13 Tasty Prosciutto Substitutes to Enjoy (Vegan Options Included)

Prosciutto Substitute

An Italian ham that tastes sweet and salty, prosciutto is a delicacy many people enjoy. Whether as a topping on dishes like pasta or served on its own as a side or in a snack platter, this thinly sliced meat is a delicious treat. But if you can’t find this food, there are prosciutto substitutes that are just as good and enjoyable.

Prosciutto can be eaten raw and by this, it usually refers to dry-cured ones. You can also cook prosciutto which in Italian is named as prosciutto cotto. With its good balance of meaty, salty, and sweet, it is not a surprise many enjoy this food.

On the other hand, some don’t really enjoy this food or are put off by its high fat content. With its level of cholesterol, others try to avoid eating it. However, as long as you consume it with a balanced meal in moderate amounts, prosciutto will not have as much harmful effect.

Get these meaty prosciutto substitutes:

1. Ham

Ham is an excellent substitute for prosciutto. It tastes similar especially if you opt for the kinds that have sweet and salty flavor. There are plenty of ham available in the market so it’s also an easy choice.

While there are sweet juicy ham or thinly sliced ones that would be close in texture, it’s a bit hard to find salty ones. If you are after that flavor, simply add some salt to your choice of ham.

2. Salami

Another accessible, affordable, and savory treat you can replace prosciutto with is salami. Though salami is heavier in flavor, it can give the same satisfying bite as prosciutto.

Like prosciutto, salami can also be eaten raw thanks to how it’s processed. This cured sausage can also be used for snack platters or added as a pizza topping much like prosciutto.

3. Bacon

Bacon has a distinct taste that’s made it a favorite for breakfast in many countries. If you can’t find any prosciutto anywhere and you find some bacon in your fridge, feel free to use it instead.

Bacon is also high in saturated fat and cholesterol like prosciutto. When cooked, the fat melts and there’s a meaty sweetness to it. While bacon is delicious as it is, there is a way to mimic a closer flavor to prosciutto. Try blanching bacon in boiling water for a few minutes before frying or cooking.

4. Pancetta

Pancetta, also referred to as Italian bacon, can also be a doable replacement for prosciutto.

Treated with lots of salt and pepper, pancetta is cured for about two weeks and comes in either cubes or thinly sliced pieces. With its long exposure to salt, its flavor profile comes closer to prosciutto than regular bacon. 

Learn more: Pancetta Substitutes That Make Amazing Dishes

5. Culatello

One of Italy’s best known and prized cured meat, culatello is another option to get instead of prosciutto. This rare ham has a delicate yet rich flavor.

Culatello has a sweet, lightly smoked taste with a velvety texture. Made from nothing but thigh muscles, you’ll get quality meat from this artisanal food. 

6. Mortadella

Mortadella is a large Italian sausage that is close to lunch meat in taste and texture. If you’re in a pinch, you can use this for some of your Italian dishes.

With a mild pork flavor that is fatty like bacon but seasoned like salami, it’s a tasty meat you should try. It goes well in pasta dishes or stuffed in tortellini or simply added in a sandwich.

7. Guanciale

Guanciale is an Italian meat product taken from pork jowl or cheeks. This rich flavored, fatty piece of meat often gets cured before used or consumed.

While this does not have the same texture or is sliced thinly like prosciutto, it has its own charms. Usually used in some pasta dishes, guanciale has salty notes and savory taste that melts in the mouth.

8. Capicola

Another smoked cured meat like prosciutto, capicola is made from the muscle running from the upper section of a pig’s neck to its fourth or fifth rib.

Also called as coppa or cotto, it’s a delicious alternative to prosciutto for toppings on subs, panini, or pizza. It can also be cooked into antipasto which is sure to elevate your appetite with its mixture of salty, subtly spicy and smoky flavor.

9. Beef Bresaola

If you are looking for a prosciutto alternative that is not pork, consider having beef bresaola.

This dried salted lean meat is really tender and tastes like most cured meats: salty, meaty, and with hints of spices. Beef bresaola is usually part of an antipasto platter and sometimes draped over pizza or focaccia. 

10. Duck Prosciutto

Salt-cured duck breast, this piece of meat isn’t really prosciutto but since it’s consumed and used in the same way, it is named as it is.

Duck prosciutto has a gamey flavor but it is often compared to the meaty taste of prosciutto. It is used in salads or in antipasto.

Vegan-friendly alternatives for prosciutto:

11. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are meaty in their own right. It is often used as a vegan alternative to most kinds of meat. As such, you can enjoy it as you would with a prosciutto: top on pizza, add it in pasta and sandwiches, or cooked as antipasto. 

12. Chickpeas

Legumes that taste nutty and earthy, chickpeas can also serve as a prosciutto alternative for those in vegan diets. There are plenty of ways you can prepare and cook chickpeas and the idea is to add in some spices and salt that would come closest to the flavor profile of prosciutto. The texture of this legume will also provide a satisfying bite much like meat.

13. Toasted Nuts

If you’re simply after adding an interesting flavor to your Italian dishes, try adding toasted nuts to your salads, pastas, and risotto. This option is far from what prosciutto brings to the plate but it offers a vegan-friendly textured deliciousness to your meal.

Related FAQs

What is a healthy substitute for prosciutto?

Veggies like mushrooms and chickpeas would be the safest answers to this question. But as long as you have no diet restrictions and you’re usually eating a balanced meal, then other types of lean meat listed above would also be a healthier choice.

What is the easiest alternative for prosciutto?

Ham is the most efficient replacement for prosciutto in terms of access and cooking versatility. Bacon and salami are the next best things in accessibility and familiarity in cooking but if the other Italian-based meats are available, those would taste closer to prosciutto.

Which is saltier, prosciutto or pancetta?

Prosciutto has a lighter and sweeter taste profile while pancetta has a richer flavor with nutty notes. In terms of saltiness, prosciutto is saltier because of its straightforward flavor. It’s exposed to a higher amount of salt during its dry-curing process. Supposedly, pancetta has about 312 mg of sodium for an ounce of meat while prosciutto doubles it to about 764 mg of sodium per 1 ounce of meat.

Do you have to cook prosciutto before eating it?

No, you don’t have to. Prosciutto can be eaten straight from its package because it’s a dried and cured meat. If you feel quite bothered, it’s also perfectly fine to cook it, bake it, or heat it up.

Final Words

While prosciutto is the best version for its taste and specific uses, don’t give up on your charcuterie if you don’t have this meat. Try the listed prosciutto substitutes above and discover the similarities and differences between the Italian cured meats. Or if you’re following a vegetarian lifestyle or simply entering a No-Meat challenge for a week, celebrate with some mushrooms or chickpeas. Your dish, your choice.

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