Growing up my mom made a lot of German food. When I was a kid I hated sauerkraut with a passion. It made the whole house stink, and I hated just being around it. As I got older I started to tolerate eating a little bit on things like hotdogs and sausages at New Years. I would suffer through that about once or twice a year, but I still didn’t like it. It wasn’t until I was introduced to the Reuben Sandwich as a teenager that I really started to enjoy sauerkraut. As I transitioned to a plant based diet several years ago I gave up the Reuben, not thinking that I’d ever have the opportunity to have one again. I wasn’t thinking very creatively then, and still thought that a plant based diet was restrictive instead of being incredibly freeing. When you think about it eating an omnivorous diet is so meat-centric in our culture. If meat is the focal point of the dish there’s only so many cuts of meat you can eat, and really that’s pretty limiting compared to having thousands of vegetables to choose from to make the star. Since that realization I’ve made vegan Reubens with a number of different meat alternatives, but today I’m going to share with you the Tempeh Reuben.
Tempeh might not be as uncannily similar to corned beef as seitan, or prepackaged vegan roast beef deli slices, but it is one of my favorite ways to enjoy a Reuben. I have to say I actually like it better than the version I remember having as a kid with corned beef. Maybe that’s just because I used good regionally fermented sauerkraut instead of the Snow Floss brand kraut which I deeply detest, but is what every restaurant I’ve been to seems to use on their Reubens. I think that definitely has something to do with it, sure, but I think tempeh is texturally better in this application than something the texture of corned beef.
This recipe is a quick and easy new take on a nostalgic sandwich. We used Cleaveland Kraut’s roasted garlic kraut on this sandwich. If you can get your hands on it, I highly recommend it. It’s super flavorful, and has a great texture. We picked up standard marbled rye bread from the supermarket bakery. As always double check, and make sure there’s no whey or other animal products in the bread. Worcestershire sauce often contains anchovies, so it’s important to make sure you check the label. Sometimes vegetarian Worcestershire can be difficult to find, but Lord Sandy’s is a good option if you can find it.
- 1 cup water
- 1 cube of no beef bullion
- 1/4 cup tamari
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp liquid smoke
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- pinch of onion powder
Russian Dressing Ingredients
- 1 cup vegan mayo
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 2 tbsp finely diced white onion
- 3 tsp prepared horseradish
- 1 tsp franks red hot (make sure it’s not the kind with butter)
- 1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 loaf of marble rye bread
- 1/4 cup sauerkraut
- 2 blocks of tempeh
- 1 block of vegan swiss cheese, or another similar white vegan cheese
- Combine one cup of water with one cube of no beef bullion in a glass measuring cup, or other microwaveable container. Microwave for at least a minute, or until bullion can be dissolved when you whisk it.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the bullion stock, tamari, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, liquid smoke, black pepper, and onion powder. Whisk together.
- Cut blocks of tempeh in half, and then slice each piece end from end creating a thin filet of tempeh. Add these to the marinade. Refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably several, to develop flavor.
- Prepare the Russian dressing. Mix together mayo, ketchup, diced onion, horseradish, red hot, Worcestershire, and chili powder in a bowl. Refrigerate until you are ready to use it.
- Fry tempeh in a pan with some olive oil. Add some of the marinade, and let it cook down until there is a nice caramelization on the outside of the tempeh.
- Assemble the sandwiches. We did this by slicing the bread in half before assembling the other ingredients, essentially making two half sandwiches per serving. We’ve tried it without doing this, and I’d highly recommend it, because otherwise you lose a lot of your sandwich ingredients as you eat it. We put Russian dressing on each side of the bread, stack a piece of the tempeh on the bottom piece of bread, top with a spoonful of sauerkraut, grated cheese, and then an additional drizzle of Russian dressing and top with the top bread.
- Preheat the oven to 275. Line a baking sheet with parchment, and place the sandwiches on it. You can place toothpicks through the center of the sandwiches to prevent anything from sliding off if you’d like. Bake the sandwiches for about ten minutes, or until the bread becomes warm and crisp. Serve alone or with a side of french fries, chips, or side salad.