If comfort food to you is dunking a savory vegan French dip sandwich with jackfruit into a full-bodied au jus, do I have a treat for you… This hearty sandwich is served on toasted ciabatta with sautéed onions and horseradish mayonnaise.
I am so excited to share today’s vegan French dip sandwich recipe with you!
This hearty sandwich has been in the works for months. However, once the Thanksgiving cooking season arrived, I had to put it on the back burner for holiday foods. Now that there’s a little breather, it’s time to share it with you.
This is one of my favorite recipes I’ve ever created. It really scratches that nostalgia itch.
Vegan French dip sandwich
Vegan roast beef is loaded onto toasted ciabatta with sautéed onions, and a spread of horseradish mayonnaise.
But the real star of this show is the vegan au jus.
It doesn’t get cozier than dunking a savory sandwich into warm broth, rich with the flavors of red wine, onions, garlic, and vegan Worcestershire.
Vegan roast beef
The filling for this sandwich is vegan roast beef. It’s made with jackfruit.
You may recall that not too long ago, I was lukewarm on jackfruit. Oh, how things have changed!
As I mentioned in my post on jackfruit carnitas, I discovered that there are two secrets for making jackfruit really sing. (You can also see the specific kind of jackfruit I buy in that post.)
The first is breaking the jackfruit up in a food processor, so that it can get very piece-y. The smaller the pieces, the more the cooking liquid can really permeate it.
The second is finishing the cooked & seasoned jackfruit with tahini.
I know it sounds strange at first. But tahini masks any remaining flavor of brine from the can. It blends it away, like a brush on a canvas.
It adds a little bump of protein to the dish.
And it gives the “meat” some stickiness. That works particularly well when you’re making vegan roast beef. It also means that it will hold together better in a sandwich.
This vegan roast beef gets some of its richness from dry red wine. I recommend something like Tempranillo, Garnacha, or Carmenere.
La Granja Tempranillo and Albero Tempranillo, sold at Trader Joe’s, are both labeled vegan right on the bottle. That’s really handy. But if in doubt, you can also check out Barnivore to find out whether or not a wine is vegan.
Vegan au jus
Au jus is French for “with the juice.” It refers to the “juices” that come off a roast while it’s cooking.
I’ve always thought that referring to the liquid that comes off of meat as “juice” is a bit of a stretch as far as euphemisms go. (Hint: That’s not cranapple. It’s myoglobin.)
Obviously, vegan au jus is made differently. Instead it involves sautéed onions, garlic, and red wine.
(Hey, when you think about it, the vegan version is more deserving of the name “au jus” since grape juice is actually involved.)
It’s rounded out with tamari, vegetarian beef bouillon, and vegan Worcestershire.
Often Worcestershire is made with anchovies. So be sure to look for the kind labeled “vegetarian.” I use the kind by Edward & Sons with the wizard on the bottle. Annie’s is good too.
Make the au jus separately from the vegan roast beef
When I was creating this recipe, I tried cooking the jackfruit with extra broth – so that some of it could simply be set aside for the au jus. What I found out is that the au jus is much, much better when it’s cooked separately.
Young jackfruit is canned in brine. When it cooks with the au jus, it imparts some of that brine flavor. It also dilutes some of the other strong, umami flavors. So it’s much better to cook the vegan roast beef and au jus separately for best results.
Several years ago I wrote a post called, “Why do vegans eat things that taste like meat?”
The short answer is that vegans don’t want animals to suffer. But they don’t have an ethical issue with smoky flavors, chewy textures, and umami.
As I also mentioned in that post, sometimes the part of a dish you really crave is the sauce or spread served with it.
Take a French dip from Arby’s. I used to eat them occasionally before I was vegetarian or vegan. But what I really looked forward to was the horsey sauce that I squeezed on top of it.
Horsey sauce is basically a horseradish mayonnaise. That’s something that’s easy to emulate without animal products – especially since horseradish is already plant-based.
I used to adore the nose-clearing pungency of horseradish – whether it was in a cocktail sauce or spread. It has a very specific flavor that you either love or hate.
(If you’re in the “hate” camp, just use vegan mayo for this sandwich. If you’re in the love camp, get to Trader Joe’s! They have a new horseradish & chive potato chip that would be terrific with this sandwich.)
Horseradish is a root, like turmeric or ginger. But for this recipe, I’m talking about prepared horseradish. Prepared horseradish comes in a jar. It’s made with horseradish, vinegar, and salt.
I buy the kind sold by Bubbies. It is in the refrigerated section, next to the sauerkraut. But you can also find shelf-stable versions in the pantry section of the store. Any prepared horseradish will work fine for this recipe.
This vegan French dip is served on a ciabatta baguette that’s been cut down to sandwich size and toasted. (If you’d prefer, you can use demi ciabatta baguettes, cut in half, or ciabatta rolls instead.)
How to make a vegan French dip sandwich
To make a vegan French dip sandwich, start with the au jus.
Sauté onions and garlic in a soup pot. Then add water, no beef Better Than Bouillon, tamari, vegan Worcestershire, and dry red wine.
Bring the liquid to a low simmer. Then let it cook for 15 to 20 minutes, so that it can reduce.
You’ll want it to reduce by about a cup. When it’s ready to go, there will be about 2 cups of au jus.
While the au jus is reducing, you can move on to the vegan roast beef.
Drain and rinse canned young jackfruit. Dry it off. Then move it to a food processor. Pulse the food processor 5 or 6 times, until it’s broken up in shredded pieces.
Then heat a large non-stick skillet with oil. Put the jackfruit in an even layer across the skillet.
(Be careful not to overfill it, because the jackfruit won’t brown as nicely in a crowded pan. Work in batches, if necessary.)
Don’t move the jackfruit for a few minutes. Allow it to get fully brown on one side, then flip the jackfruit shreds and allow it to brown more.
Once the jackfruit is browned & dry, it’s time to fill it with flavor.
Add water, no beef Better Than Bouillon, red wine, tamari, and vegan Worcestershire sauce to the skillet. Fully combine it with the jackfruit, and bring the liquid to a simmer.
Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until all of the liquid has cooked off. Then stir in tahini, and fully incorporate it with the jackfruit.
Sauté onions in a skillet to top the sandwiches.
Then cut a ciabatta baguette into equal sandwich-sized pieces. Cut the sandwiches in half, and toast them in the skillet, cut side down.
Slather the toasted bread with horseradish mayonnaise, made with mayo & prepared horseradish.
Top the sandwiches with vegan roast beef, a sprinkling of non-dairy cheese, and sautéed onions.
Put the open faced sandwiches back into the skillet, bring to a low heat, and cover. Once the cheese is mostly melted, top with the remaining ciabatta halves.
Divide the au jus into four small bowls.
(There should be enough for about ½ cup of au jus per sandwich. That is a generous amount of au jus. If you don’t need quite so much per person, feel free to halve the au jus portion of the recipe.)
Serve each vegan French dip sandwich with individual au jus for dipping.