As one of the finest cold appetizers, this Italian cured meat obtained from pigs’ hind legs, is one of the favorite delicacies worldwide. And, there are very good reasons for that. Prosciutto has a unique salty flavor with some sweet undertones.
This Italian meat also possesses a delicate texture when it is sliced thin. And, of course, that is the best way to serve it on the charcuterie board in order to enjoy its delicacy to the fullest.
But, unless you live somewhere in Italy where you can regularly find prosciutto, it can easily happen that you do not have any at hand but you have to serve something similar to it on your charcuterie board.
Of course, there are a few solutions in the form of prosciutto substitutes.
And the best ones include pancetta, culatello, capicola, guanciale, salami, jamon serrano ham, deli ham, mortadella, duck prosciutto, soppressata, bacon, beef bresaola, jamon iberico ham, cheese, mushrooms, toasted nuts, and tofu.
So, let’s take a look at these prosciutto alternatives, and let’s try to find the best substitute for you.
What Are The Best Prosciutto Substitutes?
Here are the best prosciutto substitutes that can find their place on your charcuterie board or in your favorite dish that contains prosciutto.
I will start with pancetta, also called Italian bacon, which is personally one of my favorite salt-cured pork meats. It is a salt-cured pork belly meat and it has a very similar flavor profile to dry-cured ham called prosciutto, although it is not smoky as much.
Because of that similar flavor profile, it can serve as a great prosciutto substitute. Here, I must emphasize that it is not such a good idea to eat pancetta plain because it is only cured.
On the other hand, prosciutto is salt-cured and air-dried as well. So, it is best to cook pancetta and incorporate it into some of your favorite delicious dishes. That way, you will add that specific tangy and bold flavor to your dish.
You can add pancetta to some classic dishes like pasta carbonara or you can chop it on salads. Also, you can make a sandwich with it but you definitely have to cook it first, and then you can freely eat it.
Second, on the list of the best prosciutto substitutes is culatello. In terms of appearance, flavor, and texture, it is really hard to find anything better. The process of curing is very similar.
Culatello is cured with salt, garlic, pepper, and dry white wine. Because of that, it possesses a distinctive winey taste.
The only difference is that culatello is made from the filet or loin of the hind leg of pork.
The consequence of that is less fat content. And the consequence of less fat content is lower suitability for cooking. But in terms of eating it plain, there are really no problems. Indeed, there are a few better options than this one.
It is best to serve it as an appetizer with watermelon or cantaloupe, but you can also add it to pasta and on top of pizza. The only problem is that it is not that easy to find it in the grocery stores, here in the USA.
Capicola is another great alternative for prosciutto since it is also dry-cured meat and has a very rich flavor. It is also Italian dry-cured meat just like prosciutto.
The main difference is that it is taken from pork neck and shoulder, while the other hand, prosciutto is taken from the leg. But still, the flavor is very similar to that of prosciutto, although it possesses a bit more smoky flavor.
You can use capicola as a great salad topping and you can also serve it with greens and cheese. Just like prosciutto, capicola is a great appetizer and it can be served on the board alongside crackers, bread, and cheese.
And at the end, I also have to emphasize that you have to be careful not to use sweet-cured capicola because it won’t provide you with a similar taste as prosciutto.
Guanciale can also be a good substitute for prosciutto since the process of making is very similar. In general, guanciale is a very popular cured pork meat widely used in many types of dishes.
If you want some umami flavor and a lot of saltiness in your dish, guanciale is the right thing for you. It is best to incorporate it into dishes like pasta carbonara and many other pasta dishes as well.
If you want to precisely compare it with some other type of cured meat, then it is mostly similar to bacon since it possesses a very high-fat content.
Because of that, it is not a bad idea to use it in some other dishes as well. Some of those include casseroles and various baked dishes.
But, it can also be consumed raw, so it is best to use it in salads and other types of cold dishes.
Although there are some non-pork versions of salami, it is best to use pork salami as a prosciutto substitute. Salami is also an Italian product and it is an air-dried cured meat just like prosciutto.
