The Best Hot Pastrami Sandwich

There’s no magic to making the best hot pastrami sandwich, just technique and quality ingredients!  This is my spin on the classic New York deli sandwich – it’s quick, easy, loaded with shaved hot pastrami, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and creamy Provolone cheese.

And if you don’t want sauerkraut or cheese on your sandwich, then omit it. 

And when you heat this baby up, it’s even better!

Sandwich on wooden platter.

Why this recipe works

This easy hot pastrami sandwich recipe will put you in a New York state of mind.

Granted, there are a million versions of the classic hot pastrami sandwich and some readers will insist an authentic pastrami sandwich has no cheese. To each his own, I say.

Katz’s deli will put whatever you want on your pastrami sandwich, so make yours the way you prefer! I like mine with cheese. If you don’t want cheese on yours, don’t add it. 

  • Quick and easy – ready in minutes
  • High quality ingredients – shaved Boar’s Head pastrami, Provolone cheese, fresh sauerkraut and Ken’s Thousand Island dressing 
  • Filling & Flavorful – the salty pastrami works great with the sweet dressing and tangy sauerkraut

Hot Pastrami and Reuben sandwiches are staple items you’ll find in your local deli or Kosher delicatessens but they’re actually not Kosher when they include meat and cheese together. 

You’ll also find the hot pastrami sandwich with sauerkraut a number one seller at the iconic Katz’s deli on the lower east side of Manhattan in New York City.

Here’s what you’ll need

Sure anybody can throw some meat on bread and call it a good sandwich, but for a GREAT hot pastrami sandwich, you’ll want to get high-quality ingredients.

Ingredients for Hot Pastrami Sandwich on round wooden tray.

Pastrami: The best hot pastrami sandwich starts with a high quality meat. No packaged meats, here, you’re gonna want to get a high-quality pastrami, preferably homemade from your local deli.

If you can’t find fresh made pastrami, use Boar’s Head from the deli. If you want a leaner sandwich, turkey pastrami is equally good.

Bread: A good quality bread is also important in making a perfect sammy! Traditional sandwiches are served with pastrami on rye. You can use a soft sweet Brioche bun, regular or seed-topped hamburger buns, or a good Jewish rye bread – any of these will work! I like to use the onion buns from the deli-they hold up well and have a nice flavor!

Cheese: Traditional hot pastrami sandwiches are typically not served with cheese, however I like cheese on mine. I use sliced Provolone cheese from the deli at the grocery store.

If you can’t find Provolone you can substitute with another mild white cheese like Swiss cheese or Mozzarella cheese. Or have no cheese at all. Your call.

Sauerkraut: Invest in a good sauerkraut from the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Canned sauerkraut will work in a pinch, but the refrigerated ones are more crispy and flavorful. If you don’t like sauerkraut, omit it.

Thousand Island dressing: Traditional versions of this classic New York pastrami sandwich usually use mustard or have a homemade dressing, which is similar to a thousand island dressing. While homemade thousand island dressing is best, you’ll find Ken’s Thousand Island dressing works well to slather on your pastrami and sauerkraut sandwich.

(I’ve seen some hot pastrami reuben sandwich recipes that use Russian dressing, but I’ve personally never encountered this combination in any local deli.)

Some hot pastrami recipes use Dijon mustard, deli mustard or stone ground mustard, but there’s definitely no mayonnaise on a truly authentic deli pastrami sandwich.

Caraway seeds: Caraway seeds are found in the spice section of the grocer and are the secret ingredient if you’re using sauerkraut on your sandwichLightly toasted caraway seeds give the sauerkraut a delicious hint of savory flavor which pairs beautifully with the salty meat and sweet, tangy 1000 Island dressing. 

How to make the best hot pastrami sandwich

The secret for making the best hot pastrami sandwich is in the methodology of putting the sandwich together. Sure, you can stack the ingredients on bread and heat it, but some ingredients need to be nurtured. And for a truly classic sandwich, you’ll want to use a little sauerkraut between the pieces of bread!

Drain the sauerkraut and set aside; heat oven to 350°F for warming the bread (optional, but highly recommended)

In a large nonstick skillet on medium heat, add the drained sauerkraut with a sprinkle of caraway seeds; let this cook for 3-4 minutes- just enough for the seeds to soften) then, use a spatula or wooden spoon and move these ingredients to one side of the pan

Add shredded pastrami to the other side of the large skillet and let it warm a bit; meanwhile, place a slice of cheese (optional) on the slices of rye bread (or whatever bread you’re using)

Pastrami and sauerkraut in non stick skillet.

Place the slices of bread on a baking sheet (with or without cheese) and place in a preheated oven (use the rack in the middle position) until either the cheese melts or the edges of the bread are a nice golden brown. (Some folks like to butter their bread before warming it – your call.)

Melted provolone cheese on round bread buns.

Remove warm bread from oven, place pastrami on the bottom bun, then add a big scoop of warm sauerkraut, then drizzle with Thousand Island dressing and place the top bun on top. 

Hot pastrami sandwich on wooden plate.

