vegetarian reuben pizza

Vegetarian Reuben Pizza

Jump to the Vegetarian Reuben Pizza recipe or the step by step instructions.

vegetarian reuben pizza

I love a good sandwich: great bread, some spread that the bread soaks up, and a mix of vegetables to add both crunch and lush textures to complement whatever the protein is.

But it took me a long time to get with a Reuben. For years, I saw them made with pastrami, and I don’t do beef. Furthermore, not so crazy about sauerkraut. Then again, Swiss cheese with maybe smoked turkey on rye, with fresh cabbage stirred into 1000 Island dressing….it’s one of those combos that should be all wrong, but works together like a charm.

Recently, all recipes magazine featured a Reuben pizza. The crust is homemade and has rye flour, then you smear on some 1000 Island before you add corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss, and pickles. I loved the idea, just not a bread crust or the corned beef. But I thought, hmmm. I could change this into a plant-based meal that would make a groovy Meatless Monday dinner.

The particulars were pretty simple. I’ve made cauliflower pizza crust pretty often and at this point, actually prefer it to the bread version. I had some whole rye in the cupboard, boiled it up, and mixed it in. It added a nice earthy chewiness to the cauliflower, though it’s completely unnecessary. If you don’t have rye on hand, you can skip it.

cauliflower crust with added whole cooked rye

Then I marinated some tempeh and baked it in the oven. When the crust came out, I put on some homemade 1000 Island—if you have a store-bought one you like, by all means use it. Topped with the baked tempeh, plenty of sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese, I baked it about 7 minutes to get the cheese all melty. Out of the oven, I topped it with carrots and dill in place of the the pickles. After all, the sauerkraut is pickle-y enough for me, and the raw carrot added a really lovely sweet crunch.

all ingredients ready for this vegetarian reuben pizza

Like a lot of my recipes, it has a number of steps, but you can easily take shortcuts, like using store-bought dressing and already marinated tempeh or tofu (or replacing it with meat if that’s your thing). You can probably buy a cauliflower crust, or use a regular bread crust if you like. But here’s how you make the whole thing from scratch, which honestly doesn’t take much time at all.

Vegetarian Reuben Pizza: Step by Step

  • Marinate your tempeh: Mix soy sauce, sake, and rice vinegar together. Slice the tempeh into strips, toss in the marinade, and let them sit while you make the other stuff. An hour or so makes sure the tempeh has some flavor and doesn’t taste like, well, tempeh.
  • Make the 1000 Island Dressing: I used this recipe, more or less, combining mayo, ketchup, chopped pickles and a little pickle brine, with chopped onions and garlic. Dash in a little hot sauce if you like.
  • Make the crust: Mix your riced cauliflower with some bread crumbs, mustard, celery seeds, caraway seeds, and, if you have it handy, cooked whole rye.
cauliflower crust with whole cooked rye
  • Bake the tempeh. I give it about 20 minutes with a flip halfway through.
baked marinated tempeh for vegetarian reuben pizza
  • Bake the crust in the oven; this only takes about 15 minutes, so you can time this with the tempeh. Get out the sauerkraut, grate the Swiss, and grate or spiralize the carrot.
  • Top the baked crust with the tempeh. Strew on some sauerkraut, then top the whole thing with cheese. Bake until melty, about 6 or 7 minutes.
  • Top the finished pizza with raw carrot and chopped dill.
vegetarian reuben pizza

The Recipe

sesame zoodles

Sesame Zoodles with Chicken Meatballs

Jump right to the sesame zoodles recipe—it looks more complicated than it is because of the ingredients, relax—or the sesame zoodles steps, or just keep reading to find out how I got there.

sesame zoodles

A bizarre thing has happened to me. Me, carb lover extraordinaire, now sees a big bowl of noodles and thinks….shrug.

Maybe it’s aging. Maybe it’s not having my own kitchen for 2 months and eating out every damn day, and going at one point almost an entire week without, as Queen Victoria would say, A Successful Movement. Well, the movie version of her said that.

sesame zoodles help successful movements
I feel ya, Vic

Now meanwhile, what I missed the most in 8 weeks of traveling was having my own kitchen. We did not have an AirBnB this time, but stayed with a family to up the immersion level (we’ve just returned from 8 weeks studying Spanish in South America). But I don’t like cooking in someone else’s kitchen, using their invariably crappy knives and cutting boards, and sharing the not-so-spotless fridge and stovetop. So what I looked forward to more than anything was cooking.

