9 Best Pancetta Substitutes

Need a last-minute pancetta substitute? From prosciutto to meat-free ingredients like porcini mushrooms, these nine best alternatives will save your dish.

Best Pancetta Substitutes

Pancetta, a cured pork product with full flavor, has been a longstanding favorite for charcuterie boards but can also be used in cooking. The meat originated in Italy, making pancetta a common ingredient in many pasta and antipasti dishes.

Living in an area without pancetta at the grocery can be frustrating, especially when you love dishes like spaghetti carbonara. Pancetta brings a fatty richness with a punch of saltiness that gives dishes layers of savory flavor.

If pancetta isn’t available, there’s no need to panic. Several substitutes come in handy to replace pancetta.

The best pancetta substitute varies based on why it is unavailable. The best replacement for people without dietary restrictions may be another pork product. Options for those wanting to avoid pork altogether also exist, like turkey or vegetarian alternatives.


Prosciutto on a wooden board

Prosciutto is another pork product similar to pancetta. Both cuts of meat are processed in the same way. The difference is the cut of meat being used. Pancetta is made from pork belly, while prosciutto is made from leg meat.

Since prosciutto is commonly served thinly sliced, this meat is an excellent replacement for pancetta. If the prosciutto can be cubed instead of sliced, you can also use it in recipes calling for diced pancetta.

While prosciutto might be able to replace pancetta in most contexts, it can be challenging to find prosciutto that hasn’t been thinly sliced. If a recipe calls for diced pancetta, but it’s unavailable, it might be time to consider other substitutes.

Prosciutto, like pancetta, has salty and savory flavor profiles. It is a fatty cut of meat that is visually very similar to pancetta.

In most applications, swapping prosciutto for pancetta won’t require additional recipe changes. These meats are very similar and can be substituted one for one.


Salami slices

One of the most popular pork products, salami, is another meat that has been cured for preservation. Cuts of meat are ground and mixed with herbs and spices before the drying process begins.

Salami serves as a versatile replacement for pancetta. You can use it sliced for uncooked preparations or cubed and crisped for a tasty addition to dishes like pizza.

Swapping salami for pancetta works well in most cases, but people using the meat may want to consider its high-fat content before adding it to some dishes.

Salami is fatty compared to other pork products and can make some dishes greasy. Salami might not be the best substitute if a dish contains other heavy ingredients, like cheese.

The flavor profile of salami is similar to other pork products: savory and salty. Salami preparation varies. Some salami can be very spicy. Something all salamis have in common is lots of delicious fat. The high-fat content is visible when examining the meat. 

Salami can replace pancetta without changing the amount of meat used. However, some dishes may require less salami than pancetta because of their high-fat content.


Bacon on a wooden board

Pancetta and bacon are two very similar products made from cured pork belly. The critical difference is that bacon is smoked, creating a more distinct, bolder flavor. In most preparations, bacon is cooked with a crispy consistency to add crunch.

Bacon goes great with almost anything and is an excellent substitute for cooked and cubed pancetta. The only time bacon doesn’t work as a satisfactory substitute is for raw preparations. Bacon cannot be eaten raw because it could cause food poisoning.

Compared to bacon, pancetta has a sweeter and stronger pork flavor. Since bacon is smoked, it takes on a heavier flavor of smoke. This creates a distinctive smokey, rich, and salty taste.

What many people like best about bacon is the texture. The meat is particularly useful for adding a crispy, savory crunch to dishes.

Swapping bacon for pancetta is easy. No additional changes need to be made to the recipe to make the change. However, using sliced bacon may mean you need to crumble or cut the meat for the desired texture of your dish.

Smoked Ham

Smoked Ham

Smoked ham is a cut of pork leg. Ham has a distinctly sweet pork flavor that pairs well with the smoking process, creating rich, flavorful cuts of meat.

Pancetta can easily be replaced with smoked ham in most situations. Smoked ham can be diced or sliced. Some smoked ham is ready to eat after it has been cured and smoked, but that’s not always the case. Check the packaging to see if a ham hasn’t already been thoroughly cooked.

Smoked ham varies in flavor profile depending on the exact preparation. In general smoked ham provides a sweet and savory addition to recipes.

