Pastrami sandwiches are a cherished classic, known for their hearty flavors and satisfying textures. One crucial component in perfecting the pastrami sandwich is selecting the ideal cheese. The right cheese can either complement the smoky intensity of the pastrami or provide a delightful contrast. Let’s explore some cheese options that can take your pastrami sandwich to the next level.

Swiss: Timeless Elegance

Swiss cheese is celebrated for its nutty flavor and smooth texture, punctuated by its iconic holes. Originating from Switzerland, this cheese undergoes a meticulous aging process in cool, humid caves, which develops its distinct flavor profile.

Flavor Profile of Swiss Cheese

Swiss cheese boasts a delicate balance of nuttiness and slight sweetness, derived from the quality milk used and the unique bacterial cultures involved in its fermentation. The aging process contributes to its complex flavors, making each bite a journey through creamy textures and subtle undertones.

Texture and Melting Qualities

Renowned for its excellent melting properties, Swiss cheese turns into a creamy blanket when heated, enveloping slices of warm pastrami without overpowering its robust flavor. The iconic holes, known as “eyes,” are a testament to its traditional production methods and add a visual appeal to any sandwich.

Culinary Versatility

Beyond its role in sandwiches, Swiss cheese pairs wonderfully with fruits, dark breads, and even chocolate in Swiss cuisine. Its mild yet distinct taste makes it a versatile option for those seeking a cheese that enhances rather than dominates the flavors of pastrami.

Cheese for Pastrami

Cheddar: Robust and Sharp

Cheddar cheese is known for its sharp, tangy flavor and smooth, firm texture. Originating from England but now produced worldwide, Cheddar undergoes a fermentation and aging process that varies in intensity and complexity.

Flavor Profile of Cheddar Cheese

Cheddar’s flavor ranges from mild to sharp, depending on its age. Younger Cheddars are mild and creamy, while older varieties develop a sharper, more complex taste with hints of nuttiness and even fruitiness.

Texture and Melting Qualities

Cheddar melts exceptionally well, forming a rich, gooey layer over pastrami when heated. Its firm texture adds a satisfying bite and contrasts nicely with the tender meat.

Culinary Versatility

Used widely in cooking and snacking, Cheddar is perfect for adding depth to sandwiches like pastrami. It pairs beautifully with pickles, mustard, and dark rye bread, enhancing the savory notes of the pastrami.

Provolone: Smooth and Mild

Provolone cheese originates from Southern Italy and is characterized by its smooth texture and mild, slightly tangy flavor. It is aged for different periods, resulting in variations in taste and texture.

Flavor Profile of Provolone Cheese

Provolone ranges from mild to sharp, with younger varieties offering a creamy, buttery taste and aged versions developing a sharper tanginess. It often has a slightly smoky undertone due to the aging process.

Texture and Melting Qualities

Provolone melts smoothly, forming a luscious layer that enhances the juiciness of pastrami. Its mild flavor complements the meat without overpowering it, making it a popular choice for deli sandwiches.

Culinary Versatility

Besides sandwiches, Provolone is excellent for melting on pizzas, adding to pasta dishes, or even enjoyed on its own with crusty bread and olives. Its versatility and smooth texture make it a go-to cheese for many pastrami lovers.

Pepper Jack: Spicy Kick

Pepper Jack cheese is a modern American cheese that combines Monterey Jack with spicy peppers such as jalapeños or habaneros. It offers a unique twist on traditional cheeses with its spicy kick.

Flavor Profile of Pepper Jack Cheese

Pepper Jack’s flavor profile includes the creamy, mild taste of Monterey Jack cheese infused with spicy peppers. The heat level can vary depending on the type and amount of peppers used.

Texture and Melting Qualities

Pepper Jack melts smoothly and evenly, spreading its creamy heat over pastrami. It adds a zesty kick to sandwiches, balancing the richness of the meat with a subtle heat that lingers pleasantly.

Culinary Versatility

Ideal for those who enjoy a bit of heat, Pepper Jack is perfect for sandwiches, burgers, and even melted on nachos. It pairs well with tangy sauces and crunchy vegetables, elevating the flavors of pastrami with every bite.

Gouda: Buttery Sweetness

Gouda cheese originates from the Netherlands and is renowned for its creamy texture and sweet, nutty flavor. It comes in various ages, each offering a unique taste experience.

Flavor Profile of Gouda Cheese

Young Gouda is mild and buttery, with a subtle sweetness that complements pastrami well. Aged Gouda develops deeper flavors of caramel and nuts, adding complexity to dishes.

Texture and Melting Qualities

Gouda melts smoothly, coating pastrami with its creamy texture and enhancing the sandwich’s richness. Its melt-in-your-mouth quality makes it a favorite for grilled sandwiches and hot dishes.

Culinary Versatility

Aside from sandwiches, Gouda is fantastic for cheese boards, pairing with fruits, and adding to salads or melted into soups. Its smoothness and sweet undertones make it a delightful accompaniment to pastrami’s robust flavors.


Each of these cheeses brings its own unique flavor, texture, and melting qualities to a pastrami sandwich, enhancing the overall taste experience. Whether you prefer the nutty sweetness of Swiss, the sharp tang of Cheddar, the creamy mildness of Provolone, the spicy kick of Pepper Jack, or the buttery sweetness of Gouda, your choice of cheese can elevate your pastrami sandwich to new heights of flavor. Experiment with different cheeses to discover your perfect pairing and enjoy the delicious journey of crafting the ultimate pastrami sandwich.