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Best Pork Belly Substitute (12 Tasty Options)

Since pork belly is more on the expensive side and can be difficult to find, you might need to use a pork belly substitute in your recipes.

You can substitute using other pork cuts, beef cuts, and more alternatives. There are even some vegan pork belly substitutes. 

The key to choosing the best alternative is to make sure it offers a similar flavor and suits your needs. 

sliced pork belly on top of cutting board

What is Pork Belly? 

Pork belly meat is a cut of pork that is tasty, boneless, and fatty.

It is fattier than other cuts of pork.

A quality pork belly cut has an equal amount of fat and meat. It comes with a creamy white fat layer which is responsible for its unique, intense flavor.

You can find pork belly in the grocery store or wet market; it’s sold in slabs or strips.

Being a common ingredient in a wide variety of recipes, you often might need to choose the right replacement for your dish. 

This meat has some unique characteristics that set it apart from other cuts of meat.

When choosing the best substitutes for pork belly for your specific dish, it is important to keep these in mind. 

12 Best Pork Belly Substitutes

Here is a list of the best substitutes for pork belly.

1. Pork Bacon

Pork bacon is processed pork belly.

This substitute is the best option, and it is as close as you can get to the original cut in terms of flavor and texture.

It has several fatty layers making its texture similar to the texture of pork belly. 

You can use it in almost all your dishes.

The sweetness of pork bacon is similar to what pork belly is known for.

It comes from fat, and pork bacon has plenty of it to emphasize this flavor. 

The challenge of using pork bacon, though, is you need to find the right cut or thickness.

If you want to make roasted pork belly, pork bacon is not an ideal substitute. 

Cooking Tips:

  • Choose thick-cut slices of pork bacon to make it look very similar to your dishes.
  • You can use the same amount of pork bacon when using this substitute.
  • You might need to cut down on cooking oil since most of the fat in pork bacon, though, will melt away during the frying process.
  • Since pork bacon has high salt content, choose to season it with less salt.

2. Pork Shoulder

Pork shoulder meat is not as popular as the other substitutes on this list, and it may be more difficult to find.

This delicious and suitable substitute has more fat content than other pork cuts and has the right amount of meat to replace pork belly successfully.

You will not notice any change in taste when using pork shoulder as an alternative.

This alternative is similar to pork belly, especially when it is subjected to direct heat.

Cooking Tips:

  • When pork shoulder is braised or roasted, it brings out a similar texture and flavor.
  • Use the same amount of pork shoulder in dishes such as stews and pulled pork. 
  • You can also use the same pork seasoning with the original proportions in your recipe.

3. Pork Fatback Meat

Pork fatback is the meat cut that comes from the pig’s back. It comes in slab pieces with a high-fat content just like pork belly. 

It is an exact pork belly substitute in terms of cut, style, flavor, and texture.

When oven roasting or barbequing, pork fatback is the best substitute for pork belly. 

Cooking Tips:

  • You can use the same amount of pork fatback in any recipe.
  • This substitute works best when grilled, baked, or used to make it into homemade bacon.
  • It is a close substitute. You would probably not notice the difference except that pork fatback has more fat and lesser meat. 

4. Beef Bacon

Beef bacon is a meat cut that comes from a different animal but has the same texture and taste as pork belly.

It is also one of the closest pork belly substitutes. It is tender and soft and will have a slightly different taste from pork belly.

This meat cut comes from the belly muscles of a cow, just like pork belly comes from the belly of a pig.

As is typical of belly meat, beef bacon, and pork belly are similarly delicious. 

Cooking Tips:

  • Beef meat is lean and, therefore, contains slightly lesser fat. 
  • When using beef bacon as a substitute for pork belly, use pork seasonings.
  • This is to emphasize the pork taste. 
  • You can fry beef bacon and include it in any of your traditional and baked dishes as you would pork belly.
  • Substitute pork belly with beef bacon by using the same amount called for in your recipe. 

