Grilled Tempeh Reubens


I was sick last week.

I hate admitting when that happens. I hate being sick. I hate feeling useless, not being able to work out, not sleeping well because I can’t breathe, taking half or full sick days and feeling useless at work. The whole thing is just dumb and inconvenient.

I had not been sick since before the wedding. That would be early 2011 – maybe earlier. Remember how I used to travel every two weeks for work and I would be gone for two weeks? Airplanes are the best place for your immune system when you travel a lot. My immune system was amazing and I think now that I’m not traveling as frequently it finally caught up with me and was all, “Trololol. I’m gonna stop working!”


My immune system was a hag.

No amount of medicine, daily vitamins and water I drank could prevent the nast when coworkers and everyone else don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom.

So I’ll get to the point of this post. I made tempeh reubens right before I got sick, but knew my being sick was inevitable. I had a feeling I would lose my sense of taste, smell and lose my appetite.

But on the up side, it was another Meatless Monday success, that’s for sure.


I loosely followed a recipe from and it was more work than it should have been, but overall they tasted good. You can definitely make necessary shortcuts if you’re pressed on time, because there’s a lot of “combine and chill for 2 hours” crap happening in this recipe.

And when I’m sick, patience is the last thing I have.

I will say this: I have a small issue with tempeh. I realize this was probably the best vegetarian protein to use, but it really is not my favorite or top choice. It’s the taste. I kind of dislike the taste of it. The texture is weird, it looks weird and it has a weird after taste. I might try making these with portobello mushroom caps or something next time just so they taste more meaty than…weird.

Man, I’m making this recipe sound like a whole lot of win, aren’t I? :P
At least REB liked them. In the end, that’s what mattered.

Grilled Tempeh Reubens
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A vegetarian twist on a classic deli sandwich. Recipe adapted from
Recipe type: sandwiches
Cuisine: vegetarian, sandwiches
Serves: Makes 4 sandwiches
  • ¼ cup Vegenaise (I used this because I don’t like mayo. Never have, never will. You can use mayo if you’d prefer though. Or, use Greek yogurt as a great substitute)
  • 1 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1½ tablespoons capers, drained and finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons sweet whole pickles, finely chopped
  • ½ whole lemon, juiced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • *Note: you can buy prepared coleslaw or sauerkraut if you prefer
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 8 oz. tempeh (I used Lightlife brand in the Soy variety), sliced in ½ inch thick slices
  • 8 slices Rye bread (2 slices per sandwich)
  • Nonstick spray
  • 4 slices Provolone or Swiss cheese (or vegan cheese of your choice)
  • Vegan butter (or regular if you prefer) to help brown sandwiches
  1. SLAW:
  2. combine the vinegar, cabbage and salt. Stir, cover bowl and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours (this will help break down the cabbage)
  4. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, cover and chill for at least 2 hours
  5. TEMPEH:
  6. Slice the tempeh into ½ inch thick slices
  7. Bring 8 cups of water to boil on stove. Add a pinch of salt when boiling then add tempeh and boil for 10 minutes.
  9. While the tempeh is boiling, combine all spices (coriander, cumin, red pepper flakes, allspice, cinnamon, garlic salt, ground ginger) in a freezer bag or large bag. Zip close, and shake to combine. Add water and oil to bag. Once tempeh is done boiling, add to marinade, shake to coat each slice then chill in refrigerator for 2 hours.
  11. Heat your stove top grill or pan with nonstick spray over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add the tempeh and cook 3-4 minutes on each side until browned and warmed through. Transfer to plate and set aside.
  13. Layer a slice of bread with dressing, slaw, cheese (optional), cooked tempeh. Take another slice of bread, spread some of the dressing and close sandwich together. Heat pan again with nonstick spray, or vegan butter. Place sandwich in pan and grill until browned. Or, if you have added cheese, until the cheese is melted. Repeat with the other three sandwiches until all are made.
  14. Additional notes:
  15. You can make the slaw and dressing the night before or well ahead of time and keep in the fridge to keep cool. You can also marinade the tempeh a day in advance to help speed up the process when you want to prepare your sandwiches.



