Have you ever had a bread, butter and sugar sandwich? For me, it was a treat my mom used to make us occasionally. And it is still a nostalgic memory.

Walk with me down memory lane and marvel at the deliciousness that is the sugar sandwich. And yes, I have some variations on the classic for you, just in case!

Aslice of bread completely covered with a layer of granulated sugar, another slice slathered in butter, a spreading knife, and a small blue bowl with sugar in it.

Saving Money as a Kid

I think maybe when we were growing up we didn’t have a lot of money. I say “I think” because I don’t remember really thinking about money very much.

We got a small allowance, and when I was old enough, I babysat.

I remember hoarding my earnings–in fives and singles in those days with maybe the odd ten-dollar bill thrown in–in a small music box/treasure chest I had on my dresser.

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It was a small alpine cottage with log walls. Resin flowers of red and yellow in window boxes. The heavily shingled roof opened, revealing a compartment lined in faux burgundy velvet.

I cannot remember what song that music box played. Lonely Goatherd, maybe?

I found a photo of the exact music box on ebay! Oh my goodness, this takes me back. This one is just like the one I used to have! I forgot about the mill wheel–you cranked that to make it play.

Alpine music box.

I would carefully fold my earnings so they’d fit, and whenever I added to the stash, I’d unfold all the bills, add the new ones, keeping the ones in front followed by the fives and tens, and then fold the whole stack back up.

Jenni Warbucks with her stash of cash in the Alpine music box.

Looking back, I doubt Daddy Warbucks kept his cash in a music box, but as a kid, I felt wealthy. And I guess if you feel it, you are it.

Given that, is it stretching the truth very much to say that as a kid, I had a house full of money?

Growing Up on Homemade Foods

In a way, maybe it was a good thing that our family wasn’t rolling in cash. I didn’t grow up on a bunch of processed foods the way many children of the 60s and 7os did.

No TV dinners, only the very occasional Pop-Tart.

We ate Casserole Supreme and vats of homemade spaghetti sauce, baked macaroni and cheese and pot roast.

Mom did get us the Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Sandwich cookies for our lunches (although I now sometimes make my own copycat oatmeal cream pies).

Otherwise, she made us sour cream coffee cake, peanut butter cookies and oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies and raisin bars for snacks.

Good, wholesome food Mom made us because she could and because they couldn’t afford boxes and bags of manufactured foods.

Bread, Butter, and Sugar Sandwich

A sandwich made on soft white bread cut in half with one half resting on the other and a bowl of granulated sugar.

One of our favorite treats, and one we only had occasionally, was bread, butter and sugar sandwiches.

This is not to be confused with cinnamon toast. We also enjoyed that for breakfast on a fairly regular basis. We even had a container with premixed sugar and cinnamon so we could make some whenever the urge struck. 

To make a perfect bread, butter and sugar sandwich, the bread had to be soft white bread. Our preferred brand was Sunbeam.

A swipe of butter on each slice of bread and a thorough dusting of sugar, and the sandwich was almost ready for eating.

The trick was keeping the sugar from sifting out between the pieces of bread and raining down on the floor or the table before you could get the sandwich to your mouth.

Buttering both sides of the bread and a pretty serious schmoosh before picking it up helped to cement most of the sugar in place.

If any managed to find its way to the counter after all of that prep, it just meant that you used enough sugar.

This humble snack was a textural dream. Soft, squishy bread; smooth, cool butter; the crystalline bite of the sugar. A little sweet from the sugar (not as much as you might think, though), a little savory from the salted butter. It really didn’t get much better than that, and eating those sandwiches is still a treasured memory.

Sugar Sandwich Origins

I wish I knew exactly where the bread, butter, and sugar sandwich came from. My grandmother lived with us for the first five years of my life, and she was from England, so maybe it came from her.

I have also heard that they may be Irish in origin.

Suffice to say, some frugal mom somewhere probably concocted one of these to appease their kids’ sweet tooths (sweet teeth?!) without having to spend a premium on chocolate or other store-bought confections.

Other Ways to Make a Bread and Sugar Sandwich

A sandwich made on white bread on a small cutting board with sugar in a small bowl in the background.

I think a sugar sandwich is pretty much perfect just the way it is, but there’s no rule that says you can’t make variations.

Here are a few ideas for you:

  • make a brown sugar sandwich by swapping out brown sugar for the white sugar
  • try a peanut butter and sugar sandwich
  • I bet a peanut butter and brown sugar sandwich would be even better
  • how about a mashed banana and sugar sandwich?

If you want to be really fancy, you can make your sugar sandwich on homemade bread. My tangzhong pain au lait is soft and squishy like store-bought, so you may want to give that a try.

