A finished vegetarian cheesesteak recipe.

Vegetarian Philly Cheesesteak

Vegetarian Philly Cheesesteak

Cheesesteaks with fried onions and Cheez Whiz on a chewy sandwich roll are such a crave-able combination. This vegetarian version won’t disappoint.

For this vegetarian cheesesteak, thinly sliced onions are sauteed in a pan until soft, vegan meat is pressed thin and browned, then this mixture of cooked vegan meat and onions is seasoned with black pepper and salt to taste, and a rich cheese sauce is heated until bubbling hot. This is added to a fresh sandwich roll and can be baked for a few minutes until the bread is chewy and crispy.

What Is A Cheesesteak Made of?

Normally, thinly shaved ribeye steak is cooked on a griddle and seasoned with salt and black pepper. Fried onions are offered as an optional add-in which are caramelized and added to the thinly sliced and cooked steak. A choice of melted cheese or cheese sauce is added in and this cheesy steak and onion mixture is served in an Italian roll.

The best bread to use to make a Philly cheesesteak is an Amoroso’s brand Italian hoagie or long sandwich roll. Amoroso’s is famous for bread in the greater Philadelphia area and is unmatched in taste and quality. Fresh Amoroso rolls are golden brown, soft, and delightfully chewy. These are difficult to get outside of the area, but you can buy Amoroso rolls on Amazon.

You can use the hoagie or sub rolls available to you in your area, but for the most authentic Philly cheesesteak experience, I recommend Amoroso’s rolls.

What Is The Best Cheese For A Cheesesteak?

The cheese used in the famous cheesesteaks made by Pat’s and Geno’s is Cheez Whiz, but that doesn’t mean this is the only cheese you’ll find offered in cheesesteaks in the greater Philadelphia area. You’ll find that many restaurants also commonly use sliced American. Cheez Whiz is used because it has a unique creamy and salty taste that makes a great cheesesteak, and melted American cheese has a classic taste and cheese texture. Whichever you use is just a matter of taste and preference.

If you’d like to make the cheese sauce yourself, I recommend using my Homemade Nacho Cheese Sauce recipe. For a more traditional style of cheesesteak, just omit the oil and jalapeno from that recipe.

Can You Make This Cheesesteak Vegan?

To make this a vegan cheesesteak, all you’ll need to change is the cheese sauce and make sure that the sandwich rolls that you use don’t contain any dairy ingredients. I recommend trying this vegan nacho cheese sauce recipe from Sweet Simple Vegan, which should work very well with this veggie Philly cheesesteak.

What Substitutions Can Be Used Instead Of Vegan Beef?

While vegetarian cheesesteaks taste most like authentic Philly cheesesteaks when using vegan beef like Impossible Burger or Beyond Beef, these can be substituted with thinly sliced or shredded beef-style seitan or even sliced portabella mushrooms.

At A Minimum, You’ll Need:

A 10″ nonstick pan or pot to cook the cheesesteak sandwich filling. When cooking vegetarian meats, it’s important to use a good non-stick pan. Vegetarian meat replacements have a tendency to stick to pans that don’t have a non-stick coating which makes for a bigger mess to clean up. If you use a non-stick pan, cleanup is a breeze. This is a pan I use often and the non-stick coating works very well for mock meats.

A silicone spatula for pressing down and flattening the “steak” as it cooks. Silicone utensils are the only utensils you should be using on pans with a nonstick coating. Metal utensils will scratch off the coating, which ruins your pans and ends up in your food and that can’t be very healthy to consume. Please, respect your pans and use silicone.

A toaster oven, air fryer, or oven to heat the sandwich for a few minutes in order to soften and toast the bread. This is helpful if your bread isn’t the freshest, softest loaf of bread. Doing so will soften the crumb of the bread, and toast the edges. (optional)

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Making A Vegetarian Philly Cheesesteak

How To Make A Vegetarian Philly Cheesesteak

A photo showing the ingredients to make a veggie philly cheesesteak. This includes vegan beef, thinly sliced onions, cheese sauce, oil, black pepper, salt, and two long sandwich rolls.

You should always start every recipe by gathering your ingredients. This is called “mise en place,” which is a French culinary phrase for having everything in its place and ready for when you start to cook. If you don’t have your ingredients ready, you end up running around the kitchen wild trying to measure or chop ingredients before your recipe burns. If you have everything ready, you can add ingredients as you need them because they’re already prepared.

