This is a sandwich that was invented in a United States territory in the Caribbean Sea, made from an enriched sweet bread that was originally baked on a Spanish island in the Mediterranean Sea. Based on the ingredient list, you’ll see that this is a simple sandwich at its core, but as usual, I will find a way to shake things up a little.
This sandwich was the suggestion of a member of my Patreon community, Jim Behymer. Jim happens to be the driving force behind Sandwich Tribunal and he also just happens to be an Internationally recognized sandwich expert. Jim suggested the mallorca de jamon y queso to see what my take would be on this sandwich that he also wrote about in 2017.
Read along to take a sandwich adventure with me and see where the bread, cheese, and meat takes us!
What is this sandwich?
First, we need to know more about this sandwich we’re making. Let’s break it down.
Pan de mallorca
Mallorca (spelled Majorca in English) is a Spanish island found off the eastern coast of Spain in the Mediterranean Sea. On that island, they bake a sweet bun known as ensaïmadas. In the early 1900s, this style of bread migrated across the Atlantic Ocean and people in Puerto Rico started baking a version of it. They changed the name of this sweet roll to pan de mallorca in honor of the island where the original recipes originated.
Jamón y queso
You can probably figure this part out but just in case: Jamón translates to ham in English and queso equals cheese.
So, this is a ham and cheese sandwich on a sweet bun with origins in Puerto Rico and influences in Spain. The meat and cheese portion of this sandwich sounds simple, but first, we need to work on the bread.
A mallorca de jamón y queso example from a restaurant in San Juan, Puerto Rico that I found on Instagram. This one has cheddar and is pressed.
Let’s talk a bit more about the bread or buns.
Pan de mallorca
Pan de mallorca is a sweet, flavored bread from a heavily enriched dough that is formed and shaped in a spiral and then typically served dusted with powdered sugar. These buns would traditionally be served alongside other breakfast items or as an afternoon snack.
Since I’d never had pan de mallorca prior to starting to write about this sandwich, I chose to visit a local Puerto Rican-focused bakery. San Juan Bakery is in the neighborhood of Humboldt Park which is just down the street from where I currently live in Chicago.
Humboldt Park contains a stretch of Division Avenue that has been named Paseo Boricua which roughly translates to Puerto Rican Promenade. According to Wikipedia (citations needed), this area is the only officially designated Puerto Rican neighborhood in the 50 United States.
Puerto Rican immigrants started coming to Humboldt Park in the 1950s and 60s, leaving other neighborhoods in the north of Chicago due to gentrification.
So, if you want to try Puerto Rican-style bread without actually going to Puerto Rico, the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago is probably one of your best bets.
San Juan Bakery in Chicago has two different types of mallorca rolls (they spell them mayorcas -which is sort of how I think they should be pronounced).
Want more history? Read this mallorcas blog post from King Arthur Baking.
San Juan Bakery serves a plain version that you can buy either already dusted with powdered sugar or without the sugar. They also sell what they are calling mayorcas rellenas which I thought would mean that they are stuffed but what it really means is they are topped with cream cheese and/or different fruit flavorings. I tried all of them and ended up with plain, strawberry, and pineapple flavors to turn into sandwiches.
There was a bit of a language barrier at San Juan bakery or at least that’s how it felt. Maybe I wasn’t being clear, but I ended up getting one of each mallorca they sell. And somehow, they were lower priced than they should have been. I got 5 pan de mallorca buns for around 7 bucks and it wasn’t until I got home and looked at the photo that it seemed like maybe I wasn’t charged tax or something. I don’t really know. I do know that after I was finished making these sandwiches and was writing this post another local sandwich/breakfast place announced a Puerto Rican-themed pop-up with mallorcas and on their menu theirs were 4 bucks each. So, hit up San Juan for reasonably priced, tasty pastries.
The bakery purchased mallorca buns were great so I decided to make some “test” sandwiches out of them.
Mallorca de Jamón y Queso
In testing these sandwiches I first used mallorca buns that I bought at San Juan bakery before I made my own.
Bakery fresh mallorca de jamón y queso
For this version, I chose to use deli sliced ham and American cheese. If you look up recipes for this sandwich you will find all sorts of cheese used, but American seems to be popular. I tried a few other versions and I think most sliced cheese will work just fine. Swiss seemed to be the most interesting to me, but cheddar slices appear on menus occasionally and they would be great as well.
The sandwiches I made with the store-bought buns required a lot more meat and cheese to balance the ratios. Otherwise, there would have been too much bread. I ended up changing the recipe I used to create smaller mallorca buns which allowed me to use less meat to make a slightly smaller and more reasonably sized sandwich.
I did not press any of these sandwiches with a panini press but it appears that some Puerto Rican restaurants do serve them in a pressed format. I just wanted to enjoy the bread without crisping and squishing it.
Fresas rellenas de Mallorca con jamón y queso
I don’t know if Google translated this properly, but I decided to make a ham and cheese sandwich on one of the strawberry and cream cheese “stuffed” mallorca buns and it was very tasty and just a bit messy.
The savory ham and melty cheese paired well with cream cheese and strawberry jam. Much like the original McDonald’s McMuffin with jam, this combo really hits the spot.
