Trader Joe’s Pastrami-Style Smoked Salmon Review

If I were to describe my cooking style, I’d easily sum it up as “fancy-lazy.” I’m never without my fancier staples, like plenty of pancetta, fruity olives, and (what I hope is) Ina Garten-approved olive oil. But then I’ll add these “fancier” ingredients to more everyday ingredients (like rice, pasta, crusty bread) to make a meal that’s elevated enough for a dinner party but easy enough to throw together on a night I’m ignoring my oven.

I’m pretty sure that’s why I am never too far away from Trader Joe’s Pastrami-Style Smoked Atlantic Salmon. It’s a little bit fancy but often overlooked, and at just $5.49 it’s one of my favorite affordable luxuries. Having spent a formative chunk of my 20s in NYC, I’m always chasing the joy of a thickly schmeared lox bagel. And while I don’t miss the stares from pigeons who really hoped I’d drop my breakfast, I’m glad I can mostly replicate the bliss of my favorite Saturday morning meal thanks to this TJ’s find.

You know that one ingredient you’ll willingly walk/drive/subway all the way back to the grocery store to grab? That is my relationship with the Pastrami-Style Smoked Atlantic Salmon. Smoked using a mix of maple, oak, cherry, and apple wood, the fish has a delicate sweetness that pairs so well with the sugary, salty brine. Encrusted in a blend of pastrami-style spices (like coriander, allspice, and paprika) this smoked salmon can elevate way more than just a bagel.

What’s the Best Way to Use Trader Joe’s Pastrami-Style Smoked Salmon?

It’s the star of so many of my favorite easy weeknight meals, one of which is inspired by a dish I had at the Japanese-Jewish restaurant, Shalom Japan. The restaurant’s lox bowl is one I often dream about, so I knew I had to figure out an at-home version.

To make it, I bring some leftover steamed rice back to life by heating it up and adding a mix of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt (to replicate my other love, the sushi rice from Sugarfish). Then I top the rice with strips of the Pastrami-Style Smoked Salmon and whatever vegetables I have on hand (I like avocado, capers, and Persian cucumbers), then shower the bowl with shreds of Trader Joe’s spicy wasabi seaweed sheets and some Sriracha mayo for a kick.

I also like to make an at-home version of the wildly good pastrami-topped okonomiyaki from Shalom Japan. I take a few liberties and make a more Korean-inspired, deconstructed hameul pajeon (seafood green onion pancake). I top pan-fried Trader Joe’s scallion pancakes with the salmon and dip each slice into a soy sauce-gochujang mix that I’d be more than happy to swim upstream in. 

Another great dish was inspired by an idea I packed away after a recent trip to Italy: smoked salmon pasta. I opt for a wider noodle, like linguine or tagliatelle, then dress things up with a drizzle of olive oil, the salmon, and a squeeze of lemon.

After you’ve tried these creations, you might need to make a TJ’s run for more Pastrami-Style Smoked Salmon. Just please save a pack (or…four) for me.

What are some of your Trader Joe’s staples for weeknight dinners? Let us know in the comments.

Rebecca R. Ammons

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