Hey! This site is reader-supported and we earn commissions if you purchase products from retailers after clicking on a link from our site.
Ever wanted to get some prosciutto wrap, salad or pasta dishes but were ultimately unable to find any? Or do your dietary requirements prevent you from eating it, or even pork entirely. If so, don’t worry, we’ll discuss your options for the best substitutes for prosciutto below.
Table of Contents
- What Is Prosciutto?
- How Does Prosciutto Taste?
- Can Prosciutto Be Eaten Raw?
- Why You Might Wish To Replace Prosciutto
- The Best Prosciutto Substitute Options
- Substitutes For Prosciutto
- FAQ – Best Substitutes for Prosciutto
What Is Prosciutto?
Prosciutto is a type of thinly sliced cured meat, typically coming in the form of pork meat. Unlike many other forms of cured meats though prosciutto undergoes a particularly long curing process which will typically take roughly a year at the very least.
Thin slices of this famous Italian cured meat will often be served as part of appetisers or in salads pasta dishes, wraps or as part of the garnish to add more flavour to your meal.
How Does Prosciutto Taste?
The taste of the prosciutto can vary depending on the herbs and quantity of salt used during the curing process. However, it will often have a delicious taste of smoked ham that is very salty but also slightly sweet.
Can Prosciutto Be Eaten Raw?
Due to being a dry-cured ham that has been salt-cured for at least a year, prosciutto is perfectly safe to eat. This is because like cured sausage and other meats treated in this manner, the preparation and curation processes dries out the meat by removing all moisture.
As a result, any bacteria that would otherwise multiply will be unable to. As such, people will often eat it on sandwiches, wraps and salads without cooking it in any way.
Why You Might Wish To Replace Prosciutto
Whilst prosciutto is truly delicious, there are a wide variety of reasons why you may need a substitute for this cured meat.
Obviously, you may simply not be able to find it in your local area, or maybe the shop is out of stock. Additionally, if trying to cut down on your salt intake you may wish to avoid cured meats and instead stick to uncured options.
Other dietary restrictions may be religious in nature since people of Jewish, Muslim and even some Christian faiths cannot eat pork for these reasons. Meanwhile, other people may simply have an allergy to pork.
Another common reason though is that you may not eat meat at all. As such, if you are a vegan or vegetarian you may be seeking meat-free alternatives when following a particular recipe.
Fortunately, no matter the reason for needing a prosciutto substitute, there are plenty of options out there.
The Best Prosciutto Substitute Options
As mentioned above there is a multitude of reasons why someone may want to substitute prosciutto out for some other alternative. With this in mind, simply saying a singular replacement option likely won’t be very helpful in the vast majority of cases.
Naturally then, we will explore a wide range of options so no matter your reasoning, you should be able to find a proper substitute for prosciutto that works for you. For some excellent pork-based, non-pork based and vegetarian/vegan options for replacing prosciutto take a look at the options below:
Pork Prosciutto Substitutes
With prosciutto being a type of Italian meat based mainly around salt-cured and smoked ham, naturally, there are many pork-based solutions when a replacement is needed:
Bacon as we all know is salty cured strips of pork, harvested from the back, belly and sides of a pig. It may not be a one to one comparison but bacon that is cut into thin slices and properly cooked but still flexible can make an excellent substitute for prosciutto. Especially so since it’s easy to find, cheap and well who doesn’t like bacon?
If wanting to get it to be as close to prosciutto as possible though, then you should blanch it in boiling water for a few minutes. When it is translucent then remove it from the boiling water and rinse it. Finally, use it in your recipes just as your would prosciutto.
When cooked in this way the bacon will be completely safe to consume and have a similar texture to prosciutto. However, to ensure it is as close as possible to prosciutto it is recommended you use near paper-thin slices that have been smoked and salt-cured.
Sandwich ham, in particular, is an excellent choice for sheer convenience as it will have a similarly thin texture to something like prosciutto. Additionally, it can be used in recipes in exactly the same way without having to change ingredient ratios or take any elaborate extra steps.
However, most sandwich hams will not be nearly as salty as something like prosciutto. As such adding a dash of salt is required to properly substitute standard sandwich ham for prosciutto.
Alternatively, whilst it might be more expensive or difficult to find, black forest ham will provide a much closer taste than regular sandwich ham would.
For the best ham option though, using cooked ham hock that is cured and smoked will be an excellent option. However, this is an option you may have to do yourself. Naturally, if going this route, the ham should be cut into very thin slices.
Similarly to prosciutto, salami is a type of cured meat that originates from Italy. However, unlike prosciutto, salami is ground and seasoned pork (or other red meat such as beef) which is cured and made into sausages.
Often it can either be bought thinly sliced or as a whole salami but unlike most other types of sausage, it can be eaten raw due to having undergone a long curing process.
Traditionally, salami is made from a mixture of minced pork and beef, salt, wine along with various seasonings. As such, it can come in a variety of flavours such as mild, sweet or “picante” (spicy) meaning that you can cater the type of salami you buy to the dish you plan on making.
Often called Italian bacon, pancetta has a very similar taste to prosciutto due to being cured in salt and various spices. As such it can make for a particularly excellent replacement for prosciutto.
However, like with regular bacon, despite going through the curing process, pancetta needs to be cooked before it is edible for human consumption.
As a result, if using this substitute option, then you need to cook it first. Following this, if serving in a salad or other cold dishes then it should be allowed to cool before serving.
Another Italian meat option is to use capicola for your prosciutto substitute. This type of pork meat comes from the pig’s shoulder or neck and is sealed and either dry smoked or cured for roughly half a year.
