10 Best Salt Pork Substitutes


Salt pork is usually made from pork belly. It is fatty, salty, and cured for a long time, so it is full of flavor so it is often used in sandwiches and recipes like baked beans, chowder, or stews. Fattiness and saltiness are essential components of many recipes that use salt pork. Unfortunately, finding a substitute can seem quite tricky because not all replacements will have the proper levels of both salt and fat to mimic salt pork properly.

With that being said, here are 10 alternatives to salt pork that might just hit the spot.

1. Bacon

Bacon-in-a-Refrigerator

Probably the most popular salt pork alternative is bacon. It is also made from pork and is usually taken from the belly, back, or sides. Like salt pork, it is cured, but it is also often smoked. It is very close in flavor to salt pork, although it is important that you look for bacon that hasn’t been flavored with any sweeteners. It would be best if you looked for fattier cuts, not lean, to make sure that you hit those fatty notes that you would get from salt pork. It also doesn’t need to be soaked, unlike salt pork, so it can be more convenient to use. The same amount of bacon as salt pork would be acceptable for most recipes.

Bacon can be used in recipes like baked beans and chowder, and it can also be used in sandwiches because it has the same meaty texture as salt pork. As long as you get fat cuts of bacon, you will also get that hit of fattiness in your sandwich or dish.

2. Pancetta

Close up shot of Italian rolled bacon called Pancetta Piacentina

Another popular salt pork substitute is pancetta, also known as Italian bacon. Like salt pork, it is taken from the belly. It has the same high fat content as salt pork and is both salty and cured. You don’t need to soak pancetta, but you should leave it to stand for 30 minutes before using it in your recipe. Then, you can use around the same amount of pancetta as you would salt pork as a replacement in a recipe.

Like bacon, pancetta can both be used in baked beans/stews/chowder and sandwiches. It is thinner than salt pork and bacon, so its texture won’t be quite the same in sandwiches, but it will still deliver the same flavor.

3. Beef jerky

Beef-Jerky-in-a-Container

Beef jerky is a fun snack, and it isn’t something you might immediately think of adding to a recipe. But, actually, it can make a decent alternative to salt pork. It is salted and cured and has a rich and meaty taste that can hit all the same notes as salt pork. However, you may need to use less beef jerky than salt pork because it has a very intense flavor.

Beef jerky is perfect in recipes like baked beans, stews, and chowders, but it is a bit too tough to really be used as a replacement for salt pork in sandwiches. It really needs the liquid that you find in other salt pork recipes to break it down and make it less tough.

4. Olive Oil

Olive-Oil-in-a-Decanter

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, a really simple alternative to salt pork in many recipes is olive oil. It easily replaces the fat content you would be looking for in salt pork, and you should aim for one tablespoon of olive oil to one ounce of salt pork. However, the element that can be lacking in olive oil is the saltiness. Extra virgin olive oil will have a pleasant bitterness, but you may still need to add a little extra salt to your recipe to compensate.

Olive oil will work great in recipes like chowder, stews, and baked beans, but, of course, it won’t work as a substitute for salt pork in things like sandwiches.

5. Salted Butter

Melted-Butter-in-a-Saucepan

Another excellent option for vegetarians or vegans (if you’re vegan, you can use a non-dairy butter alternative) is salted butter as a replacement for salt pork. It hits the same fattiness and saltiness elements that you would be looking for. However, it doesn’t have quite the same range of flavors that olive oil does, so a combination of the two can be really satisfying. Again, you should aim for one tablespoon for one ounce of salt pork.

Like olive oil, you won’t be able to use salted butter as a replacement for salt pork in sandwiches, but it works great for recipes like baked beans and chowder.

6. Smoked Salmon

Cold smoked pink salmon on a wooden background

Smoked salmon has all sorts of health benefits, so if you’re watching your health, it is a great option as an alternative to salt pork. Especially if you are looking for a substitute for a salt pork sandwich. Smoked salmon is salty and fatty, so it will hit all of those notes, and it has a delicious flavor that pairs really well with cheese.

The great thing about smoked salmon is that you can use it for all different types of salt pork recipes, including sandwiches. Also, many pescatarians (people whose only meat is fish) use smoked salmon as their bacon, so it is really versatile. And if you are looking to get healthy, it is an easy replacement for salt pork that feels and tastes very similar.

7. Ham Hock (Pork Knuckle)

Raw pork knuckle or ham hock with rosemary and thyme on wood background

Ham hock is richer and denser than salt pork because it contains bone and connective tissue, so it can make for a heartier alternative that still hits those fatty and salty notes. Look for smoked ham hock if you want it to be as close to salt pork as possible. You will need to simmer ham hock before you use it, so it can be more time-consuming.

