There is something about a patty melt that is inherently comforting. The toasted bread, gooey melted cheese, and caramelized onions are what make it a classic dish. It’s got that crispy, crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth magic.
While we weren’t always patty melt gals, we had a change of heart after eating one of the best burgers we’ve ever had at a trendy cocktail bar and bistro in St. Petersburg, Florida. We were there for the drinks but found ourselves ordering their vegan patty melt with a side of pickles.
It exceeded all expectations; every bite was satisfyingly rich. This recreation encompasses everything we love about that sandwich, plus pickles and a homemade vegan Thousand Island dressing. It’s the fixings that make this vegan patty melt shine.
Pro tip: serve with french fries so you have another vehicle for the homemade Thousand Island.
What Makes This Recipe Vegan?
The main vegan swaps are the plant-based burger patty, vegan cheese, and vegan mayo. Working with certain plant-based meat alternatives is very similar to working with ground beef, and you can form the patties to your liking.
The vegan cheese requires a bit more time to melt but ends up being perfectly gooey. Vegan mayo in the dressing is an easy swap—any brand will do!
If you’re vegetarian but not vegan, you can swap the vegan cheese and vegan mayo for the dairy versions. Skip microwaving the bread and cheese since dairy cheese is easier to melt.
What Plant-Based Burger Patties Can You Use?
You can use any plant-based patty that you like. We recommend using an option that is not sold pre-cooked because it allows you to thin out the patty and shape it to fit your bread.
Here are four plant-based patties we tested with this recipe:
- Impossible Burger Patties: Our favorite! If you purchase the patties or ground “beef” frozen, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. The patties are easy to work with, cook quickly, and have the best flavor and texture. They’re rich, fatty, and the thin patty melts in your mouth.
- Beyond Burger Patties: The patties are thicker to begin with so they require a little more shaping for a patty melt. The cooked patty is juicy and very meaty. The texture is a little tougher than Impossible and it has what we call the “classic Beyond flavor” that we can never quite pinpoint. Still very delicious!
- Dr. Praeger’s Perfect Burger: It’s cooked from frozen so it can’t be formed to fit your bread. Other than that, it’s a good option. It has a meaty flavor but is less rich and fatty than Beyond or Impossible.
- Gardein Ultimate Burger: Also cooked from frozen but a thinner patty than Dr. Praeger’s. This was our least favorite because it had a chargrilled flavor that distracted from the patty melt. It was also much tougher and lacked the rich, meaty texture of the other burgers.
Choosing The Right Cheese
You really can’t go wrong here if you’re choosing a sliced cheese that you like! We enjoy using a smoky cheese like Violife’s Smoked Provolone or Smoked Gouda slices. Daiya’s Cheddar or Swiss slices are also delicious in this recipe.
Just make sure to use our tip—microwaving the cheese and bread for 10 seconds—to ensure the cheese fully melts.
Vegan Comfort Food Recipes
- Vegan Mashed Potatoes
- Vegan Sloppy Joes
- Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Vegan Biscuits
- Vegan Queso
Cut the onion into half moons:
Cut off the ends of the onion and peel back the skin. Slice it lengthwise from root to end. Then thinly slice each of the halves so that you have half moons. Use your hands to break them up. Finely dice 1 tablespoon of the onion for the sauce and set it aside.
Cook the onions:
Add the oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Once it is shimmering, add the onions and stir to coat them in oil. Cook them until they are translucent and golden brown, stirring frequently to keep them from burning, about 15 minutes. (If needed, adjust the heat so that they don’t brown too much.) Add the apple cider vinegar in the last minute and stir to deglaze the pan.
Remove the onions from the heat and set aside. Leave the pan to cool.
While the onions are cooking, make the sauce:
In a small bowl, whisk together the vegan mayonnaise, ketchup, dill relish, pickle juice, reserved diced onion, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
Cook the plant-based patty:
Wipe out the pan you used to cook the onions.
Using your hands, flatten the patties a little and shape them to fit your bread.
For a mustard-grilled patty, spread a dollop of Dijon mustard on one side of the patty before placing it mustard-side down in the pan to cook.
Cook the patties according to the package instructions. You can shorten the cook time by 1 minute on the second side since the patties are thinner; it’s okay if they are a little pink in the center. Remove the patties and let the pan cool a bit before wiping it out.
Toast the bread and cheese:
Place a slice of vegan cheese on each piece of rye bread.
Place the pan over medium heat and add the butter. Once it melts, add the pieces of bread cheese side up. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the cheese starts to melt, about 5 minutes.
Assemble the sandwich:
Remove the cover and assemble your sandwiches. On 2 slices of bread, stack 1/4 cup caramelized onions, one tablespoon of Thousand Island sauce, the cooked patty, and a few pickle slices (if using). Place the remaining 2 pieces of bread on top.
Turn the heat up to medium and use a spatula to press down your patty melt and let it cook for a few more minutes, or until the cheese fully melts and the bread is toasty but not burnt.
Remove the sandwiches from the pan and cut them in half. Serve with more vegan Thousand Island dressing.
You can store extra dressing or caramelized onions in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
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