Pork belly is one of the most revered and popular cuts around the world! No one can deny the tenderness and the juicy texture of its meat. It remains high in demand all the time. That is why you might find grocery stores or butcher shops running out of pork belly cut.
Well, if you ever feel like eating pork belly but can’t find one nearby, then there are some good alternatives of pork belly that you can try to make some finger-licking delicious meals.
There is a range of pork belly substitutes that can be used in different meals. You can try substitutes like pork bacon, beef bacon, pork fatback, pork should, and vegan pork belly substitutes as well.
But how exactly can you replace pork belly with substitutes? And which substitute can serve the purpose? Well, this quick guide to choose a pork belly alternative will definitely help you in this regard!
Why We love Pork Belly?
The reason why pork belly is loved and is used in a number of entrées is that it can be cut and cooked easily with almost any combination of ingredients.
Pork belly is a fatty and boneless cut that is carved out of the belly of a pig. The use of pork belly is more popular in Filipino, Thai, Korean, Norwegian, Danish, Chinese and Hispanic cuisines. Most of the soups and stew dishes from those cuisines make good use of this meaty delight.
Is pork belly the same as pork stomach? Not really! Pork belly consists of flesh that is present around the stomach of a pig. That is why it gives a long cut with plenty of meat and fats.
Pork belly is good at absorbing all the seasonings and flavors because of its meat content. You can cut the pork belly into smaller pieces to reduce the cooking time or simply ground it into a mince to make sausages and patties etc.
What is Similar to pork belly? A Guide to Substitute Pork Belly
Every meat cut is unique! So, you can’t really find an exact replacement for pork belly, but you can find some cut that is equally tender, soft and juicy as the pork belly.
Why are you finding the pork belly substitute? Look for a cut with the same animal meat, which in this case is pork; then you can go for other animal meat cuts like beef, and turkey etc.
How to Choose the substitute for pork belly?
You need to find a match for porky belly which can tick all or a few of the checkboxes:
- High Protein content
Now, keep these features in mind as we move to the next part and discuss all the options that we have to replace pork belly. It will help you understand how a certain substitute can be best used in routine meals.
The 12 Best Substitutes for Pork Belly
What can replace pork belly in a recipe? Well, there are several options to count on! Here the top 12 choices, including vegan ones to substitute pork belly in cooking:
1. Pork Bacon
Pork bacon comes first to mind whenever we think of replacing the pork belly. It is mainly because the pork bacon, in fact, comes from the same slab of meat that makes the whole pork belly. Uncured bacon is a boneless and thin strip of pork meat that is soft, tender, juicy and also contain high protein content. Its texture and taste are more like pork belly, and therefore, you can use it as a pork substitute for ramen, soups and noodle recipes.
Bacon Vs Pork Belly:
Are there any differences between bacon and pork belly? Though bacon is a good substitute for pork belly, it is a thinner cut. Bacon is cut from a large slab of pork belly meat. Cured bacon is saltier and contains high sodium content.
Can bacon replace pork belly?
Yes, you can substitute pork belly with bacon of its flavor and texture. Pork bacon cut is particularly suitable for making stir-fries, Chinese dishes, stews and casseroles etc.
2. Pork Fatback Meat
Since bacon is a thinner and smaller cut, you might need a pork belly substitutes with a bigger cut. In that case, another pork meat cut that has a similar texture, flavor and size is the Pork fatback. It comes in slab pieces just like the pork belly. It preferable over other substitutes from the list because it comes from the same animal. Moreover, the fatback meat contains the same amount of fat and meat mixed together as they are in the pork belly. So, when you cook it in different meals, it gives out a similar pork belly like flavor and texture.
How to Replace Pork belly with fatback meat?
You can replace the pork belly with an equal amount of fatback meat in any recipe. If you are buying the whole slab, then cut it into the desired shape according to the need of the recipe.
3. Pork Shoulder or Boston But
Pork shoulder can best replace the pork belly in pulled pork like recipes. It is tender, soft and can give good shreds after cooking. Pork shoulder is an easily available pork cut, so that makes it number third on this list. It is also juicy and tender, but its higher fat content.
The same fat content gives this cut the pork belly like texture but a slightly different flavor.
Pork Shoulder, Shoulder Chops and Boston Butt-What are Differences?
Boston butt or pork butt is a meaty cut that is also carved out from the front limb top of a pig. If you look at it this way, both pork shoulder and pork butt belong from the same area, but in the market, the cut labelled and sold as pork shoulder is the triangle-shaped and thinner end of a pigs’ shoulder. Whereas the pork butt is thicker and has more fat content than we can see in its marbled appearance.
How to Substitute Pork Belly?
