16 Best Prosciutto Substitutes – TheFoodXP


I have a weird penchant for multifaceted food items. That makes my job easy and allows me to savor them simply according to my craving (sense of mind, too, of course!)*chuckle* One of my favorites on that list is Prosciutto!

Prosciutto is a very popular food in Italian cuisine, which comes with a load of adjectives, I must say. It is basically ham which is uncooked, unsmoked, and dry-cured. It can be made from either pig or wild boar.

A versatile food item, Prosciutto can be served as a standalone dish or as an accompaniment to other dishes. But what can you do if you are out of them for any reason? You need a couple of substitutes for Prosciutto so that you can save the day.

Wondering about the substitutes for Prosciutto? Here you go. Some of the best Prosciutto substitutes are jamon serrano, culatello, ham, bacon and pancetta.

Shall we familiarize ourselves with Prosciutto in detail before getting on to its substitutes? 

Quick Peek: Prosciutto

Let us see what Prosciutto is, its uses, flavor, texture, and health benefits.

What Is Prosciutto?

Prosciutto is a famous Italian cold-cut meat from the hind leg of a pig. The word ‘prosciutto’ in Italian means ham. When the plane crosses continents and reaches the land of dreams, Prosciutto has more in its description plate. In America, Prosciutto refers to uncooked,dry-cured ham. 

Who doesn’t want to know how everything began? Well, Prosciutto has its origin dating back to pre-Roman times. People dry-aged pork legs so that they don’t fall short of supply during winters since preparing Prosciutto is an art that is cherished and celebrated.

Types of Prosciutto

There are few variations when it comes to prosciutto and its preparation. Prosciutto is majorly of two types – prosciutto crudo and prosciutto cotto. 

Prosciutto Crudo refers to the uncooked ham, which is air-dried and salt-cured. This is what most Americans call Prosciutto. Prosciutto Cotto is the opposite of crudo – it is simply cooked in low sodium rather than dried.

Prosciutto di Parma, Prosciutto di San Daniele, Prosciutto Toscano and culatello are the other types of prosciutto. Prosciutto di parma is the most famous variety in Italy known for its sweet,buttery flavor.

Describing Prosciutto: Flavor and Texture

Prosciutto is served in thin slices. The slices are usually brownish-red in color, usually smeared with fat. Sometimes, these are seasoned with herbs and spices also. 

Prosciutto is an incredibly flavorful ham that has a sweet and salty finish. It has an even more delicious distinctive and aromatic flavor with added seasonings such as paprika, black pepper, and rosemary. 

Prosciutto has a buttery, velvety texture that instantly melts in your mouth, giving no chance to even exclaim about its deliciousness. The older the ham is, the more complex its taste.

Uses of Prosciutto

I already gave you a fair introduction to Prosciutto – it is multifaceted! It can be great as an accompaniment to dishes, a delightful evening snack, or a standalone king that can simply rule your dinner menu!

Prosciutto can be used as starters, as a roasted snack, or prepare pizzas, grilled cheese, salads, braciole, roast recipes, pasta, etc. Some famous recipes include prosciutto pizza, pork saltimbocca, beef braciole, and grilled prosciutto-wrapped pork chops.

Health Benefits of Prosciutto

Prosciutto should be your choice if you are looking for food that can be flavorful and nutritious. It is a rich source of protein, as with the case of any other meat. Protein is a vital macronutrient necessary for repairing body cells and has an important place in our dietary needs.

Prosciutto also offers riboflavin (B2), vitamin B12, niacin (B3), vitamin B6 and thiamine (B1) – the vitamins responsible for creating energy. The presence of zinc in Prosciutto is imperative for protein synthesis and immune function.

Why Should We Substitute For Prosciutto?

While the health benefits of Prosciutto can be deemed impressive, some downsides have to be considered.

Prosciutto is high in fat as well as salt content. It was once accused of being carcinogenic by the WHO. The high salt content in Prosciutto can cause high blood pressure, stroke, and other heart diseases.

Overly consuming salt can cause mild headaches and swell as well. When you consider the nutritional profile of Prosciutto, you can see it is not an abundant source of fiber, minerals, or nutrients.

Health-conscious foodies may avoid Prosciutto for these reasons and find good substitutes for it. While taste-loving foodies may crave Prosciutto and realize they are simply out of it, they look for alternatives.

With no more talk on Prosciutto, let us jump right into the best substitutes for Prosciutto.

