Vegetarian Reubens

(Becky – The Butter Lovin’ Mama)

My Aunt Hazel once asked me if I’d like to know her theory of how a grandparent should discipline their grandchildren.  “I’d love to hear,” I said.  She leaned onto the kitchen table, her eyes twinkling over the cup of coffee she was sipping.  Then she set the coffee cup down and told me, flatly, “Give them everything they want. Never tell them ‘no.’”

Tragically, Aunt Hazel would lose her only son before he could marry and have children, but I have never forgotten her advice.  Now that I am a grandmother of five little boys,  I have found that if you are truly creative with grandkids, and stay one step ahead of them, you really almost never have to use the “no” word.

When I was a new driver, I used to avoid left turns at intersections, preferring to take three right turns instead.  The same method works for the grandkids.  I try to find three ways to say a “yes” to avoid one “no.”  So tonight when my grandson Georgie asked to stay up and play and it was time for bed, I didn’t say, “No.”  I just said, “Yes, you can play with toys in the bathtub. And then you can play a Sesame Street game on the computer for ten minutes in bed, right after you get your PJ’s on. Then Nonny will read you three books. Won’t that be fun?”  I managed three “yes’s” instead of one “no” and Georgie was delighted to comply. And fell asleep in no time.

The “Three Yes’s” to “One No” always works great with food psychology.  I’ve learned that no matter what your special diet, whether imposed or chosen, it is much more pleasant if you give yourself lots of yes’s instead of a no.  “Can I have a milkshake?” you asked yourself.  Your Inner Nonny can answer, “Yes, of course you can have a shake! You can totally enjoy almond milk and a frozen banana, some strawberries and a little ice and agave whirled in a blender. It will be delicious.”

I’ve decided to try cutting back on meat, especially processed meat like cold cuts.  But as I was making my husband a classic Reuben with pastrami, my mouth started watering. How I wanted a Reuben, too. Then I thought of the flavors in pastrami: garlic, peppercorns, something salty and a little bit sweet. Something smokey. Within a few minutes I’d made my own “vegan pastrami” and was enjoying one of the best Reubens I’ve ever had.  I didn’t have to say “no” to pastrami, just yes to all the flavors in pastrami — infused into tofu.

Vegetarian Reubens

Becky’s Vegetarian Reubens 


Ingredients for Tofu Pastrami

1/3 cup Braggs Liquid Aminos (available at health food stores, or substitute lite soy sauce)

1  t. brown sugar

1/2 t. smoked paprika

1 grated garlic clove

1 T. crushed peppercorns

6  thin slices (about 2 by 3 inches) of firm to very firm  tofu

3 T. olive oil

1 T. butter (Earth Balance for Vegans)

1/3  c. Ranch Dressing or Mayo or  Greek Yogurt (Vegan Ranch or Veganaise if you are vegan)

2 T. Catalina Dressing (or your favorite French Dressing)

4 slices pumpernickel or rye bread

4 T. sauerkraut

2 slices Swiss cheese (vegan swiss cheese if you are vegan)


In shallow bowl, mix first 4 ingredients.  Lay tofu (sliced as thin as you can) in the sauce and let marinate about 10 minutes.  Sprinkle one side of each slice with some of the crushed peppercorns and press into tofu.

Tofu marinating in “pastrami sauce”

Make dressing for sandwiches by mixing ranch dressing or mayo with the Catalina in a small bowl.

Put 2 T. olive oil in a skillet (preferably iron skillet)  and turn heat to medium high.  Cook the tofu in the skillet until golden brown, turn, and do the same thing on the other side.   Set aside on a plate. Rinse and wipe out the skillet and add 1 T. oil and 1 T. butter, and turn heat down to medium.

About to assemble vegetarian Reuben for me, a classic one for my husband.

Put vegetarian Reuben sandwiches together by spreading four sides of dark pumpernickel bread with the sauce.  Put a slice of swiss on two of the slices.   Lay 3 slices of cooked, marinated tofu “pastrami”on each of two slices of bread.  Top the swiss cheese slices with 2 T. sauerkraut, each.

Carefully put Reubens together and lay in melted oil/butter in pan, cooking on medium heat on both sides until the sandwiches are golden on the outside and the cheese is melted on the inside.  Cut in halves or quarters and serve.

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3 Comments on “Vegetarian Reubens”

  1. I am seriously salivating right now. We are restocking our pantry after our move to Granbury and your blog will help me make my shopping list! 🙂 Thanks for all the great inspiration!

  2. […] the kitchen. Mom was going to run to the grocery store to get fixins for Messy Greek Sandwiches and Reubens and I’d get started on some kind of soup to go along. I rummaged through her pantry and held […]

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