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Vegetarian Steak Bomb Subs

They are like a hug for your mouth

I'm not a football fall, but I do love a good Superbowl Party, those won't be happening this year....friggin Covid. When I think of game day foods, I think the more gooey and cheesy the better. I'm a long term vegetarian, most of my friends and all of my family are carnivores. When it comes to Superbowl Parties most people are asked to BYOB I am asked to BYOF (bring your own food. I've gotten some interesting reactions when people learn I'm vegetarian . There is usually an few people who will ask “ you still eat chicken, right? ” To which I respond, “no, I don't eat anything that had a face, or a mother.” So, you eat fish then? “ No, I don't eat fish either. "What about scallops, they don't have faces.” No, scallops.” The conversation could be endless, it just easier to bring my own food .

When I did eat, I really liked was a steak and cheese “bomb sub”. The bomb might be a regional New England thing, or it could be a Massachuetts thing; either was they are delicious. I used to make mine with caramelized onions, red and yellow peppers, jalapenos for heat, and this might sound gross, but some pepperoni fried, so it was crispy. It tastes like spicy bacon, I loved it. Then of course lots of cheese. Steak bombs were my go to comfort food, they could instantly cure the worst hangover during my party days. They were definitely a staple at any Superbowl party. As a vegetarian, I have never been satisfied with the meat replacements available They aren't very good, and they are horrible for you, processed crap, so I got really creative with grilled veggie and cheese subs to satisfy my cravings, even some of my meat loving friends love them.

One day I discovered the perfect meat replacement, the lion's mane mushroom. It has a meaty texture to it and when cooked properly it has the mouth feel of meat. I sometimes have to remind myself that it's just a mushroom when I'm eating it. These oddly beautiful and velvety fungi are not only a great a meat replacement, they are also a blockbuster for memory and concentration. They possess anti-inflammatory and immune system boosting properties as well. . There are other mushrooms that are perfect meat substitutes such as chicken of the woods which is delish, and there is even a lobster mushroom. I've never had it or the crustation counterpart, but I hear the lobster mushroom is a game changer for vegetarians.

For years, I was convinced I didn't like mushrooms, because I only had them cooked the way everyone else cooks them, toss them in a pan and saute them. This basically steams them, resulting in mushy, slimy mushrooms. I'm gaging just thinking about them, it's a texture thing. I learned of a better way to cook mushrooms on Youtube that enhances the meaty texture of mushroom like lion's mane. The process involves using a cast iron pan. You can use a regular frying pan, but cast iron produces a better sear. You then use a second cast iron pan to put on top of the mushroom to press it forcing it to release its moisture . I don't have another, so I wash the tea kettle and put some water in that for weight. The weight helps to both sear the mushroom and compresses it, intensifying its meaty texture.

This step can be over done though. The first time I tried it, they turned out more like jerky. Once mushrooms are done, I pull them apart with my fingers and season them.


The mushrooms will be a blank slate at this point, because they are lacking moisture they will really absorb whatever seasoning you use. Today I used olive oil and Trader Joe's 21 and umami seasoning, and a touch of liquid smoke. I have used carne asada seasoning and taco seasoning, both equally good.

Now for the art of sandwich making a mock steak and cheese sandwich. It's about creating layers of flavor. Start with a baguette, they toast up beautiful. Slice and line the bread with your cheese of choice. I used non smoked provolone. Toss that in the over until the cheese is golden brown.

I over did the toasting a bit here but I like the burn edges, another flavor layer.

Next caramelize your vegetables, I like to use the sweet mini red and yellow peppers, and jalapeno for some heat, add in your mushroom cooking until they are brown and steak like, add more cheese and mix until melty .

Once the bread is done, the layering begins. One layer of the mushrooms and peppers, an layer of crumpled Fritos, trust me it will all be delicious in the end. Then the final layer of mushrooms and peppers. Last is the secret sauce. I can't tell you the recipe for this because it comes out different each time I make it. The sauce alone is a process of tasting as a go and sort of kitchen sink of whatever I have on hand. The most recent concoction, is garlicky, slightly smokey and has a mild slow burn of heat. The sauce layer isn't really necessary, but I think it adds to it. You can always create your own secret sauce. Once the sandwich, is assembled its time for the flavor explosion. The different layers and flavors mix perfectly and that salty crunch of the Fritos in the middle puts it over the top. I am willing to bet you could serve it to a meat eater, and they would never suspect they are eating mushrooms, it is seriously just that good. Give this a recipe a try, you'll love it, it's like a hug for you mouth. You can thank me later.

Food photography is not my thing. Trust me this tastes way better than it looks.

Lois Cunniff
Lois Cunniff
Read next: Easy, Cheating Prawn and Cream Cheese Risotto
Lois Cunniff

I am a self- taught photographer. My passion is pet photography, but I also shoot some portrait work as well as landscapes, cityscapes and love long exposure. Animal rescues matter, I donate a portion of my profits to local rescues.

See all posts by Lois Cunniff

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