Turkey Pastrami


5 from 4 votes
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Looking for a lighter pastrami recipe? You’ll love homemade turkey pastrami! Turkey breasts are brined, then smoked low and slow to achieve tender, juicy meat every time.

Love smoked meats? Try my smoked ham, smoked corned beef, and smoked chicken breast.

turkey pastrami.

I love my homemade classic pastrami, but come the festive season, it’s all about turkey, and yes, that means turkey pastrami.

It’s one of my favorite homemade deli meat recipes. I turn to it when I’m craving an extra-delicious turkey sandwich, salad, or even pizza.

Table of Contents
  1. Why I love this recipe
  2. Ingredients needed
  3. How to make turkey pastrami
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. Storage instructions
  6. Frequently asked questions 
  7. More delicious ways to enjoy turkey
  8. Turkey Pastrami (Recipe Card)

Why I love this recipe

  • Healthier version of a classic. Turkey pastrami has fewer calories and less fat than beef pastrami, but it never lacks flavor! 
  • Easy to make. The simple step-by-step instructions guide you through making your own turkey cold cuts in no time. As much as I love spatchcock turkey or turkey tenderloin, this is so much easier.
  • Cost-conscious. Store-bought and pre-sliced deli meat is super expensive, but making your own costs a fraction of the price.
  • Perfect texture and flavor. The secret is to soak turkey breasts in brine for five days, then finish them in a smoker to achieve the best flavor and texture possible!
sliced turkey pastrami on plate.

Ingredients needed

  • Turkey breasts. Pick up some fresh, skinless, and boneless turkey breast with moderate fat marbling. Organic or free-range turkey will have the best taste and texture.  
  • Brown sugar. Wondering where store-bought turkey pastrami gets its gorgeous caramelized crust? It’s all thanks to brown sugar. I tried this recipe with dark brown and light brown sugar, and I recommend the latter- it doesn’t have a super evident sweetness, which is what you want with deli meat (unless it’s honey ham).
  • Pickling spice. This spice blend is usually made from mustard seeds, coriander seeds, dill seeds, black peppercorns, and bay leaves. Some recipes call for cloves or juniper berries, but I found it way too overpowering when I used it.
  • Curing salt. It contains sodium nitrite (sodium erythorbate/sodium phosphate), which preserves the meat. Kosher salt will also work, but do not use standard table salt- this is important!
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg. These warm, comforting spices pair perfectly with the juicy turkey.
  • Filtered water. For a pure, neutral base for the brine solution.

How to make turkey pastrami

I’ve included step-by-step photos below to make this recipe easy to follow at home. For the full printable recipe instructions and ingredient quantities, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

Step 1- Prep the brine: Heat the brine ingredients in a large pot or saucepan over medium heat. Once the sugar is fully dissolved, let it cool before placing it in the fridge to chill overnight. 

brine ingredients in pot.

Step 2- Brine the turkey breasts: Place the turkey breasts in a non-reactive bowl and pour the brine over top. Cover, then let them soak in the fridge.

turkey breasts in brine.

Step 3- Boil the turkey: Rinse the turkey breasts with water after brining them for 5 days. Place them in a pot, cover them with cold water, and heat to a boil. Once it boils, turn off the heat and let the turkey stand in the water for 20 minutes. 

Step 4- Smoke the turkey: Place the turkey breasts in a smoker and smoke until they’re cooked through. Cool completely before slicing and serving.

smoked turkey breasts on rack.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Use a meat thermometer to tell that the turkey breasts are smoked to perfection. Stick the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat and when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, it’s finished.
  • Add flavor to the brine by adding red pepper flakes, cayenne, or a dash of hot sauce or liquid smoke.
  • Chill before slicing. It helps to chill the pastrami in the fridge overnight before slicing. Also, use a sharp knife so you can get the thinnest slices possible.
  • Brine for longer. I recommend brining the turkey for 5 days in the fridge to achieve the most flavorful, moist, and tender results. If you are in a hurry to whip this up (I don’t blame you), brine the meat for at least 24 hours.
  • Use mild chips to smoke. Complement the turkey’s natural flavors by smoking the breasts with mild hardwood chips or pellets, like cherry, apple, or hickory.
  • Add a dry rub. If you’d like more spicy and smoky meat, rub the exterior of the turkey with some fresh black pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and a touch of brown sugar. If you want even more heat, add a dash of cayenne pepper.
  • Use skin-on turkey breast. If you choose to use these, remember to smoke the turkey breast skin-side down.

Storage instructions

To store: Store your homemade turkey pastrami in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

To freeze: Wrap the pastrami in a tight layer of plastic or foil, place it in a freezer-safe airtight container, and freeze for up to 3 months. 

turkey pastrami meat.

Frequently asked questions 

Do you have to brine the turkey breasts?

I highly recommend it! Brining the turkey not only infuses it with classic pastrami flavors but also helps tenderize and moisten the meat. Besides, nobody likes dry turkey!

More delicious ways to enjoy turkey

turkey pastrami recipe.

Turkey Pastrami

5 from 4 votes
Looking for a lighter pastrami recipe? You’ll love homemade turkey pastrami! Turkey breasts are brined, then smoked low and slow to achieve tender, juicy meat every time.
Servings: 12 servings
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 2 hours
Total: 2 hours 10 minutes


  • 2 1/4 pounds turkey breasts skinless and boneless


  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pickling spice *
  • 1 tablespoon curing salt
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 8 cups filtered water


  • Add the brine ingredients into a large stock pot. Place the brine over medium heat and cook until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Remove the brine from the stove and allow it to cool down to room temperature. Transfer the brine to a fridge and continue to chill overnight. 
  • Add the turkey breasts to a non-reactive bowl or container. Pour over the brine. Make sure the turkey is not overlapping too much. Add the plate on top of the turkey breasts so they are submerged completely under the brine. Add the plastic foil over the bowl or container and refrigerate the turkey for an hour or up to 5 days. 
  • Rinse the turkey breasts well and add them to a large pot.
  • Cover the turkey breasts with clean water and boil. Turn off the heat and allow the turkey to sit in the water for 20 minutes.
  • In the meantime, prepare your smoker and desired hardwood chips. Set the smoker to 275F. 
  • Place the turkey breasts onto the smoker and away from the fire. Smoke the breasts for 2-2 ½ hours or until the inner temperature reaches 170F. 
  • Allow the turkey to cool down completely before slicing.


TO STORE. Store your homemade turkey pastrami in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
TO FREEZE. Wrap the pastrami in a tight layer of plastic or foil, place it in a freezer-safe airtight container, and freeze for up to 3 months. 


Serving: 1servingCalories: 113kcalCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 18gFat: 2gSodium: 112mgPotassium: 230mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 25IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 33mgIron: 1mgNET CARBS: 7g
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Author: Arman Liew
Tried this recipe?Give us a shout at @thebigmansworld or tag #thebigmansworld!

Arman Liew

I’m a two time cookbook author, photographer, and writer, and passionate about creating easy and healthier recipes. I believe you don’t need to be experienced in the kitchen to make good food using simple ingredients that most importantly, taste delicious.

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