7 Meaty Pork Shoulder Substitutes for Your Main Course

pork roast shoulder

One of my friends asked me last night for pork shoulder substitutes. She wanted to cook chili Verde for dinner, but pork shoulder, the recipe’s main ingredient, was short in the market. 

Feeling empathy for my friend, with a heavy heart, I paused the last episode of Squid Games and started researching suitable pork shoulder meat substitutes. 

So, here I am with the 7 best alternatives that are perfect for pork shoulder recipes. I bet you will find all these options equally nutritious and yummy.

A Little About Pork Shoulder Meat:

Pork shoulder is underrated yet delicious pig meat. It’s the primal cut from a pig’s shoulder, just above the forelegs. It is divided into two cuts: the top or blade part of the shoulder known as the Boston butt and the lower arm shoulder, aka pork shoulder or picnic roast. 

Pork shoulder is inexpensive and readily inaccessible because it is challenging to cook. It is thick and full of fat. We have to cook it on low flame for many hours, depending on the quantity and thickness of the cut. 

Appearance and Flavor

The pork shoulder meat is dark in color due to oxygen-storing myoglobin. It has a tough texture due to lots of connective tissue. It has a meaty, juicy flavor if cooked at a low flame for hours with adequate moisture. 

Nutrition Facts of Pork Shoulder

1 cup (135g) of diced pork shoulder has

Calories 394
Total Fat  29g
Saturated Fat 11g
Cholesterol  122mg
Sodium  92mg
Potassium 444mg
Total Carbohydrates 0g

Health Benefits of Eating Pork Shoulder

Well, pork meat cannot be a part of your daily healthy diet because of fats and cholesterol. However, eating it occasionally is very good for your health in the following ways: 

  • It is a power pack of protein, vitamins, and minerals that give you strength and cover your thiamin, selenium, and vitamin B6 requirements.
  • It has vitamin B12 that can help reduce exhaustion and fatigue and help normalize the functioning of our immune system and nervous system. 
  • It is rich in potassium, magnesium, and zinc. 

Famous Pork Shoulder Recipes

  • Garlicky Pork Shoulder Roast
  • Pulled Pork Sandwiches
  • Grilled Pork Skewers
  • Corsican bean soup

Difference Between Pork Shoulder and Other Cuts

Before moving towards other pork shoulder substitutes, look at these differences.

Pork Neck VS Shoulder

The neck part has a delicious and different taste; we cook the collar part at low flame for hours to melt intramuscular fat. It keeps the meat tender and moist. The pork shoulder can be roasted, minced, or diced. The shoulder blade meat is a very versatile cut. 

Pork Loin VS Shoulder

Pork loin (back part of a pig) is similarly a leaner part of the cut, meaning that pork loin has less fat while the shoulder part has layers of fat. It is almost the most delicate part of a cut, commonly found in the form of pork chops. The loin part can be transformed into a delicious and juicy roast.

Pork Leg VS Shoulder

The leg part is known as the pork leg or butt portion. It has less fat than pork shoulder and can be dry when roasted slowly. Pork leg can be cooked quickly, while the shoulder part can take hours because it has layers of fat. 


7 Best Pork Shoulder Substitutes for Your Dinner Recipes

Below I am listing the 7 most suitable alternatives for pork shoulder. Some of these are other pork cuts, and some are non-pork meat options. 

Remember, each of these substitutes has its characteristics and cooking methods. When looking for a pork shoulder substitute cut in a recipe, keep in mind that not all recipes can use these substitutes. 

Substitute#1: Top Loin Pork Roast

pork loin slices

A butcher creates a top loin pork roast tightly, tying two pieces together after removing the fat layers. It usually weighs between 900 grams and 1.8 kilograms.

Because of its size, this meat is referred to as a roast and originates from a complete pork loin. 

Because this meat is leaner than most portions of the shoulder, it will require additional fat to enhance richness and moisture. 

It is one of the best pork shoulder substitutes because it has the same structure and fewer fats.

Flavor and Texture

Top loin pork roast has a bland, juicy taste with a mouth-watering texture.

Recommended For

As the name suggests, the cut is used best as roasted. It is suitable for roasting because it has a log-shaped structure and exterior. It becomes flavourful when roasted on a low flame. It also makes good steaks, stewing meat, and ground pork meat. 

