This vegan tempeh reuben may just be the best sandwich ever invented. Start with tempeh simmered in spices till tender and flavourful, a big pile of (homemade, hopefully) sauerkraut, spicy Russian dressing and, of course, PICKLES (pickles and then more pickles).
This sandwich has all my favourite strongly-flavoured things: sauerkraut, horseradish and pickles (did I mention pickels?). Not only that, it’s super easy to make!
I’ve been making my own sauerkraut and kimchi for a while now; it’s tastier, crunchier and healthier (cuz it’s not pasteurized) than store-bought jarred versions. Homemade sauerkraut is super easy to make, just shred a head of cabbage, massage it with a tablespoon or two of sea salt, pack it into a jar and leave it to ferment.
So I got a ginormous jar of sauerkraut ready with just the right amount of funk and it’s time to make this delicious vegan reuben!
I’m not so much into using processed meat analogues from the supermarkets but I’ve been getting more and more into trying out tempeh since I made my BBQ tempeh vegan burrito recipe. Tempeh is great for taking on flavours so it’s the perfect “meaty” element to be simmered in loads of corned beef-style spices and make this kick-ass vegan tempeh reuben!
While you simmer the tempeh, you can mix up a simple vegan Russian dressing. In keeping with my anti-store-bought-processed-food mentality, I make my own vegan mayo. Not only does it take just two minutes and two basic ingredients, it’s also dirt cheap!
A basic vegan mayonnaise is made with aquafaba (chickpea cooking liquid) and oil. Whenever I open a can of chickpeas I freeze the aquafaba in an ice cube tray to make mayo later. I use an immersion blender to slowly drizzle oil into the aquafaba and voila: mayo!
To this basic vegan mayo I added ketchup, chopped pickles, red onion, horseradish, salt and pepper to make a Russian dressing which, for me, is the best part of this tempeh reuben sandwich.
So take a couple slices of killer bread (rye is best) and pile it high with sauerkraut, tempeh and a good slather of Russian dressing (of course you can throw a couple pickles in there too) and there you’ve got the vegan tempeh reuben.
If you’re wondering where’s the cheese, it’s not easy to find vegan cheese where I live (and it’s also heavily processed) so I pretty much never use it. But feel free to add a couple slices of your favourite vegan cheese and toast your sammie in a skillet to get that cheese nice and gooey.
Vegan Tempeh Reuben
For the tempeh:
- 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds - $0.02
- 1 teaspoon whole allspice - $0.05
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds - $0.02
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes - $0.03
- 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns - $0.02
- ½ teaspoon whole cloves - $0.02
- 1 5-cm (2 inch) piece of cinnamon - $0.14
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger - $0.01
- 1 ½ cups (355 ml) vegetable stock - $0.68
- 1 package 200 grams / 7 oz tempeh sliced into 1 cm slices - $2.75
- 1 - 2 tablespoons oil for frying - $0.05
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce - $0.08
- A couple drops liquid smoke - $0.02
For the Russian dressing:
- ½ cup (120 ml) vegan mayo - $0.13
- 1 - 2 tablespoons ketchup - $0.02
- 2 tablespoons pickles or gherkins finely diced - $0.07
- 1 tablespoon red onion finely diced - $0.04
- 2 teaspoons horseradish - $0.06
- ¼ teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce or Maggi seasoning - $0.02
- A pinch salt if necessary - $0.01
For the vegan reuben:
- 8 slices rye bread - $0.93
- 2 cups (300 grams) sauerkraut - $0.27
- Optional: sliced pickles, vegan cheese, vegan butter
- Heat a dry pan over medium-high heat and add all the spices except for the ground ginger. Toast, stirring frequently, until the spices are fragrant – a couple of minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and crush them a bit. They don’t need to be fully ground, just broken up to release the flavours. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, put them in a zippered bag and use the side of your knife (or a hammer, whatever).
- Put the spices in a small pot along with the ground ginger and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil then add the sliced tempeh. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile prepare the Russian dressing by mixing together all the ingredients. Taste and adjust if it needs salt or you want it spicier or sweeter (more horseradish or ketchup). Refrigerate.
- Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon or two of oil. Remove the tempeh from it’s simmering liquid (reserve the liquid) and fry it until it’s brown on both sides – a couple of minutes each side.
- In a small bowl combine 5 tablespoons of the tempeh simmering liquid with the soy sauce and a drop or two of liquid smoke. Add this to the pan with the tempeh and allow it to simmer off, turning the tempeh one time so it’s coated on all sides.
- If you’re not using vegan cheese, toast your bread slices and put together your reubens with a smear of Russian dressing on each slice of bread, sauerkraut, a few slices of tempeh and sliced pickles, if using.
- If you’re using vegan cheese, butter both sides of the bread and put them in your skillet. Once one side is lightly toasted, flip and put together your sandwich. Flip again until the cheese is melted and gooey and both sides are nicely toasted.
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