Due to the thickness, cuts that are labelled as pork butt are more suitable to replace the pork belly. But pork shoulder is equally a good substitute because pork shoulder meat and pork butt are practically one and the same. The meat can substitute pork belly in 1:1 proportion in recipes like pulled pork, stews and chilli.
4. Beef Bacon or Kosher Bacon
Let’s just assume that you couldn’t find any of the pork substitutes for pork belly; then you can always look for the similar taste and texture in different meat cuts of other animals. The closest of all is the beef bacon to replace the pork belly.
Beef meat that widely used in cooking is lean, which means it has a lesser fat content, and the flesh appears drier than the pork meat. So, you can substitute pork bell with beef bacon while keeping this fact in mind.
How to Replace pork belly with beef bacon?
To answer that, first, understand what beef bacon really is! Like pork belly, it is a fleshy part carved out of the belly muscles of a cow. So, it is as tasty and delicious as belly meat has to be.
Though beef bacon is soft and tender, its taste is slightly different from the pork belly meat. And you can fix this by using some pork seasonings. Grass-fed cows have good taste in their meat, so try to buy beef bacon which has “grass-fed” mentioned on the label.
You can replace pork belly with an equal amount of beef bacon along with some seasonings to fix the taste. Beef bacon is particularly suitable for recipes that do not call for thicker meat cuts.
5. Goose Meat
Unlike chicken, turkey or duck meat, the goose meat appears darker in color. So much so that its redness seems closest to the appearance of pork belly meat. Boneless goose meat, therefore, can be used as a good substitute for pork belly.
Since it’s poultry, you cannot expect too many fats in this meat. It is soft, tender and much healthier than pork meat.
However, goose meat gives the meals a slightly different taste from pork belly. Again, you can fix that by adding seasonings that go well with the pork belly. With a little bit of marination of goose meat with pork seasonings, you can end up having a great replacement.
Which Goose Meat Cut is Best to replace Pork Belly?
Now that is a pickle! You can pick any cut which has pork belly like qualities. It can be boneless goose breast meat, or boneless thighs or even goose bacon.
6. Duck Bacon
I don’t know if you have used duck bacon in your meals, but it is pretty famous and for all the right reasons. This bacon is carved out of duck’s breast fillets which are fatty and look just as juicy, tender and reddish as the pork belly meat.
Duck bacon is available in grocery stores, so you can buy this cut directly or carve it out of the duck breast that that is available to you.
How to Use?
Duck meat may give the pork belly like appearance, but its taste is altogether different. So, you will need some really good spices and seasonings to make up for the flavors. With these seasonings, you can add duck bacon to sandwiches, stir-fries and stews etc., to replace pork belly.
7. Turkey Bacon
Turkey bacon can also substitute pork belly but only when you have no choice but this. Its flesh is lighter in color, the fat content is much lower than pork belly, and the texture of the flesh is also different, but it is a great substitute for those who cannot have pork belly or any other pork cut.
It is healthy and contains fewer calories which also makes it the right fit. There is a number of ways in which turkey bacon can be used. Add it to burgers, sandwiches, to make wraps and grilled meat salads etc.
8. Beef belly
The beef belly is known by other names like navel end brisket, and it is basically the same as pork belly, but it is present in the cow. The beef bacon, pastrami or many other boneless cuts are carved out of the beef belly; that is why you don’t get to see beef products labelled as beef belly rather as beef navel or navel end brisket.
So, if you find any beef belly cut that looks and taste similar to pork belly, then use It as a replacement to cook soups, stews and other meals.
Vegetarian Substitutes for Pork Belly
None of the substitutes mentioned above is of any use to vegans! All the vegan options are no meat, so they can’t have the pork belly like texture and do not appear the same. But these substitutes can provide one thing with that pork belly, and that is the high protein content.
Soya chunks are a cheap vegan substitute, and they are already popular due to their wide-ranging uses. Chunks of soy can be added to the stew, soup and other pork belly recipes to have a good protein intake. Just make sure to use seasonings to get a good flavor.
Tofu is in the face, a soybeans-based product that is often used to replace meat in any recipe. It may taste bland, but you can use this quality to your advantage and season it with all sorts of spices and cook in a variety of ways to replace pork belly.
You can add tofu chunks to soups, stews and curries; coated sliced or cubed tofu can make a great snack when fried.
Tempeh is a Javanese product that is made out of fermented soybeans. So, it also has high protein content and can replace pork belly in all sorts of meals.
Beans don’t even come close to the taste and texture of pork belly, but again, their protein content makes them a good vegan substitute for pork belly meat in recipes. Add canned or boiled beans to chili, soups and curries.
Down below is a comparative analysis of the protein and fat content of pork belly with all its substitutes. Consider them according to their nutritional content to optimize good health.
Table: Pork Belly Substitutes and Protein Content
|Sr. No||Meat Cuts||Fat Content (Per 100 grams)||Protein Content (Per 100 grams)|