This classic Reuben Sandwich recipe features juicy, tender corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, thousand island dressing and rye bread. Taking all of those ingredients and getting them nice and toasty in a pan creates a crunchy crust, warmed meat, and gooey melted cheese… Every bite is so satisfying!
What is a reuben sandwich?
A traditional Reuben sandwich is a deli staple! You start with two slices of rye bread (or marble rye), and pack it in with sliced corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing. This mouthwatering combination features meaty, salty, tangy, and subtly sweet flavors and varying textures.
The origins of a Reuben sandwich are disputed to this day. Some say it originated in a deli restaurant called Reuben’s Deli in New York City, where a similar sandwich was created for actress Annette Seelos. Some say it was in Omaha’s Blackstone Hotel, where a chef created a corned beef and sauerkraut sandwich with swiss cheese and thousand island on dark rye bread for a regular poker player, Reuben Kulafofsky.
Corned Beef – This is a star ingredient, so make sure it’s good quality! I recommend making Instant Pot Corned Beef or 3-Ingredient Oven Baked Corned Beef Brisket. If you have to buy it, get freshly sliced corned beef from the deli. Note that an uncooked 3 lb corned beef brisket will be enough for 3 reuben sandwiches once cooked.
Sauerkraut – It provides great tangy and sour flavor to balance out the creamy ingredients and meat.
Swiss Cheese – The absolute perfect cheese for this flavor combination.
Thousand Island Dressing – The combination of creamy, sweet, and tangy flavors is the perfect compliment to corned beef and rye bread.
Rye Bread – The classic bread for this sandwich that has so much more flavor than the plain white or wheat bread.
See recipe card for complete information on ingredients and quantities.
How to Make a Reuben Sandwich
Add dressing. Spread thousand island dressing all over the insides of two pieces of bread (1).
Add sauerkraut, cheese and meat. Add the sauerkraut to one slice of the bread. To the other slice, add swiss cheese and corned beef (2).
Prepare the pan. Preheat a medium cooking pan over medium-low heat. Melt butter in the pan and spread it around evenly.
Toast it. Place both halves of the sandwich in the pan (3). Let the bread crisp and ingredients heat up (4). Once cheese is melted, use a spatula to carefully place one slice over the other to close the sandwich.
Enjoy! Cook for a couple more minutes on both sides, until bread is golden. Press gently. Take the sandwich out of the pan, cut in half, and serve right away.
Traditionally, reuben sandwiches are made with corned beef. If you would rather use pastrami, you can definitely substitute it but note that the flavor won’t be quite the same. It will still be delicious, but pastrami does taste different from corned beef.
Reuben is far better served as a hot sandwich. It’s better to serve it hot, especially if using home cooked corned beef. Plus, the melted cheese and toasted bread is best still fresh and warm.
If you’re in a rush, you can definitely make it cold on either toasted or un-toasted bread. But if you do have a few extra minutes, definitely opt for it hot!
While the sauerkraut provides a delightful tangy taste and a crunch, there are many people that just don’t enjoy it. You can always omit it if you simply don’t like it OR you can substitute coleslaw or shredded lettuce.
Note, if using lettuce, add it after you’ve cooked the sandwich.
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- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 slices of deli rye swirl bread
- 3 tbsp Thousand Island dressing
- 6 oz corned beef sliced thinly
- 2 slices Swiss cheese
- 1/4 cup sauerkraut liquid squeezed out
- Preheat a medium cooking pan over medium-low heat. Melt butter in the pan and spread it around evenly.
- Place slices of bread in the pan and spread Thousand island dressing on both slices.
- Squeeze liquid from sauerkraut and spread it on one slice of bread. Place two slices of Swiss cheese on the other slice of bread.
- Layer corned beef over cheese evenly. Let the bread crisp and ingredients heat up. Once cheese is melted, use a spatula to carefully place one slice over the other to close the sandwich.
- Cook for a couple more minutes on both sides, until bread is golden. Press gently.
- Take the sandwich out of the pan, cut in half, and serve right away.