A photo showing thinly sliced onions added to a hot pan with oil for cooking to make fried onions for a vegetarian cheesesteak.

Start by adding about a tablespoon of oil to a pan then add thinly sliced onions, cooking over medium-high heat and stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent and soft.

I like to use thinly sliced onions cut to about 1.5mm in thickness using a mandolin slicer, but go thinner to thicker to your preference. Just keep in mind, the thicker they are the longer they will take to cook, and keeping them cut to a similar size will allow them to cook evenly.

A photo showing fried onions cooking with a little added water to speed up the caramelization process.

If you like your onions really soft and caramelized, you can speed up the caramelization process by adding a few tablespoons of broth or water after the onions have sauteed for a few minutes. The boiling liquid will soften the onions as it evaporates. When the water is evaporated completely, the onions and oil left behind will be very soft and caramelized.

A photo showing fried onions moved off to the side to allow room for the vegan mock beef to cook for vegetarian cheesesteaks.

When the onions are finished cooking to your liking, slide them off to the side of the pan. Then add six to eight ounces of impossible or beyond beef for each cheesesteak you are making.

A photo showing the cook pressing a spatula down on vegan beef in a pan to press it thin for a vegetarian philly cheesesteak.

Using a solid spatula without slits or holes like in the above photo, so that you don’t risk burning yourself, press down on the beyond or impossible beef to smash it thin in the hot pan. It will stick to the spatula here when you go to lift the spatula up. If it does, just use a knife or something to scrape it off the spatula and back into the pan.

Cook the beef substitute for a few minutes until nice and browned, then flip it over and do the same for the other side.

Smashing the impossible beef thin like this and cooking it as a sheet instead of chopping it up into ground bits and pieces is just a technique to help make the shape of the mock beef more like thin shreds of sliced steak.

A photo showing fried onions and vegetarian cheesesteak filling cooking in a hot pan.

After the impossible burger or beyond beef is browned on both sides, season it with a pinch of salt and some black pepper, then mix it together with the onions.

A photo showing a vegetarian philly cheesesteak and fried onion mixture off to the side in a pan while cheese sauce heats up.

Slide the cooked vegan meat and fried onion mixture off to the side and reduce the heat of the pan to low. A lower temperature is important here because the cheese sauce can scorch at high temperatures and burn to the pan. Add the nacho cheese sauce and heat it, stirring occasionally, until it’s bubbling hot.

A photo showing a finished vegetarian philly cheesesteak.

Using a spatula, scrape the steak, onion, and cheese filling into a hoagie or sandwich roll that is cut length-wise like a hot dog roll. If you have a nice fresh roll, you can eat it as is.

If you prefer it lightly toasted, you can wrap the sandwich in an aluminum foil boat and bake it at 350°F for a few minutes in a toaster oven, air fryer, or oven. This will nicely toast the edges and soften the crumb of the bread.


Vegetarian Philly Cheesesteak Recipe

Makes 2 Servings


For Topping

In a medium pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil and add the onions. Saute the onions, stirring occasionally, until the onions are nicely caramelized or cooked to your preference. Optionally add a tablespoon or two of water or broth to speed up this process, letting the water evaporate completely before proceeding to the next step.

Move the onions off to the side of the pan, then add the vegan beef. Press down on the vegan beef with a spatula to smash it into a thin sheet, using a knife to scrape it from the spatula back into the pan if it sticks. Cook one side for a few minutes until nicely browned, then flip the vegan beef and cook the other side similarly.

Add the black pepper and a pinch of salt, mixing the onions and vegan beef together.

Reduce the heat to low, then add the cheese sauce to the pan, cooking until bubbling hot. Then, using a spatula or serving spoon, spoon half of the vegetarian cheesesteak filling into each of the Italian sandwich rolls. (Optional) For a toasted cheesesteak sandwich, wrap each sandwich in an aluminum foil boat and bake at 350°F for several minutes until the sides of the bread are toasted and nicely browned.

Enjoy as is, or top with a bit of ketchup or your favorite sauce. Serve with a side of chips or french fries, a wedge of pickle, and a chilled soft drink.

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