Reuben Sandwiches So Tasty, Nobody Will Ask “Where’s the Beef?”

Recently, taunted by an aged jar of sauerkraut that I had bought intending to make “Potato and Mushroom Sauerkraut Pierogi” from Vegan Brunch–before I realized the Polish dumplings required 4 time-consuming steps–I decided to tackle something so easy anyone can make: a vegan reuben sandwich.

How simple? Besides its trademark sauerkraut, a vegan reuben requires rye or pumpernickel bread, stand-ins for the meat and Swiss cheese, and usually vegan thousand-island dressing (in deference to the original non-vegan reuben).

Fortunately, I came across a reuben recipe that suggested using mustard, instead of thousand-island dressing that had previously put me off. Another big attraction of Nava Atlas’s recipe : it’s baked, rather than fried, therefore no need for margarine or oil on the bread. Baking the sandwiches is also a time-saver (especially when feeding a crowd), and even the sauerkraut gets nice and crispy around the edges!

Speaking of bread, a hearty variety is important. While I bake my own using Bryanna’s vegan yogurt sourdough starter, I recommend time-pressed cooks buy a 100% whole-grain rye or pumpernickel from a good bakery or deli department.

With Nava’s basic reuben as a foundation and Isa’s tempeh bacon recipe (for both tempeh, and seitan), I prepared vegan reubens on 5 separate occasions within a few weeks.  That jar of sauerkraut that had languished for almost 4 years was gone!

  • My first attempt used the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook’s “Guacamole Griller Cheese #2” recipe in place of commercial vegan cheese, because Joanne’s Stepaniak’s homemade “cheese” is fresh and natural. However, unless you have plenty of time, and some nutritional yeast in the house, you may prefer one of the following…
  • The next round followed Nava’s recipe closely, using Chicago Soy Dairy’s Teese cheddar and mozzarella flavored soy-based cheeses, respectively. Both were delicious, although I think Teese mozzarella more closely resembles Swiss cheese.
  • 3rd-Having run out of tempeh, I just used more of all the other ingredients. It was still excellent, although missing the additional body and protein the tempeh provides.
  • 4th-I found a jar of seitan (wheat meat) on my shelf, sliced it up, and marinated it overnight in the same marinade I had used for tempeh. The seitan bacon tasted more bacon-like (with a blubbery texture), compared to tempeh, which is somewhat soft and crumbly.
  • 5th-Using the remaining sauerkraut and leftover seitan bacon (cooked and stored in refrigerator or freezer), I inserted sliced tomatoes in the sandwiches after baking. It was the best tasting reuben of all! Now off to buy another jar of sauerkraut…

Compared to a meat-based reuben, which has almost 700 calories and a full-day’s worth of sodium in one sandwich, these vegan reubens have about half the calories, along with healthy plant-based nutrients and zero cholesterol.

Why not try your hand (and your imagination) by making vegan reubens today?