The world has come a long way in terms of offering vegan options at restaurants and drive-thrus, but one food still remains a bit difficult to find a delicious plant-based version of: the sub sandwich. We’re here to help with two awesome sandwich “recipes” that we’re currently obsessed with.
In April, Ben and I will have been together for 5 years. A little more than a year into our relationship, I decided to go vegan overnight while he continued to eat convenience foods diet that he and I had been eating together since we met.
About 6 months ago, However, Ben decided that he was going to give up eating meat for good. The world was changing, plant-based options were readily available at fast food restaurants, not to mention he lived with a partner who had a vegan recipe channel on YouTube.
If you were to ask him why it took him three years longer than me to give up meat, he would attribute it solely to availability and convenience.
So, say what you will about processed vegan foods, and all the debate within the vegan community about shared grills at Burger King, because Ben is living proof that having meat-free options readily available can change the way that people eat.
Switching to a vegan lifestyle overnight was a breeze for me because I knew what I was doing in the kitchen, and I actually enjoyed learning how to cook vegan foods. For Ben, though, that wasn’t the case.
Not only have I been eating this way for 3 years longer than him, so I have a better understanding of what options are available and where, but I also love to cook and experiment in the kitchen. It’s easy for me to just walk into the kitchen and quickly throw something together. For him, not so much.
However, I see Ben’s recent transition to a meat-free diet a benefit and a blessing to my channel. Having him in my life, I get to see first-hand what it’s like for someone who doesn’t like to cook, and who doesn’t really care about food ,try to navigate the world of plant-based options. There was a lot that I took for granted as I planned recipes for my channel, and he has helped me to see where I could improve how I help people through my videos.
For the most part, he hasn’t felt like he had to give anything up. Before going meat-free, his go-to food was a drive-thru burger. He now has a Carl’s Jr. and a Burger King offering delicious Impossible and Beyond burgers within a mile of our house. We’ve also got a Taco Bell and a Del Taco within the same parking lot, so if he’s wanting to switch things up a bit, he has those as options as well.
However, about a month into his transition, he started talking about how much he missed sub sandwiches. It’s not that he had them a whole lot when he was eating meat, but maybe there was something to the fact that he “couldn’t” have them anymore that made him want one.
Having been around the vegan block for a while, I knew that there were vegan lunch meats available in pretty much every supermarket, but aside from Tofurky slices, I hadn’t really tried any of them. The Yves brand was fairly ubiquitous, and if I’m being honest, their sliced “meats” always looked like they were made of Play-Doh.
Ben’s longing for a Port of Subs style Italian sub grew stronger, and with the opening of a new vegan “butcher” shop in town, NoButcher, we were able to satisfy his craving. The sandwich was great, but because they make all of their meats and cheeses from scratch, their was definitely a premium. Their Italian sub was worth the cost, but it was a cost none-the-less. Not to mention, their singular location is a 25 minute drive from our house.
The Italian sub at NoButcher not only hit the spot for Ben, but gave me hope that a great vegan sub sandwich could be made at home. My main takeaway from that sandwich, though, was their use of Italian dressing. I realized after the first bite that it’s all about the sauces and accoutrements. If those are on point, then the sandwich will be delicious.
A few days later I saw that the Yves products on sale at Sprouts, so I decided it was time to pick up a few varieties, and give it a go. I made a sample sandwich for Ben and I to split. After the first bite, we were both sold.
How to make “Ben’s Favorite Vegan Italian Sub”:
First, you need to find a good roll. I like a sub role from the bakery section at the supermarket, but there are a ton of good “accidentally vegan” options out there. Just read the label and make sure it doesn’t have any eggs or dairy. There are some other sneaky animal-derived ingredients, such as dough conditioners derived from sheep’s wool, but if you’re able to find a good roll with few ingredients, like the ones at Whole Foods, you’re in business.
Next, is the “meat”. Yves products probably the most readily available, and I can often find them at Smith’s (Kroger) and Albertsons in addition to more specialty stores like Sprouts or Whole Foods. A good Italian sub has a few different kinds of meat, and Yves seems to have them all. Tufurky products are also great, so if that’s all you can find, or if you can find them both, mix and match. Our favorites are the smoked Tufurky, and the Yves bologna (trust me, vegan bologna is great!), salami, and pepperoni.
Vegan cheese has come a long way. I stand behind any Follow Your Heart or Violive sliced or shredded cheeses. The smoked varieties add a nice layer of flavor, but a more subtle cheese such as American or provolone work very well, too.
The sauce is what’s going to bring everything together and really sell that sub shop experience. Mayo-mustard is a must, and I like to do 3 parts mayo to 1 part mustard. Vegenaise is my go-to vegan mayo, but Best Foods vegan mayo is less expensive and a bit easier to find. I also really stand by Kraft Zesty Italian dressing. And don’t be shy about it either. Get it messy!
Veggies add not only flavor but texture. Shredded iceberg lettuce is non-negotiable as it’s the one with the biggest crunch. Slivered onions, sliced ripe roma tomatoes, and good dill pickles are also a must. Each veggie brings their own personality to the party, and you’ll realize after your first bite just how much those toppings played a roll in your sandwich loving experience.
Salt and pepper… Vegan meats are notorious for being high in sodium, but they are also notorious for stealing flavor from other ingredients. A sprinkle of fresh black pepper, and salt on top of the lettuce bumps taste of the veggies, and helps to fill in any flavor gaps.
Check out this video to see some food-porny B-roll of us making this sandwich along with our favorite Spicy Vegan Chicken Sandwich, an then scroll down to see how me put that sandwich together.
How to make “Spicy Vegan Chicken Sandwich”:
There are a ton of great vegan chicken products out there, especially of the crispy-breaded variety. Quorn, Boca, Morning Star, and Gardein all offer great crispy vegan chicken options that can easily make sandwiches that will rival any of the fast food, non-vegan versions our there.
Here’s what we think makes a great vegan crispy chicken sandwich:
If you don’t have an air fryer, maybe it’s time you think about getting one. Imagine if a microwave and an oven had a baby. They cook foods quickly, with how swirling air, so that foods come out evenly crisped in a jiffy. For frozen breaded vegan products, like the Gardein Nashville Hot chicken tenders, noting beats an air fryer to give you that crispy-fried experience.
Condiments are important, and I think with a sandwich like this, it’s best to keep things simple. Mayo, pickles, and shredded iceberg lettuce are about all you need to capture that drive-thru experience. And don’t be shy with the mayo because they never are.
Vegan burger buns are easy to find. Just read the ingredients to make sure there’s no egg or dairy. Oddly, generic brands usually are the ones that don’t contain animal products. There are even some vegan pretzel buns out on the market that would knock any crispy chicken sandwich out of the park.