The Reuben Sandwich (and the Rachel)

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Salty corned beef, gooey Swiss cheese, crunchy sauerkraut and tangy Russian dressing, grilled between slices of buttered rye bread, the Reuben sandwich is loaded with flavor..

A diner and Jewish deli staple, the Reuben sandwich consists of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing, grilled between slices of hearty rye bread until the bread is crispy and the cheese melty. It is a perfectly balanced sandwich, loaded with salty, earthy, tangy, and sweet flavors. Some trace the origin of the sandwich back to the now-closed Reuben’s deli in New York City; others claim it was dreamed up in 1925 by a Jewish grocer, Reuben Kulakofsky, at the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha, Nebraska to feed a group of late-night poker players. While the Reuben is a classic, even more delicious, in my opinion, is the Reuben’s “sister” sandwich, the Rachel, which substitutes pastrami (or turkey pastrami) for the corned beef and coleslaw for the sauerkraut.

What You’ll Need To Make The Reuben Sandwich (or the Rachel)

Reuben sandwich ingredients

Bread: The key to a good Reuben (or Rachel) is to start with a bakery-style unsliced rye (or marble rye) bread. You’ll need to slice it about one inch thick so it stands up to the substantial fillings; pre-sliced packaged rye bread is simply too thin and will fall apart/get mushy when grilled.

Corned Beef/Pastrami: Originally created as a way to preserve meat before refrigeration, corned beef is salt-cured beef brisket. It does not involve corn. Rather, the term “corning” comes from the large-grained rock salt, also called “corns” of salt, used to make the brine. Pastrami is also cured in brine, but after brining it gets coated in a spice mixture, which gives it its blackened appearance.

Cheese: Swiss cheese is sweet, mild, and nutty, and it melts easily. Be sure to use a good quality brand, such as Boar’s Head Gold Medal. It should be thinly sliced so that it melts quickly. 

Sauerkraut/Coleslaw: Sauerkraut typically comes in a bag with a lot of liquid, so make sure to thoroughly drain it before including it in the sandwich or your sandwiches will be soggy. If you’re using coleslaw, store-bought is perfectly fine.

Dressing: Russian dressing is a tangy, slightly spicy sauce made from mayonnaise, ketchup, sour cream, prepared horseradish and dill relish. It’s easy to whip up, and homemade is so much better than store-bought.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Buttered bread on cutting board

Spread one side of each slice of bread with butter, then flip over and spread 1-1/2 tablespoons of Russian dressing evenly over the other side of each slice.

Russian dressing spread on bread

Layer 4 slices of the bread with 2 slices of cheese, 1/4 pound corned beef (or pastrami), 3 tablespoons sauerkraut (or coleslaw), and 2 more slices of cheese.

Assembling reubens

Top with the other 4 slices of bread, buttered sides up.

Reubens assembled and ready to cookPlace 2 of the sandwiches in a cast iron or nonstick skillet and cook over medium heat, covered, until the first side is golden brown and the cheese is starting to melt, 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully flip the sandwiches and cook until the cheese is fully melted and the bread is golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes more. (Reduce the heat a bit if you notice the bread is getting too browned before the cheese is fully melted.)

Cooking Reubens in skillet

Place the sandwiches on a cutting board and cover with foil to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining two sandwiches. Let cool slightly, then slice the sandwiches in half and serve.

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The Reuben Sandwich (and the Rachel)

Salty corned beef, gooey Swiss cheese, crunchy sauerkraut and tangy Russian dressing, grilled between slices of buttered rye bread, the Reuben sandwich is loaded with flavor..

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf unseeded and unsliced good-quality rye bread, sliced 1-inch-thick (you'll need 8 slices)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 pound corned beef (or pastrami), sliced medium thick
  • 1 cup sauerkraut, well drained (or coleslaw)
  • 16 thin slices Swiss cheese, best quality such as Boar’s Head Gold Label
  • About ¾ cup Russian dressing

Instructions

  1. Heat a large nonstick or cast iron pan over medium heat.
  2. Spread one side of each slice of bread with butter, then flip over and spread 1½ tablespoons of Russian dressing evenly over the other side of each slice. Layer 4 slices of the bread with 2 slices of cheese, ¼ pound corned beef (or pastrami), 3 tablespoons sauerkraut (or coleslaw), and 2 more slices of cheese. Top with the other 4 slices of bread, buttered sides up.
  3. Place 2 of the sandwiches in the skillet and cook, covered, until the first side is golden brown and the cheese is starting to melt, 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Carefully flip the sandwiches and cook until the cheese is fully melted and the bread is golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes more. (Reduce the heat a bit if you notice the bread is getting too browned before the cheese is fully melted.) Place the sandwiches on a cutting board and cover with foil to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining two sandwiches. Let cool slightly, then slice the sandwiches in half and serve.

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Comments

  • This got rave reviews! The only thing that went wrong was that I bought a loaf of uncut rye bread but when it got delivered I noticed that the bakery had sliced it! Boo! I didn’t want to waste it though so I doubled up on the bread and put a little cheese in between the slices to get them to hold together. Worked like a charm! Ill definitely be making this again. Thanks for another great recipe Jenn!

    • — Turtle on May 14, 2022
    • Reply
  • Very good! Love the Russian dressing…I made one with ketchup and the other with chili sauce…we all liked the one with ketchup more…I think the extra sweetness from the ketchup with the dill relish and horseradish (I use lots of horseradish 🙂 helped balance everything. Thank you again Jenn for all of your great recipes and hard work.

    • — Sharon on March 17, 2022
    • Reply
  • If you buy presliced rye. Lightly toast it. Russian dressing, I used make by the gallon, never heard of horseradish in it. Sounds like an improvement. I will try that.

    • — TC on March 8, 2022
    • Reply
  • Yum! I made the Rachel with sauerkraut and it was divine.

    • — Saint on March 7, 2022
    • Reply
  • Curious on where to get a loaf of rye bread in the DMV area?

    • — Liz on March 4, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Liz, Most delis and Whole Foods sell loaves of rye bread. You should also be able to find it in the bakery of some supermarkets – I believe Wegman’s carries a seeded and marble rye. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on March 4, 2022
      • Reply
      • thanks

        • — Liz on March 4, 2022
        • Reply
  • Looks amazing, but simple! Can’t wait to try, the trick will be getting the right bread….thanks, Jenn!

    • — Steph Down Under on March 3, 2022
    • Reply

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