The Reuben sandwich is one of the most famous food creations in America. Learn how to make a pastrami Reuben sandwich with smoked pastrami!
Two things come to mind at St. Patrick’s Day, Shepherd’s Pie and Corned Beef.
Oh, wait, three things; chocolate stout cupcakes.
Ok, four things; Beer!
I can keep going, but I won’t.
But I’ve gotta tell you, when I think of corned beef, I immediately think of David throwing it on the smoker and smoking it into homemade pastrami for making pastrami Reuben sandwiches. I had never eaten a pastrami Reuben sandwich until after David and I successfully smoked our first pastrami. This sandwich is also why I learned to make Thousand Island dressing.
I adore the texture and multiple flavors of the pastrami Reuben sandwich. The melted gooey cheese and soft, tender smokey pastrami all nested under the sweet tanginess of sauerkraut and Thousand Island Dressing. All sandwiched between crispy brown grilled rye bread.
What is there not to love about this sandwich? This is the best Reuben sandwich you can make. Let us show you how!
What is a Reuben Sandwich?
A classic Reuben sandwich consists of corned beef, Swiss cheese slices, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing between a couple of pieces of rye bread. The sandwich is usually grilled, so the cheese melts, and the bread is toasted.
There are two legends about where this sandwich made its debut. The first is that Arnold Reuben, the founder of Reubens Restaurant and Delicatessen in New York City, created the first Reuben in 1914. The second legend states that Reuben Kulakofsky, a wholesale grocer in Omaha, Nebraska, was the first to make a Reuben sandwich between 1936 and 1940. No matter where this sandwich comes from, a Reuben is a damn good sandwich and should be enjoyed by all.
To learn more about the history of the Reuben Sandwich, read this article.
What is the Difference Between this Pastrami Reuben and the Classic Reuben?
This pastrami Reuben Sandwich is different in that it uses pastrami instead of corned beef. The two types of meat are very different in that corned beef is not smoked, and pastrami is. Good pastrami is ultra smoky and super-seasoned with peppery rub, marbled with melted fat, and melt in your mouth tender.
Russian Dressing vs. Thousand Island Dressing
Russian and Thousand Island dressings are both ketchup-mayonnaise-based with tangy flavors and creamy textures. However, Russian dressing is spicier getting heat from chili sauce and horseradish, whereas Thousand Island gets sweetness from pickles without horseradish or chili sauce.
In our opinion, the sweetness of the Thousand Island compliments the smoked pastrami well and offsets the pepper from the dry rub on the smoked pastrami.
Ingredients Needed for a Pastrami Reuben
We highly recommend you smoke your own pastrami using our recipe. However, you can usually find pastrami at the deli counter in your local grocery store. You could also use traditional corned beef or make your own following our pastrami recipe but not smoke it.
Rye bread is part of what makes a Reuben a Reuben. Don’t skimp on expense here. High-quality rye bread makes all the difference. We love Righteous Rye by Dave’s Killer Bread for making Reuben sandwiches.
I usually get Boar’s Head from the grocery store deli. It comes in a small package where the cheeses are kept, so there isn’t much leftover.
Swiss cheese is classic for this sandwich. Use any variety of Swiss cheese is fine; regular, Alpine lace, or baby Swiss.
Thousand Island is recommended. I make it homemade using this recipe. You can use your favorite store-bought Thousand Island or Russian Dressing.
How to Make a Pastrami Reuben Sandwich
- Steam the Pastrami – Add thin slices of pastrami to a large skillet over medium-high heat with a little splash of water. Allow it to steam until it is warmed through.
- Toast the Bread and Melt the Cheese – Place each slice of bread directly on the grill grate and top each slice of bread with a piece of Swiss cheese. Toast the bread until golden brown, and the cheese begins to melt.
Alternatively, you can use a griddle, grill pan, or skillet to toast the bread and melt the cheese. You could even bake it on a sheet pan in the oven.
- Build the Reuben – Remove the toasted bread from the grill. Divide the steamed pastrami between two toasted bread slices. Top with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing and top with remaining slice of bread.
Tips for Making A Pastrami Reuben
- Drain the Sauerkraut, so your sandwich doesn’t become soggy.
- A panini press is an excellent tool for making toasted sandwiches because they can toast both sides of the bread at once, but you don’t have to have one to make this sandwich.
- Add butter to the bread to help it brown and crisp. We figure it’s best to leave it out since there’s already a bunch of calories inside this sandwich. Brush one side of each slice of bread with softened room temperature butter before toasting.
- Don’t care for sauerkraut? No worries! Add coleslaw to your sandwich instead, a “Rachel” sandwich.
What to Serve With Pastrami Reuben
Most anything will go with this sandwich. We recommend the following side dishes to accompany your Reuben Sandwich:
Enjoy this sandwich for St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a great way to celebrate while wearing green!
Making this sandwich? We’d love your feedback. Leave us a comment and a star rating below. We value your opinion and appreciate your time.
See ya on the mountain!
Pastrami Reuben Sandwich
- ½ pound smoked pastrami can use corned beef
- 4 slices rye bread
- ¼ cup sauerkraut drained
- 4 slices Swiss cheese
Steam the Pastrami
- Add thin slices of pastrami to a skillet over medium-high heat with a little splash of water (1 tablespoon). Allow it to steam until it is warmed through.
Toast the Bread and Melt the Cheese
- Place each slice of bread directly on the grill grate and top each slice of bread with a piece of Swiss cheese. Toast the bread until golden brown, and the cheese begins to melt.
- Alternatively, you can use a grill pan or skillet to toast the bread and melt the cheese. You could even bake it on a sheet pan in the oven.
Build the Reuben
- Remove the toasted bread from the grill. Divide the steamed pastrami between two slices of toasted bread. Top with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing and top with remaining slice of bread.
- Enjoy with potato salad, coleslaw, or potato chips.