Tasty Pork Belly Substitutes for Your Recipes

Have you ever planned to make a recipe, only to realize that you cant use one of the ingredients? But you still want to make the recipe, so start to look at substitutions.

When substituting for pork belly, there are a few different options you can try depending on the recipe youre using and how you were meant to prepare the pork belly.

What Is Another Name for Pork Belly?

Pork belly refers to a cut of meat from the underside, or belly, of the pig. Sometimes pork belly will be referred to as bacon or pancetta, though those arent true synonyms.

Bacon and pancetta come from pork belly, but pork belly is uncured meat, while bacon and pancetta have been cured.

Sometimes the term pork belly is also called side pork. Some butchers will differentiate between side pork and pork belly depending on where on the belly the cut is from.

What Does Pork Belly Taste Like?

Uncured pork belly has a similar taste to pork loin. The mild taste of pork belly makes it a versatile cut, as cooks can apply a variety of seasonings and treatments.

The versatility of pork belly also means you can find it in a variety of cuisines from around the world.

What Cut of Meat Is Pork Belly?

Pork belly is a slab cut from the underside of the pig. This is not the stomach of the pig, but rather the layers of fat and muscle stretching from the front legs to the back legs.

Pork belly is a chunk sliced from the pig’s belly. This is not the pig’s stomach, but rather the layers of fat and muscle that reach from the front to the hind legs.

Best Pork Belly Alternatives

There are several options you can use in place of pork belly. Which one you choose will depend on the type of dish youre preparing.

Whatever you choose should be boneless, fatty, and high in protein.


Bacon is the go-to substitute for pork belly, especially sliced pork belly. The flavors are very similar since bacon is often thin-sliced pork belly.

Its important to note that bacon is often sliced thinner than slices of pork belly, so you may need to adjust your cooking time.

When cooking with bacon, you may find it necessary to modify the salt and fat content of your recipe. Most of the fat melts out when frying bacon, so you may not need to add any more to your dish.

Bacon is also salted and cured, so be mindful when seasoning your recipe. You are probably safe to cut back on the salt a little since the salted bacon is replacing the unsalted pork belly.

While pork bacon is the ideal substitute for pork belly, its not an option for everyone. In that case, you can try beef or turkey bacon.

Beef bacon is closer in texture and flavor to pork bacon, but many people prefer turkey bacon because of the lower fat content.

Because beef bacon and turkey bacon have a lower fat content than pork bacon, you may not need to adjust the fat content of the rest of your recipe the way you do for pork bacon. However, keep in mind that both types of bacon are still salted and cured, so you will still want to reduce the salt content.

Pork Shoulder and Pork Butt

Sometimes your recipe may call for a larger cut of meat. Pork shoulder and pork butt are both taken from above the pigs front legs.

They both have close to the same amount of fat as pork belly, with the pork butt having slightly more fat than the pork shoulder. The most significant difference is that the meat of the shoulder and butt will be tougher than the meat of the pork belly.

When substituting pork shoulder or butt for pork belly, there are a few things to consider. The shape of the cuts is often different, with the pork shoulder being more lopsided than a slab of pork belly.

For this reason, its essential to be conscious of evenly cooking the pork shoulder if youre leaving it whole. Otherwise, you shouldnt need to adjust the fat or seasoning in your recipe.

Due to the texture and fat distribution, pork belly usually isnt a great substitute for pork shoulder. However, depending on the recipe, it should be okay to switch out pork shoulder in place of pork belly.

Pork Fatback

If youre looking for a cut of pork to make salt pork, the most similar is going to be pork fatback. Pork fatback comes from the back of the pork, the area around the spine.

The problem with pork fatback is it contains a much higher ratio of fat to meat. In fact, some cuts of fatback may not have meat at all.

Fatback is usually best used as a substitute in salted pork or when mixed in with other meats to make sausage or meatballs. Be very mindful of the excess fat on this cut of meat, and tweak the fats and oils in your recipe accordingly.

Beef Navel

If pork simply isnt an option for you, beef navel is an alternative type of meat. Beef navel comes from about the same part of the cow as pork belly does on a pig. Like pork belly, beef navel also is cut in a slab and has a high-fat content.

Beef navel can be smoked, and you can also use it to make beef bacon. As beef navel comes unseasoned, you shouldnt need to make drastic changes to your recipe. Just note that the flavor might be slightly different.

Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs are another option if you arent able to eat pork. The thighs are a fattier part of the chicken, making it a good substitute for the fatty pork belly.

Chicken thighs are especially great for recipes that call for braising, like the Chinese dish Hong Shao.

Like the beef navel, you shouldnt have to modify your recipe too much to accommodate the chicken thighs, but the texture and taste will be different. The cooking time is the main thing to watch out for when using chicken thighs.

Pork belly is often meant to cook slower to allow the meat to become tender. Chicken thighs are already tender, so they will need less cooking time.


