Play Me a Recipe

Plant-Based Italian Sub

October 21, 2021
1 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland.
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 5 minutes
  • makes 1 sandwich
Author Notes

Maybe you call it a sub, or a submarine, or a hoagie, or a grinder—whatever the name, it’s as good as a desk lunch gets. Or if it’s a weekend, even better; take it to the park for a picnic or the beach for a post-swim reward. Where I live in New Jersey, there is no shortage of good delis, and thus no shortage of good Italian subs. Depending on the shop, these feature an assortment of cured meats, provolone cheese, all the crunchy fixings (lettuce, onion, and tomato), plus mayo and an oregano-y vinaigrette—this version takes a plant-based spin.

My fridge is never—truly never, ever—without tempeh, which has an inherent, awesome umami. And once you snag an already-seasoned tempeh, like Lightlife’s Smoky Tempeh Strips, any flavor-boosting is already accomplished. It’s an effortless swap for ham and salami. Just like the original, this sub is delightfully messy to eat. Have napkins at the ready.
Emma Laperruque

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe is shared in partnership with Lightlife, and was developed using their Smoky Tempeh Strips and plant-based Chao Slices.

This recipe was featured on our cook-along podcast Play Me a Recipe. Listen as Emma cooks her way through this recipe.
—The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 (6-ounce) package Lightlife Smoky Tempeh Strips
  • Neutral oil, like canola or vegetable
  • 2 tablespoons plant-based mayonnaise
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons sliced pepperoncini, brine reserved
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 sub roll (about 8 inches long), halved horizontally, toasted if you’d like
  • 2 slices plant-based cheese, such as Chao
  • 1/4 to 1/2 beefsteak tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 to 4 pieces iceberg lettuce
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Red wine vinegar, for drizzling
  1. Crisp the Lightlife Smoky Tempeh Strips: Add a thin layer of neutral oil to a cast-iron skillet over medium heat and add the tempeh. Sear until crispy on both sides, about 4 minutes total. Transfer to a plate to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, make the plant-based garlic mayo: Combine the mayonnaise, garlic, 1½ teaspoons of the pepperoncini brine, fennel seeds, oregano, and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Season with more brine to taste. (Storage note: This plant-based garlic mayo will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 1 week.)
  3. Spread the plant-based garlic mayo on the inside of the sub roll. To the bottom piece of bread, stack in this order: smoky tempeh strips, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, pepperoncini, sprinkle of salt and pepper, drizzle of olive oil and red wine vinegar, top half of bread. Press down with your hand so all the ingredients get acquainted.
  4. Slice in half and serve with lots of napkins. This is also great to bundle in foil and take to school or work.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
  • NicolaP
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

2 Reviews

NicolaP October 29, 2021
This was sooooo tasty! Unreal. The tempeh. The absolutely genius fennel seeds in the mayo. Sent one to work with my husband and just got a text: “MORE!!!” Wouldn’t change a thing.
Emma L. November 1, 2021
Yay so happy to hear it!