Homemade pan de mallorca
Instead of creating my own mallorca recipe, I felt it was best to look toward someone who has some experience in eating this style of bread in Puerto Rico and also making their own. It turns out that King Arthur Baking published a new mallorca recipe and accompanying informative Puerto Rican mallorcas blog post in February of this year (2023). King Arthur Baking is the best (except for next week’s recipe—stay tuned).
Instead of making the 6 large mallorcas that King Arthur’s recipe suggests, I made 8 smaller sandwich-sized buns. I also used butter instead of lard. The butter for lard switch might be controversial, but in digging through online mallorca recipes and reading deep into the comment sections of these recipes it seems like lard isn’t always the default fat for this type of roll.
Without the powdered sugar, this bun is still much sweeter than your typical sandwich bun or roll. It’s soft, a tiny bit chewy and it has a pretty soft crust, setting the whole bun up as a pretty good sandwich roll in my opinion. Adding powdered sugar takes the breakfast-y sweetness up a notch and makes me understand why this bun is popular alongside morning coffee.
Making the sandwich
As I’ve said a few times, this is a simple sandwich, so you want to make sure you nail all the essential items on the mallorca de jamón y queso checklist.
First off, don’t powder the tops of these buns until you are ready to eat them. Powdered sugar does not last very long on top of pastries or buns. It will melt into the tops and mess up the visuals of your bread. Dust them when you’re ready to eat.
Pan de mallorca is a soft bun that greatly benefits from toasting in butter prior to the sandwich-building process. You can, and I did toast in a toaster oven just to get a little crunchy factor to the bread, but the versions I pan-toasted in butter were much better.
Just make sure you rest your toasted buns on a cooling rack for a minute or two after toasting. Otherwise, if you place toasted bread on a flat surface, it will steam itself and become soggy.
As I said before, toast the bun first and THEN dust it with powdered sugar after it has a moment to cool off a little.
To egg or not to egg?
That’s up to you and depends on how you want your ham and cheese sandwich on the day that you’re making it. In my opinion, egg doesn’t add much. It’s good and does provide a bit of what almost appears as a sauce from the yolk when it is cooked sunny side up or over easy, but if you prepared it as a folded egg or scrambled egg, it almost might provide more to the sandwich.
Here’s the recipe I used for my mallorca de jamón y queso. You do need to make your own buns unless you’re lucky enough to have a bakery nearby that specializes in Puerto Rican-style pastries.
Want a stellar ham and cheese sandwich? This one hits all the high notes: savory, sweet, melty, and toasted. For this recipe, you will first need buns. Here is the pan de mallorca recipe.
- 1 mallorca bun
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 4 slices of deli ham
- 1 to 2 slices of cheese (American, Swiss, Cheddar or other)
- mayonnaise or mustard
- powdered sugar
Slice the mallorca bun and butter both sides.
In a medium pan over medium-high heat, toast the buttered sides of the bun.
Remove the bun from the heat to a cooling rack when it is toasty and golden brown. Wipe out the pan and reduce the heat to medium.
Add four slices of ham to the pan and cook for 2 minutes per side. When you flip the ham the second time, arrange it on the pan in a pile and top with cheese. Cook for another two minutes until the cheese starts to melt.
Spread any condiments you would like on the sandwich on the bottom of the bun. Top the condiments with the pile of ham and melty cheese.
Cover the cheese with the top bun. And dust the top of the sandwich with powdered sugar.
Serve and enjoy.
The recipe I used for pan de mallorca is from King Arthur Baking. I used butter instead of lard and I shaped my mallorca dough into eight buns instead of six. Do not dust your buns with powdered sugar until right before you want to eat them. The sugar will melt and disappear if you powder them too far in advance.
What about Monchi burgers?
Now that we’ve got extra pan de mallorca buns, what else can we do with them?
Not only is Burger King in Puerto Rico using pan de Mallorca, but McDonald’s has as well.
During my research on mallorca buns, I found advertisements from early 2022 on Facebook and YouTube with Monchi burgers/sandwiches from McDonald’s in San Juan on pan de mallorca. This video is from an advertising agency in PR and was posted for a Monchi burger campaign on April 12th, 2022.
It’s not as easy to find, but McDonald’s in PR has also had a regular mallorca de jamón y queso on their menu and after digging through some comment sections on Facebook I found out that they had an option for the addition of an egg as well.
But let’s get back to the Monchi burger because I made one. Even though it’s not really a burger. Here are some stills from the Monchi burger commercial. $3.49 is a good deal!
I chose to make the chicken version so first, we need some seasoned fried chicken patties.
Once you have a fried chicken patty, this sandwich is super easy to construct.
Here’s my recipe for a Monchi chicken “burger.” Again, you need pan de mallorca buns first, but I have linked the recipe I used and some extra info in the recipe notes section about all of that.
Come back next week
I wrote last week that this week would have croissants. I lied. Next week there might be a croissant though.
You can support this site by joining my Patreon community for behind-the-scenes updates about future sandwiches. All those supporters knew that croissants got pushed a week. They had the inside scoop!