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Easy Make Ahead Tea Sandwiches

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Make Ahead Tea Sandwiches: If you’re hosting an afternoon tea, chances are you’re serving finger sandwiches. And would like to find some easy make-ahead recipes and ideas.

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches with Purple Freesia on a White Plate

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We’ve gathered some delicious tea sandwich recipes and ideas, including the perennial favorite cucumber finger sandwiches. Along with tea recipes, we have beautiful presentation ideas, too.

Pro Advice On Making Ahead Tea Sandwiches

A recent reader asked for advice on making finger sandwiches before an event or tea party. Here are two pro tips to remember when planning tea sandwiches for an afternoon tea.

Pro Advice: Which Fillings Are Best for Making Tea Sandwiches Ahead? 

These tea sandwich filling ideas are smart options when making them ahead:

  • Egg salad – make one day ahead, cover tightly, and refrigerate.
  • Chicken salad or tuna salad – make two days ahead, cover tightly, and refrigerate
  • Smoked salmon with crème fraiche or plain yogurt mixed with sour cream and dill.

Pro Tip: Smoked Salmon

“You can freeze packaged smoked salmon ahead, defrost it in the refrigerator the night before, and cut into smaller slices for sandwiches on the day of the event.”

“The Crème Fraiche can be made ahead or purchased a few days before. The yogurt/sour cream mixture could be made the day before, cover tightly, and refrigerated. You may need to drain some water off the top on the day of the event.”

Pro Tip: Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

The best way to make cucumber finger sandwiches ahead of an event is to slice the cucumbers the day before.

“Cucumbers contain a lot of water, so line a baking sheet with paper towels or a not-fuzzy dishcloth. Lay out the sliced cucumbers in a single layer on the sheet.”

If you fill up the sheet, add another layer of paper towels or a dish towel, then continue laying out cucumbers. Cover the final layer with a paper towel or dish towel. Refrigerate the tray and keep very cold so that the cucumbers don’t wilt. Assemble the finger sandwiches on the day of the event.

Pro Advice: Make Ahead Tea Sandwich Timeline

4 to 5 Days Before the Event:
“We occasionally did finger sandwiches for my 30 year catering company. Fillings were all made ahead (mushroom duxelles, curried egg salad, salmon mousse, no cucumber).”

One Day Before the Event:
“One day before, the sandwiches were made and cut and layered with damp doubled paper towels in a fish bin (or on a sheet pan, and then saran wrapped) and refrigerated.”

Storage for Make Ahead Tea Sandwiches:
“The amount of filling is pretty minuscule so soggy bread was never an issue, and drying out was not an issue because of the paper towels and containers.”

Preferred Bread for Finger Sandwiches:
“We preferred to use Pepperidge Farm thin sliced white and Pepperidge Farm thin sliced wheat. You can cut the sandwiches into 4 triangles or 3 bars- for variety.”

Pro Advice for Freezing Tea Sandwiches

Questions on freezing ahead finger sandwiches always come up when planning for weddings, larger afternoon teas, and gatherings.

The Easy Ham and Cheese Tea Sandwich above is a great choice for freezing ahead.

Here are some pro tips on freezing:
“Years in event planning have taught me well that anything that can be done ahead of time is a lifesaver. Especially when it comes to events with details. Like afternoon teas. The good news is, finger sandwiches can be frozen ahead, picking which ones is key.”

Pro Tip 1: Tea Sandwich Fillings that Freeze Well

“There are several sandwiches you can freeze ahead for your tea party, but you must select your fillings carefully. Egg, mayonnaise, or salad dressing-based fillings CAN NOT be frozen successfully.”

Some ideas for fillings that freeze well include: 

  • Cream cheese and fruit/nut combinations
  • Pureed shrimp and butter
  • Deviled ham (here is an easy recipe for ham salad)
  • Thinly sliced ham, roast beef, or smoked salmon
  • Cheese spreads with a butter base instead of a mayonnaise base

Pro Tip 2: Pinwheel Tea Sandwich

Spread the filling on a single slice of bread. Roll each slice like a jelly roll, wrap it tightly in waxed paper, and double wrap it in plastic to prevent ice crystals. Freeze for up to 3 weeks.   