Or consider making the sandwiches on potato sandwich bread for a smidge more nutrition without sacrificing the soft texture.

And you can also make any of these versions open-faced and then put them under the broiler to caramelize the sugar a little bit.

PRO TIP: While I use unsalted butter for most cooking and baking, salted butter really shines in these sandwiches and adds more flavor. I like to use salted Kerry Gold butter in a tub for spreading.

Have you ever had a bread, butter and sugar sandwich?

What are some of your treasured childhood snacks? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Questions

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A sandwich made on soft white bread cut in half with one half resting on the other and a bowl of granulated sugar.

Bread Butter and Sugar Sandwich

Jennifer Field
Bread, butter, and sugar sandwiches are a nostalgic treat. Don't get hung up on nutrition here, just enjoy the snack!
4.54 from 26 votes
Tried this recipe?Please give it a star rating!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Sandwiches
Cuisine British
Servings 1 sandwich
Calories 417 kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 slices white sandwich bread
  • 2 Tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Instructions
 

  • Spread half the butter on each slice of bread.
  • Sprinkle the sugar evenly over one buttered slice.
  • Place the second slice on top of the sugar, butter side down, and press down.
  • Put in face.

Did You Make Any Changes?

Notes

I prefer "tub butter" to stick butter for these sandwiches. If using stick butter, make sure it is very soft before spreading so you don't tear holes in your bread.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 417kcalCarbohydrates: 43gProtein: 6gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 15gPolyunsaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 61mgSodium: 487mgFiber: 2gSugar: 16g
Keyword bread butter and sugar sandwich, sugar sandwich
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73 Comments

  1. My grandparents on my dads side were from Holland. My grandmother used to make this for me when I was a kid. I grew up in the 60s and 70s.

  2. This is such a fun article and dialog of comments. Thank you sharing in Jenni. For me, it was my Father’s mother – who I called Gran – that would make butter and sugar sandwiches for my sister and me when we visited. I had been thinking about this for some time — which is what lead me to your post after discussing it with my mother this morning.

    Gran was born in 1906 and married my grandfather during the depression in 1933 – I’ve always been told that is was at least partially to help him secure work as married men were more likely to be hired. I saw in your comments and others that butter and sugar sandwiches may have come as a depression or WWII treat which I don’t doubt but is is somewhat odd since butter and sugar were scarce or rationed.

    But my father confirmed Gran did make such sandwiches for his sisters and him when they were growing up but he was not able to confirm if she had grown up with them herself.

    What did come out of the discussion with my dad was the WWII increase in the use of margarine. My dad didn’t realize it was margarine – defining it as some white lard like substance – but, through some research, I discovered that the dairy industry had lobbied to prevent margin from being colored to look like butter. As a way around that rule, margarine would be packaged with a yellow dye and it would often be a chore of the children, my dad included, to mix the two so it looked like butter.

    My dad speculated that sugar may have been used too to help with the taste — which might explain the later Parkay and Chiffon margarine commercial where people and mother nature were fooled into thinking it was butter because it was delicious, smooth, and sweet.

    I’ve never heard it called a Buffy and Jody sandwiches but totally loved remembering that show — thanks for catching that. I distinctly remember my sister had a Mrs. Beasley doll.

    Gran lived in Nederland, TX where the choice of bread when I grew up was Rainbow or Rainbow. My dad said they had white or wheat but it was always white at her house and bread was served with every meal as were carrots because they were needed for eye-site which I discovered also got bolstered in public opinion from WWII but that’s another story. Thanks again, Jenni.

  3. I was eating a glazed doughnut and wondered to myself what the difference was between that and a sugar sandwich from my youth? I grew up in Canada and, similar to your assessment, poor but didn’t know it. My folks were from Scotland and in reading some of the comments, I would assume this was a British poor-man’s solution to ‘little in the larder’. It’s heartwarming to know that I was in good company.

    1. This is such a sweet spot for so many people. My grandmother was from England and lived with us, so I don’t know whether this was a Her thing or a Mom thing. But I remember it being so special!

  4. I am reading a novel set in Cornwall, where the protagonist prepared brown sugar sandwiches as an end of stressful day treat for her sister. It had been a specialty of their deceased mom. Anyway, I had never heard of them, so duck-ducked them. You were the first hit.
    Peanut Butter and Golden Eagle Table Syrup mixed together then spread on or dipped into with Ritz Crackers! This was my Saturday morning breakfast as a child.
    I also served it to our 3 millennial children. Now they cannot believe I fed such poor nutrition to them…….(I now sneak it to our grandchildren 😉 )
    I also had cinnamon/sugar toast and cinnamon/sugar buttered bread. Will treat the Grans with butter/sugar sandwich. Will also treat them with Fairy Bread! Sunbeam is the ONLY white bread!!!! Hahaha!

