The classic Reuben Sandwich is made with toasted slices of dark rye bread packed with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and tangy homemade Russian dressing.
This sandwich is the perfect reason to make extra corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. Or, simply pick up some corned beef at your favorite deli counter and enjoy a Reuben any time of the year.
What is a Reuben Sandwich?
The Reuben Sandwich was possibly created in the 1920's in Omaha, Nebraska, to feed hungry poker players at their weekly game at the Blackstone Hotel.
Or, it might have been created at Reuben's Delicatessen in NYC in the 1900's. I think it's possible that both could be true.
Two people, in different parts of the country, creating a similar sandwich doesn't sound terribly far fetched. It probably happens all the time. It's nice to think that we have original ideas, but as far as I can tell, original ideas are a rare occurrence.
For all we know, Reuben sandwiches were being made by hundreds of people in smaller establishments or home kitchens. The only difference here is that the Blackstone Hotel and/or Reuben's Delicatessen pushed the sandwich far enough into the public milieu that it caught on, becoming a part of American cuisine.
And hallelujah for that because Reuben sandwiches are delicious.
Ingredients Needed to Make this Sandwich
The Classic Reuben is the kind of sandwich you can order on any restaurant menu and know what you're getting. It's made from 5 basic ingredients:
- Rye bread. The bread must be rye - either pumpernickel or dark rye will do.
- Russian dressing. Thousand Island dressing is often used instead of Russian dressing, but when it comes to Reuben sandwiches, Russian dressing is where it's at. This easy recipe for homemade Russian dressing is made from common ingredients that I'm betting most of us have in our pantry at any given time.
- Corned Beef. The Reuben sandwich and corned beef hash are two of the most delicious ways to use leftover Corned Beef and Cabbage from St. Patrick's Day. But for delicious Reubens the rest of the year, head to your local deli counter.
- Sauerkraut. The sauerkraut is a big part of this sandwich - so find a brand you like. My favorite brand is Bubbies, which I order in 2-packs on Amazon.
- Swiss cheese. It's gotta be Swiss, and in my opinion, should be melted and on both sides of the sandwich. Bread - dressing - cheese - corned beef - sauerkraut - more cheese - bread.
Pro tip! Use Mayo on the Outside of the Sandwich.
There is a secret to making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, and it applies to Reuben sandwiches as well. Spread the outside of the bread with a thin layer of mayonnaise before grilling instead of butter.
If you've never done this, it might sound strange. But, trust me. When it comes to getting a deliciously brown, crisp exterior on your grilled sandwich, mayonnaise is king.
How to Make a Reuben Sandwich
To keep the bread from getting soggy while you build and grill the sandwich, lightly toast the bread. Let the bread cool, then spread the outside with some mayonnaise.
Preheat the skillet over medium heat, spread a thick layer of Russian dressing on the inside of one slice of bread, and place it mayonnaise side down inside the hot skillet.
Lay a few slices of cheese (about 1 & ½ ounces) over the Russian dressing.
Add about ¼ pound corned beef.
Top the corned beef with about ¼ cup of sauerkraut.
Add a few more slices of cheese.
Top the sandwich with another slice of bread, mayonnaise side out. Let the sandwich cook until the bottom is crispy and very dark brown, about 3-4 minutes. (If it's cooking faster than that, lower the heat to prevent the bread from burning before the cheese melts.)
Use a spatula to lift the sandwich from the pan. Then, use your fingers to flip the sandwich over, place it back on the spatula, and slide the sandwich back into the pan.
Use the back of the spatula to press the sandwich down into the pan, compacting it slightly. Let cook until toasted and crispy on the other side, about another 3-4 minutes.
How to Make Russian Dressing
Russian Dressing is a key component of a Reuben Sandwich but Thousand Island can also be used.
What's the difference between Russian Dressing and Thousand Island?
While they taste similar, Thousand Island tends to be sweeter and Russian Dressing is spicier. Russian dressing has a spicy kick that comes from horseradish and chili pepper.
The basic ingredients for Russian Dressing are:
- Ketchup, chili sauce, chili garlic sauce (or any combination of these ingredients)
- Sour cream
- Onion powder
- Sweet pickle relish
- Lemon juice
- Worcestershire sauce
- Hot sauce (optional)
Making the dressing is as simple as adding all of the ingredients to a bowl and stirring them together. After that, simply taste the dressing and add more hot sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, or horseradish if you like.
