Now I know what you’re thinking… weird, right?
That’s what I thought too when I stumbled across this recipe from Peaceful Plate. I mean, Johnny loves Reuben sandwiches, but how in the world could tofu pass as corned beef? Sure, it’ll be healthy but… will it be good?
In the end, it was actually pretty awesome! This slow-cooker friendly recipe (woo-hoo!) produced a very delicious — and much healthier — alternative to the traditional Reuben. The spices gave the tofu an authentic corned beef flavor and the beets helped to give the tofu a pink coloring similar to slow cooked corned beef.
Adapted from Peaceful Plate
For the tofu “corned beef”:
4-5 cups of water
1 large beet, peeled and chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp peach balsamic vinegar (the peach was an extra splash of flavor, but you can use traditional instead)
1 Tbsp pickling spices
Dash of ground all spice
3 tsp salt
1 Tbsp honey
¼ tsp black pepper
14 oz. of extra firm tofu, sliced vertically into 1/8” thick slices and patted dry
Combine all of your ingredients (except for the tofu and oil) in the slow cooker and give it a stir. Set the temperature on high and allow the ingredients to being marrying while you sauté your tofu.
Warm a non-stick skillet with the grapeseed oil over a medium to medium-high heat. Sauté the tofu slices until golden brown on each side (and when removing the tofu from the skillet, place on a plate lined with paper towels to sop up the excess oil). Now put the tofu slices into the slow cooker, pushing them down a bit so that all of the slices are totally covered in liquid.
Put the lid back on and let cook for about 4-6 hours. Depending on the size and heat of your slow cooker, it may be done sooner; we did a taste test around 4 ½ hours and found that it was ready to eat!
For the homemade thousand island dressing:
1 cup Vegenaise
½ cup Polish gherkin pickles, finely chopped
4 tsp ketchup
2 tsp honey
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp smoked paprika
Dash of salt
This was my first time using Vegenaise as a dressing base and, according to Peaceful Plate, you have to be particularly gentle for two reasons: not only can overstirring break down the Vegenaise, but extra liquid (like, you know, pickle juice!) can also add to a runny end result — so be sure to pat dry your pickles before adding them and stir all ingredients until just combined.
Last but not least:
8-10 slices of bread (obviously if you’re going for a true Reuben, aim for a rye or marbled rye)
Sauerkraut (heated before assembly)
4-5 slices of Swiss cheese
The original recipe was going for a particularly healthy/vegan version and opted for no cheese, but we wanted to go full-on traditional! We also opted to grill our sandwiches on a flat top as opposed to just toasting the bread. It melted the cheese and made everything all warm and lovely and delicious.
Next time around, I’d like to try this with seitan or tempeh to see if it gives the sandwich a sturdier texture (because, try as it might, tofu doesn’t feel like shaved corned beef). I’m not a huge fan of Reubens myself but I really enjoyed this twist on a classic, so that’s saying something! And Johnny? Well, it goes without saying he really enjoyed this new favorite.