16 Best Prosciutto Substitutes 

The sixteen best prosciutto substitutes are categorized into three – pork-based substitutes, non-pork-based substitutes, and vegetarian substitutes. They are as follows:

Best Pork-Based Prosciutto Substitutes

Here is the list of pork based substitutes for prosciutto.

1. Jamon Serrano

Jamon serrano or serrano ham is a type of Spanish ham that can be cited as the culinary symbol of Spain. It is cured country ham prepared from conventional pork. 

Jamon serrano undergoes an extensive curing process, mixed with spices responsible for its intense flavor and aroma. Also, there is not much use of salt in the curing process, making it less salty. It has a soft, delicate texture similar to Prosciutto.

Jamon serrano is a good source of essential amino acids and protein, which improve bone density and muscle strength. Additionally, it contains monounsaturated fat, often called the healthy fatty acid. 

What makes Jamon serrano the best substitute for Prosciutto? It has a thin, delicate texture and an intense nutty flavor (though not as salty as Prosciutto) like Prosciutto. It can be used alone or with vegetables, fruits, or other meat.

2. Culatello

Hailed as the ‘King of Salumi’ in Italy, culatello is a specialized type of Prosciutto. It is a cured meat that comes with a Protected Designation of Origin tag in the EU and UK and is native to the Italian region Parma.

Culatello is the carved meat from the leg of pork, rubbed with wine, salt, pepper, and garlic, which is then stuffed into the pig’s bladder. Since it is cut from one of the finest portions of pork, it has a rich, musky flavor and a velvety texture. 

Culatello contains vitamins such as thiamine, niacin, and LCA (Linoleic Conjugate Acid). LCA is capable of preventing breast cancer in women. It also has a good amount of easily digestible protein content. 

Culatello is fairly expensive due to the geographical tag it comes along with. It is also one of the finest alternatives for Prosciutto, considering its distinctive flavor due to the addition of salt, pepper, garlic, and dry white wine. A little bit of culatello will suffice to replace Prosciutto.

3. Ham

The upper thighs in the back leg of a pig are known as ham. When it comes to Italian cuisine, ham just means Prosciutto. However, ham can have different meanings in America.

Fresh ham has a mild, sweet flavor and a soft texture. It is available as smoky ham, black forest ham, Bayonne ham, and many others. Also, it is less salty than Prosciutto.

Ham has a high protein but less saturated fat content. It is a good source of fats, minerals, and other energy-boosting nutrients. It contains selenium, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, and iron, which support bone health.

Ham is the easily available and most commonly used substitute for Prosciutto. Although ham is less salty than Prosciutto, it is an affordable, tasty alternative to Prosciutto and can be used in salads, pizzas, or wraps.

4. Bacon

Bacon is the salt-cured meat taken from pork belly. It is consumed as a side dish but also finds use as a flavoring agent or accent (in the case of salads). It is raw, dry, and smoked pork meat.

Bacon can be eaten either raw or cooked. But, it is generally unsafe to eat raw bacon. Bacon has a sweet, salty, and umami flavor primarily due to the curing process. Cooked bacon has a firm and crispy texture.

Apart from being a great side dish, bacon is also used to perk up the flavor of main dishes. Bacon contains iron, magnesium, zinc, and potassium, which boosts bone health, heart health, and muscle strength and prevents the risk of high blood pressure.

Bacon can be sliced thin and has a texture akin to Prosciutto, making it a good alternative for Prosciutto. Raw bacon can be deemed a fatty version of Prosciutto. Bacon can very well replace Prosciutto in any recipe.

5. Pancetta

Pancetta is another versatile Italian ingredient made from pork belly. It is salt-cured meat often seasoned with salt and spice extracts. It is served as sliced meat and also served as part of antipasti. 

Pancetta has a unique salty, porky flavor very similar to bacon but is devoid of the characteristic smokiness of the bacon. It has a dense, silky, and crunchy texture.

Pancetta can be a good substitute for Prosciutto, considering its intense flavor and smooth texture. However, it must be cooked when choosing to replace Prosciutto because Prosciutto is salt-cured and air-dried.

 6. Salami

Salami refers to fresh, soft, cooked, and dry-cured meat of either pork, beef, horse, or others. Salami is typically fermented and air-dried meat seasoned with garlic, fat, salt, spices, herbs, vinegar, and wine.

