{not} Philly {not} Cheese {not} Steak

This is a post about something that isn’t at all what it claims to be.  Does that even make sense?  It’s a Philly Cheesesteak that’s not made in Philadelphia and doesn’t contain steak or (anything you can legally call) cheese.

So, yeah, it involves processed cheese food product.  Sue me.  Sometimes I feel the need to fall back on childhood favorites and flavors.

A couple of months ago, my husband mentioned that he wanted a “chicken Philly Cheesesteak” for dinner.  First of all – how can it be a cheeseSTEAK if it’s made with chicken?  Second of all – I’d been trying to avoid purchasing processed foods, and American “Cheese” and Cheez Whiz – two commonly used ingredients in traditional Philly Cheesesteaks – are among the most processed foods you can buy.

As an aside – did you know that you can buy organic American cheese? Also, according to America’s Test Kitchen, you can make it at home.

Anyway – I decided to give it a whirl.  I grew up eating cheesesteaks made with beef (when I was little, my mom and I would go about once a month to this little hole-in-the-wall place that was near our house and get the mushroom cheesesteak.  I’m sure it wasn’t authentic, given that it was in a suburban shopping center in Marietta, GA, but I have very fond memories of that place.  I would watch the guy chopping away on the flat-top grill, mesmerized by the little piles of meat and cheese all lined up just so), so I wasn’t really sure how this chicken version was going to taste.

First, I began by softening a cup of thinly sliced onion and a cup of thinly sliced bell pepper in a tablespoon of oil.  I let it cook down slowly, getting good and caramelized (I just got in a hurry and typed that last word “caramilized” and one of the spell checker’s suggestions for a replacement was militarized.  Spell check is weird).

I removed the softened onions and peppers from the pan, and added about a pound of thinly sliced chicken breast meat (seasoned with salt and pepper) to the pan.  I let it go until it was nice and browned on all sides.  Then I removed the chicken from the pan.

To make individual sandwiches, I added between two and three ounces of chicken back to the pan, along with a little bit of the onion and pepper mixture.  I used a pastry scraper (or a flat spatula) to chop the mixture into smaller pieces.

I covered that with a slice (or two) of cheese (yes, I’m using processed cheese – you can use provolone if it makes you feel better.  Just know it doesn’t melt as nicely) and poured about a quarter cup of water into the pan.  I covered this with a lid to let it steam and allowed the cheese to melt.  Once the cheese started to melt, I uncovered the pan and used my pastry scraper/spatula to mix everything together – the little bit of water that’s left in the pan helped to make a nice sauce (plus it deglazed the pan nicely – adding all that good brown flavor to the mix).

I piled the whole thing into a whole-wheat roll and topped it with a few slices of fresh jalapeno.  I like things spicy, so feel free to omit that last bit if you’re averse to heat.  Served with a cold beer, it was mighty tasty.

So, you know, NOT a Philly cheesesteak per se, but something that mimics it pretty well.  And my husband and kids thought it was pretty good, too.

Chicken Cheese{not}steak

prep time: 10 minutes

cook time: 20 minutes

yields: 4-6 sandwiches


  • 1 lb. chicken breast meat, thinly sliced into strips
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil (olive or grapeseed)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4-6 slices mild white cheese (Provolone or American are traditional)
  • 4-6 whole wheat hoagie rolls
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat
  2. Add the oil and the sliced onions and peppers.  Cook until softened and caramelized – about 10 minutes.  Remove from pan.
  3. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the pan.  Cook until browned on all sides and cooked through – about 8 minutes. Remove from pan.
  4. Add 2-3 ounces of cooked chicken and some of the onions and peppers back to the pan.  Chop into smaller pieces using a flat spatula.
  5. Add a slice of cheese.  Pour a little water in the pan and cover to steam.
  6. Remove lid and use spatula to mix everything together.  If there’s still too much water in the pan, let it cook a bit longer to evaporate.
  7. Scoop it all into a split hoagie roll.
  8. Repeat with remaining chicken, onions, cheese and rolls.
  9. Enjoy!

Oh!  One more thing – sometimes I saute a bunch of sliced cremini mushrooms along with my onions and peppers.  Actually, I really prefer to do this – those mushrooms just add a depth of flavor that you don’t get otherwise.  I just forgot to get any at the store the day I made these.  I’ve been thinking you could do a vegetarian version just using mushrooms, onions and peppers – I don’t think I’d miss the meat.

6 thoughts on “{not} Philly {not} Cheese {not} Steak

  1. I don’t eat beef, so chicken cheesesteaks are right up my alley. If you think the American cheese is gross… many cheesesteaks here (Philly area) are made with Cheez Wiz. I shiver at the thought! I’d eat yours any day!

  2. This looks delicious! Also, I’m intrigued by the idea of making your own American cheese and might just have to check out the recipe for occasions like this. I’m not opposed to buying processed cheese every now and then–just think I might enjoy the challenge. 🙂

    Unrelated: you grew up in Marietta? I’m a Georgian, too–raised in Hartwell, currently in Athens–and had several friends from Marietta when I was in school at UGA.

  3. Spellcheck is the bane of my cellphone experience 🙂 Man, that not Philly cheesesteak sounds good-a killah Philla! It would go great on the bread I’ve been making lately. I finally got a solid starter going (yay!) and have made a few loaves and pizza with it.

  4. Your blog posts always make me hungry. So, I know it’s a long shot, but might you know of a gluten- and nightshade-free version of chicken Philly cheese-steaks? Avoiding potatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, pepper of any other kind, and wheat in any form in an attempt to calm the fibro pain …

    1. You could definitely leave out the onions and peppers – lots of people just do meat and cheese. As for gluten-free, I’m no expert, but I know that some Whole Foods stores carry a good selection of gluten-free hot dog and hamburger buns. You could sub a hot dog bun here. There’s a brand called Udi’s that’s also carried at most major grocer’s from what I’ve read online. They do hot dog and hamburger buns too.

  5. sounds awesome! love the addition of jalepenos, def going to have to add those the next time i make a philly cheesesteak like sandwich! Like your beer choice too 🙂

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