Portabella chicken cheese steak

Can we make a better chicken cheese steak at home? Spoiler: the answer is yes.

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Read Time: 9 minutes

I recently stopped at Jersey Mike’s on one of my non-cooking days for a quick sub. Jersey Mike’s, Subway, and Jimmy Johns are the only national sub sandwich chains I’ve eaten at in the past 10 years or so, and of those three, Jersey Mike’s is my favorite. To be fair to some of the other national sandwich chains, I have tried Blimpie’s, Quiznos, and Penn Station before, but it’s been so long ago that I don’t remember much about them.

I need to be in the right mood for it, and it’s not anything I get super excited about, but I think Jersey Mike’s makes pretty good sandwiches if you’re into American-style chain subs. They have a large menu of hot and cold subs, and they seem to change things up fairly often with the introduction of variants of their classics.

I’d just like to take this sidebar to remember how fun Quiznos used to be. Wikipedia says they dropped down to 145 locations in 2023 after a bankruptcy in 2014 and then years of steady decline. Sad to see the original toasted sub chain wither.

During my recent visit I ordered and ate a variant of their regular chicken cheesesteak. I got the #65, the portabella chicken cheese steak and it was good enough with different flavors and textures that I wanted to create a better version and share a recipe of my own.

What is this sandwich?

The sandwich I’m sharing today is based on the idea of Jersey Mike’s offering which has griddled chicken, portabella mushrooms, red and green bell peppers (or what they call “sweet peppers”), sliced onion, and melty white American cheese inside of a soft white sub roll. These ingredients are cooked on a flat-top griddle, sandwiched, and then wrapped in paper for transport. This is not a copycat version in part because I think you can easily make your chicken cheese steak better than they can at Jersey Mike’s.

Here’s a screenshot of the Jersey Mike’s menu and a video of this sandwich being cooked and prepared.

A screen capture of this sandwich on Jersey Mike’s website. This sandwich might not be on the visible menu on the wall at every Jersey Mike’s, but you can still order it with the name or number.
The guy who has shared this video is an employee of Jersey Mike’s so this is how this portabella chicken cheese steak is made in the restaurant.

I tried the #65

As I said earlier, I went out and ordered this sandwich. I’m not sure how all Jersey Mike’s are, but the big menu on the wall in the restaurant I visited doesn’t show a number anywhere near as high as 65. If you want to visit a Jersey Mike’s and be aware of all the options I suggest you check the sandwich menus on their site or app.

I took a couple of photos of the Jersey Mike’s portabella chicken cheese steak that I ordered and ate. As with most fast food or chain restaurant food that hasn’t been staged for photos, it’s not that attractive to look at. But as I wrote above, if you like a chicken cheese steak and enjoy melty American cheese, it was a solid sandwich choice. The mushrooms had some texture, the peppers brought a hint of sweet flavor to the sandwich. The chicken was soft but still present and the cheese was melty and contributed a bit of salt to the experience.

Mushroom Facts: the name of this mushroom can be spelled portobello or portabella. The Mushroom Council prefers the “two a” version though.

For a fast food/casual sub sandwich, this is a pretty good one in my experience. I’m not an expert on this, but I do know sandwiches and I was happy with my experience here.
Things do not get much prettier when you open up the hood. You can see red peppers, onions, mushrooms, and chicken.
I isolated a few pieces of the chicken from the sandwich, and they are cut VERY thin.

If you wanted to copycat this sandwich, the most difficult part would be to recreate the consistency of the thinly cut chicken. According to the video above and this supposed Jersey Mike’s employee in the Reddit comments below, they use a sheet of pressed raw chicken that is fully weighed out and portioned for each 6-inch roll of a Jersey Mike’s cheesesteak. That meat sheet was likely created in a factory or at least a commercial kitchen and we probably can’t replicate that at home, but we can get close enough with a good sharp knife and some patience.

A screencap of r/jerseymikes where a possible employee mentions the preparation of the chicken used in their chicken cheese steaks (click image to read thread).

If we’re going to make an equal and most likely better version of this sandwich at home, we’ll need bread. If you’re not a baker, you can look for a good 6-inch roll at the store that will work well in this sandwich, but as usual, I made my own.

Soft sub roll

The bread recipe I used for this sandwich is very similar to what you’ll find at a place like Jersey Mike’s or Subway as their “plain” or white sub sandwich roll. My recipe makes 3 twelve-inch sandwich rolls that are very consistent. They’re even more consistent and almost commercial-like if you use a silicone sub roll mold that I use for this style of roll.

Sub roll shaping process

Most bread-shaping processes for me start from a ball of dough. The shaping process here is no different. These portions are shaped into balls and allowed to rest. Sometimes I skip the rest process due to time constraints but a rest like this can help build some gluten structure and help the dough to relax.

After a few minutes of dough relaxation, I get to work shaping the dough into logs or torpedo shapes. The captions on the photos below should explain some of my shaping process.

