Pancetta Substitutes That Make Amazing Dishes

Pancetta Substitute

Pancetta gives several Italian recipes their authentic flavor. The meat goes well with a ton of recipes and has a remarkable mouthfeel. But what if you need a pancetta substitute? This Italian cut isn’t as easily available everywhere, or you might not have any at hand while your recipe demands it. 

These substitutes should come in handy for such an occasion. In fact, there’s a good chance some substitutes might work as good, if not better! Let’s get started.

Top Substitutes For Pancetta

1. Bacon

The good old bacon will happily do the job and do it admirably. Very popular in America, bacon is flavorful, aromatic, and goes well with several recipes. It helps that just like pancetta, this meat is cured and salted. Also, both Pancetta and bacon come from pork belly.

Bacon is an excellent option and is readily available for many American households. Plus, it’s relatively cheaper and versatile enough to work with many recipes.

2. Prosciutto

Prosciutto is a useful option when you want to replace pancetta. The meat is quite similar, though it has different properties. Generally speaking, prosciutto is a thinly sliced, dry-cured meat that comes from pork. It’s good enough to eat uncooked, but you can give it the same treatment as pancetta and use prosciutto in sandwiches, soups, pasta, and other dishes.

Learn more: 13 Tasty Prosciutto Substitutes to Enjoy

3. Salami

An old favorite of many people, salami adds a lovely flavor to your choice of meals. The meat is very popular in Europe and is known to be fairly resilient to its environment. It can outlast cold winters and can stay edible for several days at room temperature (assuming it’s packed properly).

Generally, salami is made from pork. Although there can be variations, and some might also contain beef fillings. In any case, salami can work with most recipes that call for pancetta. Use salami for pastas, pizzas, sandwiches, and several other recipes.

4. Smoked Sausage

Technically speaking, salami falls under the category of smoked sausage(s). However, there are several variations available, which gives you the freedom to pick and choose what works best for your recipe and taste buds.

The sausage undergoes marination, curing, and fermentation. Although, it isn’t necessarily made entirely from pork. The fillings could include beef, sheep, chicken, goat, pork, and other meats too.

5. Smoked Ham

If we really get into specifics, pancetta is smoked ham. That makes this option an excellent substitute and it might also be cheaper. The conventional difference between these two meats is that pancetta is cut into thin slices, while smoked ham is not. Often, this can cause a slight flavor difference between the two, though that’s rarely a problem when you need a substitute.

Smoked ham has plenty of variants, so take your time and pick one that would go best with your choice of recipe.

6. Salted Pork

As the name implies, the salted pork is quite, well, salty! It’s quite similar to bacon, but the way it’s preserved makes it saltier. Sauteing a slab or slices of salted pork will make it a good replacement for pancetta. It’s a good choice for several recipes, including soup.

7. Canadian Bacon

A serving of Canadian bacon could do the trick! This one’s different from bacon (American bacon) and comes from the loin, rather than the belly. In that sense, it’s more similar to ham but the curing process gives it the bacon name. This meat is leaner and has less fat, so feel free to use it as it goes well with several recipes.

8. Smoked Turkey / Turkey Bacon

Smoked turkey or turkey bacon is a viable alternative for those who want to avoid pork, but aren’t vegan. Although you can use this option the same way as pancetta, turkey bacon has a different flavor and texture. 

Turkey bacon has a remarkably lower fat content and is leaner, but has a milder flavor as compared to pancetta. On the other hand, it is also saltier. So, it is necessary to make some flavoring adjustments when you choose to pick turkey bacon as a replacement for pancetta. Overall though, it’s a good option for those who want a non-pork meat for their recipe.

Vegetarian Substitute For Pancetta

1. Vegetarian Bacon (Fakon)

Thanks to the wonders of modern food production and recipes, we have something so remarkable as “vegetarian bacon”. The food is often made from a recipe that includes soy, wheat products, and eggs. Due to the presence of eggs, this isn’t a vegan pick although a few vegan options are available too. 

Fakon or vegetarian bacon does a fairly good job at approximating the taste and texture of real bacon. This makes it an acceptable pancetta replacement too. Give it a shot and you might find something you like!

2. Vegan Salami

Vegan salami is very similar to vegetarian bacon. Usually, this one’s made using seasoned wheat gluten which is then mixed with a few other ingredients. Being plant-based, this salami is a useful vegetarian substitute for pancetta. While it is different than the real deal, it makes an acceptably good approximation of the flavor and texture.

3. Tofu

Conventionally, vegans and vegetarians have treated tofu as a suitable alternative for meat products. Tofu isn’t an ideal substitute for pancetta, but it can work if you must use it as one. You can try to drain the liquid and then marinate the tofu so it becomes more flavorful. Adding some seasoning and some frying to the mix should help.

Tofu is an excellent food that’s rich in nutrients. However, it doesn’t quite work the best as a replacement for pancetta. Use it only when absolutely necessary.

4. Porcini Mushrooms

Showing off their brown caps and thick white stocks, porcini mushrooms can take on this role pretty well. Many chefs consider these as viable alternatives for many pork-based recipes. The good part is, that there’s no need to go into lengthy preparations to use these as a pancetta substitute.

Simply dice and/or cube them and use these mushrooms in your recipe. Well, there will be some change in flavor and texture of the recipe, but that’s a relatively small change for picking this vegetarian substitute. 

Pancetta vs Bacon – What Really Sets Them Apart?

There are striking similarities between pancetta and bacon. Both of these are cured and salted meats from the pork belly, so what really sets them apart? 

The difference between pancetta and bacon still lies in their production. While both of these meats are cured, bacon undergoes another step. After curing, bacon is smoked to give it another layer of flavor and taste. This process is cold smoking, so the bacon isn’t really cooked in this step. However, it does absorb a fair bit of flavor from the smoke.

Cold smoking bacon can involve several types of wood, including apple and maple. The choice of wood will also affect the flavor of the bacon. Again, this smoking process doesn’t cook bacon; it’s still raw meat and needs to be cooked before eating.

Also, while pancetta is available as strips and cubes, bacon is generally available as strips. Although this isn’t much of a difference as bacon cubes, though rare, are available as well.

Pancetta And Its Replacements That Work

The tasty and savory pancetta can make the flavor of a recipe stand out. Yet, it’s not so easy to find everywhere, so you might want to use a pancetta substitute to keep your recipe going. It tastes a bit like bacon, though bacon is saltier and can’t be eaten raw. On the other hand, it is acceptable to eat pancetta raw and remains as flavorful as when cooked.