Ham hock will work in every salt pork recipe, including sandwiches, because it has a definite meat texture. However, it is a little thicker and tougher than salt pork because of the connective tissues. So, you must make sure to simmer it for long enough for it to get a little softer.

8. Cured Vegetables

Cured Vegetables in a Bowl

This option may need quite a bit of prep, but it is a healthier option and is full of nutrients. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, cured vegetables as an alternative to salt pork are perfect because, unlike olive oil or butter, you are also adding some texture to your dish. You will probably need to cure your vegetables yourself and, if you want to use them as a replacement for salt pork, it is best to go for a salted curing method. You will also need to add some extra fat to your dish to hit that fat content you expect from salt pork, and olive oil or butter (can be vegan) could easily be used for this.

While it might seem strange to put cured vegetables in a sandwich, many vegetarians and vegans will already be used to vegetable sandwiches. They have enough texture for it to work, and the salty cured flavor will really come through. You can also use cured vegetables in all other types of salt pork recipes.

9. Fatback

Cut pork fatback with rind isolated on white

Fatback is, as the name suggests, nice and fatty. In fact, it is all fat. Fatback is taken from the back and is the layer of hard fat just under the skin’s surface. It isn’t, however, usually cured with salt. So when you use it in a dish, you will need to replace the salt that you would find in salt pork in a different way. Also, it doesn’t contain any meat, so it won’t have as much meaty flavor as salt pork, so you could replace that flavor with mushrooms. Umami is the flavor that is usually associated with meat, and mushrooms have umami in spades.

Because fastback is only fat, it won’t really work in sandwiches because it will have an odd texture. It works great in all other types of salt pork recipes, however.

10. Country Ham

Sliced Ham

Ham is, of course, also pork. And it has been cured and smoked, so you will get a similar array of flavors as you would find in salt pork. Again, this will give you that hit of meatiness that you would expect from salt pork. Country ham isn’t usually salted, however, so you will need to adjust the salt levels in the dish yourself to really mimic the profile of salt pork.

Country ham works best as a substitute for salt pork in sandwiches. It is designed to be used as a sandwich filling, after all. However, it doesn’t work quite as well in recipes like baked beans because it is tough and doesn’t break down all that well.

Can You Buy Salt Pork?

Yes, salt pork is available in most big stores and butchers. It should be easy enough for you to pick up enough salt pork to make whatever recipes you are hoping to. In addition, it isn’t as expensive as some other cured pork options.

Where To Buy Salt Pork?

The best place to get your salt pork is from a butcher shop. Not only will you be supporting a small business, but you can be absolutely sure that your salt pork has been freshly cut and prepared. If you don’t have a butcher shop near you, most big superstores have a meat counter or meat selection containing salt pork.

Is Pork Belly and Salt Pork the Same?

Most salt pork is made from pork belly, but pork belly on its own isn’t salt pork. For pork belly to become salt pork, it needs to be salt-cured. It is on the shorter side of curing processes and usually takes around 48 hours. Pork belly can’t be used as a direct substitute for salt pork in recipes because it lacks the saltiness that you would expect.

Can I Make Salt Pork at Home?

If you have the time and the patience, then making salt pork at home isn’t that difficult. And home-cured salt pork can be absolutely delicious. You will need lots of salt and some sugar. The pork belly will need to be sliced into strips, and each strip rubbed on each side with the salt and sugar mix. Then layer the pork belly in a glass container, with more salt added to each layer, and leave for 48 hours.

Best Substitute for Salt Pork in Baked Beans?

When adding salt pork to baked beans, it is all about the flavor. So the best substitute to use is bacon, as this will deliver the closest flavor and texture profile as salt pork. You will barely be able to tell the difference between bacon and salt pork in this recipe.

Can I Use Prosciutto Instead of Salt Pork?

Prosciutto is similar to salt pork in many ways. It uses the same cut of the pig, and it is also cured, so they have the same flavor profile. Prosciutto isn’t usually a good substitute for salt pork, however, and this is because of the way it is intended to be used. Prosciutto is intended to be eaten raw, not cooked, so it can’t be added to recipes in the same way as salt pork. Pancetta will work as a good substitute instead because, while pancetta can be eaten raw if you want to, it can also be cooked.

Final Bite

Salt pork has a unique flavor due to its high meat, fat, and salt content. This can make it seem not easy to replicate salt pork in recipes. However, other meats are similar to salt pork, such as bacon, ham hock, pancetta, and even beef jerky.

In addition, smoked salmon is perfect for pescatarians and the health-conscious, and there are even vegetarian/vegan options such as olive oil, salted butter, and cured vegetables.

So if you can’t find salt pork for your recipe, or you want to look for an alternative that is better for your health, there are lots of solutions out there that will work really well.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page.

Recent Posts