Homemade Deli Meat

Deli MeatThe popularity of deli meat can’t be explained by convenience alone. There’s something about the smooth, supple texture and salty, slightly sweet flavor that some people love. If you’re one of those people, homemade deli meat could become your new favorite snack or salad topper.

It turns out that meat of questionable origin, half a dozen unrecognizable ingredients and preservatives and loads of salt and sugar aren’t necessary to make deli meat. All that you really need is chicken (or turkey) breast, a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of pure maple syrup.

This recipe requires time (most of it hands-off) but very little effort. Cover the meat with a little syrup and salt, refrigerate 48 hours, bake low (250º F) and slow then chill before slicing. What emerges is a chicken breast transformed into a smoother, suppler version of its regular self. The meat has the same sweet and salty flavor of store-bought deli meat; it’s delicious sliced thinly for snacking or cut into thick squares for a salad.

Servings: 4

Time in the Kitchen: 2 1/2 hours, plus 48 hours to brine



  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or approx. 1 pound of total meat) (450 g)
  • 4 teaspoons pure maple syrup (20 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (15 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon dried herbs or spices (optional) (15 ml)


Put the syrup, salt and any seasonings that you like in a sealable plastic bag.

Step 1

Add the chicken breasts and rub the syrup and salt into the meat. Release as much air as possible, seal the bag and refrigerate for 48 hours, turning the chicken breasts occasionally.

Rinse the chicken off with water then soak in a bowl of cold water for 1 hour. This removes excessive saltiness.

Preheat the oven to 250º F (120º C)

Pat the chicken dry.

Pound the breasts into thin even slabs. Roll each slab up and tie it with twine. (Pounding and rolling the meat isn’t entirely necessary but it helps the meat cook evenly and allows you to slice the meat in even rounds after it’s cooked.)

Step 2

Place the rolled breasts on a parchment lined or well-oiled baking pan.

Bake for 1 hour or until the meat temperature is 165º F. (74º C)

Remove the twine and let the meat cool completely in the refrigerator before slicing.

Deli Meat

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54 thoughts on “Homemade Deli Meat”

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    1. That’s what I’d like to know too. Hubby loves deli meat; I don’t like the garbage in it but it is so convenient to have around. Anybody make any variation of this?

      1. Flank steak, grilled and chilled, sliced thin, is the best roast beef ever.

    2. Take a cheap beef roast and salt all surfaces pretty well. Add another non-salt seasoning mix if you want. Wrap in plastic or place in covered bowl in fridge up to 24 hours.

      Make your cast iron skillet blazing hot with fat of your choice in it. Sear roast on all sides. Pop into 225f oven until meat is 115f. Turn off oven but don’t open door and leave until temp rises to 130f. This will give you medium rare roast. Use 125f rising to 140f for medium roast.

      Remove from oven and rest at least 10 minutes before slicing. Use an electric knife for the thinnest slices.

      Do a pork roast the same way in a 325 oven, cooking to 135 and let temp rise to 150.

  1. Isn’t the point of deli meat to be eaten on a sandwich? What would you eat this with?

    1. I like to take a slice of lettuce, spread on a bit of mayo, then put on a slice of deli meat and roll it up for a snack. I usually don’t because I don’t like the ingredients of deli meat, but this’d be perfect!

    2. Seems to me that this IS the bread for your sandwich! lol Roll a stick of cheese, a pickle spear, or a piece of apple up in it. Or just all by itself would be a great snack.

    3. You could also make ‘paleo bread’ using a non-grain flour. Or use roasted portabello mushrooms or romaine lettuce instead of bread.

    4. Cloud bread works. 1 egg per oz of cream cheese. Separate the eggs, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, then beat the yolks with the cream cheese until smooth and add any flavorings you like. Spoon into rounds on a piece of parchment and bake at 350 until puffed and dry; about 10 minutes. After a few hours in the refrigerator, they soften up and have a very breadlike texture. With enough in between it, you don’t even taste the egginess much.