If youre vegetarian or vegan, tempeh is an excellent option to replace pork belly. Tempeh is cooked and fermented soybeans and often comes in a cake-like loaf.

You can use tempeh in many of the same ways you can use pork: it can be barbecued, fried, used as cutlets, and you can often incorporate it well into Chinese dishes. It also works very well as a bacon substitute.

Tempeh often comes frozen and should be cooked thoroughly before eating. As a result, youll need to keep a close eye on your dish.

The cooking time for tempeh is likely to be vastly different from what the recipe recommends for the pork belly. Tempeh also doesnt contain the fat that pork belly does, so you may need to add in more fat or oil to accommodate.

Shiitake Mushrooms

Another option for vegetarians or vegans is mushrooms. This wont work in every recipe, but it will work for recipes that either call for bacon or chunks of pork belly, such as soups and chilis.

Like tempeh, you will likely need to modify the recipe to add in more fats or oils. Both shiitake mushrooms and bacon have a rich umami flavoring, making umami a great option as a substitute instead of bacon. Shiitake mushrooms can be sliced into bacon-like strips, or you can chop them for stews and soups.

Is Salt Pork the Same as Pork Belly

Salt pork and pork belly are not exactly the same. Instead, salt pork is a cut of pork, usually pork belly, that has been cured in salt. Pork belly, meanwhile, usually refers to the uncured, unsmoked cut of meat.

Is Bacon the Same as Pork Belly?

Bacon is sliced pork belly that has been cured and smoked. Bacon is more similar to pancetta, an Italian bacon that has been salted and cured but not smoked. Both are typically made from pork belly, though they may also come from the back or sides of the pig.

Is Side Pork the Same as Pork Belly?

Most of the time, side pork refers to the same cut as pork belly. Theyre usually two different terms that mean the same thing.

Occasionally, however, a butcher may differentiate between the two and use side pork to describe cuts from higher up on the sides. In that case, side pork will typically have less fat than pork belly.


What is the best substitute for pork belly?

Pork Belly Substitute
Pork Belly Substitutes.
Pork Bacon is Made from Pork Belly and Works Well as a Substitute.
Don’t Miss Out on Pork Fatback.
Salt Pork is a Replacement Option.
Pork Shoulder is Easy to Find (Check Costco!)
Duck Bacon is Delicious!
Thin Slices of Beef Bacon.
Beef Navel or Beef Bacon is a Great Substitute.

What cut of beef is similar to pork belly?

But there is a different cut that is delicious and moreish when prepared correctly – the beef navel. In the United States, what we might call beef belly is also called a navel or a plate. In the UK, they call it navel end brisket. It’s basically the equivalent of a pork belly, but on a beef.

What can I use instead of pork in recipes?

So, you can use seitan, a type of plant-based meat made from vital wheat gluten, for things such as vegan sausages and ribs. Meatier mushrooms like chanterelles, shiitake, or even minced creminis can also stand in for pork in a variety of dishes. Even lentils, when seasoned just right, can replace ground pork.

What meat is most similar to pork?

Duck meat tastes similar to pork, has a similar texture, and can be cooked in the same ways. If you are adventurous, possum is also a good pork substitute, but most people who won’t eat pork will likely be unwilling to try it.

Why choose pork belly?

Fresh pork belly is succulent and richly flavorful and is often served in small portions. Pork belly is at its best and is most tender when prepared using a slow cooking method, such as braising. Pork belly is a popular menu item among restaurant chefs who appreciate its versatility, flavor, and texture.

What is pork belly called at the grocery store?

Bacon is a type of thin-cut pork belly that has undergone curing and smoking (typically over wood like applewood or hickory). Curing is a preservation process that involves rubbing bacon in a mixture of salt, nitrates, and nitrites to preserve the meat and impart its characteristic pink color.

What is the tastiest cut of pork?

Roasted Pork Loin

The loin roast is a larger cut of the loin than the tenderloin (which usually weighs about a pound). Bone-in, it’s at its juiciest and most flavorful, but cooking time will be longer, and the bone can make carving a bit challenging.

Is pork belly a cheap cut?

Though pork belly has become rather fashionable in the last few decades, it has remained a cheap cut to cook with (and we hope it stays that way). Whilst prime cuts like loin were hit with a premium, belly would often be ground down into sausage meat with other trimmings, or cured and sliced to make streaky bacon.

Is pork belly healthier than beef?

The fat in pork was found to contain more unsaturated fats than compared to lamb and beef — meaning more omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also high in oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat that’s readily available for use by the body.

How do you mimic the taste of pork?

When I want my food to have a pork flavor, I tend to use a combination of seasonings to do the trick. For a smoky ham or bacon flavor, there is a liquid hickory smoke flavoring, or a smoked paprika. For a more general kind of meaty taste that can imitate chicken or pork, I like nutritional yeast flakes.

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