This vegan salisbury steak with mushroom gravy is made with nutritious, satisfying tempeh. It’s an entirely homemade, plant-based version of the classic American comfort food dish. This is a hearty and cozy meal that’s perfect for winter and also a great option for the holidays.
I have a soft spot for American comfort food classics. Specifically the types of recipes that have, and could, end up as TV dinners.
The reason for this may be that I ate a lot of TV dinners growing up.
I came from a family of Greek immigrants who cooked, but also delighted in the convenience of ready-to-eat food in American supermarkets.
My grandmother and mother both liked microwave dinners, and I followed in their footsteps. Turkey tettrazini, chicken à la king, Swedish meatballs, meatloaf with gravy, mac n’ cheese, pot pie—I loved every single one of these.
I channel this love into many of my vegan comfort food recipes now. Chickpeas à la king, mac n’ cheese with peas, shepherd’s pie, lentil sweet potato loaf, cheesy quinoa broccoli bake—these are just a few of my favorite meals that are inspired by American comfort classics.
Now, vegan Salisbury steak is joining that list.
I was inspired to make this recipe when I saw Eric Kim’s recipe in the New York Times. “Salisbury steak deserves another chance,” the headline read.
I thought back to tasting and loving the frozen version as a kid. I remembered liking it because the beef was a patty, not an actual steak, which I preferred. My mom would serve it with a baked potato, and of course, there was that savory gravy (Worcestershire sauce!).
Kim’s article seemed like a pretty great reason to try a vegan version of Salisbury steak. So I did.
What is Salisbury steak?
Salisbury steak is a “steak” made from lean, ground beef. In the original recipe, it’s broiled, then seasoned to taste with butter, pepper, salt. Worcestershire sauce, mustard, horseradish, and lemon juice are option.
That recipe was developed by Dr. James H. Salisbury. Salisbury, who was born in 1823 and died in 1905, served as a physician during the Civil War.
Today, he’s known for his eponymous “steak” recipe. Salisbury was also one of the first physicians who argued that a specific diet was integral to overall health and well-being.
The diet he believed in consisted mainly of meat, with vegetables, fruits, starches and fats limited to a third of the diet. (The irony of sharing one of his recipes on this plant-based blog is fun.)
Apparently, Salisbury recommended that his steak recipe be eaten three times daily, with hot water to flush the digestive system.
Salisbury steak is similar to the traditional recipe for Hamburg steak, which is the recipe that the hamburger evolved from.
Salisbury steak caught some interest and became popular after World War I. Anti-German sentiment was strong at that time, and “Salisbury steak” described the ground beef dish without reference to a German city.
The recipe became a comfort food classic through TV dinners, which rose to popularity in the 1950s and 60s.
How to make vegan salisbury steak
When I chatted with Eric Kim about his recipe, he said that for him, its essence lay in the “umami-rich” onion mushroom gravy. This part of the recipe is easy to make vegan.
As for the steaks themselves, I turned to what is probably my favorite plant protein: tempeh.
Tempeh is probably my go-to when I really want to achieve the effect of “meatiness” in my recipes.
I use it to make tempeh bacon, tempeh meatballs (and tempeh meatball subs), tempeh tacos, and tempeh nuggets.
It also shows up in a lot of other, simple recipes: lemon pepper baked tempeh, balsamic mustard baked tempeh, and tempeh lunch salad.
The tempeh meatballs, in particular, are a fan favorite recipe from this site. And it’s a consensus that I agree with.
The meatballs are easy to make, deeply savory, and I think they’re as flavorful as store-bought vegan meatballs. (I’m a big fan of vegan meats, so in my book this is a compliment.)
I used the same ingredient base as I use for those meatballs—tempeh and walnuts—to make my Salisbury steaks. I adjusted the seasoning here, inspired by Kim’s recipe.
And of course, they have a different shape than the meatballs. They’re patties, rather than little globes.
I’m so happy with how they turned out. Here are the steps you’ll go through to prepare the entire recipe, steaks included.
Step 1: simmer your tempeh
Speaking of tempeh, I recently posted a recipe for tempeh nuggets. In that post, I mentioned that simmering tempeh in broth before cooking takes care of two purposes.
First, it helps to remove some of tempeh’s natural bitterness. This is the reason why many tempeh recipes call for steaming tempeh prior to cooking in other ways.
Second, it seasons the tempeh somewhat. More seasoning gets added when the tempeh is turned into patties.
For this recipe, you’ll crumble the tempeh before simmering it.
Step 2: process and season the tempeh
At this step, you’ll process the tempeh with walnuts and a number of seasonings, until it’s a mixture that you can shape into patties.
Step 3: bake the steaks
The patties need to bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and crisping up on each side.
Step 4: make mashed potatoes
While the tempeh Salisbury “steaks” are baking, you’ll make mashed potatoes.
I’m a fan of steaming potatoes for mashing—I think it gives them better flavor than boiling, which can water-log the potatoes.
For this recipe, I make simple mashed potatoes with steaming russet potatoes as the first part of the process.
Step 5: make mushroom gravy
A very rich, savory mushroom and onion gravy is the component that brings these vegan Salisbury steaks to life!
