Philadelphia cuisine is all about rich and comforting foods that have been shaped largely by Italian and Pennsylvania Dutch culture. During the 19th century, the Reading Terminal Market and the Italian Market emerged and changed the food scene in Philadelphia, housing popular favorites like the notorious cheesesteak.

Although these foods are typically not vegan, fear not! Below is a list of 10 classic Philly foods of the plant-based variety to feed your junk-food cravings with recipes from this Food Monster App. But first, you must decide — do you want it wit’ or wit’out?


1. Soft Pretzels 


Everything Bagel Soft Pretzels/One Green Planet

The creation of pretzels dates all the way back to 610 AD by Italian monks, which then carried over to Germany and Austria. We can thank the Pennsylvania Dutch for taking this recipe to Philadelphia, creating the soft, chewy, and positively salty pretzel we now know and love.

Get adventurous in your kitchen and try making soft pretzels for yourself, with this zesty Everything Bagel Soft Pretzels, pictured above, or this Soft Pretzels with Cheesy Maple Mustard Sauce. If you really want the classic Philadelphian soft pretzel, try shaping the dough in a figure eight style!

2. Tomato Pie

tomato pie

Zucchini Tomato Pie/One Green Planet


The tomato pie has been served in Philadelphian, Italian bakeries since the early 1900s. The dough of a typical tomato-style pie is thicker than regular pizza dough, taking on the texture of an almost focaccia-like consistency. It is then typically spread with a thick, rich tomato sauce and sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

For a yummy plant-based spin on a Italian-American, Philadelphian classic, try this Zucchini Tomato Pie, pictured above.


3. Cheesesteak 


Jackfruit Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich/One Green Planet

When you think about Philadelphia cuisine, the cheesesteak is definitely the first thing that comes to mind. There is even a whole vocabulary dedicated to ordering a cheesesteak when in Philly, so you know it is a beloved sandwich.

If you happen to be in the greater-Philadelphia area, check out Blackbird Pizzeria. They are a 100-percent vegan restaurant serving up all your favorite Philly foods like cheesesteak pizza and calzones stuffed with tofu ricotta! If you arenowheree near Philadelphia, do not worry, because you can still make vegan cheesesteaks at home like this Jackfruit Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich, pictured above, or this Philly Tofu Cheesesteaks with Portobello Mushrooms!

4. Water Ice


Blackberry Strawberry Sorbet/One Green Planet

Italian ice, referred to in Philadelphia as ‘water ice,’ rose in popularity after the development of Rita’s Water Ice in 1984 by firefighter and Philadelphian local, Bob Tumolo. After a modest start of selling his water ice from his back porch window, he soon began opening storefronts in the Philadelphia area.

Now with 600 locations in the United States, Rita’s has become a household name, and many of the water ice flavors are vegan! (just skip the gelato). However, if there is not a Rita’s Water Ice in your area, feel free to try this refreshing and healthy, Blackberry Strawberry Sorbet, pictured above, or this Pineapple Sorbet.


5. Sticky Buns 

sticky buns

Walnut Sticky Buns/One Green Planet

Sticky buns, a delectable and rich treat that you can somehow get away with eating for breakfast, were brought over to the United States by the Pennsylvania Dutch. A typical sticky bun is made with leavened dough, honey, and brown sugar, and usually topped with nuts or raisins.

For a vegan version of this gooey Pennsylvanian dessert, try this Walnut Sticky Buns, pictured above, or this Date-Sweetened Cinnamon Sticky Buns.

6. Texas Tommy 

hot dogs

Meat-Free Haute Dogs/One Green Planet

The Texas Tommy, essentially a grilled, split-open hot dog topped with cheddar cheese and bacon, was invented in the 50s in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and is now commonly served at restaurants in Philadelphia, including Citizens Bank Park during baseball games.

You can create your own vegan Texas Tommy by starting with these Meat-Free Haute Dogs, pictured above, slathering it with some Life Changing Cheese Sauce, and topping the hot dog with Shitake Bacon for a healthier version of this Philly junk-food.


7. Philadelphia Sushi Roll


Philadelphia Sushi Roll with Carrot ‘Salmon’/One Green Planet

In 1983 the first sushi bar at Reading Terminal Market was opened by a Madame Saito. When asked by the mayor to create a sushi roll that would be an edible representation of the city, she took Philadelphia brand cream cheese and combined it with salmon to make the now very popular Philadelphia roll.

You can now make your very own Philly roll at home with this Philadelphia Sushi Roll with Carrot ‘Salmon’ recipe, pictured above. If vegan cream cheese is not available to you where you live, why not give this Cashew Tofu Cream Cheese a try!

8. Tastykake Twinkies 


Homemade Twinkies with Coconut Whipped Cream Filling/One Green Planet

Tastykake brand pastries are a delicacy in Philadelphia, and the most cherished of them all would have to be the Twinkie: a sponge cake with a creamy filling inside.

See what all the rage is for yourself with this Homemade Twinkies With Coconut Whipped Cream Filling, featuring a decadent coconut whipped cream filling, pictured above.

9. Hoagie


Loaded Veggie Hoagie/One Green Planet

Some call it a grinder, sub, or hero, but in Philly it is referred to exclusively as a hoagie, which is essentially an Italian sandwich with an assortment of meats and veggies.

Using this Loaded Veggie Hoagie, pictured above, as a starting point, get creative and try out any combination of vegetables, vegan condiments, and vegan deli meats your heart desires!

10. Whoopie Pies 

whoopie pie

Pistachio Whoopie Pies/One Green Planet

The whoopie pie recipe originated from Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch culture (sometimes referred to as a ‘gob’) and is a tasty confection of chocolate cake sandwiched around an icing or marshmallow filling.

There are tons of variations of the classic whoopie pie recipe, but why not try this Pistachio Whoopie Pies, pictured above, or this Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting to get you started.

Searching for more vegan Philadelphia eats like 15 Vegan-Friendly Restaurants to Visit in Philly? We recommend downloading this Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!

Lead Image Sthisce: pml2008/Flickr