Salami has a mildly sweet, salty, and spicy flavor with a firm yet dry texture. It can be used in pasta, pizzas, cheese sandwiches, gravies, and salads.

Salami is high in protein and sodium and low in carbs and calories. It is rich in vitamin B12 and niacin which are significant to maintaining the proper functioning of the brain. Since it is fermented, it contains probiotics, a group of very helpful bacteria.

Salami can be a considerable alternative for Prosciutto, considering its unique flavor. Salami may not look like Prosciutto but can be a good replacement. 

Salami is available in sweet, spicy, and savory varieties. According to the recipe, you may have to choose the variety that best replaces the flavor of Prosciutto.

7. Capicola

Also known as coppa or capocollo, capicola is a cold-cut, dried, and cured meat that can be deemed as a cross of Prosciutto and sausage. This cured meat cut from pork shoulder or neck is coated with black or red pepper powder.

Capicola has a salty, spicy flavor. The meat is both tender and moist with a chewy texture. Available in both sweet and spicy varieties, it can be used as part of an appetizer or as an accompaniment to cheese, crackers, wine, and fruits.

Capicola contains all the nine essential amino acids necessary for the growth and maintenance of our body. It also contains thiamine, niacin, iron, phosphorus, and B vitamins which help in energy production and DNA repairment.

Prosciutto can be substituted with capicola because it can be thinly sliced and has a similar flavor. However,you shouldn’t go for sweet-cured capicola while replacing Prosciutto because it can give you a different flavor. 

8. Jamon Iberico

Jamon Iberico, also known as Iberian ham, is native to Spain but can be seen extensively in Portugal. It is said to be one of the finest hams prepared from black Iberian pigs that comes with a hefty price tag.

Jamon Iberico is a type of cured meat cut from a pig’s leg. The meat is available in different varieties based on the diet of Iberian pigs. It has been cured for over two years, giving it a deep flavor. 

Jamon Iberico has a sweet, salty, and nutty flavor. It has blotches of intramuscular fat known as marbling. It has a smooth texture and a cheese-like flavor which instantly melts in your mouth.

Jamon Iberico can be a good alternative for Prosciutto, considering its distinctive, profound flavor. You may have to use it in smaller quantities while replacing Prosciutto so that it doesn’t overpower other ingredients in the recipe.

9. Mortadella 

Mortadella is an Italian sausage that comprises cured pork seasoned with pistachios, black pepper, and myrtle berries. It also contains pork fat cubes (taken from pork neck), which gives its unique polka dot appearance. 

Mortadella has a mild porky flavor not as intense as bacon, but it has a thicker mouthfeel than Prosciutto and a soft, velvety texture. It can be consumed alone in little slices or sandwiches, meatballs, pasta, or stuffings.

Mortadella is highly nutritious and contains iron, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, and selenium. The presence of protein helps in building muscles and repairing damaged ones. It also greatly enhances the immune system.

If you don’t mind a slight compromise in texture, mortadella can work as a fine replacement for Prosciutto with its unique fatty flavor blend with seasoning spices.

10. Guanciale

Guanciale is a rich, fatty, cured meat taken from the cheek of pork. It is also known as pork cheek or pork jowl. Guanicia in Italian means ‘cheek.’ It is smeared with salt and spices before being cured, which lasts for around three weeks.

Guanciale has a rich, salty flavor akin to bacon except for the smokiness. The sweet and savory notes are well-balanced with a creamy buttery flavor. It has a soft, tender texture that instantly melts the meat in our mouths.

Guanciale is unique from other pork meat due to its fatty content and lean meat. It is used in charcuterie boards, vegetable wraps, pasta, sandwiches, and pizzas. 

Guanciale is a worthy substitute for Prosciutto in pasta recipes, especially carbonara. The biggest downside will be its cost, high-fat content, and less availability. If you ever get guanciale, remember to peel the skin before using. 

Best Non-Pork Based Prosciutto Substitutes

Now, it’s time to see the non-pork based alternatives for prosciutto.

11. Beef Bresaola

Beef bresaola is lean, tender meat taken from a single beef muscle, and the excess fat is removed. This Italian air-cured meat is aged for over two months. It is native to the Lombardy region of the Italian Alps and thus has a GI tag.

Beef bresaola is seasoned with rosemary, garlic, cloves, and juniper species. It has a salty, meaty, musty flavor with subtle hints of spiciness. The meat has a reddish-purple color with a soft, delicate texture.

