Perfect Pairings: Discover the Best Accompaniments for a Pastrami Sandwich

What complements a pastrami sandwich?

Pastrami sandwiches are a beloved classic, known for their flavorful and tender slices of smoked meat. While the star of the sandwich is undoubtedly the pastrami itself, there are several foods and condiments that perfectly complement its rich and savory flavor. In this article, we will explore the best pairings for pastrami sandwiches, including side dishes, cheeses, condiments, and beverages.

Understanding Pastrami

Before we delve into the perfect accompaniments for a pastrami sandwich, it’s important to understand what pastrami is. Pastrami is a type of deli meat made from beef that has been cured, seasoned with various spices and herbs, and then smoked. The smoking process imparts a unique flavor to the meat, making it reminiscent of roast beef with a smoky twist. Pastrami is often characterized by its spiciness, with black pepper being a prominent ingredient in the spice rub. In addition, cilantro adds a refreshing citrus note to the meat, while other spices and herbs add additional layers of flavor.

Pairings for Traditional Pastrami Sandwiches

The classic pastrami sandwich consists of two slices of rye bread, slices of pastrami, and spicy mustard. This simple yet delicious combination allows the flavor of pastrami to shine. Many variations of pastrami sandwiches have been inspired by this timeless classic.

Side Dishes

When it comes to choosing side dishes for pastrami sandwiches, there are several options that perfectly complement the flavors and textures of the meat.

  1. Pickles: Pickles are a popular choice and provide a salty and tart contrast to the rich and savory pastrami. Their crunch and refreshing flavor add a delightful element to the sandwich.
  2. Coleslaw: A tangy, crunchy coleslaw made from shredded cabbage adds a light and refreshing component to the sandwich. Avoid mayonnaise-based dressings to keep it light and fresh.
  3. Sauerkraut: Finely shredded lacto-fermented cabbage, known as sauerkraut, is often used in pastrami sandwiches. Its slightly tart flavor and softer texture balance the richness of the meat.
  4. Potatoes: Fried or roasted potatoes, as well as potato chips, are a satisfying and savory accompaniment to pastrami sandwiches. For a healthier option, try a simple potato salad.
  5. Cream Soups: Cream soups, such as cream of potato, broccoli or mushroom, are a hearty accompaniment for those with larger appetites. The creamy texture and flavors of the soup complement the sturdiness of the pastrami.
  6. Green Salad: A light and fresh green salad can be an excellent choice, especially for those who find pastrami sandwiches satisfying. The crispness of the lettuce provides a refreshing contrast to the savory meat.

Cheese Options

If you prefer a grilled pastrami sandwich, there are several cheese options that melt beautifully and enhance the overall flavor.

  1. Swiss Cheese: Swiss cheese pairs exceptionally well with pastrami. Its nutty and slightly sweet flavor complements the smokiness of the meat.
  2. Cheddar Cheese: Cheddar cheese adds a rich and tangy note to the sandwich, enhancing the depth of flavor.
  3. Jarlsberg Cheese: Jarlsberg cheese has a mild and slightly nutty flavor, making it a versatile choice for pairing with pastrami.
  4. Havarti Cheese: Havarti cheese is creamy and buttery, providing a velvety texture and mild flavor that harmonizes with smoky pastrami.
  5. Provolone Cheese: Provolone cheese melts easily and has a mild, slightly tangy flavor, making it a popular choice for grilled pastrami sandwiches.


Condiments play a crucial role in enhancing the flavor of a pastrami sandwich. Here are some popular condiments that enhance the flavor of pastrami:

  1. Mustard: Mustard is an essential condiment for pastrami sandwiches. Spicy brown mustard adds a tangy and slightly spicy kick, while stone-ground mustard offers a range of flavors from sweet to hot.
  2. Russian Dressing: Russian dressing is often used in a popular variation of the pastrami sandwich called the Reuben. It has a tangy flavor and is made with a combination of mayonnaise, ketchup or chili sauce, horseradish, chives, peppers and various spices.
  3. Horseradish sauce: Horseradish sauce provides a pungent and tangy flavor that complements the smokiness of pastrami. Mixed with sour cream, mayonnaise, and other ingredients, it is the perfect condiment for pastrami sandwiches.
  4. Thousand Island Dressing: Thousand Island Dressing, with its creamy and tangy flavor profile, adds a delightful twist to a pastrami sandwich. It typically contains mayonnaise, ketchup, sweet pickle relish and finely chopped onions for a harmonious balance of flavors.
  5. Mayonnaise: Although not as traditional as mustard or Russian dressing, mayonnaise can add a creamy and smooth element to the sandwich. It provides a milder taste and helps bind the ingredients together.


