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Tempeh Reuben Sandwiches

So this is one of those recipes that I’m veganizing without ever having had it in its original form. If you asked me what a non-vegan Reuben sandwich contains, I couldn’t tell you one specific ingredient other than sauerkraut. I never did like cold cuts (and WOW, how that term, “cold cuts,” makes so much sense now in a creepy and perverse way) so I never ate these types of sandwiches.

Maybe once a month, Tom and I go out for vegan sandwiches and he always orders a Tempeh Reuben. I’m not the biggest tempeh fan but when it’s marinated and grilled, it’s delicious. I am a huge fan of Russian Dressing, the spicier the better, and I love sauerkraut. Add all that to toasted rye bread and I’m a happy girl.

Usually Tom orders a Tempeh Reuben, I order a different sandwich and then we split them so we each have both kinds. I know I’m not supposed to eat rye bread because it has gluten but for me, this is worth cheating on once in a while. (Note: Do NOT cheat if you have a gluten allergy or Celiac disease!!)

I wanted to be able to make my own Tempeh Reubens so I bought a bottle of Bubbie’s Sauerkraut. It sat on the shelf for over a month and this week, Tom came back from the store with a loaf of rye bread. I think he was trying to tell me something 🙂

This recipe makes 2 very filling sandwiches but enough marinade and Russian dressing for more than that so if you are making 4 sandwiches, you only need to double the amount of tempeh and sauerkraut. I like my Russian Dressing spicy so I added some hot sauce. That is completely optional; you can make it more or less spicy depending on how you like it.

I also like my bread very toasty so I butter it and brown it on both sides. I don’t like when the outside of a sandwich is toasty but the inside is soggy. You can brown the bread according to the recipe or you can just pop it in the toaster. Again, that’s up to you. And if you use gluten-free bread, the rest of the recipe is entirely gluten-free. Some people like vegan cheese on their Tempeh Reubens but I think that the cheese just covers the flavors of the other ingredients so I don’t add it. Once again, up to you.

I really wanted to name this sandwich a Tempeh Rachel since Rachel is my Hebrew name. However, I found out that the difference between a Reuben and a Rachel is not which meat you use but whether you use sauerkraut or cole slaw. So here is my vegan version of a Tempeh Reuben sandwich. Swap out the sauerkraut for cole slaw and it’s a Tempeh Rachel. Either way, it’s crispy, flavorful, spicy and delicious. And not a “cold cut” in sight. Enjoy!

Tempeh Reuben

Ingredients (Makes 2 sandwiches)
For the marinade:
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. low-sodium, gluten-free tamari
1 Tbs. gluten-free, vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbs. raw apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs. water
1 tsp. liquid smoke
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried mustard
1 tsp. dried coriander
1tsp. smoked paprika
1 bay leaf, crumbled

For the Russian Dressing:

1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise
2 Tbs. ketchup
1 Tbs. prepared horseradish

1 tsp. gluten-free, vegan Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp. hot sauce or Sriracha (optional)
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

For the sandwiches:

1 block tempeh, cut into 8 pieces
1 Tbs. safflower oil
1-2 Tbs. vegan butter
4 slices rye bread
1 cup sauerkraut


Prepare the marinade by combining all the ingredients in a bowl or Tupperware container. Cut the tempeh into 8 pieces. I do this by cutting the rectangular block in half so I have 2 squares. Then I slice each square like a bagel so that it’s turned into 4 thin squares. Then cut each square in half so you have 8 thin rectangular pieces. Add the tempeh to the marinade, cover and let sit for at least one hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the Russian Dressing by combining all the ingredients in a bowl and mixing well. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and grill the tempeh on both sides until browned and softened, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from the grill pan and set aside.

Heat a griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Coat one side of each slice of bread with vegan butter. Cook the bread, buttered side down, on the griddle until golden brown. Remove from the griddle but leave the griddle on the heat. Butter the uncooked side of the bread.

On the cooked side of one slice of bread, slather some of the Russian Dressing. Add 4 pieces of tempeh and a good amount of sauerkraut. Slather the cooked side of a second piece of bread with Russian Dressing and top the sandwich.

Put the sandwich onto the hot griddle, buttered side down. Press on the sandwich gently with a spatula and cook until the bottom is browned, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip the sandwich over and brown the other buttered side. Repeat with the second sandwich. Serve while hot.

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22 Responses to Tempeh Reuben Sandwiches

  1. wiredweirdly September 28, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

    I made this last night. I steamed the tempeh for 10 minutes first then cooked it in all of the sauce. Added dill relish to the Russian sauce and next time will cut back on the horseradish. This was SO VERY GOOD!!!

