Pork has such a specific, salty, meaty flavor, one that has inspired millions of dishes. These pork chops with honey balsamic garlic sauce? To die for.
So, trying to recreate that lovable flavor can be quite difficult. Finding the right substitution is no easy feat, but this article will help you find your perfect fit.
Below are seven substitutions that work well in different recipes. So you'll be good to go whether you're whipping up stews, sauces, or baked beans.
Understanding Salt Pork
Salt pork is salt-cured pork made from the lower half of the pig. It is comprised mostly of fat with a little bit of meat. Usually, butchers take cuts from the pork belly to make salt pork and, on rare occasions, the fatback.
Unlike bacon, salt pork is never smoked, only salted!
Because of this, the salt pork retains its meaty taste without any extra flavors.
Of course, all this fat and salt isn't the healthiest, but when used in moderation, salt pork can really elevate a recipe.
For example, you can render the fat from salt pork and use it as cooking fat. Imagine sautéing some veggies in that! Delicious.
Salt pork, though cheap, is a little complicated to use. For example, you need to soak salt pork overnight before cooking with it. Why? You need to draw out as much salt as possible ahead of time. So, plan ahead, chefs!
Best Salt Pork Alternatives
Knowing what we now know about salt pork, there are a few things to identify in our substitutes:
Try to figure out which element you need to recreate in your recipe before choosing a substitute.
Here are the top seven salt pork alternatives that you can substitute in your everyday cooking.
#1 - Bacon - Flavor-Packed
Who doesn't love bacon? Similar in flavor, bacon is far more accessible than salt pork and easier to work with. However, bacon is usually cured, which won't fly in these recipes. When shopping, choose bacon that is plain, simply cured, unsmoked, and unsliced for best results.
Bacon works well in baked beans and other similar dishes. If you're subbing it in a stew or a baked dish, you may need to add more fat or salt. You can use equal proportions when substituting bacon. Easy as can be!
Bacon does not last as long as salt pork, so read up on its shelf life before using.
#2 - Olive Oil or Butter - Healthy Alternative
If you're using salt pork for cooking fat, you can easily sub it for olive oil or butter. However, you will have to adjust the seasonings (especially salt) to recreate the flavor of the salt pork. Using salted butter is a step in the right direction!
You can substitute one tablespoon of olive oil per ounce of salt pork. Olive oil doesn't necessarily deliver on the flavor, but you can make do with extra spices.
If you're feeling fancy, you could even try flavored olive oil (think truffle or rosemary) and experiment until you find one you like.
#3 - Pancetta - Porky Flavor
This Italian bacon is delicious and wildly similar to salt pork! Although it is closer in flavor to salt pork than bacon, it's not nearly as accessible.
Pancetta contains less fat than salt pork, so this dish works best when substituting based on meat or flavor, not fat.
Pro tip: you may need to freeze the pancetta for half an hour before cooking with it or else you may not be able to cut it. Talk about some strong bacon.
Equal substitutions for pancetta and salt pork, so no tricky conversions for you.
#4 - Fatback - Best for Stews and Sauces
Unlike salt pork, fatback contains no meat, hence the name. Since it's purely fat, you should only use it when substituting salt pork for its fat or flavor, not texture or meatiness. Fat and flavor, baby!
Fatback works great in stews and sauces due to its fatty nature.
Side note: fatback is not preserved in salt like salt pork is, so you may need to add in some extra salt. Taste along the way and you should be good to go!
#5 - Smoked Ham Hock - Salt and Texture
Smoked ham hock, aka pork knuckles, is made out of connective tissue, bones, fat, and a little bit of meat. Talk about using every part of the animal! Ham hock is a very dense substitution, so this one works best when focusing on flavor and texture.
Smoked ham hock must simmer while cooking, so this substitute works best in stews and other slow-cookers. The flavor is not spot-on, but sometimes you gotta work with what you got.
#6 - Cured Vegetables - Vegetarian-Friendly
This vegetarian-friendly option is a flavorful, healthy substitute for salt pork. We love to see it!
Cured vegetables have a smoked and salty flavor, similar to salt pork, but they obviously lack the fatty and meaty quality. You can use them in more liquid-based dishes, such as sauces, casseroles, or stews.
You can use green beans, eggplants, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic...the possibilities are endless here.
#7 - Beef Jerky - Smoky Flavor
If pork is not your thing, beef jerky may be a great option for you. Of course, it can't be used as a cooking fat like salt pork, but the flavor has got it going on!
Since we're using beef jerky for the flavor here, it'd be best in stews, chowders, or baked beans.
Achieving those smoky and meaty flavors without salt pork is completely possible. Of course, certain substitutions work best in specific dishes. I recommend identifying which alternative works best in your recipe based on texture or flavor.
If you're substituting salt pork, make sure to taste test along the way so you can recreate its savory flavor to perfection.