A classic Reuben sandwich pairs flavorful corned beef with tangy sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese, and a zesty Russian dressing, all piled high onto toasted rye bread. If you want a satisfying lunch, it doesn’t get much better than a grilled Reuben!
If you happen to have corned beef on hand after St. Patrick’s Day—or any other day of the year—it’s the perfect opportunity to make a Reuben sandwich. Just before I went off to college, I worked at an Irish pub in the Soulard district of St. Louis, which is where I learned to appreciate a classic Reuben sandwich with a side of Irish potatoes.
That pub was also where I learned how to make a grilled Reuben, and it all starts with that corned beef! You can use either my Instant Pot Corned Beef, this Slow Cooker Corned Beef, or pick some up from your favorite deli. The beef is layered with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut, smothered in Russian dressing, and sandwiched between two slices of buttery toasted rye bread.
Talk about flavor! This sandwich has it in spades.
What’s the difference between a corned beef sandwich and a Reuben sandwich?
A traditional Corned Beef Sandwich is typically made with dark rye or pumpernickel bread, corned beef, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing. By contrast, a classic Reuben sandwich is made with Russian dressing. It also has sauerkraut in it, while a corned beef sandwich does not.
What you’ll need
Although you can certainly use bottled Russian dressing to make a grilled Reuben sandwich, I highly recommend making your own. I add a small amount of sriracha to give it a little kick!
Here's what you'll need to make the dressing and then assemble the sandwiches:
For the Reuben sandwich sauce (Russian dressing):
- Mayonnaise – Any brand or variety you prefer is just fine here.
- Horseradish – Use the jarred kind, not fresh horseradish root!
- Sriracha – You can add more for a spicier sauce, less for a milder version, or omit it altogether if you prefer.
- Worcestershire sauce
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
For the Reuben sandwich:
- Rye bread – While bread is an afterthought for many sandwich recipes, rye is a big player in the classic Reuben, so don’t swap it with white bread!
- Corned beef – A Reuben is great for using leftover corned beef, as is Homemade Corned Beef Hash.
- Swiss cheese
- Dill pickles – You can use store-bought or no cook refrigerator dill pickles.
What is sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut isn’t just cabbage, and it’s not the same as coleslaw either—it’s shredded cabbage that’s preserved through fermentation, which means it has a tangy, sour flavor. The fact that it’s fermented also means it’s super healthy!
How to make a Reuben sandwich
The Russian dressing for the Reuben can be made a few days in advance, as can the corned beef.
Make the Reuben sauce. Combine all of the Russian dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Prepare. Set a griddle or large skillet over medium heat.
Assemble. While your cooking surface warms up, butter one side of the rye bread slices and spread the Reuben sauce on the other side. Divide the cheese, sauerkraut, and corned beef onto two of the bread slices, then top them with the remaining bread (the buttered sides should face the outside).
Grill. Place the Reubens on the griddle or skillet and cook both sides until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted.
Serve. Serve grilled Reubens warm with a pickle and the remaining Reuben sauce on the side.
Is a Reuben sandwich served hot or cold?
A Reuben sandwich should always be served hot! That way, the Swiss cheese is melty and perfect, and the rye bread is crisp and toasted.
Tips for success
There’s not all that much to this recipe, but these tips will help set you up for success!
- Drain the sauerkraut if needed. You can place it in a fine mesh sieve while you gather the rest of your ingredients; draining off the excess liquid will keep your sandwiches from being soggy.
- Don’t rush it. Cooking over medium heat will slowly toast the bread, giving the cheese inside more time to melt. This will help hold your Reuben sandwiches together!
- Press the sandwiches. Now, Reubens aren’t panini, so you don’t want to press them too hard, but use a spatula to place some gentle pressure on the sandwiches while they cook. This will also help them hold together, and it will meld all those big, bold flavors together.
How to store and reheat leftovers
You can wrap a leftover Reuben tightly in foil and refrigerate it for a day or two, but it’s definitely the kind of sandwich that’s meant to be eaten right away. Leftovers can be eaten cold or reheated wrapped in foil in a 325ºF oven until warmed through (about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how much of the sandwich is being reheated).
Can you freeze a Reuben sandwich?
I can't recommend freezing whole sandwiches because the bread won't hold up. However, it's very convenient to freeze cooked corned beef until you're ready to make your Reuben sandwich. Simply store the beef in a freezer-safe storage container up to three months and thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
Classic Reuben Sandwich
Reuben sauce (Russian dressing)
- ¼ cup Mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Horseradish
- 2 teaspoons Ketchup
- ½ teaspoon Sriracha
- ⅛ teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
- pinch Sea Salt
- pinch Black Pepper
- 4 slices Rye Bread
- 2 teaspoons Butter
- ½ pound Cooked Corned Beef, warmed
- ½ cup Sauerkraut
- 4 slices Swiss Cheese
- dill pickles, for garnish
- In a small bowl, make the reuben sauce by whisking together MAYONNAISE, HORSERADISH, KETCHUP, SRIRACHA, WORCESTERSHIRE, SALT, and PEPPER. Set aside.
- Preheat a griddle or skillet on medium heat.
- Lightly BUTTER one side of RYE BREAD slices and spread REUBEN SAUCE on the other side.
- Distribute even layers of SWISS CHEESE, SAUERKRAUT, and CORNED BEEF on two bread slices.
- Top with remaining slices with the spread side facing in.
- Grill the reubens until cheese is melted and bread is golden brown.
- Serve warm garnished with pickle and remaining reuben sauce.
Traci's Recipe Notes
Nutrition data provided as courtesy estimates using unbranded ingredients from a nutrition database. Please consult preferred resource for precise data.