The Reuben sandwich has reached legendary status at delis across America. If you’ve ever had one, then you know why. Traditionally made with corned beef or pastrami, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Thousand Island or Russian dressing all grilled between two slices of rye bread, it’s the perfect balance of salty, spicy, earthy, tangy and sweet flavors. You’re probably thinking this couldn’t ever be healthy, right?
Well, as with just about any other food, the Reuben is what you make of it.
Here at That Salad Lady, we’re all about making food fun, creative, delicious and of course, salad centric. That’s why we’ve converted the traditional Reuben sandwich into a hearty Reuben salad. Our bowl version has all the savory taste sensations of the sandwich but with boatloads of fresh layers to enhance its overall nutritional value. The finished product is wholesome, delicious and unbelievably satisfying.
THE BALANCING ACT
Keeping with tradition, our Reuben salad includes corned beef. Corned beef is made by brining brisket in a salt and spice solution to flavor and tenderize it. As it is in fact a processed red meat, many would assume corned beef to be fairly unhealthy. After all, processed red meats and processed meats in general have been linked to numerous chronic diseases. But, here at That Salad Lady, we don’t shun foods. Instead, we focus on making wise choices.
Truth is, you’d have to be eating a whole lot of corned beef and other processed meats to experience health issues. If you enjoy corned beef, you can eat it. Corned beef itself isn’t inherently bad. Just like other red meats, it’s rich in protein, iron and B12, as well as the potent antioxidant selenium. Both by themselves and collectively these nutrients offer valuable health benefits.
It’s all about eating corned beef in sensible amounts. Below we suggest sensible portions of corned beef – just enough to experience the rich flavor of this tender, savory meat in a whole salad bowl. When used sparingly and paired with all the fresh and wholesome layers in our recipe, you’ll get plenty of nutritional bang for your bowl. If you’re concerned about the risks associated with eating processed meats, we include some alternatives as well.
Now, let’s talk about what else is in our Reuben salad bowl recipe and why?
Classic Reuben Layers
We’ve already talked about corned beef and mentioned the other classic Reuben ingredients, which include Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing (or Russian dressing) and rye bread. Keeping with tradition, we include a version of each of these layers in the bowl.
As the most classic of traditional ingredients in the Reuben salad, corned beef is the main protein in our recipe, but there are other choices. Pastrami, for instance, is considered slightly healthier than corned beef since its sodium content is a lot lower. It has similar flavor too. Pastrami, however, is still a processed red meat. If you’re genuinely concerned about the overall risks of eating processed meat, you can go with meat sliced fresh from a cooked cut of beef or even turkey. It’s all about building your bowl, your way.
With its sweet, mild and somewhat nutty flavor, Swiss cheese is a perfect complement to the corned beef and other ingredients in the salad. And believe it or not, Swiss is among the healthiest of cheeses, as it’s relatively lower in sodium and higher in calcium. In combination with the protein it contains, the calcium found in Swiss contributes to healthier, stronger bones and teeth. Like other cheeses, Swiss is naturally high in fat. If this is an issue, you can always use reduced-fat Swiss.
The traditional Reuben includes sauerkraut, which is basically pickled green cabbage. Our recipe calls for fresh red cabbage, as it brings bold, peppery flavor and great texture to the bowl. Like other cruciferous vegetables, cabbage is rich in cancer-fighting phytonutrients that are released and most potent when it’s bitten into and chewed. We purposely chose red cabbage over green as it contains 10 times more vitamins and antioxidants known to improve immune health.
Thousand Island Dressing
Our recipe calls for That Salad Lady’s Thousand Island dressing, which is made with high-quality ingredients and delivers the classic creamy taste and texture this classic Reuben topping is known for. If you’re a fan of Thousand Island, this’ll definitely be your go-to recipe. To carry out the recipe, all you’ll need is a blender or food processor and it’s on your salad in five minutes! For maximum nutritional value, we suggest adding just enough to season and not saturate your salad.
Though this is a Reuben salad and not a Reuben sandwich, we simply couldn’t resist leaving out the bread. That’s why our recipe calls That Salad Lady’s homemade croutons as an “optional” ingredient. If you choose to use them, this is literally the only ingredient that requires cooking, but the added effort is so well worth it!
