Vegan Philly Cheesesteak

Thick sheets of yuba (tofu skin) are sliced, smothered in an umami-packed mushroom broth, and tossed with caramelized onions and roasted trumpet mushrooms.

A vegan cheesesteak cut in half with vegan cheese dripping out

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Why It Works

  • A rich mushroom stock fortified with vegetable base adds meaty flavor to the yuba.
  • Thick yuba sheets hold up to simmering in the mushroom stock and have a nice chewy bite.
  • Shredded, roasted trumpet mushrooms soak up any extra sauce, preventing the sandwich from getting soggy.
  • Deep, toasty flavors of caramel give the filling dimension and balance.

My love of yuba runs deep. If I ever found myself in a Sophie’s Choice situation, forced to say goodbye to either tofu skin or meat, you’d find me silently screaming after deciding to let my baby beef go. That said, dare I declare that this vegan yuba cheesesteak is even better than its carnivorous counterpart? Oh yes, I dare. Okay, I’ll admit that my opinion of this sandwich is severely skewed due to my undying affection for yuba, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still pretty darn delicious.

If it makes you feel more comfortable, just call it a yuba sandwich inspired by the iconic cheesesteak. The jury is still out on who makes the best cheesesteak, but what I’m looking for is tender and juicy thinly sliced steak, a fresh, crusty roll with a fluffy interior, and I’m always “wiz wit”—meaning I want my cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz and onions.

While the mushroom broth is simmering, I also caramelize onions and roast king oyster mushrooms, which will be added to the mix at the end. The trumpet mushrooms are joining the team for their ability to sop up sauce like a sponge, which prevents the yuba filling from getting wet and soggy. I shred the trumpet mushrooms lengthwise to create a coarse and rough texture, maximizing surface area and sauce-sucking potential. I then toss the mushroom shreds with oil, salt, and pepper before roasting until golden and crisp.

To finish up the bean curd “steak,” I sprinkle sugar across a wide sauté pan and allow it to caramelize to a dark brown. Once browned and nearly smoking, I drop in the bean curd strips and stir to toss in the caramel. Next, I season the yuba with paprika, garlic powder, and a few generous turns of black pepper. This is all topped with the mushroom broth and everything gets simmered down until the liquid reduces to a thick glaze. I finally stir in the caramelized onions and roasted trumpet mushrooms to finish off the filling.

You could stop here and finish the sandwich with a few slices of vegan cheese, but I need Cheez Whiz in order to call it a cheesesteak. Kenji’s vegan cheese sauce almost nails it, but it’s too spicy and Southwestern-inspired for an East Coast sandwich. To push his sauce closer to Philly, I omit the chipotles, jalapeños, and hot sauce. Instead, I add a teaspoon of tomato paste and a heap of nutritional yeast. I love the musky taste of nutritional yeast; it’s cheesy with a hint of wet basement—in the best possible way.

Vegan nacho cheese sauce inside the bowl of a high speed blender.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

All that’s left is to assemble the sandwich. I prefer untoasted buns, and I generously smear them with the cheese sauce before loading them up with yuba “steak,” followed by more cheese, of course. For the most authentic experience, I like to wrap my sandwich up in foil, shove it in the bottom of my backpack, walk around town, and eat it hours later once the yuba, cheese sauce, and bread have all gotten to know one another. But eat yours immediately, if you must.

March 2018

Recipe Facts



Active: 90 mins
Total: 2 hrs 30 mins
Serves: 6 sandwiches

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For the Mushroom Stock:

  • 7 cups (20 ounces; 560g) button mushrooms, washed and quartered

  • 1 medium (10 ounces; 280g) onion, quartered

  • 8 cloves (2 ounces; 60g) garlic, roughly smashed

  • 4 small (9.5 ounces; 270g) carrots, cut into large chunks

  • 4 ribs (12 ounces; 340g) celery, cut into large chunks

  • 5 tablespoons (2.5 ounces; 70g) vegetable oil, divided

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon (0.5 ounce; 15g) tomato paste

  • 3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces; 45g) vegetable base, such as Better Than Bouillon

For the Cheesesteak Filling:

  • 1.5 packages (15 ounces; 420g) beancurd sheets (yuba)