After the first rise, I divide the dough into 3 portions and shape each into a ball and let them rest for another 15 minutes.
Flatten the dough into a rough rectangle shape that’s about six inches on the long side.
Roll up on the long side to make a very tight roll of dough.
When the dough is fully rolled up tightly, pinch the seem closed very well. Try to keep the seam in a straight line.

It’s important to start rolling the dough from a rectangle shape because it will ensure that the middle of the roll and ends of the roll stays a similar thickness. Starting from a rectangle shape is also important because that will help to keep the ugly seam in a straight line when it’s rolled up. The seam being in a straight line will allow you to effectively hide the seam on the underside of the roll. Hide that nasty seam!

Flip the dough log over, seam side down, and roll back and forth a few times.
Keeping the seam on the bottom, roll the dough until it’s 11 or 12 inches long.
If you have a kitchen tape measure, it’s not a bad idea to get it out.
You can bake these on a sheet pan without a sub roll mold, but if you have a mold, this sort of sandwich is perfect for it.
After a second hour of rise time the dough has filled up the silicone mold and is starting to look like a sub roll.
Twelve inches of soft sub roll ready for a cheese steak.
The silicone sub roll mold is responsible for how consistent these rolls look.
These rolls have a soft interior that is structured well enough to stand up to most sub sandwich ingredients.

Here’s my sub roll recipe. It’s easily one of my most tested recipes on this site because I make it quite often. It’s also great for a beginner. If you’re a beginner though, and you want consistency, I suggest you invest $17 in the same silicone sub roll mold that I use.

3 hours
Sub sandwich rolls

This is a great recipe to use when you need a sub sandwich roll. These sub rolls are not too crusty with a soft interior and pleasant chew for a sub sandwich, cheese steak, or po-boy.

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Thinly sliced chicken

Slicing raw chicken into thin strips is easy if you have a sharp knife and some patience. If you are struggling to get the pieces as thin as you’d like, you can freeze the chicken for 30 minutes to firm it up which will make the meat easier to slice.

Hone that knife and get ready for thin slicing.
Size up your chicken breast (you can use thighs if you want).
Take your time and slice as thinly as possible.
My goal was to shoot for 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick pieces of chicken.

I don’t think there is a chance that you can slice the chicken for this sandwich too thin. If you slice too thick though, you run some risk of the chicken taking too long to cook. Staying around a quarter inch thick with your slices will be the perfect thickness.

Sweet peppers

Slicing the chicken and cooking down the bell pepper pieces is the best opportunity to accomplish things in advance of sandwich cooking. The peppers need more time than either mushrooms or onions because they need a longer period to cook down to tender.

If you like the flavors of cooked bell peppers, it’s a super easy thing to slice two or three of them and cook them down for 7 to 10 minutes with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and keep them in the fridge for up to a week. Cooked peppers like this can be stored in the refrigerator and they can be thrown into pretty much any sandwich and added to things like omelets, stir-fries or even added to nachos, tacos, or even salads. These are super handy things to keep in the fridge and not just a component of this one particular sandwich.

Portabella mushrooms and onions

Sliced portabella mushrooms and halved, thinly sliced onion are cooked alongside the sweet peppers on a griddle or large skillet. Both ingredients need about the same amount of cooking time in my experiments. They need less time than the peppers, so it’s good that we gave the peppers a head start.

I give the veggies about a minute of cooking time before adding the chicken and with this tactic, we should have all the vegetables and chicken ready to go at the same time.

Thinly sliced onion and mushrooms.

White American cheese

Jersey Mike’s uses white American cheese, but you can use whatever cheese you want. I don’t often see sliced white American cheese in the typical cheese section of my grocery stores but it’s almost always available behind the deli counter. If you can’t find white American cheese but you still want the same flavor, you should buy regular American cheese from the deli and not the plastic-wrapped slices.

If you want something closer to a Philly cheese steak you should buy sliced provolone or secure some cheez whiz. Most sliced cheese will work because the cheese is added right at the end of the cooking process and is encouraged to melt by the steam from the hot meat and veggies.

Condiments?

This might seem controversial to some, but I didn’t add any condiments to this sandwich. Jersey Mike’s doesn’t and I started out trying to replicate theirs—but better—and that’s what I did too. I don’t think this needs anything, but you can do whatever you want with your sandwich. I think a good honey mustard or spicy mustard would change the sandwich entirely and maybe it would even be better if you’re a fan of mustard. But from my experience, it’s just not needed.

I made this sandwich 3 or 4 times for both myself and my wife—typically a condiment person—and never once did she mention that it needed mayonnaise or mustard. But again, it’s your sandwich, add mayo, mustard, or even ketchup if you want.

Cooking process

All the above components need to be cooked in a pan or griddle. The peppers have a bit of a head start, but the other components (not counting the cheese) can go on the cooking surface around the same time because they end up cooking for a similar amount of time.

