Cemitas poblanas are a special type of Mexican sandwich arising from the state of Puebla. Served on a brioche-like bun, this version is loaded with vegan cheese, crispy oyster mushroom milanesa, smoky chipotles, and a unique Mexican herb known as pápalo.
Your tastebuds aren't going to know what hit them!
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This hefty sandwich is filled with bold flavors in every bite. It's a perfect meal for those with a big appetite!
What is a cemita poblana?
Cemitas poblanas are a type of Mexican sandwich that come from the state of Puebla.
Similar to pambazos, this sandwich is named after the type of sesame seed bun it's served on — a cemita.
Although recipes can of course vary, there are a few characteristic ingredients in most cemitas poblanas:
- Some type of meat (commonly milanesa)
- Oaxaca cheese
- Pápalo leaves (a Mexican herb similar to arugula or cilantro)
- Jalapeños (pickled or chipotle)
Are cemitas poblanas vegan?
Unfortunately, this delicious combination of flavors is not typically vegan-friendly due to the cheese and meat.
We decided to utilize a mushroom milanesa, and we swapped in shredded vegan mozzarella to emulate the traditional flavors of cemitas poblanas.
Of course, a plant-based version will never be the exact same as the original. But, we think this take is pretty dang delicious! You be the judge.
The history of cemitas poblanas begins with the cemita itself. Although the bun originated in Puebla, there are a few theories as to where the inspiration for this recipe began.
The actual name "cemita" is thought to have come from "acemite" (an old-fashioned Spanish word for "bran," which is derived from the Greek word for "semolina").
Other theories as to how these Pueblan buns came to life include Portuguese Jewish merchants bringing over their age-old bread recipes when they immigrated to New Spain.
Whatever the case, cemitas seem to have originally been consumed by lower-class workers and artisans because they were convenient and filled with cheap fillings like beans, potatoes, or nopales (cactus paddles).
It wasn't until later that this sandwich began rising in popularity amongst the masses, and other fillings such as meat, herbs, chiles, and onions were added.
Now you'll see cemitas filled with a pretty standard ingredient list, especially in Puebla. You can also find them served all across Mexico and the United States, although it's hard to find actual cemita buns if you aren't in Puebla.
Serve your cemitas right away so the mushroom milanesa stays warm and crispy.
If you have a sweet tooth, try chasing your cemita poblana with desserts like:
Whichever way you decide to serve this sandwich, you'll be helping the welfare of animals by trying a plant-based version!
🍲 Key ingredients
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
Taste: often described as a cross between challah and brioche, cemitas are soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, and slightly sweet. They're also dense enough to properly hold all of the toppings together. These sesame-topped buns just might be the ultimate sandwich canvas.
Health: although white bread doesn't carry a ton of health benefits, the addition of sesame seeds gives these buns some unique properties that others don't have. Not only are sesame seeds a great source of fiber, but studies have shown they may help lower cholesterol and triglycerides.
Taste: crispy, savoury, and filled with flavor, oyster mushrooms are the perfect meat replacement for chicken or beef milanesa. This is one vegan food that tastes so delicious, you may forget why you ever needed meat in the first place!
Health: of course we're not here to convince you deep frying is healthy, but living a meat-free lifestyle comes with a plethora of benefits. Not only does eating a plant-based diet in general decrease the chances of heart disease, but oyster mushrooms also carry heart-healthy benefits.
Taste: this Mexican herb is an essential ingredient inside cemitas poblanas. Amongst the other hearty flavors, pápalo gives the sandwich a characteristic fresh, herbaceous, and pungent flavor. It's similar to a cross between arugula and cilantro with citrusy undertones.
Health: according to some, pápalo is believed to have many medicinal benefits ranging from lowering blood pressure, helping heal stomach ulcers, or even reducing inflammation of injuries.
Taste: it's always challenging to replace the texture of Oaxaca cheese with a dairy-free version, but vegan mozzarella provides this sandwich with mellow, slightly tangy, and buttery flavors intended by the original.
Health: replacing cheese made from dairy with cheese made from nuts comes with a whole host of health benefits. Cashews, for example, are high in protein, low in sugar, and filled with heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
If you have questions about this vegan cemitas poblanas recipe, don't forget to check out our FAQ section at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: combine the milanesa batter ingredients in one bowl and the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Dip the mushrooms first in the batter, then in the breading.
Step 2: fry them in a large pot of oil at 350-375 degrees F (use a deep-fry thermometer for the most accurate temperatures). Transfer the mushrooms to a cooling rack over top of a baking sheet or a paper towel-lined plate.
Step 3: cut open the cemita buns and toast each side on a skillet (optional). Layer on sliced avocados, mushroom milanesa, shredded cheese, onion rings, chipotle chiles or pickled jalapeños, pápalo (or arugula & cilantro), and a little more cheese.
