Pancetta is a type of Italian bacon that is commonly used in various dishes, such as carbonara, pasta sauces, and even soups. For those who cannot consume pork or do not have access to pancetta, finding a suitable pancetta substitute can be a challenge.
Fortunately, there are several alternatives available that can mimic the taste and texture of pancetta. In this article, we’ll share the best alternative to Pancetta with you. We’ll also tell you in what recipes you can use it and how you can make them taste more like pancetta.
Pancetta is an Italian cured meat. It offers a distinct flavor that is rich, salty, and slightly sweet.
Traditionally, people serve this flavorful meat as part of antipasto boards. Today, pancetta is best known as the topping of pasta carbonara.
This ingredient is often used to make favorite Italian dishes.
It differs from bacon and guanciale because it does not undergo smoking.
People season the pork belly with salt, sugar, and black pepper to create pancetta.
Spices like thyme, bay leaves, and nutmeg are also common ingredients.
People also use juniper berries, chili flakes, and fennel seeds.
After seasoning the meat, people refrigerate it to aid the curing process, which takes seven days.
The next step involves washing and rolling the meat like a towel and tying a string to hold the roll in place.
The drying process follows and takes at least two weeks.
You can find pancetta in stores in two forms: sliced and cubed.
Sliced pancetta is perfect for a charcuterie board and sandwiches.
You can also fry it like bacon and crumble it atop your pasta dishes.
On the other hand, cubed pancetta is a great ingredient for stews, soups, and casseroles.
This type of pancetta is also best for salads and pasta sauces.
Pancetta is fatty and meaty, so you can use it to add rich pork flavor to your dishes.
If you cure pancetta the right way, it is safe to eat it raw.
There are several reasons why you might be looking for a pancetta replacement:
Here are our top meat-based alternatives to use instead of pancetta.
Bacon is the best pancetta substitute. After all, people also make bacon from pork belly, the same cut from where Pancetta comes from.
That said, the texture of pancetta and bacon are the same. However, bacon is smoked meat with a smoky taste and aroma. Bacon has a stronger taste than pancetta, but both are salty and meaty.
Another difference between pancetta and bacon is that you cannot eat raw bacon.
American bacon is the most accessible swap because it is easy to find in stores.
Canadian bacon also makes a good option as it is also common, just expect a slight difference in texture. This type of bacon comes from the loin or back of the pig rather than the belly. It uses a much leaner cut, so it lacks some moisture from fats.
You can use bacon to replace pancetta in all recipes that call for sliced pancetta. Use bacon as it is if a stronger and smoky flavor melds well with the other ingredients in your dish.
Prosciutto is an Italian cured ham that is similar to pancetta in flavor and texture. It is often used as a substitute for pancetta in recipes.
It uses the same spices, so there is little to no change in flavor.
This sub differs greatly from Pancetta because it comes from a pig’s hind leg. This part of the pig is not as fatty, but it does have streaks of fat all over. And the curing and drying process takes as long as two years.
Still, the texture is different as the pancetta has more moisture than the prosciutto. Plus, people have no issues eating uncooked prosciutto due to the lengthy curing process.
Since you can eat raw prosciutto, add it directly on top of pasta without cooking it.
If you want a bit of crunch, you can fry slices for a few minutes.
Prosciutto is commonly available in slices. So, you can use it in antipasto boards and sandwiches as is.
Ham is a good substitute for pancetta if you are looking for a similar texture and flavor.
Pancetta comes from the belly and ham almost always comes from the hind leg of the pig. Because of this, ham is leaner than pancetta, which translates to texture.
However, it may be less salty than pancetta, so you may need to adjust the seasoning in your recipe accordingly.
Like pancetta, several types of ham are also dry-aged. Some are brine-cured, though. So that is where the difference comes in.
There are plenty of ham options for you to choose from. Smoked ham is a top choice, along with oven-roasted and aged ham.
You can pick smoked ham with a taste and texture that will blend well with your dish.
Ham is the best option if you need a cubed pancetta because you can buy whole smoked ham and cut it into thin slices or your preferred thickness.
Remember that some kinds of ham are already cooked, while some are raw.
Always look at the label to see if you need to cook ham before consuming it or to check if there are some meat fillings.
You can use ham in anything that requires pancetta. Ham is perfect in salads, charcuterie boards, or pasta dishes.
This is another type of cured pork that can be used as a reasonable sub for pancetta in some dishes.
Salt pork is essentially unsmoked, salt-cured pork belly, while pancetta is an Italian bacon that is cured with salt and spices, then dried and sometimes smoked.
Cut the salt pork into small pieces or cubes that are similar in size to the pancetta called for in the recipe.
Cook the salt pork in the same way until it is crispy and golden brown.
You may need to adjust the cooking time to account for the fact that salt pork is saltier and may cook faster than pancetta.
Be mindful of the added saltiness of the salt pork and adjust the amount of salt added to the dish accordingly.
If you are looking for a leaner substitute for pancetta, turkey bacon is a good option.
Turkey bacon is made from turkey meat, while pancetta is an Italian bacon made from pork.