    5. Sarah Fragoso has a perfect easy little recipe in her first book to feed kids. Lay out the deli meat and put whatever veggies you want inside as well as any sauces/dips and roll up and let the kids eat them like a taco. In the book ‘Paleo Comfort Foods’ there is also a really easy and awesome recipe for baked eggs in deli meat cups. We love ’em.

    6. Chef’s salad: Beef, poultry, cheeses, and hard-boiled eggs with homemade low-carb Catalina or Russian dressing

  2. C’mon now…. give us a hint of what “herbs and spices” are appropriate.

    1. Galic and Rosemary are good. Thyme, sage, basil and oregano, also complement chicken pretty well. You could also add a teaspoon or 2 of Dijon mustard to the marinade.

    1. Made this last night… it’s AMAZING! Waaaay better than I expected. I love the texture and it was really easy. Definitely will make again!

    2. I made it last night. Well, cooked it last night! It is perfect! For part of my seasoning I used Trader Joe’s African smoke grinder seasoning (not sure if it’s truly paleo, but oh well) and this gave it that slightly smoky flavor I love in deli meat.
      I’m so pleased at how well this turned out, I’m trying Andrea’s roast beef recipe next.

    1. It should work with honey, right? I’m not a fan of maple syrup so I won’t buy a bottle just for this.

      1. I’m going ti hazard a guess and say honey should be fine. I think I might try it with different spices sans any type of sweetener.

  3. There’s a great cookbook for anyone who wants to get DEEP into the origins and essence (in a good way) of deli meats: Ruhlman, _Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing_. It’s amazing. Many of the traditional meats that today we associate with strange processing (hot dogs, bologna) are actually emulsified, and can be made at home with high quality ingredients. Even if you don’t have time to experiment, it makes for fascinating reading.

    1. Fantastic book! If I had my own house I would delve into charcuterie with a passion.

  4. Going to try this out…. minus the maple syrup (use honey instead). Love snacking on deli meat so this will be a great replacement to the frankenmeat you buy in the store.

  5. Woo my mouth is watering 😛 Its important to eat right and incorporate a lot of salads, greens and correct meat to give you energy while on an exercise regimen.

  6. Do you unroll or leave rolled up for slicing? Also, any hints for slicing very thin without a meat slicer?

      1. careful with the mando… she’s a fierce biotch… just sliced off the side of my finger trying to make sweet potato French “toast” this morning.. merp.

    1. Definitely leave it rolled up for slicing, nice and tight. When I want to slice meat extra thin, I put it in the freezer for just a little bit, so it firms up. Not frozen through, by any means – maybe just a little frosty on the outside. Works very well. Oh, and make sure your knife is extra sharp.

    2. I left it rolled up and slice only as I need it. It was stiff from being in the fridge so it sliced pretty thinly with my regular butcher knife. The texture sort of lends itself to thin slices, unlike just regular roast chicken. I’d think the colder the meat, the easier it is to slice thin. That, and a sharp enough knife!

  7. The meat looks wonderful…I occasionally brine a chicken and the time seems too long. I usually brine them for 30 minutes. I would shorten the time or cut down on the salt, then it wouldn’t be necessary to soak it in cold water. Then you could get to making it faster.
    Will try it, but I too hate to buy syrup so honey, which have should work.
    Extra I would freeze with pieces of parchment in between.

    1. You’re dry salting here so it needs to be longer. Cooks Illustrated says 24 hours is best for dry salting. Using a brine will make the meat too watery for a deli meat.

      I use 24 hours, skip the sweetener, add another non-salt seasoning and don’t soak it. Just gently pat dry any moisture on the surface if you want, but I don’t.

    1. You can substitute something else for the maple syrup if that’s what you don’t like.

  8. Sometimes I think you are a mind reader, Mark. I was just thinking about homemade deli meat the other day and had put it on my list of things to learn when I have free time. Awesome Opossum!

  9. Do this in your smoker with a little Apple wood, remove when temp is 165* and chill & Slice!!!! Oh Man!!

  10. I made this the other day, but instead of baking it in the oven I poached it in chicken bone broth…. it was WONDERFUL!
    Poaching it meant that it kept it’s nice round shape and it didn’t dry out at all….

