8 Best Pork Belly Substitutes Plus 3 Vegan Options

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If you’re in need of a pork belly substitute for your recipe, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Pork belly is a beloved ingredient known for its delicious flavor. In some areas, it’s not readily available or doesn’t fit dietary needs. We’ve compiled a list of great solutions, including both meat and vegan options. So let’s dive into some of the best substitutes for pork belly.

the best pork belly substitutes

What is pork belly?

Pork belly is a boneless cut of meat taken from the pig’s lower abdomen that has alternating fat layers and succulent, juicy pork. It boasts an incredibly rich flavor with tenderness to match thanks to its high-fat content–making it ideal for dishes like bacon, pancetta or roasted pork belly! Versatile cooking methods such as braising, roasting grilling and frying allow you craft remarkable meals with this delicious ingredient.

Pork Belly Substitutes

There are many alternatives that can be used in place of pork belly. The best choice depends on the recipe and of course personal preference.

Here are our favorite substitutes for pork belly:

1. Pork Shoulder

The pork shoulder cut also known as pork butt, is a well-marbled cut of meat that is often used for slow-cooked dishes like pulled pork. While it is not as fatty as pork belly, it can provide a similar richness and flavor to dishes. This is our favorite substitute for pork belly as it can be used interchangeably in most recipes.

Raw pork neck meat piece for Chop steak in wooden tray with herbs. Black background. Top view

2. Pork Bacon

Bacon is made from pork belly that is sliced and cured. It has a similar smoky, salty flavor and can be used in dishes like ramen, sandwiches and stir-fries that call for pork belly.

3. Duck Bacon

Duck meat shares a striking resemblance with pork belly, despite being a different meat altogether. Its texture closely mirrors that of pork belly, while its taste is a blend of sweet and savory, reminiscent of pork belly’s signature flavor.

Unlike chicken, duck meat is considered a luxurious or gourmet meat, being fattier and sweeter than its poultry counterpart. To substitute pork belly, using duck meat bacon is highly recommended, as it works best for this purpose.

While duck meat may not be a perfect match for pork belly, its similar texture and sweetness can elevate dishes in the same way. Therefore, experimenting with duck meat as a substitute is worth considering.

4. Pork Fatback

Pork fatback is a cut of pork that comes from the back of the pig and is similar to pork belly in terms of texture and fat content. However, there are some differences to consider.

Pork belly typically has a higher meat-to-fat ratio. Pork fatback, on the other hand, is pure fat, so it may not be the best substitute for dishes that require a meaty flavor. That being said, pork fatback can work well as a substitute for pork belly in certain dishes, especially those that require the pork fat to render slowly and provide flavor and moisture to the dish.

5. Pork Jowl

Pork jowl is a cut of pork that comes from the cheek of the pig. It has a high fat content and a similar texture to pork belly but it is a bit leaner so it may not render as much fat when cooked.

With this in mind, pork jowl can work well as a substitute for pork belly in dishes that require slow cooking or braising. Pork jowl can provide a similar richness and depth of flavor as pork belly, and it can be used in recipes like stews, soups, and ragus.

6. Goose Meat

Goose meat is a flavorful and rich meat that can be a good substitute for a pork belly. The cut of goose meat that would be the best substitute for pork belly would be the goose breast.

The goose breast has a high fat content and can be prepared in many of the same ways as pork belly, such as roasting or braising and it can provide a rich, meaty flavor to a variety of dishes.

Keep in mind that goose meat has a different flavor profile than pork belly that is more gamey in taste and has a slightly different texture. However, for dishes that require a fatty meat with a rich flavor, goose breast can be a great substitute for pork belly.

Smoked goose breast on crusty bread with tomato

7. Beef Navel

Beef navel is a cut of beef that is taken from the lower chest area of the cow, just below the ribs. It is also known as beef plate or belly plate. While it has a similar appearance and texture to pork belly, it is not typically used as a substitute for pork belly in most recipes. When substituting with beef belly you should think of the dish as a new recipe altogether.

Beef navel can be a delicious ingredient in its own right and can be used in a variety of dishes. It is often used in slow-cooking recipes, such as stews and braises, where the beef can be cooked low and slow until it becomes tender and flavorful.

8. Salt Pork

Salt pork is a type of preserved pork that is made by curing and salting pork belly or fatback. As such, it is actually a very similar product to pork belly, and can be used as a substitute in many recipes that call for pork belly.

However, there are a few key differences to keep in mind. Salt pork is much saltier than fresh pork belly, and it does not have the same texture or fat content. This means that you may need to adjust your recipe accordingly, and use less salt in dishes that call for salt pork.

