These pastrami burgers with Russian dressing are a jazzed-up version of the classic cheeseburger with the addition of chopped pastrami to the patty and a spicy Russian dressing that stands in for ketchup and mayo.
These pastrami burgers with Russian dressing nail a make-at-home version of your fave diner-style burger but with the added smokiness from a little chopped pastrami mixed in with the beef. (Brilliant, right?!) And, natch, with all the fixings that make a burger so satisfying.–Angie Zoobkoff
☞ Table of Contents
Pastrami Burger FAQs
Can I use bottled Russian dressing instead of the homemade version in the recipe?
You can and we won’t judge because we all need shortcuts sometimes BUT we highly recommend making these burgers again (and again and again) as instructed below, because this dressing really, really shines and perfectly compliments the other ingredients.
What are bread and butter pickles?
You may know them as sweet and sour pickles. As far as pickles go, they’re on the sweeter end of the pickle scale – but not quite to the level of a sweet pickle or gherkin.
Pastrami Burgers with Russian Dressing
For the Russian dressing
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 1/2 tablespoons grated yellow onion (use the small holes of a box grater)
- 1 tablespoons pickle relish
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon store-bought or homemade Sriracha sauce
- Pinch of garlic powder
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of salt (optional)
For the pastrami burgers
- 4 ounces pastrami
- 1 pound 80/20 ground beef
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 4 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or 2 1/2 teaspoons Morton kosher salt)
- 4 slices American cheese (or Cheddar, if you must)
- 4 store-bought or homemade hamburger buns
- 16 store-bought or homemade bread and butter pickles
- 1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
- 2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
- Full sour dill pickle spears for serving
Make the Russian dressing
- In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, ketchup, onion, relish, Worcestershire, sriracha, garlic powder, and a few grinds of pepper and, if desired, a pinch of salt until well combined. You can store, covered, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Make the pastrami burgers
- Finely chop the pastrami or pulse quickly with a food processor, taking care not to overprocess it as this will heat the meat.
- In a large bowl, combine the chopped pastrami and ground beef and mix until well combined. Do not overmix.
- Divide the meat mixture into 4 patties, gently forming each into a smooth round ball between your palms and then kindly pressing each patty into a flat puck, tossing and patting between your hands until you have a nice flattened patty, about 5 inches [12 cm] across and 1/2 inch [12 mm] thick.
- Transfer the pastrami burger patties to a large plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to cook. The patties can be made up to 1 day in advance.
- Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and coat evenly with the oil. When the oil is shimmering, remove the patties from the refrigerator and sprinkle the tops liberally with half the salt. Flip and sprinkle with the remaining salt.
- Add 2 patties to the skillet and cook until a light brown crust forms on the bottom and the burger is turning from pink to brown at the edges, 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully flip with a spatula and place a cheese slice over each burger. Cook until the desired doneness, 3 to 5 minutes more for medium-rare to medium. The cheese will have melted at this point.
- Transfer the cooked pastrami burgers to a plate or baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining patties.
- With the oil and beef fat still in the skillet, place the buns, cut-side down, in the skillet and cook over medium-low heat until a golden, toasty crust has formed, 2 to 3 minutes. (If you have a lot of grease in the skillet, you’ll want to drain almost all of it until just a thin sheen remains before adding the buns.)
☞TESTER TIP: If you like your buns extra toasty, flip them and skillet toast the second side as well, until the buns are completely heated through, about 1 minute more.
- Spread a tablespoon of dressing on the bottom half of each bun, spreading it out to the edges. Spread out 4 bread and butter pickle coins on top of the dressing and divvy the onion between the buns. Place the cheese-covered patty on top, and cover with a heap of lettuce. Spread a bit more dressing on the top bun to “glue” it to the burger toppings, and use your palm to gently smush everything down. Serve with a sour pickle spear.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Wow, this pastrami burger was a flavor bomb. It was so simple to put together, and the instructions were fun to follow and flawless, yet the flavor was reminiscent of a diner or burger shack. The pastrami in the ground meat gave it a sophisticated, salty flavor. Cooking it on the cast iron develops the flavor of a flat top and I loved the concept of toasting the buns in the burger grease. But really the combo of the burger, pickles, homemade Russian dressing, and the onions made this burger incredible. Hands down the best burger I’ve ever made at home.
I refrigerated the burgers about an hour before cooking. I cooked the burgers 3 minutes each side for medium doneness, I added the cheese with 1 1/2 minutes to go on the second side to get it melty. The buns toasted up in about 3 minutes in the cast iron on low heat.
I think I would change the recipe title to “The 100-Napkin Burger” and note in the serving part to be sure there’s a pile of napkins or a roll of paper towels nearby. This delicious burger was juicy, juicy, juicy and when you add the Russian dressing, well, it’s a mess. But a wonderful mess. Bits of pastrami flavor in the burger against the tart fresh dressing and the sweetness and crunch of bread and butter pickles really made it one of my favorites ever. I’m not a fan of bread and butter pickles but I wouldn’t skip them here.
Putting the pastrami burgers together was straightforward, as was the cooking. I chopped my pastrami and blended it into the hamburger meat by hand, which worked fine. I didn’t see the need to break out the food processor. Cooking took a little longer than the recipe called for and here an instant-read thermometer came in very handy.
Assembling was fun and easy and the burgers looked marvelous. And they were devoured. The homemade Russian dressing recipe is critical because it blows any bottled Russian dressing out of the water. I had a particularly pungent onion so my dressing was pretty onion-y even though it only takes 1 1/2 tablespoons, so one has to gauge the strength of their onion and adjust.
I did use store-bought pickles and rolls and that was fine. One major alteration I would recommend is to drain the pan before cooking the rolls. My pan had a lot—a lot—of oil and beef fat and I thought the rolls would just soak it all up and be disgusting. But by draining most of it and leaving a film, I still got the benefits of the oil and the nice crispy toast from the skillet.
Great hamburger! The addition of pastrami makes this burger extra special. Russian dressing with all the burger trimmings was excellent.
I used 2 tsp salt on 4 burgers as I’m trying to cut back. I used Cheddar cheese.
Originally published June 28, 2020