If you don’t love pancetta, then get out of here!
Kidding aside, how can one not like this Italian meat? It goes fantastic with so many recipes, from pasta to pizza, and you can even eat it raw. The flavors will take you right to Italy, and you know you’ll be in for a treat.
But we understand that pancetta isn’t always readily available. We wish it was, but some supermarkets don’t offer it. Or you might prefer a different kind of meat (cue our gasp!)
Whatever the case may be, we’ll be helping you find the perfect pancetta substitute. Read on!
Why Find a Substitute for Pancetta?
Pancetta, also known as Italian bacon, is a kind of cured pig/pork product cut from the pig’s belly. It goes through a curing process with black pepper, salt, and various spices, then rolled in a cylinder. (*)
Pancetta can be sold in one large block, or you can have it cubed or sliced thinly. Most times, it’s prepared like bacon.
We can use pancetta in a variety of recipes. Pancetta can be wrapped around meats like pork or chicken, use it on pasta and salads, or eat it on its own paired with the perfect cheeses and wine.
With all this in mind, why do we need to find a substitute for pancetta? There are various reasons behind needing a replacement, such as:
- It’s not readily available in grocery stores. Pancetta is more common in butcher shops or Italian delicatessen, which can be a bit far and inconvenient to find if you need the ingredient now.
- Pancetta isn’t a traditional meat product and goes through a unique process. Because of this, it’s.
- Pancetta is pork belly, so it’s high in fat and cholesterol. People may have to stay away from it for health reasons. The same goes for those on a vegan or vegetarian diet, as they can’t consume meat.
We’ve got more in store for you, so continue reading! Next up, we’ll help you find the best pancetta substitutes.
The 9 Best Substitutes for Pancetta
You’ll be surprised by the many pancetta substitutes there are. Here are the best ones that work:
Prosciutto is the best pancetta substitute and also a favorite among Italians, thanks to its flavor and convenience! It is dry-cured meat coming from ham, served in thin slices.
You can either cook prosciutto or serve it as its own on a charcuterie board with your favored wine. Or you can replace pancetta with prosciutto in your sandwich, risotto, pizza, pasta, among other recipes.
If your grocery or Italian deli has no pancetta available, you can always ask for prosciutto.
Salami is another popular pork sausage from Europe. Before, this kind of meat helped Europeans survive the extreme winter seasons. While salami is made of mostly pork, there can also be other types of meat fillings, such as beef and veal. The kinds of meat fillings found in salami depend on where you’re purchasing it from.
Instead of pancetta, you can use salami on sandwiches, pizzas, pasta, or even on its own with cheeses, biscuits, and wine.
No salami? No problem! You can choose other types of smoked sausages, such as beef, sheep, chicken, pork, veal, and more. All these meats are processed similarly, undergoing the same marinating, curing, and fermenting to capture the smoky flavor.
If prosciutto or salami isn’t available in your local deli, don’t worry! Your supermarket most likely carries bacon. Like pancetta, bacon is just as flavorful and aromatic, adding savory flavoring to your dishes.
It’s a popular breakfast staple in America but can also replace pancetta in other dishes like pasta, soup, sandwiches, or as a salad topping.
Plus, it’s also one of the most affordable and convenient pancetta substitutes you can easily find any time and in many supermarkets. Choose among different brands and flavor variants to capture the quality and taste you want from your food.
Take note that pancetta and bacon are high in fat, so they may not be ideal for your dish when you’re watching calories. The difference between pancetta and bacon is that bacon is smoked while pancetta is fried and salt-cured. Bacon must be cooked before consuming, while pancetta can be eaten either cooked or raw. (*)
4. Smoked Ham
Pancetta is essentially smoked ham, which is why this makes a great alternative. Get a whole slab of this ham and use a slicer to cut it in like pancetta, or you can use a sharp knife to achieve the thin slices(just be careful). You can use this alternative on a recipe that calls for prosciutto, or enjoy it uncooked, which has a smoky taste that many will appreciate.
You can find a lot of flavor variants available, and they are readily available, especially come holidays. And similar to bacon, they are a much more affordable alternative since it isn’t cut than pancetta or prosciutto.
5. Smoked Turkey
If you don’t like pork or don’t eat it for religious or ethical reasons, then you can always go for smoked turkey. Think of it as the bird version of ham, with a savory and tender texture with an aromatic smokiness and flavors that go well in Italian dishes.
That said, you might not find this ingredient in grocery stores, depending on your location. There are other bird alternatives you can use, like smoked duck, goose, or chicken.
6. Salted Pork or Pork Belly
Salted pork is a bit like bacon but saltier because of the preservation process. When you use this as a replacement for pancetta, soak or boil the pork in water, which removes excess salts. Then cut it in thin slices, or however you prefer, before cooking it as your recipe asks for.
Then you can use salted pork to sauté with pasta sauces, giving your dish a crisp texture while still adding the cured, meaty taste. You can even use this in soups, like bean soup or chowder, adding a meatier taste and aroma.
Vegan and Vegetarian Substitutes for Pancetta
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, there’s still a way to enjoy eating pancetta without the guilt! Here are vegan and vegetarian alternatives to try for your recipe (*):
1. Vegan Salami
With more and more people going down the vegan and vegetarian route, food manufacturers are getting innovative with their creations. Now, you can find vegan salamis and other cured ‘meat’ products you can use in your recipe instead of pancetta. (*)
Now, you won’t have to sacrifice the cured, meaty, savory flavors. If you don’t have vegan options yet, you can opt for smoked vegetables such as tomatoes or chilis, which you can cook on your own. However, it may not have the exact meaty flavor you want.
That said, it’s still an excellent choice if you’re going meat-free and want to achieve a smoky taste in your food.
2. Porcini Mushrooms
Porcini mushrooms are an amazing and healthy alternative to pork. We love the fact that porcini mushrooms are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber!
We recommend using porcini mushrooms when cooking pasta, soups, stews, salads, pasta, among other foods. Simply chop or cube the mushrooms as you would with pancetta, adding your desired herbs, spices, salt, and pepper.
Tofu isn’t our first choice, but it still works if you have no vegan salami or cured products for sale or if porcini mushrooms aren’t readily available in your area. When using salami to replace pancetta, press it until all liquid drains, then marinate it using your desired herbs, spices, seasoning, and a bit of salt and oil for the tofu to soak the flavors.
Once you have marinated your tofu, fry it as one would with pancetta to achieve the flavors you want. You can even marinate the tofu overnight and add a bit of cornstarch to it before cooking, so the tofu is easier to fry. While the inside of your tofu stays soft, you get a bit of the crunch from the outer part, which is perfect for many kinds of foods.
Wrapping It Up
We hope you found a suitable substitute for pancetta from our article! Now that you know what to use, try any of these in your next recipes to see what works best.