This classic hot Reuben sandwich recipe is made with corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and thousand island or Russian dressing. It’s layered on buttered rye bread and cooked in a cast iron skillet like a grilled cheese sandwich. You can make this hearty sandwich in just 15 minutes with deli corned beef or leftover corned beef brisket from St. Patrick’s day!
There’s nothing like hot, toasted classic corned beef Reuben sandwich. I love biting into buttery, crispy rye bread, and tasting an explosion of tender, salty corned beef, melty Swiss cheese, creamy dressing, and tangy sauerkraut. It’s a perfect combination of flavors and textures. Serve it with a fresh, cold homemade refrigerator dill pickle, and fuggedaboutit! Can you get a better lunch than that?
You don’t have to go to a deli for an unforgettable Reuben sandwich, though — you can make one just as good at home toasted in a cast iron skillet!
Ingredients for a Traditional Corned Beef Reuben
Reuben sandwich variations
There are many variations of a classic reuben sandwich recipe depending on the protein you want to start with! I think the moral of this story is ANY meat tastes great on a sandwich with cheese, creamy dressing, and crunchy cabbage (fermented or not). Here’s how to make a few:
- Rachel sandwich: The difference between a Rachel and a Reuben is that a Rachel uses pastrami and coleslaw instead of corned beef and sauerkraut.
- California Reuben: A California Reuben uses smoked turkey and coleslaw instead of corned beef and sauerkraut.
- Fish Reuben: You can also make a Reuben using grilled mahi mahi or grouper with sauerkraut or coleslaw.
How to make a reuben
- Start by buttering one side of your rye bread.
- Flip the bread and spread on a layer of your preferred Reuben sauce: Thousand Island or Russian dressing.
- Layer Swiss cheese, corned beef, sauerkraut, and more Swiss cheese, and close the sandwich.
- Toast in a cast iron or nonstick pan over medium-low heat until cheese is melty and sandwich is heated through.
- Enjoy immediately with extra dressing for dipping!
If you like a hot reuben sandwich with cold sauerkraut like me, skip adding the sauerkraut until after the sandwich is toasted! Then separate the sandwich and add the cold sauerkraut just before serving!
Expert Tips & Tricks
- Cooking the sandwich over medium-low may take a bit longer, but it’s the best way to heat the sandwich all the way through without burning the bread.
- When layering your meat (either leftover corned beef brisket or deli-sliced corned beef) take care that you end up with an even layer. It’s very easy to end up with a giant mound in the middle of your sandwich and skinny edges. You can cut or break brisket slices in half to avoid too much overlap in the middle of the sandwich.
- Squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the sauerkraut to avoid a soggy sandwich.
- If using corned beef brisket, cut slices as thinly as possible against the grain for the most tender eating experience.
- I prefer cold sauerkraut to contrast with the rest of the hot sandwich. To do that, make as directed but leaving out the sauerkraut. Then when it’s all melty and toasted, just separate the sandwich, add sauerkraut, and put it back together. That’s also a good opportunity to add extra dressing if you desire.
More cafe-style sandwiches you’ll love
Traditional Corned Beef Reuben on RyePrint Recipe
- 2 slices rye bread
- 2 tablespoons butter softened
- 1/4 cup thousand island dressing or Russian dressing, plus extra for dipping, if desired
- 4 slices Swiss cheese
- 1/4 to 1/3 lb corned beef deli thin sliced from or thinly sliced leftover corned beef brisket
- 1/2 cup sauerkraut excess liquid squeezed out
- Preheat a cast iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium heat while you assemble the sandwich.
- Butter one side of each slice of bread, then flip over.
- Spread the opposite sides of the bread with 1-2 tablespoons Thousand Island dressing. Add two slices of Swiss cheese on top of each slice of bread. When the cheese melts, it will act as the "glue" that holds the sandwich together, so you need it on both sides.
- On one slice, layer the corned beef followed by the sauerkraut. Take care that the corned beef (deli sliced or leftover brisket) is even from edge to edge, not mounded in the middle.
- Place the other slice on top of the sauerkraut, cheese side down, to complete the sandwich.
- Add to preheated pan and lower heat to medium low. Cook on each side for about 5 minutes, or until bread is toasty brown, cheese is melty, and inside is heated through.
- Serve immediately with extra dressing for dipping, if desired.