Vegetarian Muffuletta

January 21, 2016
1 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

What if the least important part of a traditional muffuletta sandwich is the meat? When I think about this classic sandwich, the olive relish is the first element that comes to mind, with its acidity, saltiness, and spiciness. Next, I think about the bread, which needs to be crusty on the outside but soft on the inside. Sharp provolone is another essential ingredient for me.

With these flavor components in place, I thought it would be fun to swap the cured meats for vegetables. I chose to add homemade roasted red peppers to this sandwich, along with broiled carrots and cauliflower. But I encourage you to experiment with any vegetables you like.

Please note that it can be hard to find authentic muffuletta bread outside of New Orleans. Depending on what bread you end up using, the amounts of each ingredient that you put on the sandwich may change slightly. Use your common sense, and add as much provolone, olive relish, or cauliflower as you like. —Josh Cohen

What You'll Need
  • 1 loaf of Italian bread topped with sesame seeds (you can substitute focaccia or ciabatta)
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 tablespoon capers, chopped
  • 1 cup pitted Castelvetrano olives (or your favorite pitted green olive)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 pickled pepperoncini peppers, stems and seeds removed, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus extra for roasting the carrots and cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus an extra splash to season the cauliflower
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 small head cauliflower
  • 1 handful basil leaves
  • 1/4 pound aged provolone, thinly sliced
  • 1 handful arugula
  1. Cut the red peppers into quarters, removing the stems, seeds, and membranes. Lay the peppers flat on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, skin-side up. Broil the peppers until the skins are completely charred and blackened, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the charred peppers to a mixing bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let the peppers steam for 10 to 20 minutes, until they are cool enough to handle. Peel the charred skin off the peppers. Set the roasted red peppers aside.
  2. Add the capers, olives, garlic, pepperoncini peppers, and the 1/2 cup of olive oil to a food processor, and pulse until the ingredients are roughly chopped. Transfer the pulsed ingredients to a large mixing bowl, and add the red wine vinegar, fennel seeds, dried oregano, celery seeds, chili flakes, and shallot. Fold all the ingredients together. Keep in mind that some excess oil is a good thing—it will soak into the bread and make the sandwich delicious. Taste the olive mixture. It should taste strongly acidic, salty, and spicy. Adjust the flavor with more salt or red wine vinegar as necessary. Set the mixture aside.
  3. Peel the carrots and cut them into planks about 1/4-inch thick. Place the carrots on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and toss the carrots so they are coated on all sides. Season with a pinch of salt. Broil the carrots until they begin to caramelize, approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Set the carrots aside.
  4. Cut the cauliflower into florets, transfer to a mixing bowl, and toss with olive oil to coat. Arrange the cauliflower on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, season with salt, and broil until the florets begin to char and caramelize. Keep a close eye on the cauliflower to prevent it from burning. Remove the cauliflower from the oven when the tops of the florets begin to turn dark. When the cauliflower is cool enough to handle, gather 2 cups of the roasted florets and roughly chop them. Any extra roasted cauliflower can be saved for a different use. Transfer the chopped roasted cauliflower to a mixing bowl and season with a splash of red wine vinegar. Taste it. Adjust with salt as needed.
  5. Time to assemble the sandwich. Slice the bread in half with a serrated knife. If the bread seems too tall, use the serrated knife to trim away some of the middle of the bread. Spread the olive mixture onto both halves of the bread, allowing some of the extra oil to soak into the bread. Starting with the bottom piece of bread, lay down the carrots, followed by the cauliflower. Tear the basil leaves with your hands and place them on top of the cauliflower. Next, add the provolone, followed by the roasted red peppers. Place a handful of arugula onto the top piece of bread. If there is excess oil leftover from your olive mixture, drizzle some of this over the arugula. Close the sandwich, slice it into wedges, and enjoy.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jade DaRu
    Jade DaRu
  • Megan Hensler
    Megan Hensler
  • Emily Love
    Emily Love
  • Big Pot
    Big Pot
  • Jasmin

15 Reviews

mbobden May 12, 2021
Josh, Is the sharp provolone intended here the imported wedge which would yield thin strip shaped slices or the "sharp" deli provolone which is round and sliced at the deli counter?
Josh C. May 13, 2021
I'd recommend the imported wedge, for a more intense flavor, but to be honest either would work fine.
Jade D. February 23, 2019
This sounds awesome. I am always looking for the ultimate sandwich fixings. I do love a good Italian sandwich but love vegetarian, too. Josh, I know what you mean about sharp provolone. It’s ironic that I was just thinking of this after buying “sharp” provolone from Whole Foods today. It’s good, but it is not the sharp provolone I grew up with. I should know better, the only place to really find a proper one is at DiPalo in NYC or another good Italian deli, I think.
Josh C. February 26, 2019
I love Di Palo's! Thanks Jade for the comment.
Megan H. August 28, 2017
I made this a few days ago and it was so good! Have left overs and decided to make it again tonight and I don't have red bell peppers! Any suggestions?
Emily L. February 4, 2016
yay! I moved to Louisiana two years ago and have always wanted to try a muffuletta but don't eat meat. So excited to make these.
HDeffenbaugh February 4, 2016
Sounds like a perfect option to make my Vegetarian friends coming over for the Super Bowl.
Jodi S. February 3, 2016
Can't eat olives. Is there another "spread or "dressing" that could suffice?
Would love to make this!
Josh C. February 4, 2016
Hi Jodi,

I do think that the olives are an essential part of this sandwich, but you could swap in a roasted eggplant spread or some sort of Italian giardiniera spread. Whatever substitute you end up using, you want to highlight acidic, salty, and spicy flavors.
Big P. February 3, 2016
"Real Beer and Good Eats" by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly provides a great recipe for a Fried Eggplant Muffuletta. Also, Muffuletta Salad: olive dressing, zucchini, carrots, cheese and salami. P.S. If you are in N.O, try not to eat more than a 1/4 of the original Muffuletta or your sodium consumption (not to mention calories) will be off the charts.
Jasmin February 2, 2016
As a vegetarian, I never had Muffuletta and it attracted me in a way because of its colorful structure. Your version looks even better - I'll surely have this one for breakfast soon :)
ChefJune January 28, 2016
I'm not sure why this generation (a whole lot younger than I) feels the need to just tack "Vegetarian" or "Vegan" in front of a traditional recipe when they've re-invented the recipe. I'm all for the reinvention, but then, it really does deserve its own name. Muffuletta is a very meaty sandwich, and while I've no doubt this version is also delicious, it really isn't a Muffuletta! Sorry.
mel January 23, 2016
You had me at Castelvetrano Olives (my favorite). I made this tonight for my meat loving husband. Hands down the best sandwich I have ever eaten. For years I have raved about a roasted vegetable sandwich I had in Colorado years ago. My husband has heard that story over and over again for years and years....This surpassed that. Thank you for giving me a recipe my (darn good meal making) husband could not come up with something to add to, or remove from. I will be making this many times in the future.
Lisa January 23, 2016
A brilliant kosher solution to a sandwich I've read about but never tasted. Thanks, josh!
Sophie L. January 23, 2016
Good idea to make a vegetarian version but I would had boiled eggs or even hummus to had protein!
Looking forward to try it !