This may become my new favorite gravy recipe to make at home. The Worcestershire sauce and a hint of Dijon mustard give it a really fun intensity of flavor.
And there’s a touch of cream added to most Salisbury steak gravy recipes, so I follow suit. I use my go-to cashew cream, which works perfectly.
If you need a substitute, you can try the same amount of an unsweetened, store-bought vegan creamer.
Step 6: plate and serve
At this point, the only remaining step is to plate the tempeh steaks with the potatoes and smother everything in gravy.
Serving suggestions and accompaniments
I’ve been enjoying serving this vegan Salisbury steak with simple, steamed broccoli or baby broccoli.
But the recipe would be wonderful with so many other vegetable side dishes:
- Any simple green salad
- Braised red cabbage
- Green beans with vegan butter, salt, and pepper
- Miso butter brussels sprouts
- Perfect winter chopped salad
- Sautéed spinach, chard, or kale
- Radicchio Brussels sprout salad
…and the list goes on and on. Essentially any simple preparation of a seasonal vegetable that you love could be a nice pairing with the Salisbury steak.
Meal prep & storage
I’ve been writing a lot about my meal prep routine and some of my favorite vegan meal prep dinners.
I’m happy to tell you that the vegan Salisbury steak would be a good contender.
All of the components here will keep for up to 5 days in airtight containers in the fridge. And everything can be frozen for up to 8 weeks.
If you want to freeze it all, or freeze leftovers, I recommend freezing the “steaks” separately from the potatoes and gravy. This way, they won’t become soggy as you defrost.
Are the vegan salisbury steaks gluten-free?
Most vegan Worcestershire sauce (and Worcestershire sauces in general) have gluten in them, so as written, no, the Salisbury steak isn’t gluten-free.
However, the Worcestershire sauce can be replaced with tamari or coconut aminos if you’d like to make the recipe gluten-free.
In addition, be sure to also use a certified, gluten-free vegetable broth in the recipe.
For the "steaks"
- 8 ounces tempeh, crumbled (225g)
- 1 1/2 cups vegan no-chicken broth (substitute vegetable broth) (360ml)
- 2 tablespoons tamari
- 2/3 cup raw walnut halves or pieces (75g)
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (20g)
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
For the mashed potatoes
- 1 1/2 lb (3 medium) Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered (680g)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter (30g)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened, non-dairy milk (I like unsweetened soy milk) (120ml)
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the mushroom gravy
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 8 ounces sliced button, baby Bella, or cremini mushrooms (225g)
- 1/2 white or yellow onion, finely chopped (or 1 small onion, about 85 grams after chopping)
- 1 tablespoon unbleached, all-purpose flour (substitute a GF all purpose blend)
- 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
- 1 1/4 cups vegan no-chicken broth (300ml)
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup cashew cream (60ml; substitute unsweetened vegan creamer of choice)
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Season the tempeh
- Place the tempeh into a wide, deep skillet or frying pan. Add the broth and tamari. Bring the liquid to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and simmer the tempeh crumbles until they've absorbed all of the liquid, about 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from heat.
Prepare the patties
- In a food processor fitted with the S blade, process the walnuts, nutritional yeast and onion powder till the mixture is a fine meal. Add the crumbled tempeh, ketchup, and Worchestershire sauce. Pulse to combine all of the ingredients well, about 10 pulses.The mixture should be dense and a bit sticky. It should still have some texture, but no big chunks of tempeh remaining.
- Shape the mixture into 8 patties, each about 3 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 3/4-1 inch high. Place the patties onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, flipping once through, or until the patties are golden brown on each side. Set the "steaks" aside.
Prepare the mashed potatoes
- To make the mashed potatoes, bring a pot of water to boil. Place the potatoes in a steaming basket. Steam the potatoes for 15-20 minutes, or until fork tender.
- Drain the potatoes. Melt the butter in the still-warm pot. Add the milk, cooked potatoes, and salt to the pot.
- Use a handheld potato masher to mash the potatoes until they're fluffy and creamy. Add milk by the tablespoon to achieve a consistency you like. You can also use a potato ricer for extra fluffy potatoes! Set the mashed potatoes aside.
Make the mushroom gravy
- To make the gravy, heat the olive oil in a frying pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and onion. Sauté, stirring every minute or so, for 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms have released all of their juices and are browning a bit.
- Sprinkle the mushrooms and onion with the flour and nutritional yeast. Continue to sauté for 1-2 minutes, or until no streaks of white flour are visible.
- Pour in the broth, stirring the mushrooms constantly as you go. Then, stir in the Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, and cashew cream. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the gravy for 2-3 more minutes, stirring frequently, or until it's thickened.
Plate and enjoy
- To serve the Salisbury steaks, divide the mashed potatoes onto 4 plates. Top each with 2 of the tempeh "steak" patties. Top with a quarter of the mushroom gravy. I love to add steamed baby broccoli to my plate. Enjoy!
I had some of the steak, potatoes, and gravy in my freezer this past week. And I’m happy to tell you that it was one of the cozy recipes that helped me to feel better and take care of myself.
I hope that this comfort food will truly be comforting for you, too, at a moment when you need that from your meals.