Keep Russian Dressing in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it. and refrigerate until ready to use. The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
FAQs and Expert Tips
It's important to monitor the heat of the skillet carefully while cooking these sandwiches. The goal is to cook them long enough for the cheese to melt and the sandwich to heat all the way through without burning the outside of the bread.
If cooking sandwiches in a skillet, simply turn the heat down to medium-low if it appears that the outside is cooking too fast.
If you're using a Blackstone Griddle and it looks like the outside of the sandwiches are beginning to burn before the cheese is melted, move the sandwiches to the outside of the cooktop and turn the burner heat down slightly.
Another trick is to flip the sandwiches from side to side several times while they cook. Flipping the sandwiches every minute or so can keep the outside from burning while allowing plenty of time for the cheese to melt.
Too much water in the sauerkraut can make Reuben sandwiches soggy. To prevent this, be sure to drain as much liquid as you can from the sauerkraut before using it to make sandwiches.
Yes! A panini press makes delicious Reuben sandwiches. If using a panini press, there is no need to pre-toast the bread.
If you're not a fan of Russian dressing to make your Reuben, Thousand Island dressing is a good alternative.
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #alittleandalot on Instagram.
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For the Russian Dressing:
- ¾ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup ketchup, or chili sauce, or chili garlic sauce (or any combination of these ingredients; see note below)
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 2 teaspoons fresh chives, diced
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon horseradish
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- A couple dashes of hot sauce (optional)
For 4 Sandwiches:
- 8 slices of rye bread
- About 2 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 1 lb cooked corned beef, sliced
- 1 cup sauerkraut, well drained
- 12 ounces Swiss cheese, sliced
Make the Russian Dressing:
- Add all the dressing ingredients to a bowl and stir to mix. Taste and add more hot sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, or horseradish if desired. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the Reuben Sandwiches:
- Spread one side of each piece of bread with a thin layer of mayonnaise.
- Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. OR, turn the burner of a Blackstone Griddle to medium and allow the cooktop to heat for about 10 minutes.
- For each sandwich: Spread a thick layer of Russian Dressing on the inside of one slice of bread and place it mayonnaise side down inside the hot skillet. Lay a few slices of cheese (about 1 & ½ ounces) over the Russian dressing, then add about ¼ pound of sliced corned beef. Top the corned beef with about ¼ cup of sauerkraut and another few slices of cheese. Top with another slice of bread, mayonnaise side out.
- Cook the sandwich until the bottom is beginning to get golden brown and crispy, about 3-4 minutes. (*Scroll up to the FAQs for tips on keeping the bread from burning before the cheese has time to melt.)
- Use a spatula to lift the sandwich from the pan and use your fingers to flip the sandwich over, placing it back on the spatula. Slide the sandwich back into the pan.
- Use the back of the spatula to press the sandwich down into the pan, compacting it slightly. Let cook until golden and crispy on the other side - about another 3-4 minutes.
- Flip the sandwich in the skillet once or twice more, until the outside of both sides is crispy and golden and the cheese is melted.
- If there's a lot of liquid in the sauerkraut when you add it to the sandwiches, it can make them soggy. To prevent this, be sure to drain as much liquid as you can from the sauerkraut before using it in the sandwiches.
- If you're not a fan of Russian dressing in Reuben sandwiches, Thousand Island dressing is a good alternative.
- Use ketchup, chili sauce, or chili garlic sauce to make Russian dressing. I usually use a couple of tablespoons of chili garlic sauce along with a couple of tablespoons of ketchup. Chili garlic sauce is more flavorful, but it's also spicy. To keep the dressing from having too much heat, I've found that a combination of chili garlic sauce and ketchup is key.
- Russian dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Store the dressing in an airtight container, or in a bowl that's tightly covered.
- Pastrami makes an excellent substitution for corned beef.
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Serving Size:1 sandwich
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 899Total Fat: 64gSaturated Fat: 26gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 32gCholesterol: 201mgSodium: 2156mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 4gSugar: 8gProtein: 48g