Who doesn’t love a tasty pancetta frittata? How about a pasta dish with pancetta? Or even pancetta sandwiches are delicious.
Still, pancetta isn’t easy to come around in some cases. For some, it can mean changing plans altogether, but it doesn’t have to if you know what to use in its place. In this list, you will find plenty of foods that work great in various dishes.
What Is Pancetta?
Often confused with bacon and prosciutto, pancetta is another pork product but this one is cured. Like bacon, it is made from the pork belly, but is only cured usually in salt, or with a few aromatics and spices.
Pancetta can be sliced thinly, cubed, or in one large block, but you can prepare these just like you would bacon.
You can often find pancetta on its own as a breakfast food, wrapped around meats like chicken or pork, or as an addition to salads and pasta. However, it can also be the star of a dish, whether it is a soup, risotto, or stew.
You can buy pancetta in some grocery stores, but you are more likely to find it at an Italian delicatessen or butcher shop.
Why Replace Pancetta?
There are various reasons why someone would replace pancetta, but these are the most common:
- Health Reasons: Because pancetta comes from pork belly, it is very high in fat and can lead to high cholesterol. For someone who has heart disease, diabetes, or other health issues, consuming this food may not be advisable.
- Cost: Since pancetta is not the traditional pork product sold in some places, it can be more expensive at times, as it is more scarce.
- Vegan or Vegetarian Diet: Both a vegan or vegetarian diet don’t allow eating animal meat and animal products, so pancetta isn’t appropriate for these diets.
What Can I Replace Pancetta With?
Whether you can’t find any or need a healthier choice, these pancetta substitutes are great for you:
Best For Bolognese, Carbonara, and Healthy Options
Since they are very similar, it makes sense to use bacon in place of pancetta. The main difference between pancetta and bacon is that bacon is also smoked after it is cured.
You can use bacon in all recipes that call for pancetta, but you may want to boil it previously to remove some of the smokiness.
At the same time, bacon is also a bit thinner than pancetta, so you may need to use a few more pieces. Consider adding more spices, like salt, pepper, and other Italian herbs to mimic the flavor that pancetta usually contains.
See More: How to tell if bacon is bad
Since prosciutto is often confused with pancetta, it can be used as a great alternative for it.
Prosciutto doesn’t have the smokiness from the bacon, but it is a salted ham made from the jowl of the pork and air-dried for several months. This choice is also expensive, so it may not be the best option if you want to cut costs.
You can use prosciutto in bolognese, carbonara, and cheeseboards. Be careful when you cook prosciutto because it is very thin and can become hard quickly. It is best to cook it lightly for a few minutes at most.
#3. Canadian Bacon
Canadian bacon is more similar to ham than anything else, but it works wonders in substituting pancetta. This choice is healthier because it comes from the loin of the pig and not the pork belly, so it contains less fat and is leaner.
Use Canadian bacon when you cook bolognese or carbonara pasta, eggs, or risotto.
This choice is also made by brining or smoking, so the flavor can vary and you should always try it first. If possible, use the brined kind of Canadian bacon, as it most likely resembles pancetta.
You can find Canadian bacon in any grocery store, and it is a cheaper option than prosciutto.
Best For Non-Pork Options, Vegetarian, and Vegan
#4. Turkey Bacon
Turkey bacon is a great alternative for those who don’t want to consume pork. It is also a great option for those that want something with lower fat content, as it is much leaner and won’t raise cholesterol levels as much.
Keep in mind, though, that turkey bacon is high in sodium, so you should consider this when you use it.
You can use turkey bacon essentially as you would pancetta, but you may want to add more seasoning because the flavor is milder. Use this option when you prepare pasta, eggs, salads, and soups. Turkey bacon is sold everywhere these days and it is affordable.
#5. Porcini Mushrooms
Their name should give you a hint, but porcini mushrooms are a great stand-in for anything that has pork. You can certainly use these mushrooms as a vegetarian and vegan substitute for pancetta, but also if you are worried about your cholesterol levels.
Simply chop the porcini or cube them, and cook them as you would have the pancetta, adding spices and herbs as well.
Use this choice when you prepare pasta, risotto, soups, salads, and stews. As if it wasn’t enough, porcini are also very high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making them a great option for those that want to remain healthy.
Tofu isn’t the first choice by any means, but it is one that can work when you need a non-animal substitute for pancetta. You should first press the tofu so that the liquid drains, then marinate it for a while in herbs and spices and some oil, it will soak up some of the flavors.
After the tofu has been marinated for a while, fry it as you would pancetta and it will get some of those flavors that your dish needs.
Remember that tofu is a great source of fiber and protein, so it is a great nutritious choice to use if you don’t want to eat animal products.
Consider soaking the tofu overnight if you want, and even adding a small cornstarch coating so that it fries better. Remember that the inside of the tofu will remain soft, but the outside can get some crunch.
See More: Does Tofu Go Bad?
Yes, you can use bacon as a substitute for pancetta in any recipe. You may want to boil the bacon before you use it so that it loses some of its smokiness, but you can cook it as you would pancetta after. Bacon may not have some of those seasonings in pancetta, so you can add them too.
Some good options to substitute for pancetta that don’t involve animal meat include mushrooms, tofu, full-flavored olives, and even non-meat ham alternatives. Make sure to add the species and seasonings that most resemble pancetta and always taste before you use any of these.
They are both essentially equal in terms of nutrition. Pancetta may be considered healthier because it hasn’t been smoked, which adds nitrites and residue that have been linked to cancer. However, pancetta contains more salt and an equal amount of fat, so it is still not very healthy.
Cooking with pancetta is often a culinary delight. Still, not everyone can indulge that often, either because of health reasons or because pancetta is hard to find. Instead, try any of these six substitutes, all of which are tasty and easy to cook with.