14 thoughts on “Grilled Tempeh Reubens

  1. Heather @ Kiss My Broccoli

    Haha! Way to sell it girl! Luckily, I LOVE the texture, the look, AND the taste of tempeh! Actually, I was just telling a friend how I would take it over tofu for a meatless option any day!

    I work in a hospital *knocks on wood* so I can totally understand the whole airplane thing. Glad your over it now and hopefully all your taste buds are working properly again…I swear, being a foodie, that’s the WORST part of being sick!

    1. Aparna B. Post author

      It IS the worst part of being sick! All I kept thinking when I had lost my taste was, “Damn it. I can’t make any good recipes now because if I can’t taste them, I can’t tell if they’re blogworthy” lOL. #foodbloggerproblems <3 Thanks though! You know, I have to give tempeh more of a shot. I agree with you – the texture is a little more inviting than tofu since it’s so interesting. I’m going to try other varieties, or other brands to see if I can be sold :)

  2. dixya @ food, pleasure, and health

    I am sorry that you are not feeling so good :( hate that feeling.. I am still trying to recover since valentines day! Anywhooo- I ate tempeh for the first time and weirdly I liked it. I tried the ones with flax seed from whole foods but taste buds are slightly off too. I chopped it and slathered spinach hummus and used as a protein for my salad- really enjoyed it. I am really digging this slaw recipe. hope you feel better friend :)

    1. Aparna B. Post author

      You know, I’ve never tried the other Light Life varieties. Maybe I should try the others before concluding that I’m not a tempeh fan haha. I bet the other ones have more flavor :P

  3. Soni

    So sorry to hear you were sick!These sandwiches look quite delicious to me with the lovely slaw and the dressing!I have yet to try tempeh, so can’t comment on that :) They seem perfect for the cold weather today :)

  4. Amy @ Club Narwhal

    This looks delicious! I am trying to make more meatless meals and I found your blog. I was delighted to see that you are in Ann Arbor as well. This winter has been the pits, hasn’t it? Thanks for your lovely recipes!

    1. Aparna B. Post author

      Hi Amy! Nice to meet another Ann Arborite. This winter has royally sucked. It’s been so cold. I wish we could have the warm winter we had last year haha. Oh well. Thanks for stopping by! I do hope you like this recipe if you try it :) I would probably say that shortcuts should be taken. This just took too long!

  5. Parita @ myinnershakti

    I’m not a huge tempeh fan either, however, I find that boiling it in water + soy sauce helps A LOT! Takes 98% of the bitterness out.

    This sandwich looks great – super filling and something my sandwich loving husband would love!

    1. Aparna B. Post author

      I’m with you – it has that weird after taste! Boiling it first before putting in the marinade definitely helped deter the weird flavor I think it has. I already know what I’ll do when this recipe becomes a redux :) Hope you and V enjoy it if you make it!

    1. Aparna B. Post author

      I’m adding this to my list of ingredients to buy soon! I see a club sandwich or veggie/vegan blt in the making happening very soon!

  6. Diana @ VeggieNextDoor

    Glad you are feeling better, Aparna. At list you hardly ever get sick – hopefully this is your last cold for the year!

    Tempeh Reubens are one of my favorite quick dinners (my sauce is much lazier and I just use store-bought sauerkraut). I love the beautiful color of the purple slaw!

    My other favorite quick dinner is a Tempeh BLT. The Light Life Fakin’ Bacon is heavenly with some vegenaise (maybe with some chipotle powder or sauce mixed in), lettuce and tomato!

    1. Aparna B. Post author

      Thanks Diana!! I’m glad I’m not sick either because now I’ll be 100% healthy to see you this weekend!! YAY! I will have to try this fakin’ bacon you speak of! Tempeh BLT’s sound a-ma-zing!


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