It is made out of fermented sausages that provide it with a bold and strong flavor. The flavor is somewhat tangy. Salami offers a similar level of salt and fat as prosciutto does.
Because of that, it is best to consume salami plain. It is best to serve it on the board or to put it in your sandwich and enjoy it.
Just remember that salami has a different flavor, a much stronger one, and that it does not possess that sweet flavor and those more delicate notes.
6. Jamon Serrano Ham
If you want a very similar alternative for prosciutto that is less salty, then Jamon Serrano ham is a great solution.
Also called Spanish Ham or just Serrano Ham, this delicacy provides you with a deep and nutty flavor as well as with strong aroma.
It isn’t that salty like prosciutto but its curing process incorporates a lot of spices that give the cured meat a distinctive flavor.
So, if you want to add some flavor to your dish but do not want that high level of saltiness that prosciutto provides, then it is best to use Jamon Serrano ham.
Also, this type of ham is served alone or it can be combined with various fruits, veggies, fish, cheese, nuts, and bread.
7. Deli Ham
If you just want to make a delicious sandwich with something similar to prosciutto, then substituting it with one ordinary deli ham can be a great idea.
Deli ham is also known as lunch meat and it is not a surprise that it is most commonly used for making sandwiches. When substituting, you can use smoked ham, serrano ham, sandwich ham, or black forest ham.
Since it is lower in fat than some other similar types of meat like prosciutto or bacon, it can burn much easier when it is cooked, of course, if you do not add some oil.
Because of that, it is more suitable for already mentioned sandwiches. The flavor of deli ham is much less complex than that of prosciutto and it is also a much less chewy alternative.
But, since it is made out of pork, it will provide you with that recognizable pork flavor that you are looking for. Also, the level of saltiness is similar to that of prosciutto so this isn’t a bad alternative after all.
It may be a surprise that this emulsified sausage which originates from Bologna, found its place on the list of prosciutto substitutes. But, actually, mortadella can be a decent alternative for prosciutto, especially if you are planning to make some delicious sandwiches.
It does not possess a similar flavor to prosciutto and it is also not a good option for dishes when it is required to cook it because of its texture.
But, honestly, if you have to replace prosciutto on the meat board or in the sandwiches particularly, and you only have mortadella on hand, then you have no need to refrain from using it.
9. Duck Prosciutto
Duck prosciutto can serve very well as the prosciutto substitute in some cases. After all, it is a type of prosciutto, but the non-pork substitute.
It is actually made of salt-cured duck meat that has a slightly different fat pattern than its more common cousin.
It is also a little less salty. But although they are made from different types of meat, their flavors are actually very similar.
Duck prosciutto even has a little bit of that recognizable porky flavor, although there is no pork at all.
All that makes it a suitable alternative for pork prosciutto, especially in sandwiches. It can also be served on the board with crackers and used in various dishes with sweeter ingredients like fig chutney or cherry preserves. Your favorite Spuntini can benefit from it hugely.
The main reason for this is that its intense flavor goes well with sweeter ones.
Although this isn’t a great alternative for prosciutto when it comes to cooking, it can serve you well if you are planning to put it on the charcuterie board.
It possesses a similar flavor and if it’s cut in thin slices, it can be very similar in appearance as well. If you can stand a little extra fat and a little higher level of spiciness then this can be an excellent substitute for prosciutto.
These two also do not possess a similar texture because soppressata is a little bit tougher, unlike prosciutto which is chewier.
Nonetheless, if you are not planning to cook it instead of prosciutto, you are free to use it as a substitute.
And, of course, there is the good old bacon, a versatile ingredient with which you just can not go wrong. I am saying this because there are a lot of differences in flavor and texture between these two.
But when it comes to bacon, all this can be easily overcome, considering that it is a very tasty food and many people love to eat it in different forms.
Due to the different curing processes, bacon is usually smoked and provides a strong woodsy flavor and a higher fat content. Smoked bacon is much thicker as well.
