Time for the BBQ. This sandwich is a funny one. We didn’t bring it into the line-up out of the gate. It was the last of the regular sandwiches to hit the street. Rolando was pressing me, “what else, what other sandwiches?” Part of what has worked so well for the two of us is that I’m vegetarian, he’s not. We both love food. So I have a history of trying to make food I love to eat that doesn’t have any meat. Some of you have tried this. It takes some creativity and a spirit of adventure. Rolando has a meaty palette. He was able to taste stuff I gave him and say “yuck,” or “with some changes this might work.” Then of course he would work some of his magic, scale it up, and bingo.

One of the sandwiches I’ve always loved to make at home is a seitan sandwich. There is some store-bought seitan in a Teriyaki sauce that I’d throw into a pan, brown, then add caramelized onions and melt cheddar cheese. I’d add the best tomatoes I could find and it was a meal.

(keep reading for the rest of the story, and nutritionals)

So when Rolando was pushing me I told him about this sandwich. We grabbed some seitan and I made one for it. He wasn’t sure at all and we back-burnered the idea.

Clover is determined to avoid fake meat. Seitan has a real history, almost as old as Tofu and Tempeh (which I think stand on their own as vegetable products, not “fake meats.”) But it’s definitely more borderline in those regards. We didn’t want customers to feel it was a fake meat. Further, Rolando just didn’t like it. He had a strong reaction to the texture.

One day Rolando came to me and said “try this.” He had a seitan sandwich, but he’d made it with BBQ sauce. We were liking it, but it still wasn’t quite there. So we bought a dozen different brands of seitan. Nada. Just wasn’t working. Seitan is typically made with asian flavors (ginger, soy sauce, etc.). And the texture was still giving Rolando the willys.

So we rolled up our sleeves, literally, and started kneeding wheat gluten, or “vital wheat gluten” as it’s often called. It’s what seitan is made from and it’s 95% protein. Basically wheat is washed until nothing is left except protein. As with everything we do we screwed up a bunch. We made tough seitan, squishy seitan, mushy seitan. Lot’s of disgusting seitan. But we started to learn how to achieve a “marbled” effect. And learned how the cooking process could bring other textural variations.

But it wasn’t over. We’ve probably changed the BBQ sandwich about 20 times since we started serving it. Everything from BBQ spices (upgraded to the good stuff from Christina’s, away from the junk at Restaurant Depot), sauce, technique, other ingredients (soy mayo was axed), cheese. Pretty much everything has changed. And I’m sure it’s going to get better. So give us your feedback. We need your help getting to that next generation.

So what’s in it? A bit of mayo (watered down, it spreads better that way), green leaf lettuce, tasty tom tomatoes in the winter (field tomatoes in the summer), seitan, BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, Vermont cheddar cheese (those last 4 ingredients are baked in an oven).

Calories 320 kcal

Carbohydrates 47 g

Fat 7 g

% calories from fat: 20%

Protein 17 g

Fiber 10 g

Cholesterol 9 mg

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33 Responses to BBQ

  1. Kent 29 May, 2010 at 4:22 am #


    I think it would be nice to label vegan items on the menu. I assumed the BBQ was vegan until I ordered it and it had cheese- I know this was my fault and I should have asked, but I rarely see seitan or BBQ items in general with melted cheese. There have been a couple times I was flustered about vegan items as well (one of them involved the pear and parsnip soup being creamy but not cream-based). Just putting a tiny v next to things on the menu would be really helpful and keep the line moving along. Thanks a lot.


  2. Jake Reibel 12 September, 2010 at 4:15 pm #

    Simply amazing. I am not a vegan, but this was sure a great sandwich! Great work!!

  3. Sara 19 September, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    Those nutritionals sound too good to be true! Is that for the entire sandwich or “per serving”? It seems like the pita, mayo, and cheese alone would bring that sandwich to atleast 300 calories on its own. What’s the nutritional breakdown for it all?

  4. ayr 21 September, 2010 at 8:45 am #

    That’s for the entire sandwich. Chris is the expert on this stuff, so next time you catch him you can ask him all about it.

  5. Greta 5 October, 2010 at 2:06 pm #

    Love it. I’m not a vegan, but I like the bbq sauce unadulterated.
    Every day when I leave the office for lunch, I tell people that I’m going
    to get my “crack sammich”

  6. Kathy 29 November, 2010 at 1:52 pm #

    I really enjoyed this sandwich, especially the seitan. I know you weren’t trying to go for ‘fake meat’ but I think it could easily pass for being real meat. Only suggestion I have is that I thought the seitan was a little too salty.