  11. This is great. I did it with some juniper berries and mustard powder, maybe some other spices but I forget! Just smell your spice collection and you’ll know what should work. I didn’t bother pounding and tying it but it still worked out great. Excellent with salad or just a snack, sliced thin. Thanks for the recipe.

  12. I made this but with turkey instead. The store sold the turkey breast already flattened out, so no need to flatten it myself. yay

    Didn’t have any maple syrup but had some maple “flavor” syrup. I used regular table salt, but half the amount as kosher. Spices I used were rosemary, marjoram and dried parsley. I had dumped all these ingredients into a plastic bag, then put the turkey in the bag. This made it hard to get all the surfaces of the turkey covered. Better would have been to rub in the salt and spices, then rub the syrup over it, then put the meat in the air-tight bag.

    I didn’t use string, but used 2 small metal food sticks which held the rolled up meat very well.

    Since the oven was already hot after baking squash, I didn’t bother soaking the turkey for 1 hour. I simply rinsed it off under cold running water, and dipped it up and down in a bowl of cold water several times (like you’d wash clothes in the river). By this time, the turkey had been in the brine bag for only 39 hours (not 48).

    The cooking temperature and time was way off than as stated in the recipe. I misread and turned the oven to 175 degrees celsius (rather than 120). After one hour, the meat was not done. I kept testing the temp (with a meat thermometer) for the next hour and it never got over 150 Fahrenheit. I sliced the meat in half and it looked cooked. How long would it have taken at 120 degrees – all day maybe?

    I sliced the meat while it was still warm and got nice slices. It lost any maple flavor, so I must have rinsed it pretty good. Have yet to see how the turkey slices will stay between 2 slices of bread without falling out while eating. lol

    1. Hi, Barbel,
      Thanks for the details & tips. I’ve started making this with chicken (maple syrup + thyme, marjoram, savoury, rosemary & black pepper) tonight and I’ll up the baking temp to 160. I’ll report when done 🙂

  13. Thank you so much for posting this recipe, it’s DELICIOUS! I’ve been transitioning my family away from processed foods for some time now and one of our few lingering processed go-tos was lunch meat. My husband couldn’t part from his sandwiches and lets face it, a stack of pre-cooked meat in the fridge is just too quick and easy to resist. I was feeling especially guilty feeding it to my toddler though so I searched the google for homemade deli meat recipes and this was the first one I came across. I scrolled through the recipe and was sold at “maple syrup.” I can’t believe how many commenters mention subbing or removing the syrup!! Maple syrup has such an amazing flavor and it truly is what makes this recipe marvelous.

    I was skeptical when making this thinking the flavor and texture wouldn’t come anywhere near lunch meat but boy was I wrong. Not only is it true to deli meat but SO MUCH TASTIER.

    I followed the recipe exactly except I used a bit less salt and didn’t soak the chicken in water after marinating to remove excess salt. I just gave it a quick rinse because I didn’t want any of the maple goodness to get soaked away along with the salt. Without the water soak it still came out perfectly and not at all too salty.

    I will change only one thing the next time make this. I won’t roll the chicken and tie it because for some reason when I baled the chicken breasts this way they refused to unroll afterwards. They stayed permanently rolled and when I tried to unroll the chicken it wanted to tear. So when I went to slice it up my slices ended up being very skinny and oddly shaped. I did NOT overcook the chicken! I stood next to the oven and checked the temp with a meat thermometer towards the end of baking and pulled those babies out as soon as they reached 165. So I’m not sure why they wouldn’t unravel. Next time I’ll still pound rhem a bit but just bake them flat to make slicing easier.

    Thanks again so much for this wonderful recipe. Its a hit with the whole fam and will be a new staple for us!

  14. Silly question perhaps but would it be easier/any different to just roast a whole chook or beef roast and then slice it thinly? Does this last longer in the fridge or something. Sorry I might be missing something!

  15. I use mustard powder and juniper berries, don’t wash it off or tie it, a great tried and true recipe!

  16. Thank you. I will never buy deli meat again. My kids couldn’t believe it wasn’t from the deli.