The Many Faces of the Reuben Sandwich

Homemade Reuben Sandwich

No one knows for sure who made the first Reuben sandwich, but those that love the sandwich aren’t interested in its origin. They’re only interested in how great the sandwich is. Piping hot layers of shaved corned beef covered with sauerkraut and Swiss cheese on grilled rye bread smothered with Russian or Thousand Island dressing – what’s not to love? Take a closer look at this gastronomic sensation.

Some believe this culinary delight was created between 1920 and 1935 by Reuben Kulakofsky during a weekly poker game. Another story claims the sandwich was made by Arnold Reuben in his New York City deli around 1914. William Hamerly is also said to have created the sandwich but in honor of Arnold Reuben because of Reuben’s charitable work. Finally, Fern Snider is said to have created the sandwich as part of a national sandwich contest in 1956.

This sandwich is so popular that there have been variations created.

  • The Rachel sandwich uses pastrami and coleslaw for the corned beef and sauerkraut.
  • The Blue Reuben sandwich uses blue cheese dressing instead of Thousand Island or Russian dressing.
  • The Grouper Reuben replaces the corned beef with grouper.
  • Reuben egg rolls are made using the normal fillings but rolled in an egg roll wrapper and deep fried.
  • Reuben pizza is sweet potato dough with the traditional Reuben sandwich on top.
  • Virgin Reuben is similar to a grilled cheese sandwich but adds the sauerkraut and dressing on rye bread but without meat on the sandwich.

Change Up the Bread

Even though it is normally made on rye bread that doesn’t mean you have to make it that way. Each new type of bread you use, even if you include the remaining traditional ingredients, may give subtle taste variations. Why not use pumpernickel or sourdough instead? Russian or Thousand Island dressing is normally used; how would the sandwich taste if you used ranch or Catalina? Swiss cheese is most often included but would it taste just as good if you used pepper jack or Muenster?

Perhaps you can’t improve on perfection. Some people have tried to improve on or change the Reuben sandwich but the original continues to be one of the best known and best loved sandwiches. History may not know the true beginnings of the sandwich but is that really necessary? All you need to know is that you love the combination of flavors and textures that meld so well together.