Since we're using the cream as a mortar to hold the sandwich together, you want the cream firm enough so that you can flip the bowl upside down and not have it run out. On the flip-side, if you over whip it, the fat will start separating out and forming clumps, so you need to be vigilant, especially if you are using an electric mixer.
To assemble the fruit sandwich, spread an even layer of whipped cream on half of the sandwich bread.
Arrange the fruit on top of the cream so that the center of each piece of fruit will fall in the middle of the cut lines for the sandwich.
Fill the gaps between the fruit more whipped cream and then make sure the tops of the fruit are covered with the cream.
Cover the sandwich with another slice of bread and give it a gentle press with your hands to help the top piece of bread conform to, and stick to the filling. It's best to refrigerate these sandwiches for at least an hour before slicing them to firm up the cream.
When you are ready to eat them, slice the crusts off and then cut the sandwich into quarters using a sharp knife. To get clean cuts, be sure to wipe the blade with a paper towel between each slice.
Other Japanese Sandwiches
- Tonkatsu Sandwich (Katsu Sando)
- Japanese Egg Sandwich (Tamago Sando)
- Japanese Chicken Sandwich (Karaage Sando)
- Dashimaki Tamago Sandwich (Japanese Omelette)
- 1 kiwifruit
- 1 mango
- 14 strawberries
- ½ pint heavy cream
- 3 ½ tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 8 slices Japanese sandwich bread
- Slice and peel the kiwifruit into ¾-inch thick rounds.
- Peel the mango, trim off the tapered edges, and cut the mango into ¾-inch thick batons.
- Remove the tops from the strawberries. If they are very large, slice them in half.
- Add the heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla extract to a cold bowl and whip the cream until firm peaks form.
- Spread an even layer of whipped cream on 4 slices of bread.
- Top the cream with the fruit. Be sure to arrange them along where you will cut the sandwich so that the fruit shows up evenly.
- Fill in the gaps between the fruit with more cream, and then top the fruit with an even layer of cream.
- Cover the sandwiches with the remaining four slices of bread, and then remove the crusts.
- Refrigerating the sandwiches for at least 1 hour will make them easier to cut. When you are ready to eat them, slice them into halves or quarters.
I absolutely have to try this sandwich, it would be very good for dessert! I wanted to buy some strawberries last week at a low, decent price, but they sold out fast. I couldn’t even price match anywhere, there was none to be seen. I’ve made Japanese bread a few times in the past, it is very nice. This recipe is great!
Take care and be safe, Sandi
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Sandi, it does make for a nice dessert or snack! In Japan our strawberries are timed for the holiday season, so our strawberry season is just ending now, but I guess it will be getting started in a month or two in North America. Hope you have a chance to try this out.
Hi Marc, I made this fruit sandwich for dessert tonight, it was so good! I used brioche buns instead of Japanese bread, I didn’t feel like making one. I don’t know if you can buy any around here, maybe at the Japanese store. I bought 2 - 1 lb. pkg’s of strawberries for $2.97 ea. this week, but it wasn’t as cheap as last week at $1.97 ea. which sold out fast. I used nectarine instead of mango, I didn’t have any. I think brioche buns is a good substitute for Japanese bread. Thanks for the great recipe! Take care, Sandi
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Sandi, I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed this! Yes, brioche has a very similar texture to Japanese Shokupan, great call on that!