Then again, I didn’t want to think very much. If you follow my instagram (and if you don’t, I’d be deeply grateful if you would: @nanlechou), you have seen me downright rhapsodic lately about Tieghan over at Half Baked Harvest. Tieghan is a wonderful cook and photographer, and she prints her weekly menus in a really delightful post called “Nine Favorite Things,” which is more like 50. So I’ve been making her stuff, mostly verbatim, except for this dish, because…well, it’s mostly noodles. I also wasn’t crazy about ground chicken, because I prefer meatballs to little floaty ground chicken crumbles.

But please, if you like, cook Tieghan’s version. Here’s the link to her recipe for Better than Take-out Szechuan Noodles.

Sesame Zoodles: The Adaptation

This was a super easy adapation. I kept Tieghan’s sesame oil, which is kind of genius; I also had plenty left over to roast some veggies the next day. You can see the sauce in the main pic above; I didn’t think to get a solo shot of it.

I made the zoodles and threw in a carrot.

You can buy these already spiraled, but wow, they’re kind of pricey. The spiralizer was a gift from my late and deeply missed brother-in-law, Larry Cobler, so when I cook with it I think of him and that is delightful.

I have been planning to do a meatball post forever, and finally, whoomp, here it is. For these, I used (of course) ground chicken, a mix of panko and uncooked oats for the bread, soaking those in a mix of about 1/1 ratio of soy sauce and sake. I also added a bunch of parsley and dill. Cilantro would have been awesome, but I didn’t have any, and lately I’m truly digging the subtlety of dill in combo with Asian flavors. There’s also a chopped up kale leaf and some cabbage in the veggie mix.

sesame zoodles

Finally I added an egg and some salt and mixed it all up.

sesame zoodles meatball mix

For the sauce, I liked Tieghan’s idea of saucing the noodles with a mix of honey, soy sauce, and vinegar. But for me, sesame noodles have to have some kind of nut butter, because that’s how the take-out versions are in New York, where I learned to love them. So, as you’ll see in the recipe below, I just sort of screwed around and did my own thing.

The result was super yummy, filling without feeling heavy, and—gasp—actually completely paleo other than the grains (which a die hard paleo could leave out or replace with cooked quinoa).

So here they are: Sesame Zoodles fit for any hungry, hungry hippo on your list. Enjoy with a little green tea or a light rosé. Spring DOES eventually show up. This may help you remember that.

sesame zoodles with chicken meatballs

Sesame Zoodles with Chicken Meatballs: The Recipe


Cauliflower Fried Rice

Skip directly to the Cauliflower Fried Rice recipe, or for loosey-goosey cooks, the step-by-step.

cauliflower-fried-rice
Cauliflower fried rice accompanies West Lake Fish,
a recipe I need to get up online because it’s really tasty.

I love rice: long grain, short, jasmine, sticky, wild (which isn’t really rice, btw). But I find I’m eating it less and less. Maybe it’s aging; despite my previous admission to loving carbs, I find I’m eating them less.

Now fried rice has long been a comfort food for me, using real leftover rice, and especially if I’m watching something on TV or a movie (and these days, is there a difference??) and somebody busts out the Chinese take-out. But because I eat less rice anyway, the chances of me having a leftover batch to fry up are close to zero. Cauliflower fried rice works as a natural, super-easy substitute.

But look: Cauliflower rice can easily taste like b.s. Real rice squashes under your teeth in a pleasant way. Cauliflower rice, particularly if you go too crazy with the food processor, gets mealy. I don’t buy the frozen version, because the freezing process plays havoc with the water content of foods. So something naturally prone to mealiness will only get more so.

The trick for me is to roast the coarse cauliflower rice ahead of time. Then, at the end, simply toss it with some veggies that you’ve sauteed while your “rice” roasts. Voila: Cauliflower rice with very little hands-on time.

Cauliflower Fried Rice: The Step by Step

First, heat your oven to 400º. While it preheats, chop up your cauliflower florets in a food processor. Before processing, cut the florets to be fairly  uniform size. Don’t overprocess so that they become crumbly or actual rice-sized if you want them to have some texture. Toss the “rice” in a bowl with some sesame oil, spread on a parchment covered sheet, and roast for about 20 minutes, until they get some color.

cauliflower-fried-rice

As the “rice” roasts, get your veggies ready: sliced scallions (keep the white and green parts separate), minced ginger and garlic, and julienned or chopped carrots, peppers, and snow peas. (Or other veggies you have in the fridge and want to use up; just be sure to cut fairly uniform shapes.) About 7-10 minutes before the cauliflower is finished roasting, heat your pan, then add oil. Peanut provides classic Chinese flavor, but a taste-free oil like canola or avocado also works nicely. (Don’t use olive.) Add the scallion whites, garlic,  ginger, and the julienned stuff. Add soy sauce and sake, which will bubble up and be all steamy and fragrant.

