This vegetarian Reuben recipe is a delicious twist on a classic grilled Reuben sandwich. Quick pickled cabbage adds a punch of flavor to this healthy but comforting meal!
The combination of ingredients used in this vegetarian Reuben may seem unexpected, but you're just going to have to trust me on this one: it's really good. This meatless Reuben is inspired by the veggie Reuben from Trapeze Pub in Athens, Georgia, where I went to college.
I originally shared this recipe in 2018 while I was living in Portland and missing Athens. Now I just love this recipe and make it whenever I'm craving a hot vegetarian sandwich!
Of course, this is not a classic Reuben because we're using pickled cabbage in place of corned beef, but it does have some of the key ingredients: horseradish sauce, swiss cheese, and rye bread.
The result? A flavor-packed, filling vegetarian sandwich packed with healthy ingredients.
Why this recipe works
- Quick pickled cabbage: This adds a fantastic texture and vivid color in place of traditional corned beef. It only takes about 5 minutes of active time to make quick pickled cabbage, and it's great to keep on hand for other recipes. Filling and packed with healthy ingredients
- Comforting: This vegetarian Reuben may be a bit lighter than a traditional Reuben, but it's still comforting and cheesy, with toasted rye and a creamy horseradish sauce.
- Great for lunch or dinner, this sandwich is a filling main dish.
- Horseradish sauce: My non-traditional version is made with plain Greek yogurt, preserved horseradish, ketchup, and a few other pantry staples. Preserved horseradish is usually found in the condiments aisle and is not the same as horseradish cream.
- Sliced tomatoes and spinach add color and flavor. They aren't a part of traditional Reubens, but like I said, this isn't exactly a traditional Reuben.
- Swiss cheese: The meltiness of the cheese holds the sandwich together.
- Quick pickled cabbage is a great meat replacement because it's packed with flavor and has crisp but tender texture. I recommend using red cabbage here.
- Rye bread: I always have trouble finding rye bread at my store so I go for dark rye bread, which is just as delicious. Sourdough rye is even better if you can find it.
Quick pickled cabbage
Pro tip: Prepare the cabbage up to a week in advance to make this a super quick meal. Keep refrigerated in a closed container until ready to use.
Quick pickling is one of those things that seems intimidating but is surprisingly very, very easy to do. Check out my quick pickled onions for even more tips on quick pickling.
Combining sliced red cabbage with vinegar, salt and sugar causes it to tenderize while keeping some of its crunch. It also adds a punch of acidity and saltiness to the sandwich.
I use a combination of red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar for flavor but white vinegar will work in a pinch.
I use a gallon sized Ball jar (like these but I bought them second hand) for this recipe. Quart sized jars work but you will need to divide the cabbage and brine between two quart sized jars. A tupperware container or even a large bowl also works.
- Simply combine all brine ingredients in a quart-sized mason jar. Place the lid on top and shake until the sugar is dissolved. If using a bowl, just whisk until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
- Slice the cabbage into ½ inch strips. Break apart the pieces with your hands. Add to the jar with the brine. Use a mixing spoon or whisk to push down the cabbage so that its completely covered. Add water as needed so that the cabbage is completely covered.
- Let rest at least 2 hours, but ideally 4 hours before using. The longer its pickled the more tender and marinated the cabbage will be.
Making the sandwich
Make the horseradish sauce by mixing together all sauce ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. This is a creamy, zesty sauce. Don't let the ingredients fool you: it is super good!
- Spread one side of the rye bread with the horseradish sauce. Place two slices of swiss cheese on the other half.
- Top with lettuce and tomato.
- Top with quick pickled cabbage. I recommend dabbing the cabbage with a paper towel to remove excess moisture, which keeps the sandwich from getting soggy.
- Close the sandwich. Cook in melted butter over medium heat until crispy, then flip. To quickly melt the cheese, reduce heat to medium-low and cover with a lid.
A sandwich/panini press is perfect for this sandwich, but the stove also works.
If using the stove, make a makeshift press using a weighted plate or pan on top of the sandwich. This helps the sandwich get nice, flat, and melded together with the swiss cheese.
I find that it keeps best in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. After that it starts to soften and lose its texture.
You can replace the Greek yogurt with vegan mayo and the swiss cheese with your favorite vegan style swiss.
Tempeh bacon is definitely the move! You can also add sautéed tofu or enjoy some crispy chickpeas on the side.
Sauerkraut is usually part of a Reuben sandwich, but I don't include it with my version because we already have cabbage. Of course, feel free to add some sauerkraut if you want!
Looking for similar vegetarian recipes?
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Vegetarian Reuben with Picked Cabbage
Quick Pickled Cabbage
- ½ medium head red cabbage
- 2 and ½ cups water
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar see note #1
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 and ½ teaspoons table salt
- 2 teaspoons white sugar
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 5 ounces plain Greek yogurt one small container
- 2 tablespoons preserved horseradish
- 3 tablespoons ketchup
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- 8 slices rye bread
- ½ cup Horseradish sauce
- 1 recipe quick pickled cabbage see above
- 2 cups fresh spinach loosely packed
- 2 each roma tomatoes sliced
- 8 slices Swiss cheese
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Quick Pickled Cabbage
- Slice the red cabbage into ½ inch strips. In a one gallon mason jar (or divide between two quart sized jars) mix together water, vinegar, salt, and sugar until dissolved. I usually put the lid on the jar and shake to dissolve everything.
- Add cabbage and garlic, mashing down the cabbage so that it is fully covered with liquid. Add an extra splash of water if needed. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and ideally 4 hours.
- Add all ingredients to a small bowl, whisking to combine.
- Instructions for one sandwich on panini press: Preheat panini press to medium high heat*. Remove ½ cup pickled cabbage from container. Pat the cabbage with a paper towel to remove excess liquid. Spread two tablespoons of horseradish sauce on one side of the bread, then stack with ½ sliced tomato, ½ cup pickled cabbage, ½ cup spinach and two slices of Swiss cheese. Close the sandwich and heat on panini press until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.
- Instructions for stove top: Heat a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add a pat of butter or oil. Once melted, add the sandwich cheese side down. Cook until golden, about 2 minutes, then flip. Place a pan or heat safe plate on top of the sandwich and push down so that everything is mushed together. Cook another minute with the plate on top. Enjoy immediately.
- Vinegar: I like the red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar combo for its flavor and light sweetness but white vinegar will work in a pinch.
- Leftovers: Keep cabbage refrigerated in a closed container for up to 2 weeks.