    • Rhea October 3, 2015 at 2:32 pm #

      Yay! Thanks for letting me know! xoxo

    • Rhea November 17, 2015 at 10:15 pm #

      yay! Thanks for telling me! xoxo

  2. TappinTamara March 17, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    I just had to come on to thank you for the fantastic recipe! I have been vegan since last March (after St. Paddy’s). Reubens were always my most favorite sandwich. Every year I have a small dinner party for St. Patrick’s day and cook corned beef and cabbage with potatoes, rutabagas, and turnips. People rely on this…LOL! This year, being my first one as a vegan, I also did a meatless option-your Reuben. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, or if it would turn out well enough to make me not terribly disappointed to be going meatless. Not only did it turn out beautifully, I didn’t miss the meat at all. I followed your instructions almost to the letter. I didn’t have liquid smoke, so omitted that from the marinade. I used Daiya provolone cheese slices and made more of a Thousand Island-like dressing with organic pickle relish, Nasoya mayo, and ketchup. I also used Bavarian style kraut with carraway seeds which was delish. Our party was last night, and I just enjoyed another sandwich for lunch today. Thanks again and sorry for the lengthy post.

    • Rhea March 24, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

      Hi Tamara, thank you for writing. And Happy (belated) first vegan St. Paddy’s Day! Did you make your beer green with kale? Ha ha! I’m so glad you loved the Reubens. That is a yummy sandwich and Daiya on it sounds great! Thank you for the kind words! So what’s the next holiday you’re veganizing? Easter? xoxo

  3. Rhea Parsons March 19, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    Thank you Jallen. I’m so glad you liked it!

  4. jallen March 18, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    This sandwich was amazing!! I put my Tempeh in the marinade for 7 hours and when we cooked the Tempeh we poured the left over marinade in the pan!!! It is hands down the best meal I have had in a long time!!

  5. Rhea Parsons February 14, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    Hi Julie,

    Happy 42 vegan days!!! Funny, I never ate a reuben as an omni but I like vegan ones. When we get them out, we like them with vegan cheese but I didn’t do that with this one. I’m glad you liked it and tempeh. Yay!

  6. Julie February 14, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    Ok, so I am a new vegan (42 days) and I loved reubens as an omni. Made this tonight and it is awesome! It is the first time I have cooked with tempeh and I think I will marinate it longer next time. But, overall this sandwich is wonderful. Thank you so much for this receipe!

  7. Rhea Parsons October 27, 2012 at 6:50 am #

    Anonymous in SoCal – thank you 🙂

  8. Rhea Parsons October 27, 2012 at 6:49 am #

    Thanks for the comment. Sometimes I boil/steam the tempeh to make it softer but I don’t find it bitter so I often don’t bother.

    I think I don’t find foods as bitter as other people as I never find greens bitter, I would never dream of putting sugar or carrots in my tomato sauce 🙂

  9. Anonymous October 26, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    Good tasting sandwich. Had this twice already! I would recommend that you simmer the tempeh in boiling water for 5 minutes and then marinate. I noticed that the tempeh was less bitter and absorbed more of the marinade.

  10. Anonymous October 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

    OMG!! This is delish. I have never had meat so I don’t know what a real Reuben tastes like. On a recent trip to SoCal we had a vegan Reuben and your recipe comes very close. I doubted the marinade recipe since all those ingredients seem an unlikely combo but it worked. Sorry I doubted you. Thanks a million!!!!!!

  11. Kendra Vegan Julian-Baker August 25, 2012 at 7:59 am #

    OMG yum eating one right now. I marinated my tempeh a little over 6 hours. I made mine oil free. I used Louisiana Hot Sauce in my dressing. I made one for my nephew too he also loved it. I will eat another one when I get off from work tonight. Thanks again for another great recipe.

  12. Page August 15, 2012 at 3:31 am #

    Way back, when I ate meat, I loved Reubens, but they didn’t love me. The corned beef always upset my stomach. I will be trying the tempeh version very soon. Thank you for posting this.

  13. Kimberleigh06 August 14, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    I made this tonight. It was so good and filling.

  14. Anonymous August 12, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

    In Maine a Rachel is the same as a Reuben except with Turkey instead of corned beef. Both have sauerkraut. Btw…love Tempeh Ruebens! <3

  15. Marcos August 10, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    This recipe looks good but I have two tips for you. First, make your own tempeh. There is nothing like it. It’s a pain in the tucchus to set up everything the first time but once you’ve got it working you won’t ever buy storebought again. Second, make your own sauerkraut. Bubbies ain’t got nothing on my home made, organic, sauerkraut. Home make is more tangy, crunchy and alive then any store bought which is all pasteurized.

  16. janet @ the taste space June 11, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    I just discovered your blog and love it! This looks like a fabulous sandwich! Yum! 🙂

  17. Aimee Douglass June 7, 2012 at 12:36 am #

    This looks so good! I haven’t had a lot of success with tempeh, but this looks way too good to pass up.

  18. Tina dRashe June 6, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    Wow! This looks so yummy Rhea! I want one now! 😉 Tina Rashed

  19. mom2eleni June 6, 2012 at 7:00 am #

    OMG my mouth is watering…making this Thursday…yummmy!!!

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