Sandwiches for dinner are truly a treat thanks to this crunchy, saucy twist on the classic Reuben. Use Thanksgiving leftovers or your favorite deli turkey for an easy meal any time of year. Two methods of preparation mean you can easily serve one person or a crowd.
For those who grew up watching the TV show Friends, “The Rachel” was a bouncy, layered hairstyle made popular by Jennifer Aniston’s character, Rachel Greene.
But the Rachel is also a classic sandwich and the sister, so to speak, of the Reuben.
Traditionally, both sandwiches are made with rye bread and grilled. A Reuben consists of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing. A Rachel, on the other hand, is made with sliced turkey (sometimes pastrami), Swiss cheese, coleslaw, and Russian or Thousand Island dressing.
When ranking the two, the Rachel is often favored by those who don’t love the tang of sauerkraut or perhaps enjoy the leaner appeal of turkey over corned beef.
Happily, simple substitutions allow the following preparation to work for either sandwich.
Though traditionally grilled on the stovetop like a grilled cheese sandwich, I’ve devised a baked method that makes preparing a larger number of sandwiches quite easy. And for those who enjoy using a panini press, I’ve noted the timing for that as well.
For an easy meal any time of year, Rachels can be made with leftover Thanksgiving turkey or your favorite deli turkey. Alternatively, I’ve made the sandwiches with ham, and it’s delicious, too.
When making numerous sandwiches, the bread can be more quickly toasted in the oven. Though rye is traditional, you could use pumpernickel or even sourdough. For gluten-free eaters, I highly recommend Simple Kneads. The texture and flavor of their bread are spot on. I do find it takes a minute or two longer than wheat-based bread to toast.
Once the bread is toasted, the cheese goes on one piece and the dressing on the other. You may use store-bought, although I have a quick Russian dressing that you can make with ingredients easily kept on hand. During our shoot, Donovan compared it to Trader Joe’s popular Magnifisauce, which he said his family uses on burgers, as a dip, etc. After tasting, he said that this version is better! 😍
Choose the amount of turkey based on how stuffed you’d like your sandwich to be. The ingredient amounts stated in the recipe provide a helpful guideline, but you may feel free to eyeball to preference.
One or two sandwiches can be quickly grilled on the stovetop or in a panini press. Optionally, the oven method makes quick work of feeding a family or hosting a small party. For easy, casual entertaining, pair the sandwiches with a hearty pot of soup.
The cool crunch of coleslaw complements the warm ingredients in this super satisfying sandwich. For the classic Rueben, use corned beef instead of turkey and sauerkraut (or kimchi!) in place of the coleslaw.
Prep-ahead and entertaining hints:
For a small party, I like to assemble the sandwiches to the point of baking just before guests arrive, and then bake and top with the slaw when ready to eat. Served with a big pot of soup, it’s a simple crowd-pleaser. (Helpful hint: When preparing ahead, I spread a thin layer of butter beneath the Russian dressing. That way, the dressing won’t be absorbed by the bread.)
How can I vary this sandwich?
The meat: Corned beef makes this recipe sandwich a Reuben. Some people use pastrami in a Rachel. Ham is not traditional in either, but I’ve used it–and it’s delicious.
The slaw: Sauerkraut is typically used in a Reuben and sometimes in a Rachel. My family prefers coleslaw in both sandwiches, although I occasionally make a variation with kimchi instead of sauerkraut, which offers a fun, lightly spicy twist.
You may purchase ready-made coleslaw, kimchi, or sauerkraut or use one of my recipes. Below the main recipe, I’ve included a print version of the slaw recipe I use for these sandwiches.
The dressing: Store-bought dressing is fair game as well, although I have an easy recipe for those who need it. Optionally, Thousand Island dressing may be used in place of Russian.
Where the bread is concerned, rye is traditional, but you could use pumpernickel or even sourdough or whole grain if preferred. The best gluten-free alternative I have found to date is a bread made by Simple Kneads. They have three varieties, which all work well. Locally, I’ve purchased this bread at Whole Foods, and Lemon Street Market sometimes has it in stock.