It also has a different texture and flavor compared to Pancetta.
If you are using turkey bacon instead of pancetta, you may need to adjust the seasoning in your recipe, as turkey bacon is often already seasoned and may not require additional salt.
Additionally, the flavor and texture of the final dish may be slightly different when using turkey bacon instead of pancetta.
You may need to adjust the cooking time to account for the fact that turkey bacon is leaner and may cook faster than pancetta.
If you’re looking for plant-based or vegan pancetta substitutes, here are some options:
Seitan is a wheat-based protein that can be flavored and cooked to mimic the texture and flavor of meat. It comes from wheat (vital wheat), so people also call seitan “wheat meat.” Obviously, seitan is not gluten-free.
Tempeh, on the other hand, commonly comes from soybeans. Homemade tempeh combines soybeans, vinegar, water, and tempeh starter. With these ingredients, tempeh is gluten-free.
Seitan and tempeh have textures that mimic meat. These textures make them great substitutes for meat, including pancetta. Seitan has a neutral flavor, while tempeh comes with a nutty taste.
Both alternatives soak up flavor well, so you can make them taste like pancetta. You’d have to use the same spices you find in pancetta, and you’ll get a decent substitute.
They can be used in dishes like BLT sandwiches and breakfast burritos.
Smoked tofu can be a great substitute for pancetta in terms of texture.
It can be sliced and diced to mimic the texture of pancetta. It has a smoky flavor that can add depth to dishes like carbonara.
If the recipe calls for pancetta to be sautéed until lightly browned, such as in a pasta sauce, you can add the smoked tofu to the pan and sauté it until it is lightly browned.
It can be used in place of pancetta in many dishes, such as pasta sauces, salads, and sandwiches.
Mushroom bacon is a vegan alternative to bacon that is made by slicing mushrooms and seasoning them with smoky, savory flavors like soy sauce, liquid smoke, and maple syrup.
The mushrooms are then baked until crispy, giving them a bacon-like texture and flavor.
Mushroom bacon is a vegan alternative to bacon that is made by slicing mushrooms and seasoning them with smoky, savory flavors like soy sauce, liquid smoke, and maple syrup. The mushrooms are then baked until crispy, giving them a bacon-like texture and flavor.
When using mushroom bacon instead of pancetta, keep in mind that the flavor and texture will be different.
Coconut bacon is made from coconut flakes that have been seasoned with smoky flavors like liquid smoke, soy sauce, and maple syrup.
It can be used in place of pancetta in dishes like salads, pasta, and sandwiches.
Mushrooms, particularly porcini mushrooms, are among the best substitutes for pancetta. They are nutty and earthy, but what makes them an option is that these mushrooms also have a meaty flavor.
To bring out the meaty taste of porcini mushrooms, you must cook them until they’re brown.
Dried shiitake mushrooms, when rehydrated, have a chewy texture that can be similar to pancetta. They also have a meaty, umami flavor that can add depth to dishes.
You may also add some salt to enhance the flavor even more.
Frying the mushrooms in butter also works wonders for their taste.
Vegan salami is a type of plant-based salami made from ingredients like wheat gluten, tofu, and beans.
While it can be used as a substitute for pancetta in some recipes, it’s important to keep in mind that the flavor and texture will be different.
You may need to adjust the cooking time to account for the fact that vegan salami may cook faster than pancetta.
Keep in mind that vegan salami may be saltier than pancetta, so you may need to adjust the amount of salt added to the dish accordingly.
Green olives are a savory, salty ingredient that can add flavor to many dishes.
They are not a direct substitute for pancetta, as they have a very different texture and flavor.
Green olives can be used to add a salty, umami flavor to dishes, but they do not provide the same richness and meatiness as pancetta.
To balance the flavors in the dish, you may want to add other savory ingredients like mushrooms or sun-dried tomatoes.
Pancetta is expensive because it undergoes a time-extensive process. You need to cure it for a week, then wait another 2 weeks for it to dry. It is less widely available than cured meats like bacon and ham. You’ll have better luck finding pancetta in Italian marketplaces than in your local grocery store. This exclusivity adds to its price, ultimately.
Yes, you can use bacon to replace pancetta. American bacon is best because it comes from the same part of the pig. There is very little difference when it comes to its texture. Note that bacon has a smoky flavor not present in pancetta. To make it taste more like pancetta, boil it for a few minutes before using it as an alternative.
Yes, you can replace pancetta with bacon in a carbonara recipe. Bacon is available in slices. That said, it is a direct swap for some recipes, including carbonara. Fry bacon until it crips up, and crumble it on top of your carbonara pasta.
Whatever your reason for using a pancetta substitute, you have plenty of options. Prosciutto, bacon, and ham are among the best ones. These alternatives are all cured meats and have almost the same flavor profiles. If you need a vegan option, seitan, tempeh, and mushrooms are your best picks.
Other pancetta substitutes include smoked sausage, salted pork, and smoked turkey. Remember that depending on the swap you make, there might be a change in texture. A flavor difference can also result from using vegan ingredients. Ultimately, the best option is always the one that fits your budget, diet, and taste.