Recipe: Vegan Cheesesteak

Obligatory Life Story Section:

I became a vegetarian in the summer of 2008, and went vegan in the summer of 2019, which means I have not eaten meat for the majority of my life. And in a family that has its own “secret” pasta sauce and meatballs recipe brought over from Italy (or maybe found in some 1940s housekeeping magazine, I’m not sure yet), it meant I had to learn how to cook a lot of my own food. So I’ve also been cooking for most of my life too.

And apparently, cooking is some great feat among most of my friends, all of whom seem to primarily subsist on ordering Taco Bell for every meal (even though everyone knows they should be ordering Del Taco).

Like, for fuck’s sake Julian, you DO NOT need to water down your pasta sauce to heat it up. What the fuck is wrong with you.

When I cook, I don’t really follow recipes. I just throw some stuff together and seem to be decent at using enough garlic to cover any/all sins. Still, my fiancée wife has been trying to get a book of “our” recipes together, which means I have to start writing down what I do. And what better place to write something down than here?

I’m told that I should actually be doing that in the recipe book that we have for just this sort of thing, but whatever. Where am I supposed to put the life story section there? In the margins? No one will read it then. If I write it here, then they’re forced to read it. In fact, if you’re reading these last few sentences, you just did exactly that.

Thanks.

Anyways, this is the semi-recipe thing that I follow to make vegan cheesesteaks.


Primary Ingredients:

  • Vegan Steak
    • So far my favorite has been Unreal Deli’s Plant-Based Steak Slices. It’s also been the only vegan steak slices I can find. I mean, I guess I could try looking harder, or even making my own out of tofu or something, but, meh. I like the convenience. Taste is fine too.
  • Vegan Cheese
    • I usually use Follow Your Heart’s American “Cheese” Slices here but anything should work. They just happened to be the cheapest of the vegan cheese slices at the store when I went to go get this stuff.
  • Bell Peppers & Onions
    • Any maybe some celery too. In any case, it doesn’t matter if it’s fresh, or frozen, or whatever. If it works, it works.
  • Vegan Butter
    • I use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter… It’s Vegan! but pretty much any kind should work. Except the ones made out of almond oil. Those are way too sweet for cooking things like this.
  • Vegetable Oil
    • Because Virginia is still the south. And if it ain’t fried, it’s barely food.
  • Bread
    • The primary-ist of primary ingredients, since the bread is what makes a sandwich a sandwich. Any sub roll should work.

Spices, Seasonings, Sauces, and so on:

  • Powdered Garlic
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Season-All Salt
  • Ginger
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Soy Aminos
  • A1 Steak Sauce (or store-brand knock-off)
  • Spicy Brown Mustard

The Actual Cooking Of It All:

So the first thing I do here is start on the peppers and onions. I season them to taste using a subset of the spices and whatnot that are part of this recipe; just the dry spices (excluding ginger), and vegan butter. So: garlic, salt, season-all salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. And also butter.

I season things to taste (read: put in enough garlic and season-all salt to kill a normal person) in a pan with some oil and butter, and then cook it on medium-high heat until this ends up nice and browned.

I actually set the burner to the highest possible setting, but that’s just because my stove takes forever to actually heat up that high. So by the time it actually gets to 11, things are pretty much where they need to be.

They say a watched pot never boils, but apparently it still takes 20 minutes of total neglect before even the little bubbles start forming at the bottom.

So once the peppers and onions are mostly, but not all the way, done, I then add the vegan steak slices to the same pan. I break them apart, add more of the same dry spices, finally add a little bit of ginger (which I was out of and did not realize until after I had already started cooking so I did not get to use it this time), and then add the sauces (steak sauce, spicy brown mustard, and soy aminos). And again, more butter.

I’ll mix that all together in one half of the pan, and then throw it back on the heat. Once things have heated up a bit, I mix everything together, and let it cook through a bit more.

While everything in the pan is doing various cookings and sizzlings and whatnot, I then prep the bread. The rolls I bought were not pre-sliced, but thankfully there’s an knife for that. It’s not the kind that makes you run faster, but it works well enough to tear through bread.

I spread a little bit of butter inside and outside (top and bottom) the rolls, and then stick them in the oven at a low-ish temperature (~250F) for a few minutes.

You know, looking at how much (vegan) butter I use here… and everywhere else… and how much butter everyone in my family uses… maybe our predisposition to heart disease isn’t that much of a mystery.

Eventually, the pepper-onion-steak mix will look pretty done. That’s when I know it’s done.

And once it is done, I pull the bread out of the oven and start topping the rolls with the pepper-onion-steak mix and tornt up slices of vegan cheese (about 2, 2 and a half, slices per roll).

Since the bread and sandwich fillings don’t always get along and stay in place, I use wooden toothpicks to hold things together. I then throw the sandwiches in the oven (at, like, 350F) for a bit (for, like, 10 minutes) to finish things off. Mostly to let the cheese melt.

But the meltiness of the various brands of vegan cheese is hit-or-miss, so it doesn’t always do what’s expected of it in the oven. So a minute or two in the microwave helps finish off the finishing off.

Sure, if I had the time, I could make, like, a cheese sauce from the slices and some soy/oatmilk, and use that. Or maybe I could even just mix the cheese into the pepper-onion-steak mix. But, whatever. This way is good enough.

And yeah, it came out good enough this time. Pair with sweet tea. Because it’s good.

This “recipe” (in quotes and italics because can I really call it that if I, like, measured nothing and only have estimates for temperatures and times?) usually makes about 4 sandwiches, but that’s just because that’s how many rolls came in the bag I bought. I guess if you had more rolls you could probably thin out the sandwich fillings per-roll and make more sandwiches.

1 thought on “Recipe: Vegan Cheesesteak”

  1. I can’t believe it is not a cheese steak 🙂 I love subjecting readers to the life’s story part of any post, so fine work. And pretty awesome you have been cooking fr yourself for 15 years. That is one of the things that is different about Italy, cooking is a rite of passage. If you can’t cook some basic things well you are sent to Isola di Elba just as Napolean was for being a not so big, bad conquerer of nations. It is a good skill, and I have been shamed on several occasions for my late night Del Taco runs here in Italy 🙂

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