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It's a Wrap! The History of Wrap Sandwiches and 6 Recipes

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

A platter of wraps.

A platter of wraps.

You Won't Believe Who Invented the Wrap Sandwich!

My love of baseball comes from my dad. When I was barely big enough to navigate the steep steps of the stadium, Dad would take me to the games of our local baseball team. Over the years, that team has changed name and affiliation almost as often as Elizabeth Taylor changed husbands; I recall that the local team was called:

  • Tigers,
  • Giants,
  • Cubs,
  • Twins,
  • Yankees (for one embarrassing year in 1978),
  • Tugs,
  • Tigers (again), and then in 1995,
  • and finally, the Rainiers—the name they still hold today as the Triple A team of the Seattle Mariners.

So what does this have to do with wrap sandwiches? This is somewhat like the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but please bear with me a moment longer—your patience will be rewarded.

In 1979, Bobby Valentine played for the Seattle Mariners. Bobby Valentine also was:

  • a professional baseball manager
  • the athletic director at Sacred Heart University
  • an award-winning ballroom dancer
  • the director of Public Safety and Health, Stamford, Connecticut
  • an ESPN analyst for Sunday Night Baseball
  • the owner/operator of Bobby Valentine’s Sports Gallery Café
  • and (most importantly) the inventor of the wrap sandwich!

Blame it All On a Broken Toaster

"I remember it like it was yesterday even though it was 1982," Valentine told the New York Times. He then went on to explain that the investment banker who had provided the funds for Valentine's restaurant was now a regular customer. And, that banker always ordered the same thing from the lunch menu—a turkey club sandwich.

Well, as luck would have it, the toaster was broken (and if you know anything about a club sandwich, you know that a key part is the golden crumb of the toasted bread).

I was cooking and I looked over at the tortillas that were sitting there. I grabbed one and put all the ingredients of a club sandwich into the tortilla. I rolled it up and I melted a little cheese on the top to keep the tortilla from opening up. And I told the waitress, 'Tell him we don't have club sandwiches today, but this is a club Mex'.

The banker was not disappointed—in fact, he loved this new spin on an old favorite. And so the Club Mex became a permanent fixture on Valentine's menu. While Bobby V. knows that he didn't invent the first sandwich, nor did he originate the concept of food wrapped in flatbread, he believes he was the first to put American ingredients inside a tortilla. (Unfortunately, this sandwich is no longer on the menu at his restaurant).

And That's the History

Who knew! Anyhow, I'm already starting to get hungry, so let's look at how many different wrap sandwiches we can make.

But, almost as important as the "what" is the "how".

How We Roll

It's important to start with a warm tortilla, distribute your filling(s) evenly, and roll tightly.

  • Don't start with a cold tortilla: Cold tortillas (no matter how fresh they are) will tear and crack. Put five (or fewer) tortillas on a microwave-safe plate and cover them with a damp paper towel. Microwave in 30-second bursts until they are warmed through.
  • Most wraps begin with a foundation: Think of it as the glue that holds everything in place. Most often this is a salad dressing, cream cheese, mayonnaise, or hummus.
  • How to spread it out: Don't worry about covering every square inch of your tortilla. In fact, you shouldn't. A bit of blank space needs to be available so that the bread will stick together (bread on bread) and keep the roll intact. And, in the process of rolling, the filling does ooze a bit anyhow.
  • How to roll: Roll gently, but keep it snug—no pockets of air.
  • And then trim: Cut the ends off so that every piece of your wrap is completely covered with filling.

So, now that we have the technique, let's look at the recipes.

1. California Club

I don't know if this is how Bobby Valentine made his famous Club Mex, but I would like to think that this recipe is pretty close.


  • 4 whole wheat flour tortillas
  • Mayonnaise (just enough to spread over the tortillas)
  • Dijon mustard (a light drizzle)


  • 1/2 pound deli-sliced turkey breast
  • 8 slices cooked bacon
  • 1 large avocado, peeled, pitted, sliced
  • 1 large tomato, sliced

2. Thanksgiving Wrap

This Thanksgiving wrap has all of the flavors we associate with the November feast.


  • 4 flour tortillas
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt


  • 2 cups diced cooked turkey
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup minced yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
A Greek wrap with spinach, hummus, and bell pepper.

A Greek wrap with spinach, hummus, and bell pepper.

3. Spinach Hummus (Greek) Wrap

Cooking Light magazine creates recipes that are

  • Quick-to-fix
  • Low in fat, carbs, and sodium
  • Colorful, and
  • Taste amazing—not at all like "diet" food.

This Spinach/Hummus/Bell Pepper wrap by Callie Nash for their CL Diet Plan has all of the flavors of a Greek salad.

A tuna salad wrap.

A tuna salad wrap.

4. Tuna Salad

I love tuna salad, but I find that most sandwich shops use far too much mayonnaise. Let the taste of the tuna shine through in this wrap by using a good-quality solid white tuna. I also love the briny taste of dill pickles with my tuna sandwich, but some people (strangely?) prefer sweet pickles. Use whatever condiment you prefer—I promise not to judge.


  • 4 spinach tortillas
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard


  • 2 (5-ounce) cans of water-packed tuna, flaked
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained (optional)
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • Dill pickle slices (optional)
  • Sweet pickle chips (optional)

5. Shrimp Spring Roll

Spring rolls are a wonderful combination of bright, fresh tastes and crisp textures, but some of us find the rice paper wrappers to be a bit intimidating. Admittedly flour tortillas are "heavier", and they aren't translucent. But I'm willing to sacrifice calories (but the fiber is a plus) and lose the visual show to gain a sandwich that is easier for all of us to prepare. I also substituted rice for the traditional rice noodles.


  • 4 flour tortillas
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon red chili paste

Blend together the peanut butter, hoisin, vinegar, and chili paste to make the spread for your roll. (Reduce or omit the chili paste if you don't like/want 'heat' in your sandwich).


  • 12 jumbo shrimp, cooked and minced
  • 1 1/3 cups cooked white rice
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup thinly shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
A honey BBQ chicken wrap with veggies and melty cheese.

A honey BBQ chicken wrap with veggies and melty cheese.

6. Honey BBQ Chicken Wrap

Lauren believes in homemade meals, real ingredients, easy preparation, and a confident/fearless kitchen. And, she created a honey barbecue chicken wrap sandwich that has everything you could want in a hand-held meal. This wrap features sweet and crunchy chicken, crisp vegetables, and melty cheese. Life doesn't get any better than this, folks.

© 2017 Linda Lum