Vegan Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich

Back in 2006, my girlfriend and I traveled across America for 3 months. As part of the trip, we stayed with some friends in New York and planned on getting up early one day to take a day trip to Philadelphia, the hometown of two of my heroes – The Fresh Prince and Rocky!

Well when that day came, we partied a little hard the night before and the entire plan went balls up. We still went though and with some terrible planning, we ended up with 30 minutes in Philly before having to get the bus back. So I did exactly what I went to Philly to do, I found the Rocky steps, ran up them and then got a Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich. The trip was a total success.

Since then, I have obviously gone vegan and have been meaning to make a veganised one since.

This recipe will ruffle some feathers. First up, it’s just a cheesesteak sandwich in Philly in the same way that Chinese people don’t call Chinese food “Chinese food”. Secondly, they are as protective of it as the Italians are about their families tomato sauce recipe, do an English man living in Australia, who is making a cheesesteak sandwich without the cheese or the steak, well, I imagine they won’t take too kindly to it!

For those willing to try though, this is a recipe I am really proud of. The steak is seitan made with marmite, a yeast extract to give it extra “beef” but the important part, after lots of trying, is the slow cooked caramelised veg. Done right and this lifts it to another level.


Makes 12 sandwiches (serves 6 adults)


Seitan Steak:
  • 1 ½ cups vital wheat gluten
  • ½ cup chickpea flour
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon vegan worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon marmite (or any yeast extract)
Simmering Stock:
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs, rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ cup molasses (optional)
Cheese Sauce:
  • 1 cup cashews, soaked for 8 – 12 hours or boiled for 10 minutes
  • 2 cups dairy free milk, I used almond
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
To Serve:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 3 onions, finely sliced
  • 3 green peppers, cored and finely sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 12 long white rolls

Cook it:

  1. Start by making the seitan. Put all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and whisk together. Then mix all the wet ingredients into a jug/bowl and stir. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir, using a spoon. Once stirred, pour onto a clean surface and knead for about 15 – 20 minutes. Add a little oil into a new bowl (or clean the one you did use and use that), put your dough in and spin around to coat with oil. Cover and leave for 20 minutes
  2. Whilst you are waiting, add the simmering stock ingredients to a large casserole dish or saucepan and heat over a medium heat until it comes to a boil, as it does lower to medium and leave to simmer
  3. Cut your dough in half and roll to form equal sized logs. Wrap in cheesecloth and add to the simmering stock. Put the lid on and leave slightly askew so the steam can exit. Make sure the temperature is simmering and not boiling and simmer for 45 minutes. If the seitan is not completely covered by stock, add some more water until it is. After 45 minutes, turn the heat off, put the lid on properly and leave for a final 15 minutes. Remove the seitan and refrigerate until ready. This can be made up to 3 days before. Note: the cheesecloth is not essential but will hold the shape of the seitan and give a firmer texture. Scratch that, that shit is essential!
  4. Now, caramelise the veg. Empty the casserole dish (or the largest frying pan you have) and heat over the lowest heat your stove offers. Add the oil and butter, onions and peppers, season with salt and pepper and fry, stirring occasionally for 30 – 40 minutes. Do not be tempted to raise the heat. Oi you, I’m talking to you.. Do not do it. It HAS to be done nice and slow
  5. Divide your seitan into 6 pieces. Carefully, slice as thin as possible, lengthways. This is more like carving than slicing. You want nice thin strips of “beef”. Once sliced, you will probably want to cut each piece in half (lengthways) again
  6. Add the cheese sauce ingredients to a blender and blend for 60 seconds until completely liquid. Pour into a saucepan and whisk constantly over a low/medium heat for 8- 10 minutes, until desired consistency
  7. At the same time, remove the veg to a bowl, raise the heat to medium and add the seitan. Fry for a few minutes, turning occasionally and then add the veg back to the pan. Stir to make sure everything is coated
  8. Cut your rolls in half, divide the seitan mixture evenly between them and pour over the cheese sauce
  9. Get it into ya!!

Recommended Tunes:

Bill Conti “Rocky (Original Motion Picture Score)”

I HAD to. You know I did.

I genuinely mean this though, Bill Conti is a genius and put together an incredible soundtrack. This is pre Eye of The Tiger machismo, it is out and out 70’s soul and funk. Incredibly uplifting in parts and emotional and downbeat in others. It is rough and cool at the same time.

Just try it….

Listen – but do yourself a favour and buy it on vinyl!!

5 thoughts on “Vegan Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich

  1. Back when Rocky first came out, I was living in Western Australia (home state) in Perth and a group of us penniless uni students went to watch it. My little sister was staying with me for a week and the movie must have sincerely affected her as she named her first born daughter “Tahlia” after Tahlia Shire. Aside from that, this recipe is sincerely and utterly on point. All of it’s components allude to it being delicious. Authentic or not, it hits the spot when it comes to comfort food. I don’t have marmite in my pantry after an unfortunate incident with my English nana when I was a child that required me to eat marmite on my toast instead of vegemite. The same thing happens to me whenever I see HP sauce which makes me gag on sight! I don’t even have vegemite these days so I will sub in some Korean soybean paste that is a close third in the stakes and gives the same umami thump as a good yeast spread. How do we go about thanking you for this stellar recipe? Well the “naming the first born” is well and truly stuffed as he is now 35 so I guess you are just going to have to settle for our undying gratitude for your awesome foodie shares :).


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