Pork Belly Vegan Substitutes

1. Tofu

Tofu is made from soybeans has a high protein content and is low in fat, making it a healthier alternative for those looking to reduce their intake of saturated fat. Tofu can be used in a variety of dishes, including stir-fries, soups, and stews. It is important to note that tofu does not have a lot of flavor on its own so you’ll need to adjust seasonings to achieve the flavor you’re looking for.

Wicked kitchen has an amazing tofu pork belly recipe.

2. Tempeh

Tempeh is another good alternative that is also made from soybeans. It is fermented, which makes it higher in protein and fiber than tofu. Tempeh has a firm texture and can be used in dishes such as burgers, stir-fries, and casseroles. Like tofu, tempeh does not have a lot of flavor on its own, so it is often flavored with sauces or seasonings.

This vegan Taiwanese braised pork belly made with tempeh over on Nomss is to die for!

Closeup of slices of Tempeh or tempe on a wooden surface

3. Seitan

Pork belly seitan is made from wheat gluten. It is also high in protein and low in fat. Check out this pork belly seitan recipe over on Seitan Society.

How do you substitute pork belly in a recipe?

When choosing a substitute for pork belly, there are a few factors to consider, including the flavor, texture, and cooking method of the recipe you are making. Here are some tips to help you choose the best substitute:

  • Choose the right substitute: Make sure the substitute you are using has a similar flavor and texture to pork belly, and is appropriate for the dish you are making.
  • Adjust cooking time and temperature: Cooking times and temperatures may need to be adjusted when using a substitute, especially if the alternative has a lower fat content or has a different texture than pork belly.
  • Add additional seasoning: Depending on the substitute you are using, you may need to add additional seasoning to achieve the desired flavor. For example, if using tempeh as a substitute, you may want to marinate it in a savory sauce to mimic the flavor of pork belly.
  • Keep desired flavor in mind: Pork belly has a rich, savory flavor, so you will want to choose a substitute that has a similar flavor profile. For example, if you are making a dish that calls for smoky bacon or ham, you might choose a smoked tofu or tempeh as a vegan substitute.
  • Try to mimic texture: Pork belly has a unique texture that is fatty and tender, so you will want to choose a substitute that has a similar texture for the recipe you’re trying to achieve.
  • Adjust the cooking method: Different pork belly substitutes may require a different cooking process to achieve the desired texture and flavor. For example, if you are using duck breast instead of pork belly, you may want to sear it first to render the fat before roasting it in the oven.
  • Experiment: If you are unsure of how a substitute will work in a recipe, it’s always a good idea to experiment and adjust the recipe as needed. Try different cooking methods and seasonings to find the best substitute for your recipe.
Two types of salted pork belly lard

Pork Belly FAQs

What is the difference between pork belly and bacon?

Pork belly and bacon are both cuts of pork that come from the belly area of the pig, but they are prepared differently and have some differences in flavor and texture.

Pork belly is a fatty, boneless cut of meat that comes from the underside of the pig. It is often used in Asian cuisine and is known for its rich, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Pork belly is typically sold raw and unseasoned, and is often cooked for several hours to break down the fat and make it tender.

Bacon, on the other hand, is pork belly that has been cured with salt, sugar, and other spices, and then smoked or air-dried. The curing process gives bacon its distinct salty, smoky flavor and also helps to preserve the meat. Bacon is often sliced thin and used as a breakfast food or in sandwiches and other dishes.

Pork belly is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a wide range of dishes. Some popular dishes that feature pork belly include ramen, bao buns, pork belly burnt ends, and Korean-style pork belly.

Is pork belly healthy?

Pork belly is high in fat and calories, so it should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. However, it is a good source of protein and contains vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, and vitamin B12.

Can I substitute pork belly with turkey bacon?

While turkey bacon can be used as a substitute for pork belly in some dishes, it may not be the best choice for all recipes. Turkey bacon is made from ground turkey meat that is formed into strips and then smoked, so it has a different texture and flavor than pork belly. It is also leaner than pork belly, so it will not have nearly as much rendered fat and may not have the same richness and depth of flavor.

In conclusion, there are several alternatives to pork belly that can work well in a variety of recipes, depending on your desired flavor and texture. It’s important to experiment with different substitutes and adjust cooking times and seasonings as needed to achieve the desired flavor and texture for your recipe. Ultimately, the best pork belly substitutes will depend on your personal preferences and the specific recipe you are making.

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Meet Dee

I love to share recipes with real ingredients that are both sweet and savory (especially sweet:) My mission with Gimme From Scratch is to inspire you with recipes that will bring your families together in the kitchen. I'm introverted at heart but know how important socializing can be for maintaining good relationships, when writing not only am looking forward to sharing information - It's also building connections between readers who love good food as much as I do!

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