5. Duck Bacon

Duck meat is similar to chicken meat. It is, however, tastier and fattier than chicken meat making it more similar to pork belly.

This alternative comes from duck breast, and it offers a similar sweet taste and texture. 

You need to make duck meat into duck meat bacon so you can use it as a pork belly sub. 

Duck bacon is also available in grocery stores. This meat is just as tender, fatty, and as juicy as the meat of pork belly. 

Cooking Tips:

  • Certain cooking methods allow the skin of duck meat to be crispy similar to pork belly.
  • You may need to add more seasonings (pork seasonings) other than salt and pepper to make it taste even more like pork belly. 
  • Duck meat may resemble the appearance of a pork belly but with a different taste.
  • Adding some seasoning and spices will bring the flavor closer to pork belly when used in stews and stir-fries. 

6. Goose Meat

Goose meat offers a different flavor than duck meat, but it might work as a pork belly substitute. 

Some parts of a goose are too lean, and these parts won’t work as a substitute in terms of flavor and texture.

Choosing fattier parts with a high-fat percentage will be the best option.

Cooking Tips:

  • If you are able to get your hands on goose bacon, this will offer a similar sweet taste and fatty texture. 
  • Goose meat is harder than other meats, so you need to soak it in seasonings and oil for at least one hour before cooking to make it more tender. After soaking, cook it in all the ways you would pork belly.
  • You can use the same seasonings and oil you would typically use for pork belly. 

7. Turkey Bacon

Turkey bacon has a lower fat content and a lighter color than pork belly. It also comes with a different texture and fewer calories.

Despite its many differences from pork belly, it can still be a good substitute, especially if you cannot eat pork belly or other pork cuts. 

Cooking Tips:

  • Use turkey bacon for your sandwiches, burgers, grilled meat salads, and wraps. 
  • Since turkey bacon is not as fatty, this should be the last option to choose from when looking for a substitute.

8. Beef Belly

The beef belly is a fatty cut from the underside of a cow, also known as the beef navel end brisket underside of a cow.

It has a similar cut as a pork belly, except that it’s bigger and it is beautifully layered with fat and meat.

Cooking Tips:

  • You may find beef belly cuts that look and taste like pork belly and can be used as alternatives for stews, soups, and barbeques.
  • When using this meat cut in your recipes, you can fry it, braise it, roast it, and use it in burgers, stir-fry, and even in ramen.

9. Soy

Soy is the best non-meat substitute for pork belly.

It’s less costly and easily available.

This option does not in any way resemble the flavor of pork belly because they are completely different.

However, it is a good substitute because both are rich in protein. 

Cooking Tips:

  • To satisfy your protein requirement, you can use soy chunks instead of pork belly for your soups, stews, and other pork belly recipes. You should, however, use adequate amounts of seasonings to get a good flavor. 
  • Boil soy with salt, pepper, and other seasonings before using it in your recipes. Be mindful of how long you let soy boil because you need to allow it to absorb enough water for it to become an ideal ingredient. 
  • Add more oil when cooking soy because, unlike pork belly, it does not have fat content. 

10. Tofu

Tofu is a great alternative that can be used in many recipes that call for pork belly.

It is available in different textures, depending on how it is processed.

Firm tofu can be used in stir-fries, while soft tofu can be used in soups or sauces.

Tofu can also be flavored with different seasonings. Plus, tofu is a healthy option that is high in protein and low in fat.

Cooking Tips:

  • Use this substitute in dishes like stir-fries, curries, and stews.
  • You can use tofu chunks for your stews and soups instead of pork belly.
  • Since the tofu taste is neutral, you need to add a variety of seasonings and spices to give it its taste and flavor.

11. Tempeh

Tempeh is a fermented soybean product that originates from Indonesia.

It is a good source of protein and is largely considered a plant-based pork substitute.

It is made by culturing soybeans; it is rich in flavor and has a meaty texture.

Plus, it has that greatly sought-after umami flavor, making them a great replacement for all kinds of meat.