Right about the time you achieve maximum bright colored, still crisp sauteed veggies, your timer will ring. Dump the roasted rice right into the pan. Add chopped cilantro (the stems are really nice here; no need to separate them from the leaves if you don’t want to) and scallion greens.

You can top with toasted sesame seeds, peanuts, or cashews. Cauliflower fried rice makes a lovely vegan main, or a light, healthy side for the protein of your choice, particularly if you’ve done a classic Chinese-inspired cooking treatment (like this tea-smoked chicken, for instance). Below, note the radish and pea shoot salad on the side: just thinly sliced radish and pea shoots, no dressing, and you’re good to go. Enjoy.

Cauliflower Fried Rice: The Recipe

Tempeh Stir-Fry

There’s a reason I had to come up with a decent-tasting tempeh stir fry.

tempeh-stir-fry

Read about it, along with the step by step instructions, unless you want to just jump to the recipe. Also know that, if beef is your thing—or chicken or shrimp—this will work just fine.

I’ve been very open about my no-beef policy. But guess what picture stops my little heart every time I see it? (In a good way, mind you, not a CPR-requiring way.) Beef stir-fry. I see them all the time, the strips of meat looking all dark and salty next to bright green broccoli or asparagus and shocking red strips of bell pepper. And I think, hmmm, I want that. But….beef! Ick.

I’ve never been a huge burger fan, either, so this stir-fried beef visual craving is just plain weird.

(I’m not, by the way, going to try to convert any of you beef lovers out there. Truthfully, I don’t eat beef because the texture freaks me out, and I just don’t like how it tastes. BUT at a recent show at the California Academy of Sciences, this incredible museum in the middle of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, I saw the difference between the carbon footprint of a hamburger vs a turkey burger or veggie burger. Let’s just say I felt quite, quite smug and righteous, because that carbon footprint for one beef burger is Massive. Lessening your beef consumption really can make a huge positive difference to the planet. I mean, I believe the planet’s going to take care of itself; it’s just going to get pretty gnarly for us as a species to continue to live here, particularly with some of our more insane practices. One of which is destroying the rain forest—which we really require in order to breath—so MacDonald’s can make more money. And c’mon, those burgers are total crap, and also, how much money do those guys need? If you do eat beef, support a local ethical cattle farmer. They exist! That way, you help out a local farmer, which gets a big yay in my book, and you put higher quality fuel in your body. And if enough folks will make the switch, the rain forests and subsequently Planet Earth have a better shot at being healthy as well.)

Tempeh Stir-Fry: Why Tempeh?

According to many vegan cookbooks, the go-to alternative to beef is wheat gluten or seitan, which is pronounced very close to the name of the Great Deceiver Himself. Appropriate, because are you seriously going to chew on a big old piece of gluten? I mean, that just seems so, so wrong. Tofu I like, but it’s tofu. Nobody’s going to convince you it’s anything else, and I recognize that for most of the world, tofu is to them what beef is to me, i.e. a really bizarre texture and something most folks just don’t want to put in their mouths.

Tempeh Stir-Fry: The Marinade

So tempeh. Tempeh comes out of the package looking a bit weird and pebbly. You could just fry it, but you will probably be sad. Let’s admit that, in the flavor department, tempeh makes you wish for bland. Because bland is more interesting than tempeh. Here it is after marinating, and it STILL looks pretty boring.

tempeh stir-fry

But that marinade is the solution. And while I’m still experimenting, so far in my experience, only a soy-sauce based marinade does the trick. Tempeh needs the salt pretty seriously, or at least the salt flavor. A low sodium soy sauce will do the trick just fine. Give it at least four hours to soak, but for this recipe, I let it sit for 36 with no detriment.

My tempeh marinade was inspired by tempeh stir-fry

Last of all mix up a little sauce from sake. Yes, you can use cooking sherry or white wine if they’re what you have on hand. Sake, however, is my go to for cooking. For one thing, unlike wine, I’m not tempted to drink it. But that flavor I’m not crazy about in a glass is glorious in a saute pan: clean, bright, just a little sweet. Other sauce ingredients should include a little more soy—about 1 part to 2-3 parts sake—and a splash of rice vinegar, a pinch of sugar, and 4 parts broth or water. Carefully sprinkle in some cornstarch or potato starch, about a tablespoon for 1/4 cup of liquid, and whisk til smooth. This is how you get that syrupy finish that makes a classic Chinese stir-fry, well, classic. Make sure you have it made up ahead of time so you can just throw it in at the last minute.

