21 February 2011

surprisingly good tempeh reuben

Happy President's Day. I hope you are all taking advantage of this opportunity to dress like your favorite president. I know I am. Today's post is brought to you by the 16th President of the United States, Honest Abe. I have it on good authority that President Abraham Lincoln, along with his first Vice President Hannibal Hamlin (betcha you didn't remember him), loved a good reuben sandwich. That's probably not true, but let's pretend for a moment, shall we? I did hear a rumor once though, that Abe was a vegetarian, so keep that in mind as you read.

I've never really liked the reuben, because I don't really like any of the ingredients in it, like corned beef or sauerkraut or even Swiss cheese. Chris had tried a Tempeh Reuben out somewhere and was disappointed in it, compared to the classic reuben he likes from the sandwich shop around the corner. Needless to say, I didn't have high hopes for this lunch. But we decided to make this Tempeh Reuben a little while ago, just for kicks, and it was delicious. The tempeh was flavorful and crisp, the sauerkraut didn't overpower and the Swiss cheese was just fine too. 

Without further ado, I present to you the Tempeh Reuben. Because greasy, stinky sandwiches aren't just for meat-lovers.

Tempeh Reuben
(from The Kitchn)
  • 1 package of tempeh
  • 1 tbsp plus 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp tamari
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1 dash red pepper flake
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or minced (remind me to tell you about my new favorite kitchen tool: the garlic press)
  • sauerkraut
  • Swiss cheese
  • 4 slices of bread, we used a rustic country loaf
  • 1/3 cup mayo
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 1/2 tbsp Annie's Goddess Dressing

  1. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining olive oil, sesame oil, tamari, spices and garlic. Cut tempeh into playing-card size piecs, then split them so they are about 1/2" thick. Quickly dip slices into the marinade and then cook in the skillet for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until golden.
  2. Add 1 tbsp water to the remaining marinade and pour into the skillet. Lower the heat, cover and cook for 1-2 minutes more, then remove the lid and allow the tempeh to crisp up for another minute. Remove from heat.
  3. To make the dressing, stir together the mayo, ketchup and Goddess Dressing. You could also substitute in any Russian or Thousand Islands dressing, if you'd like.
  4. Make the sandwiches. Butter two pieces of bread, like you would a grilled cheese, and then slather on some dressing on the non-buttered sides. Layer a few slices of tempeh, a glob of sauerkraut and then a slice or two of swiss cheese.  Place the second piece of bread on top and place in a clean (or almost clean) skillet, obviously with the buttered sides facing out. Obviously. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Serve with the extra dressing, for dipping.
The recipe makes two reubens, but you could easily double up ingredients to make more.  They were such a surprising Saturday afternoon victory. I was expecting to throw my sandwich out and make a bowl of cereal, but I freaked out instead and devoured it. I only put a smidge of sauerkraut on mine, but am working up to a more substantial volume.  This sandwich would be perfect with a few homemade potato chips and, I don't know, a root beer float because it has that classic diner taste. By which I mean: simple, greasy and delicious.


  1. Totally intrigued...despite the sauerkraut...

  2. We love reubens in our household, so why not try a new version. Sounds super yummy.

  3. Have you ever seen Michael Milken's vegan Reuben?

    It's fairly similar, but his private chef came up with an interesting solution for the dressing. And with all the tasty things going on in the sandwich, you barely notice the soy cheese.

    Never in my life have I had a more filling sandwich. But while it was certainly tasty a Reuben it was not.


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