  7. Russ 11 January, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    You should really advertise the calorie count on this sandwich — I ordered (and enjoyed) it anyway, but such a satisfying lunch at so low a nutritional cost is a huge draw. Rock on.

  8. Noah 26 January, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    there is no way that this is 320 cal. As stated previously the pita alone is upwards of 170, meaning that in this sandwich the sauce, seitan, and cheese would need to be less than 150 cal combined, not counting the lettuce or tomato. The sauce and cheese are at least 50 cal each, meaning that the seitan is 50 cal as well? The last few times that I got this sandwich there was quite a bit of seitan, so I am very skeptical that this number is correct.

    It’s quite possible that the recipe has changed from when this was calculated, if so could you possibly extrapolate to what the new nutritional facts are?

  9. ayr 1 February, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    Here’s the caloric breakdown:

    Item Calories
    whole wheat pita (3.6oz) 173

    mayonnaise 53
    large leaf lettuce 13
    tasty toms 2
    seitan 43
    bbq sauce 12
    onions, diced 18
    butter –
    cheddar cheese 29

    (butter was once in there, to cook the onions, but we removed it a while back)

  10. anan 1 March, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    are we sure about the seitan info there? it seems like quite a bit of seitan when you order it….

    if you could give an actual nutritional report for ordering the sandwich vegan (i.e., sans mayo & cheese) that would be great….

  11. Tara 27 April, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    I just had this seitan for lunch today and I thought it was awesome. I had no idea what I was ordering but just thought I’d be adventurous. My friends and I got into a conversation where we compared it to a McRib…but about 400x better and healthier.

    The sandwich got yummier as I ate it because the sauce and tomatoes were toward the bottom… I finished every last bite along with my fresh order of rosemary fries and hot mulled cider.


  12. Elise 3 May, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

    Hm. Not to be picky but I’m with anan on the seitan question – unless you make/get your seitan from a place I’ve never seen, I’m shocked it’s not at least 90 calories for the seitan alone. This however does not take away from the deliciousness of the sandwich 🙂

  13. ayr 17 June, 2011 at 7:44 am #

    Elise —

    We make it ourselves. And yeah, that’s the right nutritional information. There’s no fat added to the seitan itself. It’s wheat gluten, spices, and water.

  14. cm 2 September, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    love love love
    I eat vegan low oil and that low oil part is sooooo hard to find when eating out. Thank you so much for your delicious food that meets my health goals.
    The lovely woman who took my order was soooo helpful to make sure I got a vegan low oil meal, and while we were chatting a little girl came up and gave her a drawing and a big hug. Your employees are obviously getting back the love the give out to customers. Way to go!

  15. Sarah 7 September, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    What is in the bbq sauce? Do you guys make that from scratch too?

  16. Stuart 13 September, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    My favorite sandwich, but I was wondering about the consistency of the seitan. Sometimes it’s thicker and chewy, sometimes it’s sliced thin and darker in color, sometimes it’s a bit crusty and hard on the edges. Why the differences?

  17. Julie 29 September, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    This my favorite sandwich of yours, but my only critique would be about assembly I guess. For some reason I always wind up with pure lettuce and tomato on the first half and all sauce, seitan, and onions on the bottom half. There is only a nice balance in the very middle. That’s not to say it isn’t delicious, but it makes the bottom get soggy quickly and there is no crunch down there.

    Perhaps you could experiment with putting a lettuce leaf on the bottom before adding the seitan/bbq/gooey deliciousness?

    <3 you guys.

  18. Sarah 5 January, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    First off- LOVE the food here. I often pick something up for lunch, as my office is right next door.

    Today I got a BBQ Seitan sandwich. It had been a while since I last experienced its deliciousness, and when I ordered it previously, it had always been vegan. I am mostly vegan myself, and was disappointed to find cheese in my sandwich. I was super hungry though, and still inhaled it regardless. Hopefully my system doesn’t hate me for it!

    I agree with Kent- it would be incredibly helpful to have vegan options labeled with a small “v”.


  19. Lena 26 January, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    Really terrific sandwich. I wouldn’t change a thing!

  20. Virginia 16 February, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    Also assumed it was vegan, and didn’t even notice any cheese until the second time I had it. Can you make it with Vegannaise upon request? Also, totally agree with another comment that the seitan varies. I got mine two weeks apart, the first at HSQ where the seitan was perfectly meaty, even a little gristly and crunchy…AMAZING; the second at Kendall where the seitan was thick and spongy, completely different from the first, and had red flakes in it. Not as much of a fan of that one. Why so different? I hope I can find the first version again to satisfy my craving!