Heat your pan, then your oil, and fry the tempeh first, about 4 minutes a side. Then remove it to a plate.

tempeh stir-fry

Add a little more oil—you really do need to be pretty generous with it if you don’t want stuff to stick. First add your minced garlic and ginger. Then sauté the veggies in the order of longest to shortest cooking time. Of this batch, eggplant cubes took the longest, then bell peppers, mushrooms, green beans, carrots, and scallions.

tempeh stir-fy

Give the starch/broth mix one last whisk, then pour it in. Steam will rise dramatically, so have a lid handy to capture it.

After a few minutes, remove the lid and mix in the cubed jicama and, if you like, chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of hemp hearts, sesame seeds, or even toasted nuts or seeds if you like. I put some noodles on the side, because I love them.

Enjoy with chopsticks or—sigh—if you must, a fork.

tempeh-stir-fry

Tempeh Stir Fry: The Recipe

best damn chicken title card

The Best Damn Chicken

As I recently noted in the recipe for Tea-Smoked Chicken, I want to like chicken. But most of the time…I just don’t. People always go on about how easy it is to cook, but they never mention the word “perfectly”—and for good reason. Chicken has a very small window of perfection. Overcook it the least bit, it’s dry and chewy. Undercook it and it’s not just repulsive, it’s dangerous. So this is why I’m excited about the best damn chicken. Ever. (I added that last part just to sound like all the other bloggers. You gotta do that single word period thing if you really want to play in the big leagues….) Here it is topping a salad (recipe coming soon!). Jump straight to the recipe for the best damn chicken or read my Fabulous Commentary and Step by Step.

First off, let’s address the whole meat thing. I’m not wild about the texture of chicken thighs, despite everyone insisting that they’re more flavorful. That flavor comes from extra fat, and that fat gives the meat a texture that I just find weird. As a child, the smell of roasting meat, particularly beef, which my mom cooked every freaking Sunday, used to make me gag. I still don’t eat mammals except for (forgive me) an occasional bit of bacon.

For the meat-squeamish, dark chicken meat—thighs, wings, drumsticks—just doesn’t cut it. Even when boneless, but especially when the bones are still in there. That whole gnawing-on-a-bone thing appears to be the height of primal ecstasy for some folks. For me, a medieval banquet sounds about as fun as living in medieval times. In other words, head lice, chastity belts (call me uncomfy!), and a lot more people who look like this…

princess bride boo lady than this:

princess bride buttercup

So right off the bat, you can bet that the best damn chicken is breast meat. Boneless and skinless. Yeah, I’m sort of like a picky 6-year-old here, and I am So OK With It.

Here’s how I prep it.

Best Damn Chicken: Cutting and Marinating

Best damn chicken starts with marinating boneless chicken breasts, because chicken breasts are hella bland. In order to expose as much surface as possible and, at the same time, make sure there are no disgusting tendon surprises in the meat, I cut the meat into about 2-3 inch pieces. The marinade needs salt due to the bland factor, and soy sauce functions beautifully in that role. There’s also some acid for tenderizing, via , and minced garlic and ginger for more flavor. If you were preparing this to go with Italian food, you could sub a super flavorful (read: not from Costco) broth for the soy sauce, and leave out the ginger in favor of some oregano. Let the chicken soak in that for at least half an hour; I like to do 3-4 hours myself.

best damn chicken marinade

(You could probably do it overnight in a pinch, though I haven’t tried it and can’t guarantee that the marinade won’t start to break down the texture. But given that it’s just a small amount of acid, I think you can get away with it.)

(Also? It is even harder to make this pretty than Chia Seed Pudding. I tried….)

Best Damn Chicken: Coating

First, heat your oven to 400º. Place a parchment lined rimmed dish or baking sheet in the oven to warm up. I like to put a little butter, say 2 tsp or so, on the sheet to melt.
While the oven preheats, mix up an egg in one bowl. Lift the chicken out of the marinade, then place it in the egg bowl and stir it around. Let it sit while you cover a plate in the flour of your choice; gluten-free will work just fine. Fish the pieces out of the egg one at a time with a fork; you’ll probably end up using your fingers at some point, but I’m just warning you it’s pretty messy. Put the egg-covered chicken piece in flour and turn it so that it’s lightly covered in flour. Some missing spots are ok, and it’s more of a dusting, not a dunk. Depending on how much you’re making, you might want to have a rack over a piece of parchment to hold the egged and floured chicken as it finishes.

best damn chicken coating

You could also shake 2 pieces at a time in a bag with flour; I just don’t know many people who keep paper bags around these days (not the small ones, like we used to use for lunch bags, which are kinda perfect for this).

