How to Make Afternoon Tea Sandwiches: Recipes, Tips, and Techniques

afternoon tea sandwiches

Introduction to Making Afternoon Tea Sandwiches

As a devoted food and travel blogger, nothing excites me more than the tradition of afternoon tea. The elegance, the flavours, and the sense of history behind this ritual make it a cherished part of British culture. When it comes to preparing for an afternoon tea party, knowing how to make afternoon tea sandwiches is essential. Did you know that, according to a survey by the UK Tea and Infusions Association, over 165 million cups of tea are consumed daily in the UK, often accompanied by delightful finger sandwiches? Let’s dive into the art of making these quintessential treats and ensuring your tea party is a memorable experience.

Classic Sandwich Recipes for Afternoon Tea

Cucumber and Cream Cheese Sandwiches

One of the most traditional and beloved sandwiches for afternoon tea is the cucumber and cream cheese sandwich. It’s simple, refreshing, and embodies the elegance of afternoon tea.


  • Fresh white or wholemeal bread
  • Cream cheese, softened
  • Fresh cucumber, thinly sliced
  • A pinch of salt and pepper

Preparation Steps:

  1. Spread a generous layer of softened cream cheese on two slices of bread.
  2. Arrange the thin cucumber slices evenly over one slice of bread.
  3. Season lightly with salt and pepper to enhance the flavours.
  4. Top with the second slice of bread, cream cheese side down.
  5. Trim the crusts for a neater appearance, then cut the sandwich into neat triangles or fingers.

Smoked Salmon and Dill Sandwiches

Smoked salmon and dill sandwiches add a touch of luxury to any tea party. The rich flavour of the salmon pairs beautifully with the freshness of dill.


  • Slices of dark rye or pumpernickel bread
  • Cream cheese or butter
  • Thinly sliced smoked salmon
  • Fresh dill, finely chopped
  • Lemon juice

Preparation Steps:

  1. Spread a thin layer of cream cheese or butter on each slice of bread.
  2. Place the smoked salmon slices over the bread.
  3. Sprinkle finely chopped dill on top of the salmon.
  4. Add a light squeeze of lemon juice for a hint of acidity.
  5. Assemble the sandwich, trim the crusts, and cut into your preferred shape.

Egg and Cress Sandwiches

Egg and cress sandwiches are another classic choice, offering a delicate balance of flavours and textures.


  • Fresh white or brown bread
  • Eggs, hard-boiled
  • Mayonnaise
  • Fresh cress
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation Steps:

  1. Mash the hard-boiled eggs in a bowl and mix with a dollop of mayonnaise.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Spread the egg mixture evenly over one slice of bread.
  4. Sprinkle fresh cress over the egg mixture.
  5. Top with the second slice of bread, trim the crusts, and cut into fingers or triangles.

How to Keep Sandwiches Fresh for Afternoon Tea

Keeping your sandwiches fresh is crucial, especially if you’re preparing them in advance. Here are some tips to ensure they remain delicious and presentable:

  1. Use Fresh Ingredients: Always start with the freshest bread and fillings to extend the shelf life of your sandwiches.
  2. Moisture Control: Spread a thin layer of butter or cream cheese on the bread before adding other fillings. This acts as a barrier to prevent the bread from becoming soggy.
  3. Proper Wrapping: Once assembled, wrap the sandwiches tightly in cling film or store them in airtight containers to keep the air out and maintain freshness.
  4. Refrigeration: Store the wrapped sandwiches in the refrigerator if you’re not serving them immediately. This helps keep the ingredients fresh and crisp.

By following these steps, you can prepare your sandwiches a few hours ahead of time without compromising their quality.

How Many Sandwiches per Person for Afternoon Tea

Planning the right quantity of food is essential for a successful tea party. A common question is how many sandwiches to prepare per person. The answer can vary based on the size and appetites of your guests, but a general guideline is:

  • Adults: Plan for about 4-5 finger sandwiches per person.
  • Children: 2-3 finger sandwiches per child should suffice.

Remember, afternoon tea typically includes other treats like scones, pastries, and cakes, so you don’t need to overdo it with the sandwiches. Balancing the variety of offerings will ensure your guests leave satisfied without feeling overly stuffed.