Using smoked ham in place of pancetta doesn’t require any extra steps. However, if the ham hasn’t been fully cooked, it might require extra preparation since pancetta is a ready-to-eat food when added to recipes.

Smoked Turkey

Smoked Turkey

Fully-cooked smoked turkey serves as a lighter replacement for pancetta. Turkey can be smoked whole or as different cuts of meat. Smoking brings a richer flavor to the turkey than other preparations.

Replacing pancetta with turkey is an excellent alternative for dishes calling for a cubed cut of meat. Turkey holds up well and gives a sweet flavor to dishes that is distinct from its pork counterparts.

Smoked turkey has a noticeably different color than pork products, which are usually a darker pink. The taste of the meat also reflects this. Turkey brings a much more subtly meaty taste than the other alternatives.

Turkey will work as a substitute in most recipes, but it may be necessary to add extra salt or fat to recreate the properties of pancetta. If you’re avoiding excess fat, you should try adding herbs to create additional layers of flavor.

Smoked Sausage

Smoked Sausage

Like salami, smoked sausage is made from ground pork meat stuffed into a casing and smoked. Smoked sausage has many different preparations depending on the herbs and spices used.

Using smoked sausage as a pancetta alternative works best for dishes that don’t call for it to be thinly sliced. The texture of sausage doesn’t hold up well to be served this way. However, in most other cases, sausage serves as an excellent pancetta substitute.

In general, smoked sausage has a sweet, porky profile. Certain varieties can be spicy too. This meat also has a softer texture than other alternatives to pancetta.

No extra steps need to be taken when using smoked sausage in place of pancetta. Just expect a slightly different mouth feel than when using other substitutes.

Porcini Mushrooms

Porcini Mushrooms in a basket

Recreating the sweet and savory flavors of pancetta doesn’t always require meat. Try some of these alternatives for a vegan take on recipes calling for pancetta.

Porcini mushrooms are rich and earthy mushrooms. The hearty texture of these mushrooms makes them a great meat substitute.

Most recipes calling for pancetta can be altered to make the dish vegetarian or vegan. Cooking these mushrooms in butter enhances their flavor. For vegan preparations, saute the porcini in oil. Mushrooms may not be the best alternative for a charcuterie tray without proper preparation. 

Browning porcini mushrooms releases a meaty flavor. Their firm texture makes this white-flesh mushroom a longstanding staple of many cuisines. Porcini mushrooms can be identified by their brown to reddish tops with white stems.

Consider adding more salt to enhance the porcini’s flavor when substituting it for pancetta. Mushrooms will take less time to cook than meat products. Besides these two considerations, swapping porcini mushrooms doesn’t require extra steps. Use the same amount as you would use pancetta.


diced soft tofu on a cutting boar

Tofu is one of the most popular meat alternatives made from bean curd. The product is derived from soy milk and contains protein.

Pancetta can be replaced with tofu in many dishes. When cooked alongside other ingredients, tofu takes on their tastes. Tofu won’t work well in most antipasti dishes calling for pancetta since the protein is not cooked in these recipes, which is how tofu absorbs the flavor.

Tofu on its own has a very subtle flavor. The gelatinous curd has a unique texture that is very soft and silky. Many varieties of tofu taste salty because of the ingredients used to achieve this texture.

To achieve the complete flavor profile of pancetta using tofu requires some extra steps. Marinating is an excellent way to create complex-tasting tofu. Toasting or frying tofu also pulls out more complex flavors. Try one or both of these techniques to mimic pancetta in a recipe.

Full-Flavored Olives

Full-Flavored Olives in a bowl

Olive trees produce small savory fruit called olives. Olives offer a range of flavors depending on the variety used and how the olives have been processed.

Jarred or canned olives make great alternatives to pancetta in dishes where the meat is left uncooked. Cooking olives adds even more savory flavor, making them an excellent option for warm dishes. Overall this alternative is very versatile and works for most applications.

Olives share many of the same flavor profiles as pancetta: sweet, savory, and salty. Their color ranges from green to black, depending on their ripeness and type. Green olives tend to be more flavorful.

No special preparation is required when using olives in place of pancetta. However, it might be a good idea to chop the olives instead of adding them whole to achieve a similar texture.

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