Best Damn Chicken: Baking

Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven, and, if desired, add about a teaspoon or so of oil to the melted butter. You can either set the egged and floured pieces directly on the heated baking sheet, or you can just keep them on the rack, in which case there’s no need to have any fat on the baking sheet. But I find the fat adds a nice richness to the chicken. The rack method is not really going to yield a fried consistency, no matter what people tell you about oven fried chicken.
(BTW, I’m currently scouting for deals on an air fryer to see if they’re all they’re cracked up to be, but I have to say I’m skeptical that blowing all that hot air on food is really going to be good for it….)

Bake 10 minutes, flip the chicken, and it really only needs about another 3-4 minutes to be perfect. Add it to anything, especially a big salad or bowl. Or just dip it in ranch dressing. Thoroughly toothsome, to go slightly medieval on you.

best damn chicken baked

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Best Damn Chicken: The Recipe

Tea Smoked Chicken

Tea smoked chicken sounds like a pain in the ass. It isn’t. Super simple to make, it is seriously some of the most flavorful and tender chicken I’ve eaten. I’m not big on chicken because, I dunno, unless the texture is just right, it bugs me. Also, tendons equal a giant “ewww” in my book. So once again, this one does the trick, makes the house smell heavenly and stands in for all that rotisserie chicken called for in many, many ready-made magazine recipes that I run into. The recipe was inspired by and adapted from one in Nina Simonds’ 1999 cookbook, A Spoonful of Ginger.

tea smoked chicken

Faithful and beloved vegan and vegetarian readers, I do think this will work beautifully on tempeh as well. I mean to try it, but haven’t yet. If it works for you, please post a photo and tag me on Instagram or Twitter or Pinterest (@nanlechou). Or comment. Whatever, I love feedback.

Tea-smoked chicken (or tempeh) is about process, so I recommend you read the step by step, but as always, feel free to jump directly to the recipe.

Step 1: Prepare the marinade. Lately, I am considering a chicken marinade an essential, don’t-skip step. I’m not that crazy about chicken. It’s too easy to under or overcook it (unless you deep fry it, and homey don’t play that any more, alas. Deep-fried chicken completely rocks, but it’s way too messy and just not the pinnacle of health no matter how you slice it). Also, it’s hella bland. A marinade—with some soy, ginger, garlic, a teench of sugar, maybe some sake—gooses (ha!) the flavor up big time.

Step 2: While the meat marinates, which can be anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight, prepare the smoking mixture. First, line a pot with a tight fitting lid with foil. This is essential so you don’t burn your pot. Then, add about 2 parts sugar—coconut sugar is outstanding here, but brown will do—to 1 part tea. For one chicken breast, one tablespoon is a good part. Put that in the bottom of a pan with some chunks of citrus rind and some cinnamon, and you’re good to smoke. Break up some skewers—I keep some around for testing cakes, on the rare occasion that I make them—in half and make a little hashtag in the bottom of your pot.

tea smoked chicken smoking mixture

Step 3: Steam the marinated chicken til just tender—like so barely cooked through, you wouldn’t eat it unless you smoked it, which you’re about to do.

Step 4: Smoke the steamed chicken by putting it on top of the skewer hashtag. Then cover it with a foil protected lid. Turn the pot on to high heat; as soon as it starts smoking (and it will smell amazing), turn off the heat. The pot, and the chicken inside, will still smoke away.

Lengths of time for steaming and smoking depend on both the amount and type of chicken. Boneless or with bone? Thigh, breast, or whole megillah? So you might, in particular, want to smoke or steam a tad bit longer; Nina Simonds recommends 15 minutes smoking over high heat for 2 whole chicken breasts with bones, which is a lot o’ bird. The thing is, the chicken’s done from steaming and that initial blast of smoke, and by keeping it in the pot and not lifting the lid, it’s getting more smoky goodness and more done without getting dried out. But cooking’s always a little bit of an experiment. Your stove, your ingredients, your preferences are yours. Play with this til you’re happy with it and have the smoked chicken of your dreams on your plate.

tea smoked chicken

Steve seriously sort of freaked out about this, in a good way. Like me, chicken is about the last protein he wants to eat, but lately I’ve come around to it since I can get an ethically sourced version, and we really only have it once a week anyway, at most. Let me know if you agree, either in the comments or over on the old insta feed (@nanlechou).

I think I’m going to have to try the tea smoking on tofu and tempeh, as well, for a vegan version. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Enjoy!

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Tea Smoked Chicken