Cooking Tips:

  • This option is perfect for dishes like stir-fries, curries, and stews.
  • Marinate the tempeh before cooking. This will help to tenderize it and give it flavor.
  • Cut the tempeh into small pieces so that it cooks evenly.
  • Cook the tempeh over medium heat until it is browned and crispy.
  • Add the tempeh to your recipe at the end of cooking so that it doesn’t overcook.
  • Find seasoned tempeh in stores, choosing the right seasoned variety to fit your recipes.

12. Canned or boiled Beans

Although beans are not as flavorful as pork belly, they can still be used as a pork belly alternative in some recipes.

Beans are high in protein and come in different kinds.

You have many options to choose from to be able to have added color, texture, and flavor to your recipes.

Cooking Tips:

  • They are mainly used in soups, sauces, and chili.
  • You can also use chickpeas in place of chicken or turkey, use beans as burger patties, or oven-roasted beans as bacon bits. 

How to choose the best pork belly substitute

You may not find the perfect fit, but there are some good options when you need pork belly in your recipe but cannot find it. 

In choosing the best substitute, you want to get the flavor and texture closest to this pork cut and other considerations.

Your pork belly substitute needs to be: 

  • Boneless
  • Fatty
  • Tender
  • Juicy

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you should choose the non-meat substitutes mentioned above.

There are non-meat ingredients you can use to replace pork belly, such as tofu, beans, and tempeh.

Popular Pork Belly Recipes

Pork belly is a well-loved pork cut because it can easily be used in many recipes.

The meat content allows it to be cooked with almost any ingredients because it easily absorbs all the flavors and seasonings.

It is commonly used in stew and soup dishes of Filipino, Korean, Thai, Chinese, Danish, Norwegian, and Hispanic cuisines. 

It’s often slow-cooked to make it moist and tender. 

It can also be used to make homemade uncured bacon, stuffed and rolled pork belly, glazed pork belly, barbecued pork, and fried pork belly. 

More ideas on what to do with pork belly:

  • Use it as a seasoning for other pork dishes, such as roasted pork loin or tenderloin.
  • Make a pulled pork dish by slow-cooking the pork belly until it is falling apart tender. Serve with BBQ sauce on buns or over rice.
  • Sautee thin slices of pork belly and serve with sauerkraut and mustard for a delicious twist on traditional German cuisine.
  • Braise pork belly in a sweet and savory sauce made with soy sauce, honey, and ginger. Serve over steamed rice.
  • Make a hearty soup or stew with pork belly as the star ingredient. Simply simmer it in water until tender, and then add your favorite vegetables and seasonings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What meat cut is pork belly?

A pork belly is carved from the belly of a pig. A pork belly derived from different parts of a pork belly can have different fat contents.

Some pork belly fats have more fat content than meat, while some cuts will have more meat than fat content.

How do you cook pork belly?

You can cook pork belly in many different ways. You can fry pork belly and serve it with a vegetable side dish.

Pork belly barbecue is a perfect companion when hanging out with family and friends.

You can also bake pork belly or make it an ingredient in your other recipes.

Can you use other cuts of meat as a substitute for pork belly?

Yes, you can, but it depends on the kind of dish. There are some substitutes that can only be used for specific recipes.

For instance, you cannot substitute pork bacon or beef bacon if you need pork belly for barbecues because they come in thin slices.

But, you can use pork shoulder cut or pork fastback, and almost no one will notice the difference.

What is another name for pork belly?

Pork belly is also known as bacon. It is a fatty cut of pork that is typically cured and smoked.


Your pork belly recipes can be just as delicious with one of the substitutes mentioned above. Be mindful of the preparation method of the substitute because some may require lesser cooking times. 

There is no right or wrong option when choosing a pork belly substitute. It all boils down to taste because different cuts of pork meat or meat from other animals taste differently. A little tweaking of your recipe can help you achieve the same taste as pork belly. 

Availability of your substitute meat is also an important consideration. Some pork belly replacements may not be available in your area.

More Ingredient Substitutes

Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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