Elevate your sandwich game with this tasty twist on the classic Reuben, which can be made with Thanksgiving leftovers or your favorite deli turkey for an easy meal any time of year. Serve with a dill pickle, potato chips, a side salad, or sweet potato fries!
The Rachel Sandwich (Grilled or Baked)
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Total Time: 15 min
Yield: 1 sandwich (baked method makes scaling up easy)
You may use store-bought dressing and slaw in these sandwiches, although the easy recipes allow you to work with what you have on hand–and you may find yourself returning to them again and again!
¼ cup coleslaw, drained of excess liquid (printable recipe directly below this recipe; may substitute sauerkraut or kimchi)
2 to 4 ounces turkey, thinly sliced
2 slices Swiss cheese
For the Quick Russian Dressing:
¼ cup (56g) mayonnaise
1½ tablespoon (25g) ketchup
1 teaspoon (5g) prepared horseradish (use 1½ teaspoons for extra zing)
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
⅛ teaspoon each smoked paprika, garlic powder, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
For the Quick Russian Dressing: (Yield: ⅓ cup) Stir together and refrigerate until ready to use. The dressing will keep for a week or more in the fridge, and the recipe doubles easily.
Oven method: Preheat the oven to 400℉ and place the bread on a baking sheet. Lightly spread one side of the bread with butter, if using, and then place butter side down. Bake for about 4 to 5 minutes to toast. When the bread is lightly toasted, remove from the oven and spread the dressing over the unbuttered side of one of the slices. Top the dressing-covered slice with the turkey and the other slice with the cheese. (Tip: To prevent melting onto the baking sheet, break the cheese if needed and arrange so it’s all on the bread.) Bake the still-open sandwich for about 5 minutes or until the turkey is hot, the cheese is melted, and the bread is lightly golden on the bottom. Remove from the oven, top the turkey side with the drained coleslaw, place the cheese slice on top, cut in half and enjoy!
For stovetop method: Prepare the sandwich as above, placing the halves together. You may add the coleslaw, although for a hot-cold contrast, I usually wait. Heat a skillet over medium-low. Add the sandwich and cook until the bottom is golden brown. Flip the sandwich over and cook until the other side has browned and the cheese has melted. If you waited to add the coleslaw, separate the bread slices, and add it now. Put the sandwich back together, cut in half, and enjoy.
For panini method: Fully assemble the sandwiches, including the coleslaw, and grill on the heated press for 4 minutes or until the bread is nicely golden. (In this case, I fully assemble with the coleslaw because the pressed sandwich is difficult to pry open—although you may try. Even though I typically add the coleslaw after cooking, it still tastes delicious this way.)
Prefer an open-faced sandwich? The oven method makes this easy. Simply prepare the turkey side of the sandwich as directed and bake for a few minutes until warmed through. Then top with the coleslaw and cheese, and broil briefly, watching very closely, to melt the cheese.
2 tablespoons (45ml) apple cider vinegar (may use 2½ – 3T for more tang)
½ tablespoon (7g) Dijon mustard
½ tablespoon (7g) prepared horseradish
¼ teaspoon each garlic powder, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
For the coleslaw:
1 (16-ounce) bag cabbage blend or about half a small (2-pound) cabbage, shredded or very thinly sliced
Optional: 2-3 sliced scallions or about an eighth of a small red onion, slivered; ¼ teaspoon dried dill or celery seed (or a mix); 2-3 slices cooked and crumbled bacon
For the dressing: Mix all the ingredients together, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. The dressing will keep for a week or more.
For the coleslaw: Add the slaw ingredients to a mixing bowl, drizzle the dressing overtop, and toss to fully incorporate. If you prefer a lighter coating of dressing, start with about ¾ of the dressing, toss, and then add more to taste. Taste the slaw and add an extra pinch or two of salt and pepper, if needed.
•I like to keep a head of green and red cabbage on hand and use some of each. If I have time, I’ll grate a carrot and add to the mix. Store-bought bags with a mix of all three offer a handy shortcut.
•For maximum crunch, dress shortly before serving. Those who prefer a softer slaw may prefer to add the dressing several hours before serving.