Nutrition Facts of Top Pork Loin Roast

3 oz (85g) serving of top loin pork has 

Calories 112
Total Fat  3.5g
Saturated Fat 1.1g
Cholesterol  54mg
Sodium  42mg
Potassium 318mg
Total Carbohydrates 0g

Famous Pork Loin Recipes

  • Pork Pinwheels
  • Jagerschnitzel
  • Pork Vindaloo
  • Teriyaki Pork Stir Fry


Substitute#2: Top Leg Ham

top leg ham

The back leg of a pig is called leg ham. It is made up of round hip bone covered by fat. Ham’s leg is the second-best pork shoulder substitute because both have similar characteristics. 

Note that this piece cooks dryer than the shoulder sections and contains far less fat.

Flavor and Texture

Top leg ham is leaner and firmer meat and has a juicy, tender taste with a tasty pork texture.

Recommended For

If roasted, ham meat is a great pork shoulder alternative for pulled pork. Just keep in mind that it will dry out quickly, so you’ll need to keep an eye on the moisture levels.

Ham is also frequently smoked; thus, it can also be used in smoked pork shoulder.

Nutrition Facts of Top Leg Ham

2 ounces (57g) ham provides 

Calories 69
Total Fat  2g
Protein 11g
Fiber 0g
Sodium  26% of the Daily Value (DV)
Sugar 1.25g
Total Carbohydrates 1.5g

Famous Leg Ham Recipes

  • Rosemary-Bourbon Glazed Ham
  • Grilled Ham and Cheese
  • Spiral Ham
  • Baked Ham


Substitute#3: Lamb’s Shoulder

lamb shoulder

If you are looking for a non-pork substitution for pork shoulder, lamb’s shoulder is your best bet. 

Lamb’s upper hand part is generally known as lamb shoulder. It is the best cut for slow roasting because it has high-fat content.

Lamb’s shoulder is the best source of proteins, minerals, and vitamins, and it also has the same cut. That’s why it’s the recommended pork shoulder substitute. But remember that lamb shoulder has a sharper taste than pork shoulder. 

Flavor and Texture

It has a unique grass-finished flavor with a slightly sweeter taste. In other words, we call it “gamey.” 

Recommended For

Although it has fewer fats, boneless lamb shoulder meat is the best possible substitute for boneless pork shoulder meat. Moreover, lamb shoulder is suitable for stews and slow-roasting. 

Nutrition Facts of Lamb’s Shoulder

1 oz (28g) serving of lamb’s shoulder gives

Calories 37
Protein 5.7g
Fat 1.5g
Carbs 0g
Fiber 0g
Cholesterol  18mg
Sodium  20mg
Potassium 81mg

Famous Lamb Shoulder Recipes

  • Traditional Lamb Shoulder Roast
  • The Zahav Lamb Shoulder
  • Irish Lamb Stew


Substituion#4: Beef Ribeye Steak – Beauty steak

Beef Ribeye

Ribeye steak is the most common and preferred type of steak. It comes from the beef rib primal cut and contains a bone that moistens the steak. It is rich in iron, vitamins, minerals, zinc, and proteins, and it has a high-fat content.

If you are looking for a tangy, beefy substitute for pork shoulder, beef ribeye steak is the best choice. You can either use it boneless or with a rib bone. We recommend you prepare it with the bone as in this way meat becomes more flavourful and aromatic. 

Flavor and Texture

It has a sweet flavor. The fat of the beef ribeye melts during cooking, and it gives a buttery taste, and the texture is salty and natural.

Recommended For

Beef ribeye steak gives the best taste when roasted, baked, grilled, or broiled. 

Nutrition Facts of Ribeye

3 oz (85g) of ribeye steak gives

Calories 230
Total Fat 16g
Saturated Fat  7.2g
Cholesterol 66mg
Sodium  49mg
Potassium 237mg
Total Carbohydrates 0g

Famous Beef Ribeye Steak Recipes

  • Pan-Fried Ribeye Steak
  • Butter-Basted Ribeye Steak
  • Steakhouse-Style Rib Eyes


Substitute#5: Beef Brisket

Beef Ribeye

The beef cut taken from the breast, or lower chest of a cow is called beef brisket. It is referred to as the primal cut of a cow. Brisket is a tough cut of meat, but its toughness can be detached by slow roast; it is high in proteins, iron, and magnesium. 

