Finger-licking good vegetarian reubens

I’ve experimented with various ways to make vegetarian reuben sandwiches over the past few years.  The simplest: make as usual, just eliminate the corned beef.  The thousand island dressing and sauerkraut provide plenty of flavor (and salt!) — combine that with melty Swiss cheese and some good bread (rye or whole wheat), and you have a pretty delicious sandwich.

However, our new favorite version does include a corned beef substitute — tempeh.  This does not taste like corned beef, but it provides some nice additional texture, flavor, and protein to the sandwich.

Finger-licking good vegetarian reubens (Makes 4 sandwiches)

  • 1 package tempeh, prepared per the directions here
  • homemade Thousand Island dressing (see below for recipe)
  • 1-2 c. Sauerkraut (homemade or store bought)
  • 8 slices of Baby Swiss
  • 8 slices of whole wheat bread (or rye, if you like, but we enjoy these on our homemade wheat bread)
  • butter, softened (but not melted)

Butter outsides of bread, then assemble sandwiches with cheese, tempeh slices, and a small amount of dressing.  (Save the sauerkraut and more dressing for after the sandwiches grill, to prevent soggy bread.)  Grill the sandwiches in a large frying pan over medium-low heat until cheese is nice and melty, and bread is lightly toasted, flipping to grill both pieces of bread.  After grilling, and just before eating, add sauerkraut and more dressing.

Have your cloth napkins ready — a good reuben should be nice and juicy.

Extra points for color with purple cabbage sauerkraut

Thousand Island dressing

  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise or plain yogurt
  • 1/4 c. ketchup
  • 1 T. finely chopped onion
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Finely chopped dill and/or sweet pickles

I definitely ad lib on this recipe — no measuring involved.  Start with the quantities above, add finely chopped pickles as desired, and then adjust until you have the flavor and consistency you want.  I am spoiled because I make this with our super-flavorful homemade ketchup, but it should work with the any variety.


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  2. Kirsten says:

    Looks good! My dad has been a vegetarian for almost 20 years, but he still has a love for reubens. When he orders them in restaurants he ask for “a reuben without the reuben,” which he (alone) thinks is really funny. Even when he clarifies what that means, he often ends up with a reuben with the corned beef but missing either the cheese or the dressing. I guess some non-vegetarians can’t imagine that someone would want to eat a meat-free reuben.

    1. Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      In a slightly different twist, while visiting St. Louis this summer, my uncle ordered, “a vegan burrito, with beef and cheese, please.” Not knowing him and that he was just fooling around, the poor waitress looked very confused.

      I find that a decent number of non-vegetarians can’t possibly imagine that something would be good without the meat, but for many things, it’s simply not true.

  3. Shay says:

    I know this blog entry is a few years old. I happened to come across the post thanks to Google. Just want to let you know that Worcestershire sauce is not vegetarian. It has anchovies in it. Great post though!

    1. Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      We make our own anchovy-free Worcestershire sauce. You can also buy a vegetarian version, I think by Annie’s, maybe other brands, too.

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