But, you can easily find bacon in most grocery stores and that is what primarily puts it on this list.
12. Beef Bresaola
Another non-pork substitute, beef bresaola is a very tasty one. The meat is dark red in color and it possesses a musty, sweet, and a bit nutty flavor.
A similar flavor can be thanked for the similar curing process. So, if you for some reason do not want to eat pork meat, using beef bresaola instead is a very legitimate solution.
The only real difference when it comes to flavor profile is the fact that beef bresaola has a stronger and slightly saltier flavor.
So, if you decide to use beef bresaola instead of prosciutto, you can serve it chilled and drizzled alongside olive oil and cheese, some crackers, and arugula.
You can also use it as a pizza topping.
13. Jamon Iberico Ham
And the last one on the list that represents the best prosciutto substitutes is one of the finest hams in the world. It is a Spanish cured meat that bears the name “Jamon Iberico”.
This one comes from the leg of the pork and it was named after a black Iberian pig for that reason, it is very expensive.
That is also the reason why it is found last on this list. If it wasn’t so expensive, it would probably be in a much higher position since it possesses a quite unique taste that can cause the water in everyone’s mouth.
It has a savory flavor and smooth texture, as well as high-fat content or marbling which is something quite similar to prosciutto. But, because of the long curing process, it usually has a very strong flavor, so you need to be careful when substituting it for prosciutto.
What Are The Vegetarian Alternatives For Prosciutto?
Since there are a lot of you who do not consume pork and meat in general but like its taste and texture, it would be unfair not to mention a few vegetarian alternatives for prosciutto. Actually, those are the 4 best options I’ve singled out.
The first vegetarian option is cheese. Cheese is a very popular choice as an addition to cured meats, salami, and hams in sandwiches, as well as a side for sandwiches. But, it can also be a great alternative to the meat itself.
If you choose cheese as a replacement for prosciutto, it is best to use hard-aged cheese-like Romano, Swiss, Asiago, or Parmesan cheese. The main reason is the intense, smoky flavor that these types of cheese can provide. That is actually prosciutto taste.
Mushrooms can also be a great vegetarian alternative to prosciutto but you have to know how to properly prepare them to be a good alternative. You can’t just buy kikurage mushrooms or champignons and substitute them for prosciutto.
You need to choose mushrooms that possess rich, umami flavors like perhaps portobello, maitake, or shiitake and you need to prepare them properly as well.
It is best to cut them into thin slices, marinate them in soy sauce and sesame oil, and then finally bake them until caramelized.
That way you will get a good prosciutto alternative that you can serve on any board.
3. Toasted Nuts
This may look like a little odd alternative but actually, some toasted nuts like toasted almonds and walnuts can be a great vegan or vegetarian substitute for prosciutto.
Those toasted nuts can add a similar flavor to your dish that requires prosciutto.
It is best to add toasted nuts to your salads or pasta. You can also sprinkle some on the top of your pizza or you can serve it on a cheese platter alongside some well-aged cheese.
And last but not least is tofu. A very unexpected substitute and, indeed, it is if you use it raw. But, if you marinate it the right way, i.e. in the soy sauce, and bake it at low temperature for about 45 minutes, it can be a wonderful alternative for prosciutto.
Besides that, tofu is a very healthy ingredient, so you will have a good substitute, great flavor, and texture, as well as some health benefits. What more can you ask?
So, as you could have seen, prosciutto is one of the finest appetizers, not just in Italy which is its country of origin, but also here in the US and in all corners of the world where people respect good food.
But, in some cases, if you do not have it on hand or can not afford it, it is very legitimate to substitute it with some decent alternatives.
And this list of 17 prosciutto substitutes will present you with the best culinary options with which you can successfully replace prosciutto.
Also, if you are vegetarian, I tried my best to present you with 4 substitutes that do not contain meat so that you can all find something for yourself, whether you are vegetarian or not.
And, just a reminder, don’t confuse prosciutto Crudo, which is our dry-cured meat, with cooked ham called prosciutto Cotto because those are two different worlds.