Recipe Tips

Use a non-stick skillet to heat the sauerkraut, caraway seeds and pastrami. If you don’t have a non-stick skillet, add a tablespoon of butter to the pan when you heat the sauerkraut and caraway seeds

For the best sandwich, use high quality ingredients; if you bought sliced pastrami, I recommend you place all the slices on a cutting board and rough chop it until it is shredded pastrami

If you want a flat pastrami sandwich, use a thin bread and place it in a panini maker or press the sandwich down with a spatula while its in a hot skillet (like you do when you make a grilled cheese sandwich)

Some folks like buttered bread – your call

The sauerkraut goes a long way, so just use a few ounces sauerkraut per sandwich

Recipe FAQ

What’s the difference between Hot Pastrami and Corned Beef?

The primary difference between the two is the type of meat used for the sandwich. 

While both are made with salty cured  meats, Reuben sandwiches are typically made with corned beef (which is boiled), and pastrami sandwiches are made with smoked pastrami, often coated with ground black pepper and spices. 

classic Reuben sandwich is made with corned beef

What’s the best bread for a hot pastrami sandwich?

Most pastrami sandwiches are served on rye bread slices or marble rye bread, but you can certainly use the bread of your choice.

What kind of cheese goes best on a pastrami sandwich?

A traditional pastrami sandwich doesn’t usually have cheese on it; however, a mild white cheese (either provolone or Swiss cheese) add a nice flavor if you’re so inclined

Should a pastrami sandwich be served hot or cold?

Serve pastrami sandwiches hot or cold, either way is fine, however, the pastrami has more flavor when it’s slightly warm or served at room temperature.

Serving suggestions

Typically, you’ll find this classic sandwich served crisp, salty potato chips, Cornichon pickles, or kosher dill pickles

The saltiness of the chips and pastrami are a perfect balance of flavor with the tart sauerkraut and tangy thousand island dressing

Some folks like sliced onions on their sammy, where others prefer a crisp and creamy coleslaw – the whole thing is that you make it the way you like it!

Turn a hot pastrami sandwich into a dinner or lunch entree with the addition of a side of homemade potato salad, egg salad or a cup of your favorite soup!

Serve mini-hot pastrami sliders on your charcuterie board at your next party!

Don’t forget to serve a nice slice of cheesecake to follow up with this big sandwich!

Hot pastrami sandwich on wooden plate.

So the next time your in “a New York state of mind” and can’t get to the infamous Katz’s New York deli, make the best hot pastrami sandwich at home and enjoy!

♥ If you make this recipe, please leave a comment and rating! I love to hear from you!

Hot pastrami sandwich on wooden plate.

Hot Pastrami Sandwich

Hot pastrami, caraway-seasoned sauerkraut, creamy Provolone cheese with a tangy dressing makes the perfect sandwich! 
5 from 12 votes
Print Rate
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Snack
Cuisine: American, International
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 2 sandwiches
Author: Anecia Hero


  • 4 oz. pastrami shaved, beef or turkey pastrami
  • 4 oz. sauerkraut drained
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 2 oz. Thousand Island salad dressing
  • 6 oz. Provolone cheese thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter (See Recipe Notes)
  • Bread: Jewish rye bread, artisan bread or Brioche buns


  •  Preheat oven to 350°F to melt cheese on bread (optional, but recommended)
  • Cut buns in half and drain sauerkraut; set aside
    Bread: Jewish rye bread, artisan bread or Brioche buns, 4 oz. sauerkraut
  • In a large non-stick skillet, on medium low heat, add drained sauerkraut and caraway seeds; cook 3-5 minutes or until seeds are soft
    4 oz. sauerkraut, 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • Once the caraway seeds are soft, move the sauerkraut to one side of the skillet
  • Add pastrami to the other side of the skillet;
    4 oz. pastrami
  • While the pastrami is heating, place a slice of cheese on each piece of bread (you'll put a piece of cheese on the top AND bottom bun)
    6 oz. Provolone cheese
  • Place cheese topped buns or bread on a baking sheet in a single layer (you don't need parchment, foil or oil on the pan); bake on middle rack just until the cheese begins to melt; remove from oven and assemble sandwich

Assemble the Hot Pastrami sandwich

  • On the botttom bun, add a scoop of warm pastrami; then add a scoop of warm sauerkraut; drizzle that with thousand island dressing and place the top bun on top!
    2 oz. Thousand Island


If you’re not using a non-stick skillet, add a tablespoon of butter to the pan when you saute the sauerkraut and caraway seeds

Nutrition Estimate

Serving: 1sandwichCalories: 889kcalCarbohydrates: 49gProtein: 44gFat: 59gSaturated Fat: 30gCholesterol: 251mgSodium: 2371mgPotassium: 414mgFiber: 3gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 1703IUVitamin C: 29mgCalcium: 734mgIron: 5mg
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  1. 5 stars
    You have a great recipe for sure. I love boar’s Head pastrami. Just got some tonight. I’m using hoagie rolls and provolone cheese pf course. Not using the sauerkraut though. One thing that I do which definitely ups the game is to first soak the pastrami in a pot of steaming hot au jus.

  2. Boars Head? C’mon, son. Buy a great pastrami from your local butcher. To hell with corporate America. But pastrami is a great deli meat

    1. You’re quite the legend in your own mind snob, Dennis. Just because of you, I’ll make sure to get Boars Head.