In my experience, the cheese steak cooking process is easier if you use a griddle with some long metal spatulas. You can make a cheese steak with a non-stick skillet and plastic spatulas and I have, but it’s just easier with the griddle and some long spatulas.

The heat from the griddle and all the ingredients will steam and melt the cheese during the last minute or two of the cooking process.

Here’s a fairly inexpensive Lodge brand griddle that fits over two burners that is similar to the one that I use. And here is a set of long metal griddle spatulas that would make moving cheese steak ingredients around very easy.

Cook the veggies and add thinly sliced chicken. Toss everything together and continue cooking until the chicken is fully cooked.
Once the chicken is cooked, shape your pile of chicken and veggies into a row that is about the length of your bread, and top everything with cheese.
Once the cheese is melty, transfer the cheesy topped meat and veggies into your split sub roll.

Wrap it?

I did not wrap up any of these cheese steaks but as I have learned from other hot sandwiches that I’ve written about; this is another sandwich that would benefit from being wrapped up in parchment or foil after cooking. The wrapping process would help to steam the bread and melt everything else together well. The main reason why I didn’t do it here is that wrapping sort of ruins any chance to take photos or video of a sandwich because everything gets a little mushed.

The portabella chicken cheese steak recipe

My wife and I enjoyed a few nights of chicken cheese steaks to create this recipe. As you can see, I took a bunch of photos of the experience. This is a good sandwich recipe to keep on hand for a quick weeknight meal.

These might not be my hands holding the sandwich in this photo.
These might be my hands holding the sandwich in this photo.
The sweet peppers bring flavor and the mushrooms bring good texture to the overall sandwich.
White American cheese gets really melty, but provolone would work almost the same if you prefer those slices.
Eleven or Twelve inches of chickeny cheesy goodness.
This is a fairly quick-to-cook sandwich once you get all your ingredients prepped.
No condiments might seem weird to some, but it’s cheesy enough that you won’t notice.
I made my wife an amateur “sandwich hand model” this week.
Most of these photos show the full 12-inch sandwich but they were all cut in half and shared.
Portabella chicken cheese steak view printable page for this recipe

This comforting chicken cheese steak is packed with griddled portabella mushrooms, onions, and tender sweet bell peppers all topped with melty cheese.


Ingredients:

Sweet peppers
  • 2 or 3 red, orange or green bell peppers, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • pinch of salt and ground black pepper
Chicken cheese steak
  • 1 twelve-inch roll or 2 six-inch sandwich rolls
  • mayonnaise or mustard (or other condiments - optional)
  • 1 portabella mushroom cap, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 14 onion, thinly sliced
  • 14 cup sweet peppers (from above)
  • 10 ounces thinly sliced raw chicken breast
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 to 4 slices of white American cheese (or provolone cheese)

Directions:

Sweet peppers: slice 2 or 3 bell peppers into long strips and then cut the strips in half. 

Add a teaspoon of olive oil to a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the bell pepper pieces and then toss them around in the oil. Add a pinch of salt and ground black pepper and cook the peppers for around 5 to 7 minutes or until the peppers start to soften a little.

Once the peppers have softened, remove them to a sealed container and place them in the refrigerator until it's time to make the sandwich.

Roll toasting: if you desire a toasted roll, heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Open the roll like a book or if the rolls are split all the way through, lay them down in the pan to toast the interior. Toast for 2 to 3 minutes or until the bread is just starting to turn a bit brown. Remove the roll to a cooling rack for filling later. Add any condiments as soon as the roll cools a little. 

Chicken cheese steak cooking: get all your chicken cheese steak ingredients sliced and ready because cooking happens fairly quickly. 

Remove the stem, clean, and prepare the portabella mushroom for cooking. Slice the portabella mushroom into long strips around a quarter of an inch wide and then slice those lengthwise into smaller pieces. 

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the large skillet or griddle over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the portabella mushroom pieces, the thinly sliced onions, and a spoonful of your sweet peppers. Season the vegetables with a pinch of salt and ground black pepper. Cook for one minute and then stir the vegetables together. 

Move the vegetables to one side of the pan or griddle and then add the thinly sliced chicken to the other side of the pan. Season the chicken with a good pinch of salt and ground black pepper. 

Cook the chicken, stirring often (keep stirring the vegetables too) until there is no visible pink on the meat, about 5 or 6 minutes. 

Combine the vegetables and chicken into one pile if you're using a 12-inch roll or two piles if you're using two 6-inch rolls. Top each pile with slices of cheese. 

Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes or until the cheese is melting and then with two spatulas or a large spoon move your piles of meat, vegetables, and cheese into the roll. 

Serve and enjoy.

Check back next week

Next week we’ll be making another sandwich. Or at least I’m pretty sure we will be. Check back and find out.


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