  • 6 tablespoons (1.5 ounces; 45g) vegetable oil, divided

  • 2 medium (20 ounces; 560g) onion, thinly sliced

  • 3 cups (8 ounces; 220g) royal trumpet mushroom, shredded lengthwise

  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

  • 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces; 50g) sugar

  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce; 30g) spicy brown mustard

  • Vegan nacho cheese sauce (see note)

  • 6 hoagie buns


  1. For the mushroom stock: Preheat your oven to 450°F (232°C). In a large bowl, toss together the mushroom, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil and kosher salt. Spread onto two foil-lined sheet trays. Roast until deeply browned, about 45 minutes, tossing vegetables every 15 minutes.

  2. In a 4-quart sauce pot over medium heat, add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and tomato paste. Cook tomato paste until caramelized and deep mahogany, about 5 minutes. Add 6 cups (48 ounces; 1.3L) water, roasted vegetables, and vegetable base. Simmer for 45 minutes. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain mushroom stock, pressing firmly on solids.

    A four-image collage. The top left image shows mushrooms and vegetables roasted until deeply browned inside of a baking sheet. The top right image shoes tomato paste being stirred inside of a stainless steel pot. The bottom left image shows the mushrooms and vegetables being scraped from the sheet pan into the stainless steel pot. The bottom right image shows bouillon paste being spooned into the stainless steel pot.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  3. For the cheesesteak filling: Remove yuba from package and cut into 1-inch strips. (Optional: Place cut yuba in a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place the nozzle of a smoking gun under the plastic wrap. Light smoking gun until the bowl fills with smoke. Let the yuba sit in the smoke for 30 minutes, adding more smoke as needed.)

    A four-image collage. The top left image shows the yuba sheets in their packaging. The top right image shows the yuba being sliced into think pieces. The bottom left image shows an overhead shot of the yuba being sliced. The bottom right image shows the yuba being smoked inside of a metal bowl.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  4. While stock is simmering, over medium-low heat in a medium saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil and add onions. Cook gently until caramelized, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a splash of water as needed.

  5. Toss the shredded trumpet mushroom with the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread onto a foil-lined sheet tray and roast at 450°F (232°C) until golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes.

    Browned and shredded king oyster mushrooms on aluminum foil.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  6. In a large saute pan over high heat, add the sugar and caramelize until deep golden brown. Add the yuba strips, stirring to distribute caramel. Add the paprika, garlic powder, mushroom stock, and black pepper. Simmer until most of the liquid has reduced and the yuba is glazed. Remove from heat and stir in the mustard, caramelized onions, and roasted trumpet mushrooms.

    A four-image collage. The top left image shows caramel being made in a pan. The top right image shows yuba strips being added to the pan. The bottom left image shows the yuba and caramelized sauce being tossed together. The bottom right image shows the browned mushrooms being stirred into the yuba.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  7. To assemble the sandwiches: If desired, warm or toast the hoagie buns. Split open the buns and spread with 1/4 cup of Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce. Divide the yuba filling among the six buns and top with extra cheese. Serve immediately.

    Vegan nacho cheese sauce being poured onto the filling of the vegan philly cheesesteak.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Special Equipment

Half sheet pan, fine-mesh strainer, smoking gun (optional)


Kenji's recipe for Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce has a lot of heat and a southwestern taste. For something with flavors closer to a true cheesesteak omit the jalapeño, chipotle, and hot sauce. Instead, add 1 teaspoon tomato paste to the onions and blend in 1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes at the end. If you do not own a smoking gun, you can use a wok to smoke the yuba, or you can add 1/4 teaspoon (1ml) good-quality liquid smoke, such as Wright's or Colgin to the yuba mixture at the end of Step 6.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
1074 Calories
76g Fat
68g Carbs
42g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 1074
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 76g 97%
Saturated Fat 18g 89%
Cholesterol 73mg 24%
Sodium 2444mg 106%
Total Carbohydrate 68g 25%
Dietary Fiber 9g 31%
Total Sugars 25g
Protein 42g
Vitamin C 20mg 101%
Calcium 587mg 45%
Iron 10mg 56%
Potassium 1512mg 32%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)