Below we suggest sensible portions of the croutons. Just enough to bring good savory flavor and delightful crunch to your salad bowl. The recipe also highlights some of the different types of breads you can use to suit your unique eating style or nutritional needs.
Plenty More Fresh Layers
In addition to red cabbage, we include plenty more fresh layers to bring out the best in our Reuben Salad bowl recipe, specifically kale, carrots, tomatoes and red onion, all of which are chockfull of nutrition. Kale and carrots are especially rich in beta-carotene, a powerful carotenoid that the body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a vital role in normal vision, immune health and even the health and appearance of your skin.
Similar to kale and carrots, tomatoes also contain carotenoids that support healthy vision. The reddest tomatoes are especially rich in lycopene, which is known to support heart health and blood pressure control. We use grape tomatoes for this bowl recipe, but cherry, vine or Roma tomatoes also work – and they’re equally nutritious. Finally, there’s red onion, which of all onions, is the mildest in flavor, the highest in antioxidants and the tastiest in raw form.
Cooking is only required for the croutons, which are totally optional. The recipe is highlighted on the recipe card if you choose to make them. Preparing the croutons involves three simple steps: cutting, seasoning and baking bread. That’s it! All you’ll need is a loaf of bread plus five ingredients and they’re ready in about 25 minutes.
GET YOUR CHOP ON
Much of the prep work for this Reuben salad bowl recipe is in the chopping. As always, using a high-quality chef’s knife will make the process a whole lot easier.
Our recipe calls for first shredding the cabbage and finely chopping the kale. You can also give the kale a good massage using That Salad Lady’s recipe. Though not a necessary step, massaging kale softens and tenderizes the leaves, reduces their volume and even gives them a somewhat gentler flavor in much the same way that cooking them would.
From there, you’ll simply julienne the carrots and onion. Julienning essentially means cutting them into thin strips using either a grater or a knife (see recipe video). To eliminate an extra step, you can also use the matchstick carrots sold prepackaged at your local grocery store. Whatever works.
Once all these ingredients are prepared, simply transfer them to a large salad bowl and let the mixture chill in the fridge. If using grape tomatoes (as per the recipe) just slice those in half. Otherwise, you can seed and dice up whatever tomatoes you’re planning to use. However, we don’t recommend adding them to the chilled mix as tomatoes tend to get soggy. Instead, chop or dice them fresh when you’re actually ready to build your bowl.
The final two steps in the chopping process involve slicing up or shredding the corned beef (or whatever protein you choose to use), and then shredding the Swiss cheese using a grater.
That Salad Lady’s Thousand Island dressing is included as part of the recipe (see recipe card). All you’ll need to do is add all the ingredients to your blender or food processor.
With variable speed units, start with a low speed and then gradually increase it to a higher speed until the mixture is perfectly smooth. That’s it!
If you choose not to make our dressing, be sure to choose a good quality bottled Thousand Island. Full-fat varieties are best (study up in our Nutrition Glossary to learn why).
BUILD YOUR SALAD BOWL
When you’re ready to build your bowl, add the tomatoes to the chilled veggie mix, drizzle on your dressing and stir until everything’s well blended. From there, you can stir in more dressing to taste and then top off the mixture with corn beef slices, Swiss cheese and croutons, if using.
All put together, the actual blend is large enough for eight generous servings, but you can always adjust your portion sizes based on your eating style. For instance, if you’re watching your sodium intake, you might up your portions of the fresh layers and add less of the meat and cheese. It’s all about building a bowl that works best for YOU.
Leftovers will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days. We suggest storing the tomatoes, corned beef slices, Swiss cheese, croutons and dressing separately, as these ingredients can cause the fresh veggie layers to get soggy and even spoil faster. Any remaining dressing will last in the fridge for up to a week so long as it’s kept in an airtight container.
SHOW US YOUR BOWL
That Salad Lady wants to see your bowl! If you like it, which we are sure you will, drop a comment below and tag pics on Instagram with @thatsaladlady, #thatsaladlady and #buildyourbowl. If you love it, pin it on Pinterest and share it on Facebook and Twitter using #thatsaladlady.
This information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate. Please review our full disclaimer to get a clear understanding of the nutrition and health information and resources presented and written on our website.