May it Please the Palate

'Vegan' reuben sandwiches. LOL

 Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

Readers, you know I’m vegetarian-friendly. I have to be, having lived with three of them (one has since moved on, and another is off to college). But they are so easy to make fun of, it’s like shooting tofu in a barrel.

Anthony Bourdain, chef, author and Travel Channel personality, has “No Reservations” about expressing his opinion: “Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.”

But vegans are so adorable, it’s hard to get so upset. Like when they call a sandwich a “Vegan Reuben,” when it bears zero relation to the real Reuben, a deli classic featuring corned beef and melted Swiss, Their version has no meat, no cheese, and no traditional Russian dressing. It does have sauerkraut, and because it’s a sandwich, of course bread. So with that tenuous connection (like saying that Justin Bieber and “Mr. T” are exactly alike because they’re both men) let’s go on to the “Vegan Reuben” recipe, shall we?


Vegan Reuben Club 
Sandwich (serves 2)

Maple Tempeh:

8 ounces tempeh, sliced in half then 

   down center to make thin square 


1 Tbsp maple syrup, grade B

2 tsp tamari

dash of fine black pepper


   a few splashes of liquid smoke


For Sandwich:

3 slices sourdough bread* 

   (the long wide slices from the 

    middle part of a bakery round)

1 ripe avocado, sliced and splashed with

   lemon juice

1 small tomato, sliced

3/4 cup sauerkraut

3 rings of onion

vegan mayo + Dijon mustard for 



   add some melted vegan cheese 

   if you dare)


Russian Dressing Recipes*

*three options are given; the “sweet, sassy & classic” one is provided here:

2 Tbsp vegan mayo

2 tsp ketchup

1 1/2 tsp pickle relish

2 tsp lemon juice (fresh)

1/2 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce 

   (try Annie’s brand)

1/8 tsp coarse salt

pinch of fine black pepper



1. Prep all veggies and slice up tempeh. Whip up your Russian Dressing.  

2. Toast all three slices of bread. Add vegan mayo to one slice, Dijon mustard to another and the Russian dressing to another. Set aside, this helps spreads absorb in the toast a bit.

3. Heat up skillet. Add a tiny splash of veggie oil to pan and then add the sliced tempeh. Add the tamari and maple too. Allow to cook for about 2 minutes on each side. Edges should blacken from the tamari and sweet maple syrup. Add some pepper before turning off heat.  

4. After you remove the tempeh from pan, quickly add the sauerkraut. I like to do this because it warms the kraut, blackens a few of the edges and adds more flavor. Or you can simply use raw cold kraut if desired.

5. Start stacking! Add one layer of tempeh, then some tomatoes on top. Then add the avocado. The avocado will happily mush into the dry bottom of the middle layer of toast you stack next. Add middle toast. Then another layer of tempeh, onion, and all that heavenly kraut. Last, add more avocado and the top layer of toast.

 Serve now or you can add to the oven to make your sandwich extra toast and warm. Or chill in the fridge until ready to serve. For reheating: 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes will do it.

— By the way, I love the author’s breathless assertion that “this divine darling of a sandwich is actually terribly easy to make at home!” Just one more of the many reasons that our vegetarian friends are so endearing.


Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. He can be reached at  His blog is