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Vegan Pastrami Sandwich

Vegan Pastrami Sandwich

This sandwich combines 2 beloved sandwiches, pastrami and Reuben. Vegan versions served in restaurants are usually made with either sliced tempeh or some form of seitan. Both are good options but tempeh can’t really produce thin slices and making seitan from scratch takes hours and if not prepared correctly, can get a little too chewy. So I prefer making my own plant-based pastrami using extra firm tofu that has been frozen the day before then thawed.

Why freeze tofu

This simple process creates a spongier and firmer texture. When tofu is frozen, its water content expands, and when it is thawed out, many new holes are created where water used to be. As a result, the tofu can absorb much more of the marinade and make it the best option for plant-based deli meats.

Freezing tofu

Tofu comes in various textures, soft or silky, firm, and extra firm. That’s because each type has its own use. For example, extra firm tofu wouldn’t work very well to make pudding or desserts because it is too dry. Silken tofu on the other is the perfect choice. There is another way to alter the texture of tofu by freezing it. All you need to do is to place the whole package in the freezer overnight. Once thawed out, open the package, pour out the water. Let the tofu drain in a sieve for a few minutes. Then wrap a clean paper towel around it and place a pot filled with cans or water for 10-15 minutes. This step is crucial because it will remove excess water and be ready to absorb the marinade. Be careful not to apply too much pressure as this could cause pieces to fall of. We will be making thin slices so it needs to be intact.

Pastrami Marinade

Tofu on its own is much like a sponge or a blank canvas that is waiting to be infused with our favorite flavors and spices. To make vegan pastrami, you need a good marinade that will transform bland into fabulous! As a good base had soy sauce, vegetable broth, vinegar or pickled juice, Dijon mustard, white miso paste for the umami, beet juice or powder and dry spices. Pastrami is quite salty so if you want to make it closer to the real thing, make sure to add a little extra salt. To beet or not to beet? Go for it, it will add the rich red color that will fool your guests. I have blended some cooked beets to the marinade but some beet powder will work just as well. If you don’t have any beet, add a few drops of red food dye.

How to cook the vegan pastrami

I experimented a few ways. Pan frying it yields a softer texture but you have to be really careful not to break the thin slices of seasoned tofu when flipping them. It also uses more oil.
Baking the slices (20 minutes at 425F, then flipping them and bake another 10 minutes) is much easier and result in slightly dryer slices that can be even crispy.
So you have options!

Vegan Thousand Island dressing

A pastrami or a Reuben sandwich needs a dressing that has the perfect blend of light tang and sweetness that pairs with the smokiness and saltiness of the pastrami. It is comes together very quickly. All you need is come vegan mayo, Ketchup, minced onion or sweet relish, lemon juice or white vinegar, and some salt.

What if I don’t like tofu?

Tempeh or seitan are other good alternatives. You can also use celeriac, a celery root that you first cook in a seasoned broth, then slice and marinate. No need to fry or bake!


Vegan Pastrami Sandwich

Vegan pastrami sandwich

This veganized beloved sandwich is high in protein, healthier and will fool everyone!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Entree
Cuisine American


  • grilled pan to perfectly grill the bread slices.
  • A large vegetable peeler or sharp knife to make thin deli tofu slices. 34


  • 1 14oz extra firm tofu frozen and thawed
  • slices of rye or sourdough bread
  • slices of vegan cheddar cheese (Chao, Vitopia, Daiya..)

Vegan Thousand Island dressing

  • 1 cup vegan mayo
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp sweet relish
  • 1 tsp lemon juice or white vinegar
  • pinch salt


  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth + 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp white vinegar or pickled juice
  • 3-4 Tbsp beet juice, powder or 2 drops of red food dye
  • 1-2 drops of liquid smoke
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • pinch of salt


  • 1 large carrot peeled and shredded
  • 3 cups thinly sliced cabbage
  • pinch of salt


Make the Thousand Island dressing

  • Whisk 1 cup vegan mayonnaise, 1/4 cup of ketchup, 2 tbsp sweet relish, 1 tsp white vinegar, 1 tsp salt. Set aside.

Prepare the marinade

  • In a blender, add 1/2 cup vegetable broth, 1 heaping tbsp dijon mustard, 1 tbsp white miso paste, 1-2 drops of liquid smoke, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 3-4 tbsp of beet juice, powder or 2-3 drops of red dye. Blend until smooth. Set aside.
  • Taste and adjust if needed.

Prepare the Tofu

  • Freeze a 14 oz package of extra firm tofu until hard (overnight). Next day, thaw it out.
  • Press to remove extra liquid using a clean kitchen towel.
    Frozen tofu
  • Using a wide peeler or a very sharp knife, make thin slices. You should be able to make 25-28 slices.
  • Pour some of the marinade in a rectangular dish and add a few slices, add more marinade, and continue until all the slices are covered. Refrigerate a few hours.
  • Place a silicon mat or some parchment paper on a baking sheet. Place each slice on the sheet leaving a little space in between each slice.
  • Bake at 425F for 20 minutes, then flip each slice and bake for another 8-10 minutes. Set aside.

Putting it together

  • Mix some of the thousand island dressing with the sliced cabbage and julienned carrot. Set aside.
  • Brush some vegan butter on one side of each slice of bread.
  • Spread some of the thousand island dressing and a little mustard on the other side.
  • Heat up the grill skillet on medium heat and place the slices with the butter side down.
  • Place 1 slice of vegan cheese, two layers of the pastrami slices, some of the cabbage and carrot slaw, and finish with another slice of cheese.
  • Top with the other slice. Use a spatula to press down the sandwich as it grills a few minutes on each side.
    Vegan Pastrami Sandwich
  • Repeat for the other sandwiches.
  • Serve with pickles or gherkins, chips or fries.
Keyword vegan sandwich

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