Vegetarian Reuben Sandwiches

Sometimes I will get some sort of food or dish in my head, and it becomes a slight obsession until I can have it.  On my own terms.  Meat-free.

Take a Reuben sandwich, for example.  Growing up, my mom could make a mean corned beef/cabbage dish for a traditional New Year’s Day dinner.  I would inhale it.  But even better, I would inhale the leftover Reubens that would inevitably come after that dinner.

So, I recently somehow got to thinking about a vegetarian version of that childhood favorite of mine, and then, it was almost taunting me everywhere I went.  Every restaurant menu seemed to have a Reuben on it, the Arby’s commercial on TV would pop up….and I finally got to the point where I couldn’t take it anywhere.  My normally healthy diet be damned.  Bring on the veggie Reuben.  I found a few recipes to base my version on-I knew I had to incorporate the caraway flavor in there somehow, and I loved the idea of making my own dressing to top the sandwich with.  I found a local sauerkraut that’s made in Vermont, grabbed some Cabot Swiss cheese, some fresh King Arthur rye bread (can you tell I am totally loving all this New England local food????), and I was good to go.

Every single leftover was gone.  My palate has attention deficit disorder, so this is a big deal for me.

You can totally convert this to a vegan version, if you want.  Omit (or use alternative “cheese”) and use a vegan substitute for the dressing.  The tempeh’s flavor was to die for.  I DID try Lightlife’s smoky flavored tempeh (think bacon-ish) flavor, and I actually thought that it went well for these sandwiches.  Next time I might try a non-flavored version of tempeh and see how that works instead.

It feels good to be meat-free and still be able to eat a Rueben.

Vegetarian Reuben Sandwiches

Servings: 4



For the dressing:

4 tablespoons mayonnaise (use a vegan or low-fat substitute)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/4 cup dill pickle, minced

2 tablespoons onion, minced

2 teaspoons Sriracha (or to taste-I like mine spicy)

For the tempeh:

6 ounces tempeh, sliced (I used Lightlifes’s smoky flavored)

1/4 cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used low-sodium)

1 tablespoons whole black peppercorns, crushed

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

1 tablespoon olive oil

For serving:

1 and 1/2 cups fresh sauerkraut (I used a local kind made by a place called Holy Mackerel, in Vermont…so good!)

Swiss cheese

Rye bread, sliced


1. For the sauce:  In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve.

2. For the tempeh:  In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, combine the cider vinegar, soy sauce, crushed peppercorns and caraway, stirring frequently.

3. When the mixture is almost to a boil, add the sliced tempeh.

4. Decrease the heat to low, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently.  (You will not have much liquid left.)

5. In a sauté pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering.

6. Add the tempeh and sauté until lightly crisped, about 3-4 minutes.

7. To assemble and grill the sandwiches, lightly butter a frying pan (or use cooking spray.) over medium heat.

8. Assemble each sandwich as desired and place onto the hot surface, grilling each side for about 1-2 minutes.  (I had a little panini press that I have to push down on the sandwiches…it created a bit of a gooey mess in my frying pan, but, hey, it’s a Reuben.)

Source:  Adapted from


March 6, 2012 - 10:36 am

Suzi - Looks fantastic Shanon you’ve created a wonderful version of a favored classic sandwich. I really like how you added the Sriracha to the dressing, love that spiciness. Have a great day.

March 6, 2012 - 5:26 pm

Rachel - ohhhh maaaannn now that is a sandwich! I think this sandiwch might haunt me until I make it too!

March 6, 2012 - 7:57 pm

Hilary - Totally making this next week! I have been having the same thoughts on a Reuben! I’m all about this version.

March 6, 2012 - 9:22 pm

Abby - Wow, when I saw the vegetarian part I had to see how you did it. I love that you added more layers of seasoning to the tempeh to make it more like corned beef.

March 7, 2012 - 2:27 am

Kristina - sounds good, nice recipe

March 8, 2012 - 3:21 pm

Maureen - Wonderful sammy and I wouldn’t miss the meat at all.

