Mix up this simple homemade pastrami rub recipe to use as a dry rub on smoked corned beef brisket or to make smoked turkey pastrami and more!
If you love Jewish delis and a loaded up pastrami sandwich as much as I do, then you should try your hand at making your own homemade deli meats. This rub recipe is ideal to keep on hand for making your own smoked corned beef, this turkey pastrami recipe, or even on my pellet smoker brisket recipe. *
While you can often find dry rub blends in the store, I find that in most cases mixing your own is not only more affordable but incredibly easy if you have a few staple spices on hand and a solid spice grinder.
Pastrami spice rub is of course used in every smoked pastrami recipe but it can also be used on chicken, turkey breast, and even on a smoked tomahawk steak too!
Why This Recipe Works:
This rub is really all about the combination of flavors used to enhance large cuts of beef (like brisket) and how it’s combined with smoking the meat on the grill. There are two very notable flavors in this dry rub recipe; coriander seeds and juniper berries.
Juniper Berries: The distinctive taste of juniper berries is due to the presence of essential oils and resins that give the berries their characteristic aroma and flavor. These oils and resins have a complex flavor profile that includes notes of pine, citrus, and earthy sweetness, which complement the other flavors in the pastrami spice blend.
Coriander: While coriander is derived from the same source as cilantro, it doesn’t have the same flavor profile. Like the juniper berries, coriander has a citrusy, earthy, and slightly floral flavor to it. These two spices really give pastrami rubs their signature flavor in my opinion.
- Spice Grinder (or a small coffee grinder)
- Medium Skillet
- Measuring Spoons
- Small Bowl
- Small Jar or Airtight Container (for storing)
- Paper Towels (wiping out the spice grinder)
What Is Pastrami Rub Made Of?
- Juniper Berries (I have purchased these in bulk online. They may be harder to find in a standard grocery store)
- Black Peppercorns (whole peppercorns ground up will give you the correct texture I recommend for this spice blend)
- Coriander Seeds (you can substitute ground coriander if that is all you have)
- Yellow Mustard Seeds (ground mustard can be substituted, but whole seeds are recommended)
- Smoky Paprika
- Garlic Powder
- Dark Brown Sugar
Chef’s Tip: Did you notice that kosher salt isn’t listed as an ingredient? It’s because when pastrami rub is used on cured meat (like corned beef), the meat has already taken on a lot of salt from the brining process. Adding salt to the rub then is usually not necessary, and in fact, would probably ruin the outcome of your meat. If you aren’t planning on using this to make traditional smoked pastrami, add salt as needed to your protein.
How To Make Your Own Pastrami Dry Spice Rub:
This is a simple two-step process for making your own pastrami rub; toasting and grinding.
Step One: Toasting–
Toasting is often done with dry spices to help activate the aromatics. I recommend toasting the juniper berries, coriander seeds, and yellow mustard seeds only. Place them into a small pan over low heat and move them around frequently so they do not burn.
Let them lightly toast and become aromatic before removing them from the heat. Do not toast the black peppercorns as it will make them too bitter. Let the dried spices rest until they hit room temperature.
Step Two: Grinding–
Grinding is necessary for this recipe to break up the dried spices. I recommend grinding the toasted seeds first (without the peppercorns) because they will be ground much finer.
Then grind the black peppercorns so they are broken up but still fairly coarse. Then combine all the dry spices and the brown sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine.
Storing (the unofficial third step–
Store the spice mixture in a glass jar or airtight container to prevent moisture from hitting the spices and causing them to clump together. The spice rub will keep for a long time when stored properly!
What Do You Use Pastrami Rub On?
Pastrami rub is typically used on beef brisket, which is a tough cut of meat that benefits from a long, slow cooking process. However, you can also use pastrami rub on other types of red meats, such as smoked beef ribs (beef plate or short ribs), smoked beef shank, smoked pork shoulder cut, or even turkey breast. The key is to choose a cut of meat that can benefit from the flavors in the pastrami rub and can stand up to the long cooking process.
If you already have deli pastrami on hand; use this spice rub to enhance the sandwich further! Layer up your rye bread with mayo and mustard and sprinkle some of the pastrami rub onto the condiments. Pile the bread high with pastrami slices, swiss cheese, and shredded iceberg lettuce, and dig in!
More Homemade Rub Recipes To Try:
Homemade Pastrami Rub Recipe
- 1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
- 3 tbsp. Black Peppercorns
- 4 tbsp. Juniper Berries
- 4 tbsp. Corianader Seeds
- 2 tbsp. Mustard Seed
- 2 tbsp. Smoky Paprika
- 3 tbsp. Garlic Powder
- Please Note- This recipe doesn't include salt because homemade pastrami is cured and is very salty. If using for other recipes, add kosher salt as needed to season.
- In a medium skillet over medium low heat, add the juniper berries, coriander seed and mustard seeds to the pan.
- Move the seeds around frequently to lightly toast until aromatic and then remove the pan from the heat and allow the spices to cool to room temperature. Do not let them burn or it will make the rub bittter.
- To a spice grinder, grind the toasted seeds first (omitting the black peppercorns) into a fairly fine mixture and add to a small bowl.
- Next, grind the black peppercorns so they are closer to a coarse grind and add to the bowl.
- Mix in the brown sugar, paprika, and garlic powder to the other spices until a rub is fully formed and combined.
- Use on smoked corned beef brisket or other meats as desired and store the remaining pastrami rub in a glass jar or airtight container.