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This wonderfully savory and flavorful vegetarian muffaletta sandwich swaps in “meaty” roasted eggplant and marinated portobello mushrooms for the traditional deli meats. There’s an easy vegan adaptation, too. It’s just so good. 

a slice of vegetarian muffaletta on a plate and a glass of beer
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Why we love this recipe

Thanks to a great marinade and layers of umami-filled ingredients, this vegetarian muffaletta is even more savory and flavorful than its meaty counterpart. It’s got:

  • Tender, thinly sliced roasted eggplant and tangy, smoky marinated portobello mushrooms
  • Sharp, creamy provolone cheese
  • Two incredible spreads — pesto on the top and olive tapenade on the bottom
  • A generous layer of giardiniera (Italian-style pickled vegetables)
  • Sweet, silky roasted red peppers
  • All tucked into a beautiful sourdough boule

I first published this recipe here back in 2015, alongside a personal essay. If you’re a fan of old-school blog narrative, you can read the original text here. I’ve since updated the post for clarity, but the recipe remains the same.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

ingredients in bowls
  • Traditional muffaletta bread is a large, soft, seeded round. In this recipe, I recommend a good-quality sourdough boule instead, for its extra flavor and easier availability outside New Orleans. If you have access to the traditional loaf or would like to make your own, you’re welcome to.
  • You can use any variety of eggplant for this recipe. A medium-sized, standard Italian one works great. The thin slicing and simple roasting make it sweet, savory, and tender.
  • Portobello mushroom caps take on the flavors of an easy olive oil, lemon juice, and smoked paprika marinade and roast to meaty perfection.
  • A good quality deli-sliced provolone cheese is perfect for this recipe.
  • You can buy olive tapenade and pesto or make your own. I tend to make pesto in large batches during the summer and keep them in the freezer. Here’s a favorite recipe.
  • Giardiniera is a pickled vegetable mixture that typically contains cauliflower, celery, carrot, and multiple varieties of peppers. It’s widely available in U.S. supermarkets in a jar and sometimes also in the prepared foods, olive or salad bar area.

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make a great vegetarian muffaletta sandwich. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. Slice the bread in half and hollow it out.
  2. Prep and roast the eggplant and the mushrooms on two separate sheet pans.
  3. Spread the tapenade and the pesto onto the bread and let it sit. Layer in the giardiniera.
  4. Generously layer on the roasted portobello, eggplant, roasted red peppers, and provolone. Close the sandwich and let it sit, wrapped, at room temperature for at least an hour if you can. Slice into wedges and serve.

Expert tips and FAQs

What is muffaletta?

Muffaletta (also spelled muffuletta) is the name for both a style of Sicilian bread and a sandwich made from that bread, invented by Sicilian immigrants to New Orleans a century ago.

The bread is a round, flat loaf, usually with sesame seeds, that’s crisp outside and soft inside. It’s not all that easy to source in the U.S. outside of New Orleans, and to be honest we prefer sourdough, so this recipe calls for a sourdough boule.

The crust of a sourdough boule is firmer than muffuletta bread, which is both satisfying and a little messy, so maybe grab some napkins before biting into this sandwich. Of course you’re welcome to use muffuletta bread if you prefer.

What’s in a regular muffaletta sandwich?

A muffuletta sandwich traditionally contains a variety of sliced sausage and ham, usually soppressata or Genoa salami, mortadella, and capicola or deli ham; provolone cheese; and an olive and vegetable spread.

In this vegetarian version, I’ve deconstructed the savory elements and created something at least as savory and satisfying as the original.

How do I make this sandwich vegan?

All you need to do is leave out the provolone cheese and ensure that your pesto is vegan. Everything else is already vegan-friendly. The sandwich will still have tons of savory flavor.

Can I make this vegetarian muffaletta in advance? What about leftovers?

You sure can. I recommend making this sandwich at least an hour in advance to let all the fabulous flavors soak into the bread.

Unlike most sandwiches, tightly wrapped leftovers will keep well for a day or two. If your house is at cool room temperature, you can leave it right on the counter for up to 24 hours. After that, pop it in the fridge.

More favorite vegetarian & vegan sandwiches

slices of vegetarian muffaletta on a plate and a glass of beer

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a slice of vegetarian muffaletta on a plate and a glass of beer
4.91 from 11 votes

Vegetarian Muffuletta

By Carolyn
For Mardi Gras, party gras or just any day gras, this super-savory vegetarian sandwich is a real crowd pleaser. You can prepare it up to 12 hours in advance, and the flavors will only improve. To make it vegan, simply skip the cheese and use vegan pesto and tapenade.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings: 6
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Ingredients 

  • 1 medium-sized eggplant, about 1 pound/(454 grams)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
  • 3 large portobello mushroom caps, about 9 ounces/(255 grams) total
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 sourdough boule, about 20 ounces/(567 grams)
  • ½ cup (120 grams) olive tapenade
  • ½ cup (100 grams) pesto
  • 1 cup (175 grams) chopped giardiniera
  • 2 whole roasted red peppers from a jar, sliced open into a single layer and gently patted dry
  • 6 slices provolone cheese

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 450° F with two racks close to the center.
  • Slice the eggplants 1/4-inch thick. Line a baking sheet with parchment and spray generously with cooking spray.
  • Arrange eggplant slices in a single layer. Spray tops of slices with cooking spray and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.
  • Place in preheated oven. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping the slices at the halfway point.
  • While the eggplant begins to bake, prepare the portobellos. Remove stems and, using a small spoon, scrape the gills off the underside of the mushroom caps. Slice caps 1/4-inch thick.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, smoked paprika, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  • On a second parchment-lined baking sheet, toss the portobello slices with the marinade. Arrange in a single layer and add to oven. Bake for 20 minutes.
  • Cut across the beltline of the boule. Use your hands to tear most of the soft insides out of both halves of the bread, leaving about 1/4- to 1/2-inch barrier before the crust.
  • Spread the olive tapenade inside the bottom half of the bread and the pesto inside the top half.
  • Spread giardiniera in a thick layer on top of pesto.
  • Arrange the roasted portobello pieces in a compact layer on the bottom of the bread.
  • Layer on the eggplant, roasted peppers, and provolone.
  • Replace the top half of the bread and press down firmly a few times to make it nice and compact.
  • Let sit for at least an hour, or wrap and store for up to 12 hours if desired, then slice into wedges and serve.

Notes

  1. Traditional muffaletta bread is a large, soft, seeded round. In this recipe, I recommend a good-quality sourdough boule instead, for its extra flavor and easier availability outside New Orleans. If you have access to the traditional loaf or would like to make your own, you're welcome to.
  2. Unlike most sandwiches, tightly wrapped leftovers will keep well for a day or two. If your house is at cool room temperature, you can leave it right on the counter for up to 24 hours. After that, pop it in the fridge.
  3. Don't discard the soft interior of the bread. Instead, tear into small chunks and freeze for use later as fresh breadcrumbs. Just give them a whirl in the food processor when you need them.

Nutrition

Calories: 321kcal, Carbohydrates: 29g, Protein: 8.3g, Fat: 17.9g, Fiber: 3.2g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Sandwiches
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

4.91 from 11 votes (11 ratings without comment)

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6 Comments

  1. Ok Carolyn…..you FU@$ING crack me up!!! And I crack me up that we are such good friends and I have not seem this BOLG!!! (Course this may not crack you up). Anyway….I love your blog. Ugh….now I have another way to procrastinate….thanks allot Carolyn!