    1. Oh, Pam, I’d have been thrilled with pb and golden syrup on Ritz crackers! I learned about fairy bread from an Australian friend–sounds like the perfect kid treat! I grew up on a steady diet of sandwiches made on Sunbeam, too. 🙂 Thank you so much for stopping in and for leaving such a delightful comment. And now I think I need to expand into brown sugar sandwiches. lol

  5. My mom made us bread, butter, and sugar sandwiches growing up in the late 60s. Very soft white bread and granulated white sugar but the butter was salted Land O’Lakes sticks. Somehow my mom managed not to rip the bread (magic mom talent), but there’d be little slabs of butter here and there rather than a thin spread. I’m pretty sure they were always open face. Now here’s the weird part: there was some sort of rhyme that was chanted in order to request them. Something like “please please if I kneel on my knees with bread and butter and sugar”.

  6. Hi there, loved reading this story! Firstly I still have my music box though the music stopped because it became over wound. It still has my stash of two dollar bills which I saved because they were unique! As to the butter sandwiches, my dad was a kid in Brookyn in the depression and he said that bread and sugar was their special treat s when he saw it on family affair he identified with it. I put butter on my sandwiches and folks think it is odd! My Irish family did it and my German family did it, to us it is just normal, glad to know I am not alone! Thank for the trip down memory lane, I am going to work in my music box now!

    1. Oh, Nancy, you have the same music box?! There must not be many of us! I so appreciate your telling me your stories. Mom grew up in Queen’s in the late ’30s and 40s,and I’m pretty sure her mom made these sandwiches for her too. And I vote always butter. How else are you supposed to get the sugar to stay on the bread?!

  7. We used to have this as a treat when I was a child too. And, my grandmother who was also from England lived with us until I was in my early teens.

  8. I’m 26, I found out about these sandwiches as a kid in a book about a little girl during the Great Depression. I couldn’t wait to try one and it was soooo good when I did. I don’t recall the name of the book, currently. Maybe these sandwiches come from the Depression era? That was always my understanding, from reading that book. Thanks for the variations! I’ll have to try those!

    1. Hi, Tamar! Thank you so much for commenting. I had no idea these sandwiches featured in a book. I’ll have to do some sleuthing to see if I can find it. You are probably right that this is a depression era snack, and also that they are ridiculously good!

  9. Posh Sugar Sandwich (with banana)
    I grew up in the Scottish foothills of Perthshire in the late 1940’s and 50’s but our treat as a child’ soon after the end of WWII’ was a banana sandwich sprinkled with granulated sugar and made similar to your sugar sandwich with white very fresh bread.
    I suppose that way the treat was certainly the banana and I suppose a little healthier.
    I actually made one recently (I’m a retired man of 72) using a ‘machine made bread kit’ which uses seeds, bran and malted wheat flour bought from our local British supermarket called Sainsbury’s and is labelled ‘Golden Multiseed Bread Mix’.
    If the bread is fresh and not too thick the sweet snack is delightful and a welcome change from a bar of chocolate.
    ‘Those were the days’ but I have this treat at least once a week now.

    1. I love this! Thank you so much for sharing your banana sugar sandwich story with us, Alan–I am glad it brought back good memories. And good for you for treating yourself. It’s important! (That bread mix sounds pretty tasty, too!)

  10. Just was truing to find the origins of this. I remember my mom making them for me now and again when I was about 9 yrs. Born ’50.

  11. Watching “Family Affair” brought me here! I used to love sugar sandwiches when I was a kid, but we always used brown sugar. It tasted like a cinnamon bun when you added cinnamon to the mix. Yum!

  12. I just did a search on butter, bread and sugar and this came up and reminded me of my childhood. We were not poor but I know my parents lived paycheck to paycheck. There was no such thing as a real vacation. On special occasions out would come the loaf of squishy white bread, oleo and the sugar bowl and we would each make out own deserts. There were no processes, frozen or canned foods in the house. Plenty of black eyed peas with corn bread, spaghetti, and pot roast. Nice to see others enjoyed this sweet treat.

    1. I’m so glad this brought back memories, Sandy! I enjoyed eating these for this post a little too much! We ate a lot of “shoulder roast,” spaghetti, and casseroles. While I grew up in the south, my parents were both from New York, so I didn’t have cornbread and black eyed peas until I got older. Humble food, but so comforting!

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