According to Wikipedia, “The Reuben sandwich is a hot sandwich of corned beef, Swiss cheese, with Russian or Thousand Island dressing, and sauerkraut. These are grilled between slices of rye bread.” Well fuck you, Wikipedia*, cause there are vegan Reubens, and our Reubens are better than your Reubens! Here in LA, you can order them all over the place from Follow Your Heart Cafe** to Locali to Native Foods to Flore to Golden Mean to Real Food Daily. But, maybe, just maybe, you live somewhere else? Somewhere where there doesn’t happen to be a plethora of slammies (slammin’ sammies, a term courtesy the fine folks of Food For Lovers).
Well here’s how I make ‘em– it’s easy, I swear on Wikipedia that you can do it, too:
1. Make some cashew cheese. My recipe is HERE. Make it ahead of time, like day-ahead cause it it gets better once it’s been fully fridged. Disclaimer: this does not taste even a little bit like Swiss cheese, but it is darned delicious. You will want some in your fridge, always.
2. Make some One Thousand Island Dressing. Maybe even 1,001. This is simple: get a bowl. In that bowl put:
- 1 TBSP Vegenaise or vegan mayo of your choice
- 1 TBSP ketchup
- 1 TBSP relish
In other words, equal amounts of the three ingredients, then STIR until it’s well combined. You can do more or less of one ingredient if you prefer it that way. There is no way you can eff this up (that was not a challenge).
3. Choose your “meat.” I have tried everything (I’ve made a lot of vegan Reubens) and it’s always good. You can use deli slices, like Tofurky or Yves, you can slice up hot dogs or sausages, you can get seitan, you can even buy vegan corned beef or pastrami! My favorite is to make my own seitan from scratch, slice it thin and pickle it in beet juice for a couple days so that it is a nice red color and flavor (Seriously, there was a year where I pretty much made one for lunch every single day. It was some kind of ’tism, I think). Today, I used veggie pate that I made (want that recipe? Just ask!). If you want to, you could buy your favorite pre-made meat simulacrum and then pickle it in beet juice, but that would also need to be done ahead of time.
4. Choose your bread. Obviously, rye is traditional. I hate rye and I have trouble understanding how anyone with taste buds likes it, so I usually use sourdough or a nice whole wheat sourdough.
5. Sauerkraut. You need some. And however much you think you need, add a little more.
6. Margarine. I like Earth Balance, but whatever you pick, I approve.
7. A cast iron griddle like this one, or if you don’t have one or want one, a frying pan will do. For extra credit, a grill press makes things extra everything. Actually, now that I reminisce about my Year of Reubens, I made almost all of them in a George Foreman Grill, so you could use that or a panini press, too.
Once you have gathered your supplies it’s time to create!
- Put your griddle pan (I use the flat side, not the ridged side) on the stove and turn it on– to about the 4 mark. That’s medium, to you. Put your griddle press on top of the griddle so it warms up, too.
- Margarine-up one side of both slices of bread. Just a thin coating, no need to bathe it, but this step is crucial, don’t skip it, and if you do skip it, don’t be mad at me when your sammie sucks. Once it’s done, put the marg’d-up side DOWN– these are the outsides of your sandwich, i.e. the sides you touch when you hold it whilst eating.
- On one piece of bread, on the DRY side (not margarine’d), slather on some 1,001 dressing.
- On the other piece of bread, on the DRY side (not margarine’d) slather on some cashew cheese.
- Add some sauerkraut on top of the cashew cheese. Squeeze as much liquid out as you can though, before you place it.
- Add your “meat” on top of the 1,001.
- Put each piece on the hot griddle, no need to combine them yet. Let it cook for a few minutes (5ish), or until the bottom of the bread gets nice and toasty. Do not let it burn!
- Using a spatula, place the cheesy/sauerkraut toast on top of the 1,001/meaty toast. Just take a deep breath and flip it over quickly, don’t worry, it’ll be fine.
- Put the grill press on that sucker and let it work its magic. If your dressing goes from 1,001 to 980, do not worry, just slide your sandwich around and let the fallen islands absorb into your bread. If you don’t have a grill press just push down a li’l with your spatula. Just a minute or two more, or until you just can’t wait any longer, and voila! Reuben!
Please do let me know in the comments if you try it, or if you have a less Ikea instructioney way to Reuben up your vegan life.
*That was just for effect. I love you, Wikipedia.
**Hot Tip: If you order the vegan Reuben at Follow Your Heart Cafe, but ask for it on bread other than rye, which I’d like to remind you is disgusting, you will actually get TWO sandwiches for some wonderful reason I can not explain.