10 Best Pork Belly Substitutes

Pork belly is a flavorful and unique cut from a pig; it’s a favorite for many people because it is very tender and packs a lot of flavor. However, pork belly can be incredibly challenging to find and also very expensive. 

Pork belly is not a common cut for grocery stores to carry, like pork butt, ribs, or roast, so you’ll need good pork belly substitutes more often than you’ll like.

There are different pork cuts that can work in place of pork belly, such as pork bacon, pork fatback, pork shoulder cut, beef bacon, duck meat, beef belly, turkey bacon, goose meat, even tofu and soy.

They may not be the ideal replica of pork belly but will get the job done in terms of flavor and texture.

What Is a Pork Belly Cut?

Pork belly is a cut of pork meat; it is incredibly flavorful and versatile. It’s the perfect combination of crunchy skin and tender meat. It’s a considerably affordable meat cur because of how cheap pork is in comparison with other types of meat.

A pork belly cut typically has a balanced ratio of meat and fat and ensures the meat is fresh before purchase.

One way to tell is by looking at how the fat looks; if fresh, the pork belly will have a creamy white fat, yellow or grey color means the meat is probably not as fresh as it may seem.

Pork belly is a cut from the belly of the pig, which makes it naturally rich in fats and gives it the signature intense flavor. Slow-cooking is the recommended method of preparing pork belly in order to render the meat tender and moist.

You can purchase pork belly in slabs or strips, depending on what you intend to use it for. Pork belly can be used for a large variety of recipes, and choosing the suitable substitute depends on the recipe you are making.

Best Pork Belly Substitutes

1. Pork Bacon

This is a close substitute for pork belly; in fact, it is the commonly recommended alternative for any recipe that calls for pork belly.

It offers the same taste regardless of how it is prepared. Simply replace the pork belly with pork bacon, maintain the same quantity and follow the recipe as you would with pork belly.

You can use an equal amount of pork bacon as a recipe specifies for pork belly. But keep in mind that most of the bacon fat will be rendered out as it cooks, so you might not need to add any additional oil.

Season the pork bacon as you would the pork belly, but you might need to adjust the amount of salt you. This is because pork bacon is typically saltier than pork belly, so reduce the salt you add to your dish so it doesn’t become too salty.

2. Pork Fatback

Pork fatback is also a similar alternative to pork belly. It’s a meat cut from the back of the pig, usually with a high-fat content, that gives an intense flavor and great taste when cooked right.

You can also use pork fatback meat to prepare salt pork by curing it. You can prepare pork fatback as you would pork belly, add the same herbs and seasonings.

To get an even more delicious result, you can cure the fatback with salt; this makes it much more delicious than pork belly, and if you like you like your meat with a fatty layer(no pun intended), then fatback is the choice for you.

You can throw in some veggies as you grill or bake the pork fatback; adding some spicy sauce or a pinch of chilly to the meat will help achieve a better flavor.

In fact, when you use the right spices and seasonings, your recipes may turn out better with fatback because its fat layer absorbs all the flavor.

3. Beef Bacon

Another excellent replacement for pork belly is beef bacon; it can be used in a variety of dishes and have a taste that’s so much like pork belly; when prepared the right way, you might not even be able to tell a noticeable difference.

When using beef to replace pork, you can intensify the flavor of the pork taste by adding pork seasoning instead of beef seasonings.

You can fry beef bacon just as you would fry pork belly. It can be added to various dishes, and to get a richer taste, use beef bacon from a grass-fed cow.

4. Pork Shoulder Cut

This is another quick substitute for pork belly, and it is a delicious option nonetheless. However, this is a difficult meat cut to find, but if you find some pork shoulder, you can use it to replace pork belly.

Pork shoulder contains a fair amount of fat, a bit more than other types of pork cut, but they also have just the right amount of meat; this makes substitution for pork belly successfully.

Marinate the pork shoulder chops in your favorite sauce for at least one hour before cooking; this delivers a tastier and more flavorful result; they can be grilled, baked in the oven, or fried on the pan.

Prepare the pork shoulders following the original recipe and use the same type of seasonings it specifies pork belly. You can achieve a similar taste result.

5. Beef Belly

The beef belly, also known as navel end brisket, can be used to replace pork belly as it is basically the same cut as pork belly, but from a different animal- cow. 

However, you may not find any beef product labeled as beef belly rather than as beef navel or navel end brisket; there are also other boneless cuts like beef bacon and pastrami.

So, lookout for a beef belly cut that looks similar to pork belly, with a similar fat layer and meat. It can be used to substitute for soups, stews, and other meals.

6. Duck Meat

Duck meat might be different from pork meat but have a similar taste to chicken; they are fatter and tastier, just like pork belly.

Before using duck meat as a substitute for pork belly, you would need to convert the meat into bacon first. Duck meat can b purchased as premade duck meat bacon and are readily available in the market.

Prepare the duck meat bacon as you would cook the pork belly. You may need to add a few extra seasonings to achieve a similar pork belly taste.

Do not use only salt and pepper as your seasoning; add the correct seasonings to give the duck meat a taste similar to pork belly.

7. Goose Meat

This is another excellent alternative for pork belly, although it’s gotten from a different animal. Goose meat is similar to pork belly in taste, but you need to use the goose part that is fatter.

Just like using duck meat, you also need to turn the goose meat into bacon to make it taste a lot more like pork belly. This way, you can achieve the perfect balance between the sweet taste of meat and a tasty, crispy, fatty texture.

However, goose meat might be slightly harder than other types of meat. To soften it, soak the meat in a mix of oil and seasonings at least one hour before cooking.

You can prepare duck meat using any type of oil and seasonings that you would normally use for pork belly before marinating the goose meat in the juicy brine. Goose meat is very versatile and can be prepared in a variety of ways.

8. Turkey Bacon

Turkey bacon makes an acceptable replacement for pork belly, but this should be used as a last resort. If you cannot consume pork for any reason, you can opt for turkey bacon, it has lighter colored flesh and a low-fat content compared to pork belly.

Its meat also has a different texture but can make a great substitute for pork belly or any other pork cut, if that’s what you have available.

Turkey bacon is a bit healthier than pork and contains fewer calories than pork, making it the right fit for those watching their calories and trying to eat healthily.

Turkey bacon can be used in various ways; it can be added to burgers, sandwiches, wraps and grilled meat salads, etc.

Vegetarian Substitutes For Pork Belly

Here are some non-meat substitutes for pork belly. If you are vegan or vegetarian, you can opt for any of the substitute options below but keep in mind that they may have a different appearance and texture compared to pork belly, but they are sure to make up for this flavor-wise.

These vegetarian pork belly substitutes also contain a high protein content like pork belly. 

9. Soy

This is a quick and cheap vegan substitute for pork belly. Soya chunks can be used for a variety of dishes. It can be added to stews, soup, and other recipes that call for pork belly.

It’s a great source of protein and adds a great flavor to dishes as long as you use adequate seasonings.

10. Tofu

Tofu is also made from soybeans and is often used as a meat replacement in most vegan recipes. Tofu has a bland taste, making it the perfect blank canvas you can work with to create any flavor.

Simply season the tofu with desired spices and seasoning and prepare it using a method that suits the recipe.

You can add tofu chunks to soups, stews, and curries; they can also be cut into thin slices or cubes, coated with flour, and fried to make a quick snack.

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