Healthier Diner Fare

Raise your hand if you’re a diner fan! Growing up in NJ, where the best diners in the world are, I ate at these cozy, sometimes greasy establishment for breakfast, lunch, and late-night throughout my entire life. When I visit home, I don’t get to diners often enough, but I often crave favorite diner dishes like chocolate chip pancakes, iceberg salads with homemade dressings, and Reuben and Rachel sandwiches.

I don’t crave the not-so-healthy, salty corned beef that results in feeling not-so-great. Enter the Tofu Reuben. Sure, sandwich purists will laugh at this one, but our dinner last night was one to remember. It gave me the same flavors and textures of a traditional comfort food in a slightly healthier version. Served up with mixed greens and a light, homemade blue cheese dressing, it was a perfect meal. All it needed was a big slice of pie from a rotating dessert display.



1 block of extra firm tofu, liquid pressed out

1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce

2 cups of red cabbage, shredded

1/2 cup rice vinegar

4 pieces whole grain bread

thinly sliced Swiss cheese, as much as you’d like to melt over your Reuben

1 cup Russian dressing

The magic of this recipe starts with tofu that’s been pressed and drained, sliced into thin slices, and marinated overnight in Worcestershire sauce. When ready to get started on the sandwiches, get a nonstick pan nice and hot, and use tongs to place tofu slices in the pan. You’ll want to hear a nice sizzle.

Let the tofu sit perfectly still on high heat for a few minutes before flipping. The outside should have a nice crust. Once both sides have a nice sear on them, pour remaining Worcestershire over and let it cook down.

marinated tofu

While your tofu is sizzling, mix up the cabbage and vinegar and simmer on low until it cooks down. It will be tangy and vibrant with a little bit of crunch.

Before you’re ready to assemble your healthy Reuben sandwiches, you’ll want to make sure the bread is nicely toasted so it doesn’t get soggy. Either  a toaster or oven works perfectly. I let my bread toast up at 375 while I prepped everything else.

pickled cabbage

The last step is building your sandwiches, tofu, cabbage, Russian dressing, and Swiss cheese slices. I popped these in the oven at 375 for about eight minutes. Swiss cheese melts quickly!

healthier Reuben sandwich

While the sandwiches were baking, I made a delicious, homemade blue cheese just by mixing up buttermilk, Greek yogurt, blue cheese crumbles, garlic powder, and salt. This definitely rivaled any restaurant dressing I have had recently and made for a light topping for fresh mixed greens.

homemade blue cheese dressing

Our Reuben sandwiches were out-of-this world, crazy good. We definitely didn’t miss the meat because all of the flavors were there, and these sandwiches were very filling.

Do you have a favorite diner food?

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Tags: diner, homemade, recipe, salad, sandwiches, tofu, Vegetarian

  1. Erica @ In and Around Town’s avatar

    I am so impressed that you turned the classic Ruben into a delicious tofu dish! well done!


  2. Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic’s avatar

    Tofu reuben sounds delicious!! I love pancakes at diners and also a good grilled cheese.


  3. Michelle Collins’s avatar

    What a great idea! I went to Quinnipiac University, so a lot of my college friends are from NJ. Every time I go to visit them, I convince them to take me to a diner at least once during my visit. ;)


  4. Lin’s avatar

    Jon misses the diners in Jersey! (Although I’ve yet to go to one, this needs to be rectified on next trip!) Your sandwich is very impressive, and I’ll have to give that blue cheese dressing a try, yum!


  5. Megan’s avatar

    I love diners. My diner food was always gravy fries!


  6. Colleen @ Culinary Colleen’s avatar

    I love this idea! Oddly enough, my dinner tonight featured tofu and cabbage. I wish I had seen this!


  7. Terri’s avatar

    That salad looks awesome! Not sure about the tofu (sorry!), bu recently had an awesome rubin dip at a party, served with small pieces of rye…yummo!!

    And nothing beats an occasional meal at a diner! Breakfast all day is the best!!


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