Upton’s Naturals, which makes quick-cooking, seitan meat substitutes for foodservice customers and industrial applications, recently teamed with The Buona Companies to make a Plant-Based Chicago Italian Beef & Gravy using their thinly sliced and seasoned seitan. Now a heat-and-eat, frozen product available for retail customers nationwide, the sandwich started as a permanent menu item at the family-owned restaurant group’s 26 franchise locations.

The sandwich was originally meant to be a limited time offering, but based on the overwhelming positive response, the Buona team decided to keep the sandwich on their menu and create a fully cooked version consumers can easily make themselves at home. Created from an original Buona family recipe, the “beef” seitan is soaked in a custom-made, savory gravy that’s crafted from a vegetable-based broth and olive oil to deliver the juiciness you’d usually get from beef fat. It’s 100% vegan, bursting with the familiar flavors of oregano, garlic and pepper and touting 36 grams of protein per serving and currently sold at Whole Foods Market Midwest, Fresh Thyme and Jewel-Osco for an SRP of $7.49.

“Vegans crave the same variety and savory meal options as anyone, just without the meat to go with it,” said Upton’s Naturals’ founder Dan Staackmann. “There’s so much opportunity to serve the community of people embracing a plant-based diet, which stretches far beyond having a vegan burger. The Buona Beef family understands that, and with our slices of seitan, we’re so happy to be able to support them creating a 100% vegan take on the traditional Italian beef sandwich.”

In addition to their work with Buona, Upton’s Naturals provides chefs, restaurants, and food manufacturers with 100% vegan and versatile, quick-cooking meat alternatives that are high in protein, low in fat, and contain no oil. Made in the USA, their lineup includes everything from a beef frank that can be topped with fixings and seitan strips for sandwiches to chorizo for tacos, bacon for BLTs, and gyros for Mediterranean dishes. The products are also CRC kosher pareve, certified plant based, contain no GMO’s, and are free of the cholesterol associated with meat.