  21. James 24 March, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    I like the taste of the soy blt sandwich, but it does not have enough soy bacon in it. Since the soy bacon is at least 50% smaller than regular bacon, it needs more strips. I purchased another sandwich today at Clover in Inman Sq, but before I did, I asked the cashier how many pieces of soy bacon the soy blt sandwich normally has, explaining it didn’t have enough soy bacon, and he said 4 pieces. In my opinion it needs 12. I would be willing to pay extra to have more soy bacon added.

  22. ayr 27 March, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    That’s so funny. We need to sell you packages of this stuff!!

  23. Aimee 6 April, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    I love this sandwich so much, and this was a fascinating read. I am so impressed with how hard you all work to make the best food you can, the best way you can, using the best ingredients you can find. We are lucky customers, indeed.

  24. lucia 16 April, 2012 at 8:48 am #

    Thanks Aimee! We love you too.

  25. Sarah 23 April, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

    I, too, am in shock about the nutritional values on this sandwich. I know nothing about seitan so I trust you there, however the 29 calories for the cheese makes me very suspicious. An ounce of cheddar is usually 100-120 calories, so you’re saying the whole sandwich has .33 ounces of cheese or less? Totally fine if so, just wanted to confirm… Cut up into bits that’s probably a little under a tablespoon of cheese, or in very thin slices probably 2-3 of them.

  26. Paula Schoppe 30 May, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    I absolutely loved this sandwich!

  27. Steph 31 May, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    Why did it take me so long to try this? I’ve been housing a rotation of your egg&eggplant and chickpea fritter sandwiches (w/ a few of the seasonals for good measure. sidenote–parsnip/cheddar is delish), but am not into “fake meat” so hadn’t given this sandwich a try. YUM AND YUM!!!! Sorry Redbones, as yummy as your ‘shroom sandwich is, this is even better (and a MUCH better value).

  28. Nancy 14 June, 2012 at 2:59 pm #


    Is the tahini in the chickpea fritters a clover food lab recipe?

    Nutritional states: “We don’t use olive oil….” Isn’t tahini ground toasted sesame seeds ground in olive oil? Confused.

    Also how cook the fritters? Fryer yes but oil?
    (wonder, for us home cooks, if fritters could be sprayed with oil and baked…?)

    starving New Mexican

  29. Lauren 23 July, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    I’m another vegan who assumed it was vegan when I ordered the BBQ seitan today. I know now for the future that it’s not, but I hope nobody else makes the same mistake! Clearer labeling would be helpful!

  30. lucia 27 July, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    Really sorry this happened to you, Lauren. I don’t think we’ll ever label vegan items, just like we don’t label vegetarian items. Just not what we’re aiming for with our menu. Talk to your order-taker, they will always be able to answer which items are vegan and which are not.

    Chickpea fritter happens to be vegan. We can make any other sandwich vegan too, if you let us know when you order.

  31. Julia 30 June, 2016 at 2:44 am #

    I absolutely LOVE the bbq seitan. It’s my favorite sandwich at Clover. I remember the first time I had it. I remarked how weird I thought it was, particularly the texture because I had never had seitan, tempeh, or tofu before. I didn’t plan to eat it again, but then that night I craved it. I craved it so much. Then I realized, I found it delicious and was attracted to the high protein content. BBQ seitan from Clover is so good because not only is it cravable because of its high protein content, but also because of its delicious flavor and savory BBQ sauce. The tomatoes and lettuce make it not too heavy and it’s great on the fresh pita. Although, just saying, on some days the bread is noticeable way better than on other days. Hoping for a more consistently great, soft, beautiful pita because when the pita is good, it’s real gooood. So happy this sandwich is a regular

  32. lucia 4 July, 2016 at 9:13 am #


    Thank you so much for your note. I shared this with Chris and the folks in the kitchen, I know it means a lot to them.

    You touch upon two really important things! 1. There is something about our food (and maybe that sandwich in particular) that people crave. I know I crave it too -weirdly enough, when I’m sick I crave the BBQ all the time.

    2. We’ve noticed that about the pita too. It’s fabulous some days and just good some other days. It’s the difference between being baked 8 hours ago and being baked 18 hours ago. We’re going to make sure systems in the kitchen support the 8 hour window.

    Really appreciate you writing. I’m throwing a Thank You Breakfast with our CEO, Ayr. We pay, we cook, you get to bring a guest. The next one is coming up in late July, hope you can come!


  1. Clover – Boston, MA – The Yum Diary - 24 June, 2012

    […] liked it. It was different, and hey, that’s what TYD is all about. Read more about it here: Clover’s BBQ Seitan  Next was the chickpea fritter – which really reminded me of a falafel sandwich. This one had […]

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