Reubenesque Reuben Sauce

Right now I’m in the middle of moving! I sold my house and starting a brand new chapter in my life (kinda, sorta). However, you’re in luck! A couple of my very talented food blogger friends will be guest posting on Dixie Chik Cooks this week. I’m such a lucky girl to have such kick ass friends! Today, Michele from Bacon Fatte is guest posting. 

I wanted a Reuben sauce that didn’t get lost in the sandwich. It had to hold its own against the dark, rich pumpernickel bread and the bold, tart sauerkraut.

When I finally decided to make my own Reubens, I also decided to make my own Reuben sauce. There are a million different recipes out there, and after playing around with just about every one of them I finally came up with a version that I really liked.

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Of course, it also had to play nicely with the corned beef or pastrami – whichever one happened to be the deli pick of the day. And I like a Reuben sauce with a little texture, so it had to have an ever so slightly chunky consistency amid all the creaminess. Tasty dried onion flakes and plenty of finely chopped cornichons add just enough “bark” to the “bite” of this Reuben sauce. And a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice brighten and balance the rich tomato paste and Worcestershire.

Reubenesque Reuben Sauce recipe from ... 3038 resizeWhat I ended up with hit all the important points on my list, and then some.
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The name of the recipe, of course, implies what it’s intended for. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying reuben sauce in other ways, such as:

  • A tasty chicken, turkey and fish sandwich spread
  • a zingy dip for chicken tenders and fish fingers
  • sauce for grilled or roasted chicken, fish and pork
  • sauce for grilled or roasted vegetables such as potatoes, asparagus, brussels sprouts, etc.
  • sauce for tacos; excellent with carnitas (just add a few splashes of your fave hot sauce)

The name of this recipe is also a bit tongue-in-cheeky because one wouldn’t exactly call this a light recipe, but then again, we’re not pairing it with carrot sticks. It’s meant to be good… And it is!

Reuben sandwiches are the kind of thing you crave (at least, I do…), and when you have one, you want it to be really good. They’re meant to be bold and tangy. They’re supposed to have a lot of flavor – pleasant, pungent “in your face” flavor.
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Because classic reubens have relatively few ingredients, good quality ingredients make all the difference. Start with a fresh baked pumpernickel. Get the good pastrami or corned beef, and if you can find the stuff with the peppered edges, even better! The same goes for the Swiss cheese – the nice, thick deli slices that melt unapologetically when you toast your reubens are the best.

And let’s talk about the kraut, y’all. Reubens need good, tart sour kraut with some crunch – not some whimpy, wilted wannabe cooked cabbage salad. I cut my teeth on my German grandmother’s home-grown, homemade sour kraut. It had plenty of pucker power which set the bar pretty high when I started looking for store bought versions later in life. After a few trials, we found Frank’s Kraut and we love it. I think even my grandmother would approve. She’d probably question the teaspoon of celery seeds (per 32 ounce jar) that I toss in when I make kraut, but I think she’d get it after she tasted it. {Wink!}

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As for how you put the whole thing together, that’s another story. Just like the ingredients used (and, yes, the aforementioned “must haves” are my personal faves but you may very well have other ideas…), the end result is all about personal preferences.

But, details matter here, my friends… Details. Matter.
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7 Steps for a great Open Face Reuben

Like open face sammies? (Me too!) A good open face sammy is all about balance: Not too sparse so it’s more of an app than a long-awaited main course, but not so heavily piled that you end up with a big soggy blob. You call the shots with your sammies, but for a little bit of crunch, and a whole lot of tangy, melty, reuben deliciousness without too much bulk, here’s my “7 Step Reuben Program”:

  1. Slather copious amounts of reuben sauce on the bread (because it’s all about the sauce here!)
  2. Pile on a healthy amount of beautiful pepper-crusted pastrami
  3. Sprinkle on a nice helping of kraut (make sure to squeeze out the excess liquid first so you don’t end up with saturated bread). See above note about adding celery seeds to your kraut… Just sayin’.
  4. Finish with strips or shreds of good Swiss rather than just laying a slice on top.
    1. In my experience, if you just cover the the sammy with a thick slice of cheese, the heat doesn’t distribute well enough through the ingredients below. Break it up a bit, and all the flavors warm and come together beautifully.
  5. Place sammies on a baking sheet, and toast under the broiler for 3 – 5 minutes or so.
    1. I determine “doneness” when I see the edges of my bread darken as they toast, the color of the reuben sauce intensifies as it caramelizes, and the Swiss becomes a beautifully melted mess on top of it all.
  6. When ready, pull the pan out of the oven, top with more sauce and – if you’re a crazy garnish fanatic like I am – sprinkle more finely chopped cornichons on top.Reubenesque Reuben Sauce recipe from ... 3709 resize

Full-On, Pan-Toasted Reuben ‘Melt’

If you want even more of the good things that make reubens so crave-worthy, go all the way:

  1. Pre-heat a pan on the stove top over medium-low heat.
  2. Butter the “outsides” of two pieces of bread, then lay bread – buttered sides down – on a plate, and follow steps 1 – 4 above.
  3. Once layered, put the top piece of bread on your sammy and place the whole thing – buttered side down – into the pre-heated pan.
  4. Cook the first side for a minute or two until bread is toasted to your liking. Then flip the reuben over with a spatula, and repeat the cooking process.
  5. When both sides are toasted, remove from pan, plate, and devour while warm, crunchy, melty and unabashedly delicious.

Think about it… After you’ve gone through the trouble of getting all the good stuff to make the best tasting reubens to cure your cravings, a lack luster sauce just wouldn’t do. Don’t risk it… Whip up a batch of this reuben sauce instead, and as always…


Reubenesque Reuben Sauce

Yield: 2 cups

This wonderfully complex, easy to make “Reubenesque” Reuben Sauce will make all your reuben sammy dreams come true! Also great on chicken, fish, pork and veggies… Take a look!


  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 Tablespoons cornichons, finely chopped (about 6 cornichons)
  • 1 teaspoon capers, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried onion flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon Worchestershire
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste


  • In a small glass mixing bowl, combine the ingredients and stir well. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or so to allow flavors to marry before enjoying.


Can be refrigerated in an air tight, glass/non-reactive container for up to 24 hours. It’s fine for a couple of days, but definitely starts to lose it’s luster after that.

Other ways to enjoy this sauce:

  • chicken, turkey and fish sandwich spread
  • dip for chicken tenders and fish fingers
  • sauce for grilled or roasted chicken, fish and pork
  • sauce for grilled or roasted vegetables such as potatoes, asparagus, brussels sprouts, etc.
  • sauce for tacos; excellent with carnitas (just add a few splashes of your fave hot sauce)!



  • Shea

    Shea Goldstein is a writer and the voice behind Dixie Chik Cooks. She's also a recipe developer and brand ambassador. She has been published in several media platforms such as Redbook, Parade, Food Blogger Magazine and more. She has been developing recipes and writing since 2009. Shea is a Southern Belle Who's Thinking About What's For Dinner While Eating Lunch

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