If there was a Mt. Rushmore of New Orleans sandwiches, the muffuletta (pronounced “muff-uh-LOT-uh”) would be chiseled onto it, right next to the iconic po’ boy. As big as a hubcap and stuffed with layer upon layer of provolone, Swiss, ham, mortadella, and Genoa salami, the Crescent City’s take on the Italian sandwich is exquisitely and uniquely its own.
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It’s built on a round loaf of soft Sicilian muffuletta bread—the sandwich gets its name from this traditional Italian bread—and generously dressed with olive salad, a bright, briny, spicy condiment that drips with good-quality olive oil. Along with that iconic bread, the salad is the other signature ingredient, the thing that sets its flavor apart from other similar sandwiches. If you’re an American sandwich lover, it’s a bucket-list essential.
But what if you can’t find a way to visit the Big Easy? Our step-by-step video shows you how to make a dead ringer for the original muffuletta in your home kitchen no matter where you are. And take it from me down here in New Orleans, I’ve had both the original (many times) as well as our home pantry–friendly version, and I can attest that this is a really good muffuletta.
The Muffuletta’s Origin Story
The turn of the 20th century saw an influx of Sicilian immigrants to New Orleans, spurred by the Sicilian citrus trade. By nearly all accounts, the sandwich was created by Salvatore Lupo in 1906 at Central Grocery, a Sicilian market that still operates in the heart of the French Quarter. According to his daughter, Marie Lupo Tusa, customers would come for a lunch of muffuletta bread, olive salad, and Italian cured meats and cheeses. Salvatore decided to put them all together, transforming the cumbersome plate of separate ingredients into an easy-to-eat sandwich. Over the next century, the muffuletta sandwich cemented itself as one of the city’s signature dishes.
Central Grocery still sells them (though they’ve had to start selling them wholesale to other vendors since they closed for renovations after Hurricane Ida), and no visit to NOLA is complete without one. But that’s assuming you can find time to visit. If not, we've got you covered.