At first glance, you’d think a muffuletta, that famous New Orleans sandwich piled with cold cuts and a spicy olive salad, simply isn’t for vegetarians. At least not in its most traditional form.

And yet, even in the place that invented the sandwich, Central Grocery, you can order one without the meat. For those of us whose favorite parts of a muffuletta are the olive salad and the soft sesame bread that gives the sandwich its name, it makes perfect sense.

Without the bread?

Not the same thing, obviously. But this salad from Southern vegetarian authors Amy Lawrence and Justin Fox Burks spoons the same sharp flavors — from marinated olives, vegetables and cheese — onto a bed of romaine lettuce. It’s from their “Low-Carb Vegetarian Cookbook” (Rockridge Press, 2020), and when I made it for a small, socially distanced dinner party on my backyard terrace recently, it got devoured.

I know Burks and Lawrence wouldn’t mind, because they’re two of the friendliest people in the business, but I added plenty of carbs back to the meal by serving the salad with pizza. The combination was just perfect. If you want to go a step further and make it into a sandwich, with whatever other components you’d like, none of us would fault you for that, either.

Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the recipe here.

Make Ahead: The salad, before serving on the romaine, needs to marinate for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Storage Notes: The marinated vegetables can be refrigerated — separate from the lettuce — for up to 4 days before serving. Leftovers that include the lettuce will get soggy.


  • 3 cups (16 ounces) pitted spicy mixed marinated olives (such as green, black, kalamata or a mix), drained
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) small cauliflower florets
  • 2 large celery ribs
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled
  • 12 pickled pepperoncini, drained and stemmed
  • One (7-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and thinly sliced
  • 3 medium Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups (8 ounces) cubed provolone cheese
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Creole mustard
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning blend
  • 6 cups (10 ounces) chopped romaine lettuce

Step 1

In the bowl of a food processor, using the slicer blade, slice the olives, cauliflower, celery, carrot and pepperoncini. (You can do this by hand if you don’t have a food processor.)

Step 2

Transfer the sliced vegetables to a 3-quart nonreactive container. Add the red peppers, tomatoes, cheese, garlic, oil, vinegar, mustard and Italian seasoning. Toss well to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 4 days to let the mixture marinate. (It’s best to make it at least 1 day before serving so the flavors meld.)

Step 3

To serve, use a slotted spoon to scoop the marinated vegetables and some of the marinade onto the romaine.

Adapted from “Low-Carb Vegetarian Cookbook” by Amy Lawrence and Justin Fox Burks (Rockridge Press, 2020).

Tested by Joe Yonan; email questions to

Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the recipe here.

Did you make this recipe? Take a photo and tag us on Instagram with #eatvoraciously.

Browse our Recipe Finder for more than 9,000 tested recipes at