To complete the pastrami sandwich experience, consider pairing it with a refreshing beverage that complements the flavors and textures.

  1. Soft drinks: Classic choices like cola or root beer provide a bubbly and sweet contrast to the savory pastrami. The effervescence helps cleanse the palate between bites.
  2. Iced Tea: A glass of iced tea, sweetened or unsweetened, offers a cool and soothing accompaniment to the robust flavors of pastrami.
  3. Craft Beer: For beer lovers, a flavorful craft beer can be an excellent choice. Opt for an amber ale, IPA, or a malty beer that can stand up to the boldness of pastrami.
  4. Red Wine: If you prefer wine, a medium-bodied red wine such as Merlot or Zinfandel can complement the richness of pastrami. The fruity and slightly tannic characteristics of these wines pair well with the meat.
  5. Sparkling water: For a nonalcoholic and refreshing option, sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon or lime provides a crisp and palate-cleansing effect.

Bottom line

When it comes to enhancing a pastrami sandwich, there are numerous options to consider. From the choice of garnish to the selection of cheese and condiments, each element contributes to the overall flavor profile and enjoyment of the sandwich. The key is to balance sweet and sour flavors, add crunch and bite, and enhance the smoky richness of the pastrami. Whether you prefer pickles and cole slaw, Swiss cheese and mustard, or a refreshing glass of iced tea, the perfect accompaniment to a pastrami sandwich is sure to enhance your dining experience.


Are there vegetarian options that go well with a pastrami sandwich?

Yes, there are vegetarian options that can enhance a pastrami sandwich. Consider adding grilled or roasted vegetables such as peppers, onions, or eggplant for added flavor and texture. You can also try using vegetarian deli slices made from plant-based proteins as a substitute for pastrami.

Can I use different types of bread for my pastrami sandwich?

Absolutely! While rye bread is the traditional choice for a pastrami sandwich, you can experiment with different types of bread to suit your preferences. Some popular alternatives include sourdough, ciabatta, or even a crusty baguette. The choice of bread can add its own unique flavor and texture to the sandwich.

Can I freeze pastrami for future use?

Yes, you can freeze pastrami for later use. Wrap slices of pastrami tightly in plastic wrap or in airtight freezer bags to prevent freezer burn. When ready to eat, thaw the pastrami overnight in the refrigerator and enjoy in your sandwich or other dishes.

What are some creative takes on a pastrami sandwich?

There are several creative variations of a pastrami sandwich to try. One popular option is the Reuben sandwich, which includes pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing on rye bread. Another option is the Pastrami Melt, where pastrami is topped with melted cheese, grilled onions, and served on toasted bread. Feel free to experiment with different ingredients and condiments to create your own unique take on the classic pastrami sandwich.

Are there any health-conscious options to consider when enjoying a pastrami sandwich?

If you’re looking for a healthier alternative, you can make a few adjustments to your pastrami sandwich. Opt for whole-grain or whole-wheat bread instead of white bread for more fiber and nutrients. You can also choose leaner cuts of pastrami or trim off any excess fat. In addition, consider using low-fat or light versions of condiments like mayonnaise or dressings, and load up on fresh vegetables to add more nutritional value to your sandwich.

Can I enjoy a pastrami sandwich if I have dietary restrictions?

Yes, there are options for people with dietary restrictions. For those on a gluten-free diet, gluten-free bread or wraps can be used in place of traditional bread. For those who are lactose-intolerant or dairy-free, there are dairy-free cheese alternatives that can be used in the sandwich. If you have specific dietary restrictions or preferences, it’s always a good idea to check the labels of condiments and ingredients to make sure they meet your dietary needs.