Pastrami vs. Salami (Similarities and Differences Explained)

Any charcuterie board worth eating will include plenty of meat slices along with other sumptuous goodies. If you’re hosting a party, perhaps you are unsure if it makes a difference whether you choose pastrami vs. salami for the meat selection on your food tray.

Pastrami and salami are both cured deli meats that are sometimes mistaken for the same protein. However, the way they are cured and served are entirely different, and they don’t have the same taste or texture.

In this article, I’ll compare pastrami and salami. Then, you can read about their ingredients, history, and how to prepare these popular meat choices.

pastrami vs salami

What Is Pastrami?

It’s helpful to know ingredients when choosing pastrami vs. salami.

Pastrami is a smoked and cured beef made from the animal’s belly or navel portion of the body. This is a thick, tough cut of meat that must be steamed to tenderize it properly.

Once tender, the pastrami is soaked in brine. Then, it’s richly flavored with a mixture of spices, including coriander, black pepper, mustard seed, and more.

Although a hot pastrami sandwich is a New York classic, its history began far from the streets of the Big Apple.

The first school of thought sets its origin in Romania as a pork and mutton meat predecessor called pastrami. Some believe pastrami is the descendent of the Turkish beef pastirma.

If the history of the food you’re serving is of concern or interest, you can research brand labels online. Or ask the origin of pastrami you buy at your deli counter or food vendor.

What Is Salami?

Salami is one of several cured types of meat called sausages.

It is usually made with ground pork seasoned with lots of ingredients, including herbs, garlic, and salt, to name a few.

The meat mixture is then placed into a natural or synthetic casing. Finally, the salami is hung in a cool, dark environment to dry and harden.

One interesting fact is that salami has a more impressive number of varieties worldwide.

In Italy, for example, there are at least 300 types of salami. However, salami is made in countries all across the globe from pork and other meat.

Interestingly, salami holds a special place in the heart of many Italians, much like apple pie and hot dogs in America.

The origins of salami are Rome and Greece, although Italians claim to produce the most delicious varieties.

When you buy salami from authentic vendors, they’re usually delighted to share information about their products if you ask.

What Are the Similarities Between Pastrami and Salami?

Each of these meats has a few commonalities to consider regarding food preservation.

Both pastrami and salami are cured (though salami can also be uncured), which is a process that preserves meat .

Salami, for instance, can remain unrefrigerated up to 40 days partly because of how it’s cured.

Salt, nitrates, smoke, and other substances are used to cure the meat. Pastrami and salami are also cured to prevent the growth of certain microorganisms.

Although pastrami should be refrigerated, it lasts longer because it has been cured, similar to salami.

The curing process results in another likeness between pastrami and salami.

Both have a high salt content, and the salty taste is one reason people enjoy these deli meats. However, when it comes to salt content, pastrami does have slightly less sodium.

Lastly, pastrami and salami can be prepared and served in much the same ways.

Neither meat requires cooking before eating. They can be eaten in their “raw” state because they’re cured.

Both sausages can be easily sliced and served on a board as a filling addition to fruit, cheese, and crackers.

What Are the Differences Between Pastrami and Salami?

In addition to the type of meat, the initial preparation process of pastrami vs. salami is quite different.

Pastrami is cured with brine, a liquid mixture usually containing salt, water, nitrates, and sugar. On the other hand, salami is usually dry-cured using salt and other dry ingredients.

Once prepared, the pastrami is smoked to help with flavor and to dry out the meat.

In contrast, many types of salami are air-dried for some time after being stuffed into a casing.

Pastrami also differs from salami in that it is commonly served piping hot on a sandwich with condiments.

On the other hand, numerous types of salami are best suited cold or at room temperature.

In addition, salami can be both sliced and cubed, unlike pastrami. Cubed salami can also be added to soups or salads.

Finally, the two types of meat generally taste different.

Pastrami has a smokey beef flavor. It tends to be spicy because of the black pepper and salt. Coriander adds a slight citrus tang to pastrami.

In comparison, the exact taste of salami is hard to define because there are so many varieties.

Overall, salami differs from pastrami because the fat content is higher if it is made with pork. Salami also tends to have a sweeter taste than pastrami.

Summary Table: Pastrami vs. Salami

 PastramiSalami
VarietiesSeveralMany
Common IngredientsBeef, black pepper, cloves, garlic, paprika, mustard seed, corianderPork, beef, or venison, sugar, garlic, vinegar, herbs
CuredYes (in brine)Yes (dry-cured)
SmokedYesSome varieties
ServedAppetizer, sandwichesAppetizer, in soup or salad
PreparationSliced, cold, room temperature, heatedSliced or cubed, cold, room temperature, heated

In Summary

Based upon this information, the choice of pastrami vs. salami depends on what works best for you and your guests.

Are you having a formal party with passed hors d’oeuvres? Consider neat slices of meat on your platter with gourmet cheeses and other luxurious edibles.

Is your function casual, like a game night? Pile up some pastrami sliders or salami and cheese cracker stacks for your guests to munch on.

Actually, there’s no pastrami vs. salami contest. Why not serve both? Your guests will appreciate that you decided to treat them to flavorful, meaty choices, whatever the occasion.