We know what you’re thinking, and YES this cheesy, decadent dish you’re staring at is 100% vegan — and just as delicious as the OG version. It comes to us from former TV host Lauren Toyota, whose new cookbook, Hot For Food Vegan Comfort Classics, is full of plant-based takes on the most flavourful foods around.
For Toyota, going vegan never meant sacrificing taste, but it took a while to find the perfect alternatives for recreating her all time faves, like this one. “In the early days, it was just trying things that other people were doing and going, ‘this is missing the mark,’” she told us, “and then [it was] me just kind of winging it in the kitchen… going ‘okay but now what? What do I add to this to layer it, to get the flavour deeper?’”
So how’d she finally get those beloved classics juuuust right? “I learned by watching television, which is how I learn to do everything,” Toyota laughs, specifying that Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives is her true poison of choice. “The more I listened and tasted what I liked and ignored whatever the rules were, that’s how I found things that were good enough to publish.” Read on to learn more about this #MeatlessMonday essential, and get the deets on how to make it at home.
By Lauren Toyota
In west Philadelphia, born and raised, on the playground was where I spent most of my days... nope not true. But you knew that. Am I the only one whose reference for Philly cheesesteaks comes from watching the Fresh Prince drool and reminisce over them in that greasy paper bag? You can find this montage on YouTube, FYI. It always made my mouth water, but I’ve never eaten one with real steak. Though, I have had my fair share of vegan Philly cheesesteaks and I’ve really gotta give it up for my own creation. I’m sure you’ll agree after just one big bite!
2 cups thinly sliced onions (about 2 onions)
2 cups thinly sliced green bell peppers (about 2 peppers)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
½ Saved by Seitan loaf (see recipe below), thinly sliced or shaved
2 tbsp vegan Worcestershire
2 tbsp water
Sea salt and ground pepper
6 hoagie-style buns
6 tbsp vegan butter
The Nacho Cheese (see recipe below), warmed
Saved by Seitan loaf (for 1 large loaf)::
3 cups vital wheat gluten
¼ cup nutritional yeast
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp ground pepper
2 vegan beef-flavored bouillon cubes dissolved in 3 cups hot water, or 3 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp tomato paste
The Nacho Cheese (for 1 ½ cups worth)::
1 cup peeled, cubed white potato (about 1 small potato)
½ cup peeled, diced carrot (about 1 carrot)
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup nondairy milk or water
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 ½ tsp arrowroot flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp sea salt
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 pickled jalapeño slices or to taste, plus 3 tablespoons brine
1 tbsp tomato paste
For Saved by Seitan loaf:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, combine the wheat gluten with the nutritional yeast, spices, and herbs. In another bowl, mix together the stock, vegetable oil, tamari, vinegar, and tomato paste until well combined. Pour the stock mixture into the wheat gluten mixture and stir to combine.
The mixture should be very moist, but still able to be handled as one large piece. It should not be sticking to your hands, but should be quite slippery. You will feel the elasticity of the gluten binding it together into a blob. Place the dough on a clean work surface and knead, pulling and stretching it and folding it over itself a few times. Finally, press it together to form large log shape approximately 10 inches long and 4 inches in diameter.
Wrap the log tightly in a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. You may need to use 2 sheets to make it completely secure. There should be no exposed gaps. Tighten and twist the ends of the foil.
Place the log on a baking sheet and bake for 90 minutes. It should feel very firm when you take it out of the oven. Allow the log to cool at room temperature. Store in the fridge overnight before using it for sandwiches.
The seitan is best sliced very thin with a sharp knife or shaved using a mandolin.
For The Nacho Cheese:
Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the potato and carrot until fork- tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain the vegetables and immediately place in a high-powered blender. If you cook the potatoes too long, they will become starchy and your sauce will not be smooth.
Add the remaining ingredients to the blender and combine on high until smooth. Your sauce may be hot enough to serve immediately from the blender. If not, heat it in a saucepan for a few minutes until just bubbling and warm or reheat in a microwave.
When you reheat the sauce, a small amount of nondairy milk or water may be required to get a smooth consistency again.
For Philly Cheesesteak:
In a large cast-iron skillet or frying pan over medium heat, sauté the onions and bell peppers with the vegetable oil for 10 to 12 minutes until soft and cooked through. Add the sliced seitan and brown for 3 to 4 minutes.
Combine the Worcestershire and water together in a small bowl. Pour over the vegetables and seitan and toss to coat everything in the sauce. Continue cooking for 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, cut the hoagie buns in half. Toast and butter the buns. Spread the warm cheese on the inside of both halves of each bun. Top with a generous portion of the seitan mixture. Drizzle with more cheese and serve immediately.
Excerpted from Hot for Food Vegan Comfort Classics. Copyright © 2018 by Lauren Toyota. Published by Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Servings: Makes 6 sandwiches
approx. Per Serving