Beef bresaola is lean meat devoid of fat, making it a healthy non-pork prosciutto substitute. When compared to Prosciutto, it has a mild flavor and can be used instead of Prosciutto in sauces, pizzas, 

12. Duck Prosciutto

Another non-pork pig prosciutto substitute is duck prosciutto. This Italian salt-cured meat originated as a rescue for Jewish people who were forbidden to eat pork. It consists of dry-cured meat made from duck’s breasts seasoned with coriander, fennel, and pepper.

Even though there is no pig meat involved, the taste of duck prosciutto has got the hang of a porky flavor. It has a deep, rich flavor with the gaminess of the duck. The texture is tender and delicate and is deep red.

Although duck prosciutto differs from pig prosciutto in terms of texture and flavor slightly, it can be a considerable substitute due to the porky flavor that is present in it. It also complements other ingredients, especially the sweeter ones like raisins, cherries, and figs.

Best Vegetarian Prosciutto Substitutes

We have some vegetarian alternatives for prosciutto as well.

13. Cheese

You need no introduction to cheese. Cheese should be your top vegetarian alternative for Prosciutto. Opt for hard-aged cheese like Romano, Asiago, Swiss, or Parmesan to replace Prosciutto.

Cheese that has been aged for months and years has a rich flavor. It also has a smooth texture that easily blends with other ingredients in the recipe. Often, cheese replaces Prosciutto in an appetizer. That said, it can also be used to replace Prosciutto in sandwiches, crackers, pasta, and salads.

14. Chickpeas

Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are one of the healthiest legumes out there. They are available commonly in beige color with other varieties such as black, green, and red.

Chickpeas have an earthy, nutty flavor when cooked. When soaked in water and cooked, they have a metallic flavor and a soft texture. 

Soaked chickpeas seasoned with salt and paprika can make up for the flavor of Prosciutto to a large extent in your recipes.

15. Toasted Nuts

Nuts like walnuts and almonds, when toasted, taste and smell simply yum. They have a unique, rich flavor that can be used to substitute for the flavor of Prosciutto. 

Add seasonings such as paprika or pepper to toasted nuts for a close flavor to Prosciutto. They render a savory flavor and can be used instead of Prosciutto in risotto, pasta, and salads.

16. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are another great vegetarian alternative for Prosciutto, which have an earthy, umami flavor and a soft texture. Caramelized mushrooms have an even more rich flavor that enhances the overall flavor of your dishes.

Portobello and shiitake mushrooms can be used to replace Prosciutto due to their rich, savory flavor and meaty texture. With the right seasonings, they can be used to substitute for Prosciutto in pizzas, pasta, or salads.

A Short Recap

That was all about the best substitutes for Prosciutto. The following points will help you choose a substitute based on types, flavor, texture, cost, and availability:-

*Flavor: If the porky flavor of Prosciutto is what you are looking to replace, then you should opt for pork-based substitutes such as Jamon Serrano, ham, pancetta, and bacon. 

*Texture: The substitutes such as Jamon Serrano, culatello, ham, bacon, and guanciale are close to Prosciutto in texture.

*Cost: While most of the substitutes are affordable, you may have to rethink the substitutes such as culatello, Jamon Iberico, and guanciale since they are costly.

*Non-Pork Substitute: If you abstain from pork, you can opt for duck prosciutto or beef bresaola.

Final Musings

Wooh…that was indeed an extensive look into Prosciutto and its substitutes, right? Prosciutto has a rich, salty flavor with a soft, delicate texture. Even though it offers health benefits, it is high in fat, so we are forced to seek alternatives.

The substitutes explained in detail can be used according to your preferences. Feel free to try them out and let me know what worked best for you. See you soon with another article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

What Meat Is Similar to Prosciutto?

Capicola, pancetta, guanciale, salami, mortadella and speck are some of the cured meat types similar to prosciutto.

What Is The Vegetarian Substitute For Prosciutto?

Chickpeas, cheese, toasted walnuts or almonds and mushrooms are the vegetarian substitutes for prosciutto.

Can Pancetta Be Used To Replace Pancetta?

Pancetta can be used to replace prosciutto on an equal ratio since they share similar flavor profiles.

Is Parma Ham Same As Prosciutto?

Parma ham is the same as prosciutto – in fact it is prosciutto di parma that comes from the Parma region in Northern Italy. 


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