Posted in Recipes

The Celebrated Reuben Sandwich

Reuben Sandwich 1

History is a little bit fuzzy as to the ‘Reuben’ of Reuben Sandwich fame. Some say it refers to one Reuben Kulakofsky, who made the first sandwich for some poker buddies, one of whom owned a hotel in Omaha, Nebraska and later put the sandwich on the restaurant menu. Others claim that the sandwich is named after Arnold Reuben who was the owner of the now defunct ‘Reuben’s Delicatessen’ in New York and supposedly created the specialty. Either way, it appears to have originated sometime during the first couple of decades of the last century and is now a genuine classic.

As with everything culinary, there are variations on the basic theme but the original essentially consisted of Corned Beef on Rye with Swiss cheese, Sauerkraut and Russian dressing. Nowadays, the Russian dressing is almost always replaced with Thousand Island dressing (which is somewhat similar) and one can pretty much say that this is now a classic part of the sandwich. Today, but for a few tiny changes, I am going to be adhering pretty closely to the original… 

First of all, while Rye bread is traditional, the only rye loaf I could find at the time was a tiny thing barely three inches across and not suitable here. Accordingly, I substituted a multi-grain brown loaf and, to be honest, I am actually happier with this as many Rye loafs include caraway seed which I don’t care for overly.

While I will be using corned beef here, I am also going to slide in a little Montreal Smoked Meat for a bit of added flavor. This is not an unusual practice and a sandwich that substitutes all the corned beef with smoked meat is known as a ‘Montreal Reuben’. Pastrami is also used sometimes and if you do this, and substitute coleslaw for the sauerkraut (which many prefer), you have a ‘Rachel Sandwich’. Anyway, to make one basic Reuben you need:

  • 2 large slices Rye bread (or reasonable facsimile thereof);
  • Slices of Swiss Cheese enough to cover both slices of bread;
  • 1/4lb thinly sliced Corned Beef;
  • ½ cup Sauerkraut, squeezed of excess liquid;
  • Thousand Island dressing;
  • Butter (or margarine).

To Build:

Reuben Sandwich 2

First, spread each piece of bread with Thousand Island Dressing and then cover with the Swiss Cheese. Now layer the meat and then the sauerkraut on top of the cheese on one slice and then invert the other, cheese side down, over all.

Reuben Sandwich 3

Now, thinly butter the *outside* of each piece of bread and place the sandwich in a moderately hot pan. You need to press the sandwich as it cooks and you can do this either using a spatula or (much better) by placing a heavy plate or similar object on top of it to keep the pressure on the whole time. Grill on both sides for a few minutes until the outsides are golden brown and the cheese is melted. Cut and serve immediately…

For service, include fries, potato chips, coleslaw, or whatever tweaks your fancy. For today, I included potato salad and pickle for a very deli sort of lunch…



I am a lawyer by profession and my practice is Criminal... I mean, I specialize in Criminal law. My work involves travelling on Court circuits to remote Arctic communities. In between my travels I write a Food blog at

7 thoughts on “The Celebrated Reuben Sandwich

  1. Hmm ~ I think we’ll have to have a friendly difference of opinion here 🙂 ! You have already explained you could not get a proper rye bread where you are, but the Reuben [of which I have had very many all over the US and elsewhere] is dependent on the shape of the rye bread for looks, and the beautiful taste of the caraway seeds. And the minimum filling [and I am a doctor and a nutritionist 🙂 !] methinks should be at least three times as thick!! After all this is an occasional treat!! I am certain this is a very tasty sandwich, but I am also certain if you search for images [and I may be proven wrong!] you will not find a sandwich called Reuben similar to yours!!

    1. I think I’ve only had the particular shape of rye you mention on a Montreal Smoked-Meat Sandwich (more famous in Canada than the Reuben). We actually used a square shape loaf for Reubens in at least one restaurant I worked at (many, many, many years ago).

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