What Goes on a Reuben Sandwich?

Sauerkraut is an important component of a Reuben sandwich.

Sauerkraut is an important component of a Reuben sandwich.

In 1956, the Reuben sandwich won the grand prize in the National Restaurant Association's Sandwich Idea Contest and became a household name. However, restaurant and hotel menus have offered this prize-winning sandwich since the late 1920s. It is not clear who created the first Reuben, as more than one person claims to be the originator. Though its true beginnings remain a mystery, the Reuben recipe itself is straightforward and suitable for novice home cooks.

Main Ingredients

A traditional Reuben’s base is grilled rye bread. The meat is most often corned beef, though pastrami is sometimes used instead of or in combination with the corned beef. A tangy layer of sauerkraut is the magic ingredient that differentiates a Reuben from a basic corned beef or pastrami sandwich.


Reuben sandwiches get their creaminess from layers of cheese and dressing. Swiss is the traditional cheese choice, though some modern recipes substitute Gruyere to add a slightly nutty taste.


Russian dressing is another essential component in the Reuben recipe. This dressing is a mixture of mayonnaise, ketchup, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce. Many contemporary Reuben recipes suggest using Thousand Island dressing instead of Russian. These two dressings are very similar: both are mixtures of mayonnaise, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Thousand Island adds pickles or pickle relish to the base instead of horseradish.

Sandwich Variations

If you enjoy the taste of a Reuben, explore other recipes inspired by this hearty sandwich. For example, make a Reuben panini. This recipe, which is grilled on a panini press or a griddle, uses focaccia bread in place of rye. To make a breakfast Reuben, layer sauerkraut, corned beef or pastrami, and Russian or Thousand Island dressing onto a pumpernickel English muffin and top it with a fried egg.

Other Reuben Recipes

The Reuben's flavors work in recipes other than sandwiches. Reuben soup, for example, uses corned beef and sauerkraut in a chicken stock flavored with pickling spices and caraway seeds. For a striking presentation, top the soup with rye croutons and Swiss cheese and broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown. Because the Reuben is an extraordinarily well-balanced sandwich, with acidity, creaminess and earthiness working in harmony, it’s a great starting point for a range of interesting and impressive culinary creations.

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About the Author

Ellen Topness has been a counselor in the mental health field for more than 25 years. She has a Master of Arts in counseling. Throughout her career, Topness has enjoyed writing articles, poems and vignettes for pleasure. She also released a new ebook, "A Natural Disaster: Learning to Survive Myself."

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