Step 4: close your cemita poblana with the top bun and serve it immediately while the mushroom milanesa is crispy. Happy eating!
Cemitas poblanas are surprisingly quick to make, just make sure to keep the ingredients fresh by following these tips.
Although cemitas taste best when they're eaten right away, we often find ourselves enjoying cold mushroom milanesa on our sandwiches the following day.
If you can, keep the milanesa in airtight glass containers for up to 3-4 days. As for the cemita buns, any wheat-based bread will last at room temperature for around 3-4 days.
When you're ready to make your next cemita poblana, heat the mushrooms in a pan over medium-low until they're warmed.
Once the mushrooms are heated, build your sandwich the same way as before with fresh veggies, shredded cheese, chipotle peppers, etc.
💭 Pro tips
We'd like to share some tips and tricks we learned while experimenting with this plant-based cemitas poblanas recipe:
- Remove some of the bun. To make space for all the toppings, try cutting away some of the top bun.
- No pápalo, no problem. If you can't find this herb, don't sweat it! You can substitute it with cilantro, arugula, or both.
- Add some salsa. Try adding salsa to take your cemita up a level (although it's delicious as-is).
- Use any bun. Although this sandwich is traditionally made with a cemita, it's not totally necessary. Just use any brioche-style bun you can find!
- Check your local Latin market. If you are set on finding pápalo and cemita buns and don't live in Mexico, make sure to look at a Mexican or Latin market for your best shot.
🍴 Tasting notes
Sandwiches in Mexico are some of the best and most wonderful parts of this cuisine, and cemitas poblanas are no exception. They're:
If you try this vegan cemita poblana recipe, please rate it and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
Vegan Cemitas Poblanas
- Large pot or deep fryer
- Slotted spoon
- Chef knife & cutting board
- Mixing bowls
- 4 cemitas or large sesame brioche buns ($0.89)
- 9 ounces oyster mushrooms ($1.21)
- 1-2 cups neutral oil for frying ($0.32)
- ½ cup plant milk ($0.21)
- ½ cup all-purpose flour ($0.04)
- 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast ($0.08)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder ($0.01)
- ½ teaspoon salt ($0.01)
- ½ cup all-purpose flour ($0.04)
- ¾ cup bread crumbs ($0.04)
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder ($0.01)
- ½ teaspoon salt ($0.01)
- ½ teaspoon black pepper ($0.01)
- 2 avocados, sliced ($0.36)
- 6 ounces vegan mozzarella-style cheese, shredded ($1.86)
- 1 cup pápalo or arugula & cilantro mix ($0.25)
- ½ white or red onion, sliced in rings ($0.12)
- 8 chipotle chiles in adobo or pickled jalapeños ($0.32)
- In a mixing bowl, combine the batter ingredients and whisk until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the coating ingredients.
- Cut the ends off of the oyster mushrooms and transfer them to the bowl of wet batter. Stir gently to coat them, and set aside while you prep the rest of the fillings.
- Preheat 1-2 cups of neutral oil in a large pot or deep fryer up to 350-375°F (use a deep-fry thermometer for the most accurate temperatures).
- 1-2 at a time, transfer the mushrooms to the bowl of dry ingredients and use a spoon to coat them thoroughly in breading.
- Fry the mushrooms in small batches for 1-2 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Transfer the mushrooms to a cooling rack over top of a baking sheet or a paper towel-lined plate.
- Cut open the cemita buns and toast each side on a skillet (optional). Layer on sliced avocados, mushroom milanesa, shredded cheese, onion rings, chipotle chiles or pickled jalapeños, pápalo (or arugula & cilantro), and a little more cheese.
- Close the torta with the top bun and enjoy immediately. Happy eating!
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe-to-recipe.
- All prices are in USD.
♻️ Similar recipes
For more sandwich inspiration, check out our:
- Torta cubana to try another Mexican sandwich packed with three kinds of "meat", melty cheese, refried beans, and tons of vegetables.
- Pambazos for a torta that's dipped in chile sauce, lightly fried, filled with chorizo and potatoes, and topped with fresh lettuce, crema, and queso.
- Mulitas de carnitas to enjoy jackfruit carnitas, dairy-free cheese, guacamole, and salsa roja sandwiched between two homemade corn tortillas.
- Sincronizadas for flour tortilla quesadillas made with melty cheese, protein-packed (vegan) ham, and sautéed veggies.
Some cemita bun recipes call for egg and dairy ingredients, but others do not. Just make sure to check the ingredient list if you aren't making them at home. Otherwise, just use hamburger buns.
We used a vegan mozzarella, which is delicious. You could also use a Monterey Jack or a Chihuahua-style cheese if you can find them.
Pickled jalapeños are also used interchangeably with chipotles in cemitas poblanas. If you don't like any spice, just use regular pickles or nothing at all!