Healthy Sandwich Alternatives to Deli Meat

When we talk about reducing meat consumption, beef, chicken, and pork tend to receive a lot of the attention. Yet there’s another type of meat that’s rarely discussed, but no less significant to the American diet: processed meat. This category includes meats that have been preserved through smoking, salting, curing, or chemical additives, such as bacon, beef jerky, hot dogs, pepperoni, and deli meats. Lunchmeat is the leading type of processed meat, followed by dinner sausage, bacon, and frankfurters.

 Processed meats are appealing because they’re less expensive, easy to prepare, and ingrained in American food culture. What would a Fourth of July cookout be without hot dogs or a breakfast spread without bacon? But studies show that eating too much of these processed meat products can be a health risk, so much so that the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) named processed meat as a carcinogen.

According to a research by Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg, U.S. states with the higher per capita consumption of processed meats have higher incidences of colon and rectal cancer. Processed meats also tend to be high in sodium, which can increase the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Additional research also links processed meats to an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and dementia.

Given the health risks, it’s important to explore alternatives to processed meats. There are many other options for creating convenient plant-based versions of your favorite sandwiches that include pre-made plant-based meats and innovative recipes for sandwich classics. These crowd-pleasing recipes are perfect for all eaters and are especially great for lunch boxes and backpacks. This Monday, forget about cold cuts and lunch meats with our best plant-based sandwich recipes.

Photo: Kathy Patalsky

The Best Vegan Breakfast Sandwich

The morning breakfast sandwich is a rite of passage for high schoolers, college kids, and anyone nursing a hangover, but you can get the satisfaction of this yummy sandwich using only plant-based ingredients. A mixture of mustard, nutritional yeast, and spices turns a slab of tofu into a creamy egg-like consistency that’s a yummy base for other toppings like hot sauce, arugula, or tempeh bacon.

For the Best Vegan Breakfast Sandwich recipe from Sagen Jackson of Kitchen Dance Partii, click here.  

Chickpea Salad Niçoise Sandwiches

A traditional Niçoise salad is made with tuna, but this recipe calls for protein-packed chickpeas instead. Toss all the salad ingredients with a tangy tarragon-shallot dressing and add to some crusty sandwich bread for a yummy lunch.

For the Chickpea Salad Niçoise Sandwiches, click here.

Photo: Up Beet Kitchen

Tempeh Reuben Sandwiches

You can still enjoy the best parts of the classic Reuben sandwich–just without the meat. The key to this plant-based version is the tempeh, which is marinated in a savory spice mix of garlic, coriander, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and ginger. The sandwich is then topped with tangy red cabbage slaw and creamy Russian dressing. Put it on two pieces of rye bread and you won’t be able to taste the difference. 

For the Tempeh Reuben Sandwich recipe from Ashley Kershner of Sprout, click here.

Eggplant and Shiitake Meatballs

These vegetarian meatballs have all the flavor and chew of a traditional meatball. The shiitake mushroom adds a meaty, umami bite while the eggplant gives the ball a creamy richness. Add a few to a hoagie or sandwich roll with a spoonful of tomato sauce and you’ve got a delectable alternative to a meatball sub.

For the Eggplant and Shiitake Meatball recipe from Stefanie of Sarcastic Cooking, click here.

Hummus Club Sandwich

We know all about the turkey club, but this plant-based hummus club is a lot lighter, yet packed with flavor. A combination of green apple, tomato, red onion, avocado, and hummus makes every bite a bit different. It’s a fun snack that’s great for lunch boxes.

For the Hummus Club Sandwich recipe from Rini of Healing Tomato, click here.

Torta Cubana

A typical Cuban sandwich is essentially a ham and cheese with pickles and mustard that’s been pressed like a panini. This plant-based version gives you all those same flavors and textures without the ham. You can use store-bought plant-based meat alternatives or get creative with things like seitan, tofu, or grilled vegetables.

For the Torta Cubana recipe from Mitch and Justine Chapman of Broke Bank Vegan, click here.

Tofu and Basil Pesto Panini

This sandwich is a quick lunch that you can assemble in no time. Channeling the mozzarella based caprese salad, this tofu and pesto panini is bright, light, and a good source of plant-based protein. You can make it the night before and store it in a plastic baggy so it’s ready to go in the morning. 

For the Tofu Basil Pesto Panini recipe from Ayindé Howell of iEatGrass, click here.

Unchick’n Caesar Wrap

A twist on a classic diner/deli staple, this plant-based version of the chicken Caesar is a great Meatless Monday lunch or dinner option. You can use a store-bought plant-based chicken or tofu as the main protein, then add your favorite toppings and vegan Caesar dressing. This wrap is totally customizable, so the rest is up to you!

For the Unchick’n Caesar Wrap recipe, click here.

Vegan Hot Chick’n Tempeh Sandwich

Hot chicken is as trendy as it is spicy, but this meat-free version brings the heat minus the meat. Marinating the tempeh in pickle juice, tamari, chile powder, and fresh habanero brings a ton of flavor and spice, but it’s the spicy hot frying oil that adds that extra kick in the pants. You can always dial down the amount of chile if you want to reduce the spice level.

For the Vegan Hot Chick’n Tempeh Sandwich recipe from Chef Ayindé, click here.

Looking for more plant-based sandwich ideas? Check out our complete list of Meatless Monday sandwich recipes! When posting pictures of recipes to your social media network, tag @MeatlessMonday use #MeatlessMonday to show the plant-based community your creation.