Instead of having layers and layers of meat and cheese, this Vegan Cuban Sandwich has layers and layers of tofu and a cheesy Swiss-style sandwich spread.
This tofu Cuban sandwich is thick, smoky, cheesy, and full of flavor. And just like the traditional recipe, it’s topped with dill pickles and yellow mustard, and panini pressed to bring it all together.
Many vegan cuban sandwich recipes are made with seitan, and even though they are probably delicious, making seitan is a lengthy process that isn’t always convenient. Using tofu in this sandwich is much easier and still tastes super meaty.
There are two keys to the perfect vegan tofu cuban sandwich: many tofu layers, and a cheesy element.
In theory, you could use one big chunk of tofu for this recipe, but using many thinly-sliced, marinated tofu slices better mimics the layers of ham that are often found in cuban sandwiches. And, thin tofu slices hold more flavor than one big chunk because more of the surface is in contact with the marinade.
This recipe also includes a simple, cheesy sandwich spread that is essential. If you want to save time and don’t mind buying store-bought vegan cheese slices, go ahead and pick up a pack of vegan swiss cheese and use that instead. But you definitely don’t want to skip the cheese.
How to Make Vegan Cuban Sandwiches
Step 1: Make the marinade for the tofu. You can do this the day before (recommended) or soon before cooking the tofu, just make sure that the tofu marinates for at least an hour before cooking. Because we are using super firm tofu, it takes a little extra time to absorb the marinade’s flavors.
Step 2: (If you did not soak your cashews overnight, start boiling them now.) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place each tofu slice on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. For extra flavor, spoon the remaining marinade on top of the tofu slices. This is necessary if you marinated the tofu right before cooking to ensure they are well seasoned. Bake for 40 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Step 3: (Skip this step if using store-bought vegan cheese.) While the tofu is baking, combine all of the ingredients for the cheesy sandwich spread in a small food processor and blend. In a small pot, heat this mixture over medium heat while stirring continuously. The sauce will begin to thicken, and when it is a melted, cheesy consistency, turn the heat off and remove it from heat.
Step 4: After the tofu has finished baking and the cheesy sandwich spread has been cooked, it’s time to assemble! Slice a loaf of cuban bread into your desired sandwich slices. (I recommend slicing it in thirds, but you can also do two huge sandwiches or four smaller sandwiches.) Slice each sandwich in half and spread the cheesy sauce on all of the sandwich slices. Then do a layer of tofu, pickles and mustard, and then another layer (or two more layers) of tofu before closing the sandwich. I like to do the pickles and mustard in the middle of the tofu layers so that it prevents the bread from getting soggy.
Step 5: You can eat the vegan Cuban sandwiches just like that, but I HIGHLY recommend panini pressing them if you have a panini press! Not only does it make the outside of the bread crispy, but it also heats the sandwich all the way through, making the cheesy sandwich spread melt even more if it cooled and started to become more firm.
Storing and Meal Prep
These cuban sandwiches (like most sandwiches) are best eaten fresh and shouldn’t be saved and warmed up later.
Tofu: If you don’t need to make that many sandwiches and won’t use a full loaf of cuban bread, only bake the tofu you are using at the moment and leave the rest in the marinade.
Cheesy Spread: For the cheese sauce, you can blend all of the ingredients together to prep and then only cook half when you want to make a sandwich. The cheesy spread doesn’t work as well when stored in the refrigerator after it has been cooked. It starts to solidify and it will be harder to spread on the sandwiches.
Vegan Cuban Sandwich with Tofu
- 16 oz super firm tofu (1 pack)
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 lime juiced
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
Cheesy Swiss Sandwich Spread (or sub store-bought vegan swiss cheese)
- 1/2 cup raw cashews soaked overnight or boiled 10 mins
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 1/2 tbsp tapioca starch
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp miso
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1 loaf Cuban bread
- dill pickles
- yellow mustard
- Preheat the oven to 350° and make the marinade for the tofu. Combine soy sauce, smoked paprika, lime juice, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder in a wide food storage container with a lid.
- Cut the tofu into thin slices. These should be as thin as possible that won't break apart if you shake them around in the marinade. Place these tofu slices in the marinade and let them sit for at least one hour (ideally overnight). Every once in a while, give them a shake or flip to make sure all of the slices are covered.
- Place each tofu slice on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. For extra flavor, spoon the remaining marinade on top of the tofu slices.
- Bake the tofu for about 40 minutes, flipping halfway through. The tofu should be well cooked but not crispy.
Cheesy Swiss Sandwich Spread (or sub vegan cheese)
- (If you haven't soaked your cashews overnight, boil them for 10 minutes now.)
- In a small food processor, combine soaked cashews, water, tapioca starch, nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, miso, garlic powder, and sea salt. Blend well.
- In a small pot, heat this mixture over medium heat while stirring continuously. The sauce will begin to thicken. When the texture becomes a thicker, cheesy consistency, remove it from heat.
Assemble the Cuban Sandwiches
- Slice a loaf of Cuban bread into desired sandwich sizes. I recommend slicing it into thirds or fourths. Slice each sandwich in half and spread the cheesy sauce on all of the sandwich slices. Then add 2-3 layers of baked tofu, pickles, and mustard.
- Panini press the sandwiches until slightly charred. (Optional but highly recommended)