March 9, 2012 - 10:55 am

Javelin Warrior - Very creative – love how you attempt to mimic corned beef and I adore the cheesiness of this sandwich! Very creative and I am featuring this post in today’s Friday Food Fetish roundup (with a link-back and attribution), so please let me know if you have any objections. It’s a pleasure following your food…

March 10, 2012 - 4:08 pm

Melanie - How did you get the seitan to slice that thin and not fall apart? A lot of mine was lost to mush. It tasted wonderful, though. Thanks for the recipe!

March 10, 2012 - 5:26 pm

srlacy - Hi Melanie-I used the pre-sliced kind. Some pieces did fall apart, though.

March 10, 2012 - 7:10 pm

Heidi - Thank you so much for this recipe! I’ve recently adopted an “almost” vegan lifestyle – eat meat once a week, dairy once a week, rest of the time is vegan. I made this tonight with vegan “cheese” and vegan mayo and it was oh so good! and filling and satisfying and, I just can’t gush enough about this. One sandwich and a side of roasted asparagus was perfect! and now I have leftovers for lunch and dinner tomorrow!

March 12, 2012 - 2:23 pm

Courtney - Love this! I’ve been a vegetarian for 15 years and one of the only things I miss is a good reuben. This veggie version looks fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

August 22, 2012 - 5:31 pm

Mary@ Finding Healthy Hope - oh my!
this sounds HEAVENLY!
one thing i miss about being vegan is reubens…not much else! 😉
thanks so much!!!

October 8, 2012 - 1:36 pm

Nicole - I discovered your blog the other day and almost went through the entire site in one sitting! We are very similar. We used to be vegetarians and fell off for a while – just now getting back on. We too eat fish and dairy (I have a passion for cheese too!). Anyway this was the first recipe on your site that I made. We all LOVED it! Soo good, so easy! We will make this a lot. I’d never used tempeh before and we were pleasantly surprised! Thank you so much! Making your chili tonight.

February 4, 2013 - 9:27 am

Veggie - What the? Thisw looks amazing! I absolutely would love to have one of these right now!

February 13, 2013 - 3:34 pm

Kathy - I really want to make this, but have had such awful experiences with tempeh.
I have searched and done the things people have told me to do(steaming, boiling before hand) and it still just tastes bitter and off.
I really want to like tempeh, but have yet to find my missing piece.
Can anyone help?

February 16, 2013 - 1:12 pm

Greek Salad Tempeh Wraps | The Curvy Carrot Greek Salad Tempeh Wraps | Healthy and Indulgent Meals Dangling in Front of You - […] made recipes with tempeh before.  And the thing is, I’m usually pleasantly surprised.  The reubens and the TLT’s were pretty delicious, I have to say.  But, this recipe also looked promising. […]

May 19, 2013 - 6:48 pm

stacy - I’ve made this sandwich a few times and it is SOOOOO good. My meat-eating husband even LOVES it. I was craving it like crazy a few days ago and almost cried when I searched for the recipe and your site was under construction! I’m so glad you’re back!! Now please excuse me while I go make the most amazing reuben sandwich on the planet!!

May 19, 2013 - 6:56 pm

srlacy - Yay! So glad to hear it….the official launch is tomorrow. We had to put up a skeleton site because so many people were needing the recipes! Enjoy!

November 22, 2013 - 11:07 pm

Be Above It & Reubens | aniccata - […] Ben and I have never even had a Reuben, we should follow a recipe. I found one that looked decent (here) and we pretty much followed it. Instead of 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, I used one tablespoon of […]

November 22, 2013 - 11:25 pm

Tracy - This is one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had in my life. Thank you!!

December 30, 2013 - 1:02 pm

Philly Cheesesteaks » The Curvy Carrot - […] sure that you can take any classic meat sandwich and veganize/vegetarianize it.  (TLT, anyone?  Reubens?  Meatball sandwich? Gyros? I’ve got you covered)  To all the disbelievers out there, I […]

March 9, 2014 - 2:30 pm

Tempeh Rueben Sandwiches | Moxie Musing - […] followed this recipe from “The Curvy Carrot” for the rueben, but used tofu instead of vegan mayo and Braggs Amino Acids instead of the […]

December 20, 2014 - 6:29 pm

Katey - this Recipe rocks!

December 29, 2014 - 1:06 pm

Dee Carney » Vegetarian Reuben Sandwiches – Hailey Edwards - […] Adapted from The Curvy Carrot. […]