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This tofu-based vegan breakfast sandwich is a twist on the classic egg and cheese popular in New Jersey and New York delis. Also made gluten-free using gluten-free rolls.
Growing up at the Jersey Shore, egg and cheese on a hard roll was hands down my absolute favorite breakfast item to order at corner delis or convenience stores alike…always wrapped in aluminum foil and always still warm by the time you got home.
Now, if you are not from New Jersey or New York or have never been there, you might be wondering what exactly a “hard” roll is.
Well, it’s not really all that “hard.” The inside is quite soft, but unlike that of a hamburger bun, it has a “crusty” exterior.
Technically, it’s called a Kaiser roll, but if you tried to order it that way in New Jersey, people would probably just give you a blank stare.
Aside from the hard roll, the main parts of the staple sandwich are a fried egg and American cheese.
Many New Jerseyans will tell you that the sandwich is supposed to be covered in salt, pepper and ketchup.
And most meat-eating New Jerseyans will also tell you it’s supposed to have some bacon, a sausage patty or a slice or two of pork roll.
Even when I ate meat, I NEVER EVER tasted pork roll.
My dad would eat it all the time, but it just totally grossed me out.
I also never got into the whole ketchup on eggs thing, but hey, you do you.
Anyway, I just had to recreate this classic sandwich to not only be vegan but also gluten-free.
In the words of my former pork roll egg and cheese obsessed husband, “I could eat this every day. It just keeps getting better and better every time.”
So, let’s do this thing, shall we?
Ingredients you’ll need
- Extra Firm Organic Tofu – This will become the “egg” in this sandwich.
- Gluten-Free, Low Sodium Tamari
- Nutritional Yeast
- Turmeric – This gives the tofu “egg” a slight yellow color.
- Kala Namak – This is what gives the tofu an “eggy” flavor. I used this brand of black salt.
- Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Gluten-Free, Vegan Rolls – I used BFree brand but also recommend these Schar ciabatta rolls. They’re not Kaiser-style but the shape is perfect for the rectangular shape of the tofu “eggs.” Of course, you can use your favorite brand.
- American-Style Vegan Cheese – Personally, I find the Chao Original to most resemble American cheese, but you can use Follow Your Heart’s or Daiya’s American-style as well.
- Tomato Slices – These take place of the meat.
- Olive Oil (for pan-frying)
How to make this vegan breakfast sandwich – step by step
Open the package of tofu and drain any excess water. If you have a tofu press, press the tofu for 20 minutes.
If you do not have a tofu press, place the block of tofu in the center of a clean, absorbent kitchen towel on a sturdy plate. Wrap the tofu with the towel.
Place a heavy object, such as a large pot or some books on top of the tofu and press for 30 minutes.
While the tofu is pressing, slice your tomatoes and set aside.
Then, make your coating. Use a fork to whisk together the tamari, nutritional yeast, turmeric, kala namak, salt and black pepper in a bowl.
Slice the block of tofu in half lengthwise.
Then, cut each of the pieces in half to make 4 pieces in total.
Place a piece of tofu in the bowl of coating.
Dredge each piece of tofu in the tamari mixture to coat it on all 6 sides…
…until all 4 pieces have been fully coated.
Heat olive oil in a nonstick over medium-high heat. Cook tofu for 3-4 minutes on each side until outside is browned but not burned, carefully flipping with a spatula.
While the tofu is cooking, lightly toast the gluten-free rolls to your liking.
Then, add the vegan cheese to the tops of the rolls and place in the toaster oven on “toast” to melt the cheese.
If you don’t have a toaster oven, you can place the rolls on a baking sheet in a 425° oven to melt the cheese.
For either method, keep an eye on the rolls so that they do not burn.
Once the tofu and rolls are done, build your sandwiches.
Place 1-2 tomato slices on the bottoms of the rolls, followed by one tofu “egg.” Then cover with the cheesy roll tops.
Can I leave out the kala namak?
I’m going to have to say I highly recommend you use it. In some of my other vegan breakfast recipes such as my tofu scramble or vegan eggs Benedict, you could totally get away with leaving it out. But in this case, the kala namak adds a necessary “eggy” flavor that really makes this dish come together.
Can I leave out the turmeric?
Okay, this one you can leave out. It’s honestly just there for color and doesn’t change the flavor of the final product.
Substitutions and variations
- Rolls – Try this sandwich with a gluten-free English muffin instead or two toasted slices of your favorite gluten-free, vegan bread.
- American-Style Vegan Cheese – If you prefer, you can use a vegan cheddar-style. It also works well with a vegan smoked gouda such as Follow Your Heart.
- Olive Oil – You can substitute with avocado oil, if preferred.
- Tomato Slices – You can leave these off if preferred or swap them for a gluten-free, vegan bacon such as our air fryer tempeh bacon, this rice paper bacon by Spa Bettie or this dehydrator eggplant bacon by Strength and Sunshine.
- Condiments – If you’re like my husband and most of the population of New Jersey, you might enjoy some ketchup on your breakfast sandwich. You could also try some hot sauce instead which I could totally get behind. 😉
Storing and reheating
If you are not going to eat all 4 sandwiches, I recommend only toasting the amount of rolls you need.
The pan-fried tofu “eggs” can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. You can reheat them with a small amount of oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat until warmed throughout.
If you need to take breakfast on-the-go, you can wrap each sandwich individually in aluminum foil and it will stay warm for a bit. If it isn’t warm enough, you can wrap it in a paper towel and reheat in the microwave for 10-15 seconds.
You might also enjoy:
Vegan Breakfast Sandwich
- 1 (14 oz.) block organic extra firm tofu
- 4 tsp gluten-free, reduced sodium tamari
- 2 tsp nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp kala namak (aka Indian black salt or Himalayan black salt)
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 tsp turmeric (optional, for color)
- 2 tsp olive oil (sub avocado oil, if desired)
- 4 gluten-free, vegan rolls
- 4 slices vegan American-style cheese (I used Chao original but you can use Follow Your Heart or Daiya's American-style)
- 4-8 tomato slices (use 1-2 per sandwich)
- Open the package of tofu and drain any excess water. Press the tofu using a tofu press or the kitchen towel/heavy object method as described in the notes below. Depending on the method used, the tofu will need to press for 20-30 minutes.
- While the tofu is pressing, use a fork to whisk together tamari, nutritional yeast, kala namak, salt, black pepper and turmeric in a bowl.
- Slice the block of tofu in half lengthwise. Cut each of the pieces in half to make 4 pieces in total.
- Dredge each piece of tofu in the tamari mixture to coat it on all 6 sides.
- Heat olive oil in a nonstick over medium-high heat. Cook tofu for 3-4 minutes on each side until outside is browned but not burned, carefully flipping with a spatula.
- While the tofu is cooking, lightly toast the gluten-free rolls to your liking.
- Add the vegan cheese to the tops of the rolls and place in the toaster oven on "toast" until the cheese is melted but the rolls are not burned. If you don't have a toaster oven, you can place the rolls on a baking sheet in a 425° oven to melt the cheese.
- Place 1-2 tomato slices on the bottoms of the rolls, followed by one tofu "egg" and the "cheesy" roll tops.
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