On the morning of the party, remove the rolls from the freezer, and thaw just enough to slice into 1/2-inch pinwheel slices with a sharp knife. Place on a serving tray and cover loosely with waxed paper under a slightly dampened tea towel to prevent drying. They will thaw in about an hour. 

Pro Tip 3: Freezing the Bread Ahead of Time

Even if you are not freezing the tea sandwiches ahead of time, consider freezing sliced bread alone. Freezing the bread before spreading and trimming makes for easier handling, especially if the bread is very fresh or tender.

English Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

Afternoon Tea Everyday Teapot Pick

Best for Everyday Tea

3 Tier Stands for Tea

Afternoon Tea wouldn’t quite be the same without a 3-Tier stand. We’ve written about our favorite Afternoon Tea 3-Tier Stands, what to look for, and some ideas on where to get them. Including our standout favorite.

We have more Afternoon Tea ideas listed at our Amazon Store!

Recipes for Tea Sandwiches

Delicious Tea Sandwiches for Your Next Tea Party

Easy Make Ahead Afternoon Tea Sandwiches plus pro tips, afternoon tea sandwich fillings, recipes, presentation ideas and more. Everything you need to know to make tea sandwiches for your next afternoon tea.

Hosting an Afternoon Tea

If you’re hosting an afternoon tea, be sure to visit our post on “How to Throw an Easy Afternoon Tea Party”

You might also want to check out our post, “How to Serve an Afternoon Tea” for tips on decor, serving tea courses and their order, afternoon tea etiquette… and even how to host a “no-frills” afternoon tea.

RELATED: 15 Beautiful Edible Flowers to Brighten Your Dishes

And if you love British-style afternoon tea, see “Taking Afternoon Tea Like the British” and “Queen Elizabeth Afternoon Tea Recipes.”

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12 Comments

  1. The Best post I have ever seen on tea sandwiches! The very best! I’ve been looking at these posts for years and I’ve never found one with such a wonderful, wonderful array of special little sandwiches – delicious and beautiful looking. And this post is really a primer for an aspiring caterer with so many wonderful tips and complete directions on how to plan for what should be done in what order and exactly how to build these tiny, beautiful and undoubtedly delicious little morsels! Thank you! thank you!
    What generosity of time and knowledge to share all these directions in such detail!

      1. I agree with the above post. I have been searching the internet for a couple of days now looking for ideas on hosting a tea party for a friend’s birthday and happened to come upon your page. What a treasure trove of information. Thank you so much for sharing your talent and knowledge. A true life saver for me. You will make me shine, but I will give you the credit.

        1. Thank you so much for your kind words— you’ve made me day. I’m so glad you found helpful resources and recipes for your tea party! What fun 💕! And by the way— you take all the credit when your guests love what you’ve created!

  2. Lovely, comprehensive recipes, tips and creativity. I used to make “tea” for my husband and myself instead of dinner, at times. We’d get spruced up and use our nice china, silver, crystal along with candlelight, especially on a blustery day. A healthy, simple, yet elegant meal for everyone. Many thanks for your post…so beautiful.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comments on the post! I absolutely love your idea of a “tea” dinner with china, silver, and crystal. Not to mention candlelight. What a special evening and a great inspiration, especially during the holidays or these early winter evenings.

  3. If my nephew is getting married on a Saturday, how far in advance would we start making tea sandwiches and freezing them?

    1. Hi Janice! Certain fillings can be made ahead and refrigerated up to 4 or 5 days before the event. They are then assembled the day before, refrigerated with damp paper towels to prevent drying, and served the next day. These fillings would be egg salads, salmon mousse, mushroom, smoked salmon, etc. It’s also possible to fully make the sandwiches ahead and freeze wrapped tightly in saran. There is the possibility the texture won’t be exactly as if they were made fresh. Another option would be to freeze the bread slices ahead of time. On the day of, remove from the freezer, spread the filling, trim and cut the sandwiches. Freezing the bread ahead of time makes the trimming and slicing easier and quicker. Good candidates for fully freezing tea sandwiches would include pureed shrimp and butter, a deviled ham, thinly sliced ham, roast beef or salmon or butter-based cheese spreads.

      One more note — cucumber sandwiches need to be made the day of the event, although the cucumbers can be sliced and stored on a paper-towel-lined pan the day before. Also, when filling sandwiches, be sure the filling is no thicker than a single slice of the bread.

      Hope this helps! Have a wonderful wedding!

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