Tempeh Reubens

Back when we lived in Baltimore, our favorite bar was Club Charles (affectionately known as Club Chuck), the world’s best dive bar, frequented by John Waters and quintessentially Baltimore. When the owner of Club Chuck bought the building next to Club Chuck and turned it into a vegan-friendly restaurant called the Zodiac, I was deliriously happy. The Zodiac used to have really cheap, really good food, including a tempeh reuben that I loved. Then a new chef came in and suddenly the reuben was gone from the menu, never to return, and the prices about doubled on everything else. We still go to the Zodiac when we need something late at night and are planning to hit the Chuck anyway, but I usually grumble about missing the good old cheap tempeh reuben days.

Fortunately I then discovered the vegan reubens at Liquid Earth, a cute little juice bar and restaurant in Fells Point. I generally scarf down two entire reubens whenever I’m in the city. I think the reuben on the menu is not vegan, but you can ask for a vegan version. I’ve heard the Liquid Earth vegan reuben even made an appearance on Homicide once, but I never saw the show. The Liquid Earth vegan reuben, although absolutely delicious, is not a tempeh reuben. When I haven’t been to Baltimore in a while and am in need of a reuben, however, I make tempeh reubens at home.

I should confess I’ve never actually eaten a “real” reuben, so I can’t compare the taste. But I don’t know what’s not to love about rye bread, sauerkraut, and tempeh. And today when I was wondering how to showcase my first successful batch of homemade tempeh, either Mark or my visiting best friend, Fortinbras, suggested reubens. Because they are yummy!

First, make the Thousand Island Dressing, because it needs time to chill.

Thousand Island Dressing

1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Vegenaise
2 Tbsp minced shallot or onion
1 Tbsp sweet relish
juice of 1/4 lemon
1/8 tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp Indian black salt (optional) – I added this because Thousand Island Dressing traditionally contains hard boiled eggs

Mix all of the ingredients together and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Tempeh Reubens

For two sandwiches,

4 slices rye bread
1/2 package tempeh, sliced in half
1 cup sauerkraut
1/4 cup Thousand Island dressing
2 slices vegan cheese – honestly, the “cheese” is the least interesting part to me and if you can’t find a good brand, you might as well just omit it

By the way, do YOUR cats love to eat plastic? Mine do and it drives me crazy!

If your tempeh is uncooked, steam it for 20 minutes. I do this in a wok:

After steaming the tempeh, heat a skillet or cast iron frying pan up, add a little bit of oil, then fry the tempeh on both sides until slightly brown and crispy:

While the tempeh is frying, set up your sandwiches. Swipe one side of each piece of bread with the dressing, then top one slice with the sliced “cheese” if using and the other with some sauerkraut:

The tempeh will look something like this when ready:

Place on one of the bread slices …

… then grill. I used my George Foreman, but you can also grill them in a pan or under the broiler.

They’re ready when they are golden brown on both sides:

Serve with a pickle on the side and enjoy:

In other news, Fortinbras won Tigger a Scooby Doo doll at the fair last night because he loves Tigger.

That’s as much of that story as you’re getting, I’m afraid. I can tell you, however, that Joan Jett does not give a damn about her bad reputation.


  1. Alexis Said,

    June 9, 2008 @ 2:26 am

    Tigger cracks me up!

    I’ve liked tempeh reubens when I’ve had them (there’s a place called Lettus in SF that makes them) so it’s nice to know what to try at home!

  2. Nikki Said,

    June 9, 2008 @ 8:49 pm

    That was so sweet of Fortinbras to win Tigger a Scooby~Doo. Tigger looks very content about Scooby, which to me, is a huge surprise!

  3. Mom Said,

    June 10, 2008 @ 10:56 am

    Tigger looks especially silly trying to eat a plastic bag. He looks a little more dignified sitting next to his Scooby-Doo, although he doesn’t look that happy.

  4. renae Said,

    June 10, 2008 @ 11:25 am

    Well, he was curled up sleeping at Scooby’s feet and woke up when he heard the camera, so what he probably is in that picture is sleepy.

  5. b Said,

    June 11, 2008 @ 1:58 am

    I recently saw that episode of homicide and thought it was awesome mostly because of my girlfriends blog: http://portlandveganreubens.blogspot.com/

    Bayliss is one of the detectives and he goes buddist after being shot, since he doesn’t eat anything with a face he invites another detective to try the liquid earth vegan reuben that is I believe, “to die for”. We can’t wait to try it sometime.


  6. renae Said,

    June 11, 2008 @ 3:38 pm

    Your girlfriend’s blog is great; it must be fabulous living in Portland – so many options! The Liquid Earth vegan reuben is definitely worth seeking out if you ever find yourself in Charm City. It’s sort of fascinating it was on a TV show, though, because Liquid Earth isn’t very big or particularly well-known. But I guess the cool thing about Homicide, although I never saw it, was that is was totally shot on location and not some sound stage in Hollywood.

  7. Veggie Said,

    June 28, 2008 @ 11:18 am

    YES, YES, YES… I thought my cats were the only ones!!

    One of them just licks them but the other one chews on them and sometimes ingests some (don’t ask HOW I know this!). I scares me a little.

    Your cat is so photogenic.

  8. tori Said,

    December 8, 2008 @ 7:06 pm

    i’ve been told that something in the processing of plastic makes them smell like meat to kitties. i’ve also been told that fish oil is used to process the plastic, hence making them tasty to kitties. i was googling for a veggie reuben style sandwhich and ended up here and stayed as i figured anyone who would devote as much page space to their kitty eating a bag probably has similar tastes to me. =)

  9. rob cox baltimore computer repair Said,

    September 21, 2011 @ 9:05 pm

    Hi. Was Googling for tempeh in Baltimore and found this page. Just started a vegan eating plan back on August 18 and I have lost 30+ pounds so far. Just discovered Liquid Earth about 2 weeks ago. Love their soups. Will have to try the Reuben. Tried wheatgrass juice there for the first time. Was surprised at the sweetness. Going to the natural foods expo at the convention center tomorrow to volunteer to help people recycle. Will have to check out the rest of the site.

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