When looking for pork shoulder substitute, lamb meat is better than beef. However, beef can soak the flavor of other ingredients well. Therefore, with some experiments with the pork shoulder recipe, you can recreate a similar taste. 

Flavor and Texture

Beef Brisket has a rich beef flavor with a tender texture.

Recommended For

The beef shoulder is perfect for steaks, blades, ground beef, rolled beef shoulder, etc. Beef Brisket shreds like pork shoulder; therefore, it is considered a perfect pork shoulder substitute for pulled pork.

Nutrition Facts of Beef Brisket

3 oz (85g) serving of beef brisket provides

Calories 246
Total Fat 16g
Saturated Fat  6.2g
Cholesterol 90mg
Sodium  41mg
Potassium 197mg
Total Carbohydrates 0g

Famous Beef Brisket Recipes

  • Onion-Braised Beef Brisket
  • Lane’s Beef Brisket
  • Classic Beef Brisket
  • Corned Beef with Crispy Roasted Potatoes and Cabbage.


Susbtitute#6: Boneless Pork Leg

Pork leg boneless

Boneless pork leg is also a good pork shoulder substitute in all kinds of stews. Pork leg is like pork shoulder when it comes to slow cooking. However, it is a lean cut and has less fat; therefore, it needs extra moisture. You can add broth, apple juice, or water to keep the meat juicy and soft. 

Flavor and Texture

Boneless pork shoulder has a meaty taste with a naturally tender texture.

Recommended For

Boneless pork leg makes tasty stew as it combines well with onions, broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms. It is also a recommended choice for pork roast. 

Nutrition Facts of Boneless Pork Leg

100 g of boneless pork leg has 

Calories 213 
Carbs 0g 
Dietary Fibre 0g
Sugar 0g 
Fat  15g
Protein 19g

Famous Boneless Pork Leg Recipes

  • Boneless Pork Leg Roast with Apples and Sage
  • Pork Leg Roast with Rhubarb Chutney 
  • Glazed Roast Pork
  • Crispy Pork and Red Peppers in Chili Sauce


Substitute#7: Pork Escalopes

Pork Escalopes

Pork escalope is lean pork meat. If you are a fan of leaner cut, pork escalope is the accurate alternative to pork shoulder. It has almost zero fat. 

This pork cut comes from either fillet or the eye of the loin. Pork escalopes are not marbled. 

Flavor and Texture

Pork escalope has a meaty and savory taste but a slightly sweet and natural texture.

Recommended For

This type of meat cut is suitable for recipes that require marination. When marinated with sauces before cooking, the meat will not dry out quickly and remain tender. 

Nutrition Facts of Pork Escalope

100 grams of Pork Escalope contains

Calories  133
Carbs 1g 
Fat  5g
Protein 22g

Famous Pork Escalope Recipes

  • Pork Escalope with Emmental
  • Cuban Grilled Pork Escalope
  • Italian Pork Escalope 


Related Questions

What is Pork shoulder called in the grocery store?
Pork shoulder is famous by the name of Boston butt or picnic roast at the grocery stores.
What can I use instead of Pork shoulder for carnitas?
Boston butt, fresh pork butt, and Boston butt roast can be used instead of pork shoulder for carnitas.
Why is Pork shoulder so cheap?
Pork shoulder is cheap because it is the most challenging part of the meat. It is difficult to break down the tough connective tissue of this cut and make it tender. People choose to buy leaner cuts because they are easy to cook.
Why is my pulled pork dry?
It’s most likely that your pulled pork is dry because it’s been overdone. Keep the meat warm in a slow cooker, preferably with a bit of water or chicken stock added to help it retain moisture. Remember to consume any leftover pulled pork within three days to avoid drying out during storage.
What is the difference between pork butt and pork shoulder?
Both come from the same regions, but the butt comes from the upper or blade part of the shoulder while the shoulder comes from the thicker end of a pig’s shoulder.


Bottom Line

Pork shoulder has lots of nutritional value and is very delectable, but it is not readily available in the market. Therefore, we have listed some best pork shoulder substitutes that you can easily find at the butcher’s shop.

While these options are not as cheap as pork shoulder, they are certainly easier to find, cook and digest. 

We hope our collection of pork shoulder substitutes will prove helpful for you. We will be glad to know your reviews in the comments.

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