Cutting Techniques for Afternoon Tea Sandwiches

The way you cut your sandwiches can significantly impact their presentation and ease of eating. Here are some techniques for achieving the perfect cut:

How to Cut Triangle Sandwiches

Triangular sandwiches are a traditional favourite for afternoon tea. They’re easy to hold and offer a classic look.


  1. Assemble your sandwich as described in the recipes above.
  2. Place the sandwich on a cutting board.
  3. Use a sharp knife to cut the sandwich diagonally from corner to corner, creating two triangles.
  4. For smaller triangles, cut each of these pieces in half again.

How to Cut Finger Sandwiches

Finger sandwiches are rectangular and slightly smaller than their triangular counterparts, making them easy to eat in a few bites.


  1. Assemble your sandwich as described in the recipes above.
  2. Place the sandwich on a cutting board.
  3. Use a sharp knife to trim off the crusts.
  4. Cut the sandwich into strips approximately 1-2 inches wide and 3-4 inches long.

Ensuring each sandwich is cut neatly and uniformly will enhance the overall presentation of your tea table.

How to Make and Serve Finger Sandwiches

Finger sandwiches are a quintessential part of any afternoon tea. Here’s a detailed guide on making and serving them:

Making Finger Sandwiches

Bread Selection: Choose a variety of breads, such as white, wholemeal, rye, or pumpernickel, to add visual and flavour variety.

Filling Preparation: Prepare your fillings ahead of time. Whether it’s the classic cucumber and cream cheese or a more luxurious smoked salmon and dill, having your fillings ready will make the assembly process smoother.

Assembly: Spread the fillings evenly across the bread, ensuring the edges are covered. This will make each bite flavourful and prevent the bread from drying out.

Cutting: As described above, trim the crusts and cut the sandwiches into fingers or triangles for a polished look.

Serving Finger Sandwiches

Presentation: Arrange the sandwiches on a tiered cake stand or a large platter. Grouping similar sandwiches together and alternating the types can create an appealing display.

Garnishes: Add small garnishes like fresh herbs or edible flowers to the platter to enhance the visual appeal.

Temperature: Serve the sandwiches slightly chilled but not cold. This keeps the fillings fresh and the bread soft.

Varieties and Customization

One of the joys of making afternoon tea sandwiches is the opportunity to get creative with flavours and presentations. Here are some ideas to customise your sandwiches:

Exploring Different Sandwich Types

Ham and Mustard: A combination of thinly sliced ham and a light spread of English mustard on wholemeal bread offers a savoury option.

Chicken and Tarragon: Shredded cooked chicken mixed with a bit of mayonnaise and fresh tarragon creates a delightful filling for white or brown bread.

Cheese and Chutney: Pairing a mild cheese like cheddar with a tangy chutney on rye bread provides a sweet and savoury balance.

Catering to Dietary Preferences

Vegetarian Options: Ensure you have vegetarian choices, such as the cucumber and cream cheese or egg and cress sandwiches.

Gluten-Free Alternatives: Use gluten-free bread for those with dietary restrictions, and ensure your fillings are gluten-free as well.

Vegan Options: Substitute cream cheese with a plant-based alternative and use vegan-friendly fillings like hummus and roasted vegetables.

Customising your sandwich offerings will cater to the diverse preferences of your guests and ensure everyone can enjoy the experience.

Elevating Your Afternoon Tea with Perfect Sandwiches

Creating the perfect afternoon tea sandwiches is about more than just following recipes. It’s about embracing the tradition and bringing a touch of elegance and creativity to your table. From selecting the freshest ingredients to mastering the cutting techniques, every detail contributes to the overall experience.

Remember to balance your menu with a variety of sandwiches, consider your guests’ preferences, and present everything with care. Hosting an afternoon tea is a beautiful way to connect with friends and family, offering them a taste of British culture and a moment of relaxation and indulgence.

So, gather your ingredients, put on some gentle background music, and enjoy the process of creating a memorable afternoon tea. Your guests will appreciate the effort and the delightful array of sandwiches you’ve prepared. Happy tea time!

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Ali Ubaid

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