You will be so surprised at the amazing flavor that comes from this vegan Cubano sandwich! You’ll never miss the old Cubanos. I had to try creating a vegan Cubano, and I’m so glad I did – this is my favorite blog recipe so far. We love Cubanos at my house, but we hadn’t had any since becoming vegan two years ago. Those sad days are over!
This is not a healthy vegan meal by any stretch of the imagination, but it is delicious and for a once or twice a year treat, it’s perfect. Serve the sandwich with a side of Salvadoran curtido and the healthy slaw will balance the meal.
If you are unfamiliar with a Cubano sandwich, it usually comes with two kinds of pork, one marinated, and the other a thinly sliced ham, then two layers of cheese, dill pickles, mustard, salt and pepper. Then you butter the outside of the bread for grilling. With this recipe, I am substituting all of the meat with one type of vegan deli slice, which I marinate first. To replace the cheese, I use vegan smoked gouda. Vegan butter is used for the bread and voila! This is a Cubano sandwich you can eat!!
For the sandwich, Cuban bread is best, since it has a softer crust, but French bread works. I’ve always used French bread, because I don’t have any place nearby for buying Cuban bread.
When marinating the vegan deli slices, you can leave them in the refrigerator for as little as half an hour, or even overnight. Do whatever is convenient for you. If you are making them for guests, maybe let the slices marinate for a few hours beforehand, for the best flavors.
Pickle placement is important on this sandwich. Yes, that’s what I said! When placing the pickles on both sides of the sandwiches, stagger them the same, so that when you flip the one side of the bread over, the pickles will be reversed on the flipped side of bread and you will have some pickle in every bite. It’s important for this sandwich!
The traditional way of serving Cubanos calls for cutting the sandwich on the diagonal, instead of just cutting it straight across. I mention it here because you don’t need some “Cubano expert” guest questioning your sandwich making skills!
For the “meat” and “cheese,” you can try other vegan meats and vegan cheeses, but I really think the two I use give the best Cubano flavor. If you do use other ingredients, let me know! I’d love to try variations.
For a true Cubano, though, (regardless of substitutions) you must do the following: marinate the meat, use mustard and vegan mayo on the bread, line the bread with cheese and dill pickle slices, use pepper (and some use salt) inside the sandwich, and butter the bread before grilling. I don’t use any salt inside the sandwich because Mr. Key Lime and I are both sensitive to it and all of the other ingredients are salty enough for us.
You might also enjoy Vegan Salvadoran Pupusas with Latin Tomato Sauce, or these yummy Cuban Black Beans.
Vegan Cubano Sandwich
An updated version of a classic - treat yourself to a vegan cubano sandwich. Perfect with a side of curtido.
10 minutes per sandwich
30 minutes for marinating
In a small mixing bowl, combine the 5 teaspoons of yellow mustard, the garlic, olive oil and dill pickle juice. Mix well.
Dip each of the Tofurkey vegan deli slices into the bowl of mustard mix, coating both sides of each slice. Place each dipped slice into another small soup or cereal bowl. Once all the slices have been coated, scrape any remaining mustard mix from the first bowl into the bowl with the deli slices.
Cover the bowl of deli slices and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. This step can be done earlier in the day or the night before. The deli slices can marinate for hours or overnight.
Once the vegan deli slices are marinated, cut the French or Cuban bread into 8-inch sections, one section for each sandwich. Cut the bread in half lengthwise to make a top and a bottom bun.
On both sides of each sandwich, spread a thin layer of mustard and vegan mayo.
Using 2-1/2 to 3 slices per sandwich, break the vegan cheese into smaller pieces (if necessary) and line both sides (top and bottom of the sandwich) of the bread with the vegan cheese slices. Try to make a solid layer.
Add four dill pickle slices to each side of the sandwich bun. Arrange them identically staggered on both sides, so that when you flip them over, there will be a pickle in every bite. Sprinkle black pepper over all the vegan cheese and pickles.
Remove the marinating deli slices from the fridge.
Using a large non-stick skillet, layer the deli slices carefully around the bottom of the pan. Turn the burner on low to medium and warm the meat until just heated through.
Take each slice from the skillet, fold it in half and place it on the cheese and pickle bread, 3 or 4 deli slices per side. Each sandwich will have 7 or 8 total deli slices.
Very carefully flip the top bread slice over to put the sandwiches fully together.
Using a butter knife, butter the top and bottom of the bread, on the outside of the sandwich. If you prefer, you can melt the butter and brush it on. It doesn't need to be exact, so just spreading it on unmelted is fine. You can also pre-butter the bread slices before assembling the sandwich.
Preheat your griddle or panini maker. (I set my panini maker on high to start, then reduce it to a medium or low setting to let the cheese melt and the bread brown.)
Place the sandwich carefully on the griddle, and using a wooden spoon or tongs to hold the sandwich in place (holding the end of the spoon or tongs against the sandwich to keep it from sliding), slowly lower the top of the panini griddle and begin to press down to smash the bread and make the sandwich flatten. You might have to open the griddle and rearrange the sandwich if the top bun slides.
Once the sandwich is flattened and is cooking, reduce the heat and cook for about 10 minutes. The bread will be slightly hardened and beginning to brown, and the cheese will be slightly melted.
Remove the cooked sandwich from the griddle and wrap in aluminum foil. Place in your oven, set on a "warm" setting (175 to 180 F) while you grill the next sandwich.
Once both of the sandwiches are done, remove them from the oven. Carefully slice them on the diagonal and serve warm. Salvadoran curtido or any fresh slaw makes an excellent side with these sandwiches.
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