The resulting meat is safe to eat raw, just like prosciutto and as such is available at many a deli counter where you will be able to get it very thinly sliced. One thing to be careful of though is that whilst regular capicola is close to prosciutto, sweet cured capicola tastes very different.
One of the fattiest cured meats but also one of the most delicious is guanciale. This cut of pork comes from the pig’s cheek and is seasoned with salt, pepper, sage, rosemary, and garlic. Following which it is dried and aged for roughly three months in order to maximise the flavours of the meat.
Like prosciutto, it can be eaten raw or cooked, making it an ideal substitute for most recipes. However, it is fattier than prosciutto so whilst it tastes similar it is richer.
Iberico Ham/Serrano Ham
These two types of Spanish ham are placed together since they are prepared in much the same way. However, Iberico ham comes from Black Iberian Pigs and the resulting meat is much more flavourful and therefore expensive.
Whichever option you choose, these types of Spanish ham make for excellent prosciutto substitutes. This is due to them having near enough the same taste, texture and appearance as the Italian ham in question.
This cured pork thigh meat has a very similar taste to that of prosciutto and is much saltier than many of the other substitute options. This meat will be aged in salt within a beef or hog bladder for roughly thirty-six months, resulting in meat that is smokey but with a lingering sweetness.
This is very much considered a prime cut of cured meat though as it is from an area with little bones, fat or rind to impact the flavour. As such, it is truly a delicious and deeply flavourful cured meat that can be enjoyed cooked or raw.
Like salami, this is another type of cured Italian sausage. However, unlike salami, mortadella is actually more akin to something like classic sandwich ham.
As such, it will likely not be suitable for most contexts. Although the extra saltiness, along with the additions of flavours such as black pepper, pistachios and myrtle berries will make this truly unique.
Ultimately, it is much milder in taste but slightly more dense than prosciutto. This means whilst not a direct replacement for it, mortadella will work if wanting to somewhat change up the flavours of a dish.
Non-Pork Substitute Options
Presented above were some pork based replacements for prosciutto. However, if due to dietary, religious or any other reasons you can’t eat pork, fortunately, you still have options. Below are some ideas for meat-based options that are pork-free:
Beef bresaola is an Italian form of air-dried meat that undergoes a two-month ageing process. For those who are unable to or dislike pork and want a beef substitute, then this is truly the best option to seek out.
The fully aged meat will be a deep, dark red in colour and be slightly smokey but also sweet, musty and somewhat nutty. Additionally, its flavours are somewhat milder than those of prosciutto whilst the texture is leaner.
Perhaps one of the closest substitutes to regular pork prosciutto is inevitably going to be duck prosciutto. Texture and flavour wise it may seem slightly similar to that of pork but assuredly, there will be no pork content in proper duck prosciutto.
Like regular prosciutto, this will pair excellently with sweeter ingredients and make for excellent sandwich meat. However, due to being sauced from duck meat, it will certainly be richer in taste and potentially fattier than pork prosciutto.
Vegan/Vegetarian Substitute For Prosciutto
If you aren’t able to eat meat at all, however, then you will need a vegan or vegetarian substitute option for prosciutto. Fortunately, like with many foods these days, there is an evergrowing list of options for what you can have in this regard. Some of the best and easiest to find examples are listed below:
Especially when served with crackers or just simply trying to add some smokiness to a meal, cheese is an excellent choice. In particular, hard aged cheeses such as swiss, asiago or romano or parmesan cheese will excellently add that smokiness you’ve been craving.
Whether on a sandwich, crackers, pasta or salad, smokey cheeses will make an excellent vegetarian substitute for prosciutto.
Cooked mushrooms will provide an excellent vegan alternative to prosciutto due to their deliciously rich umami flavour. This is is especially true when they caramelised as they will enhance the richness of any baked dish where prosciutto would otherwise have been used.
The beauty of mushrooms is that they are somewhat able to provide a sense of meatness to a dish. This is particularly true when using portobello or shitake mushrooms though. As such with the right seasonings, some cooked mushrooms can really bring a dish together wonderfully.
When salted and toasted, almonds and walnuts can make for wonderful vegan substitiions for prosciutto in a variety of meals. Additionally, if also toasted with paprika they will gain a little more of a nuanced edge to their flavouring.
Toasted nuts work well in a variety of contexts such as in risottos, pasta or salad. Additionally, they can also go down a treat when sprinkled as toppings for pizza or a cheeseboard.
Substitutes For Prosciutto
As we’ve explored above, there is a multitude of options available for you to choose from when substituting prosciutto for something else. Whatever your reasoning though, you are sure to find something that can make for an excellent stand-in. If wanting to experiment though, why not try cracking out the smoker to add some smokey flavours to your favourite ingredients?
FAQ – Best Substitutes for Prosciutto
What can I use in place of prosciutto?
There are a variety of different options to choose from when replacing prosciutto. From pancetta to parmesan or toasted nuts there are truly plenty of options at your fingertips.
Is there a beef substitute for prosciutto?
If you cant eat or simply don’t like pork and want a beef substitute option, then you’re fortunately in luck. Beef bresaola is another type of cured Italian meat but derived from pork. Flavour-wise it isn’t identical but is fairly similar and can fulfil the same role in dishes that call for prosciutto.
What ham is similar to prosciutto?
Serrano and Iberico ham from Spain are very similar to prosciutto ham, as is capicola. Additionally, whilst not ham in the traditional sense, thinly sliced salami will also be effective at mimicking it.