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13 Healthy Pork Belly Substitutes (Meat & Vegetarian)

Pork belly is a cut of pork that has seen a major rise in popularity in recent years due to its rich flavors and succulent, tender texture.

However, it can be difficult to find sometimes, making it challenging to cook. Don’t worry, this blog post will detail the best pork belly substitutes you can use while cooking at home.

Pork Based Substitutes for Pork Belly

1. Pork Bacon

bacon

This is your first “go-to” substitute for pork belly. Bacon [1] is a great choice since it is from the same animal and it is also a part of the meat that makes the entire pork belly.

If you aim to find a substitute that matches the pork belly’s texture and flavor, you have to use pork bacon. The issue you might have here is finding bacon in the right size. It may not be a thick chunk of meat as in pork belly, and it’s usually thin and flat.

The great thing about bacon is that it has the same juiciness as pork belly. After all, it is a part of it. When replacing bacon with pork belly in your recipe, feel free to add the same seasonings you would use for pork belly. The only thing you should be mindful of is salt.

Bacon is cured in brine; this automatically increases its salt content, so if you want your meal to be “bacon perfect” be mindful of the salt.

You might want also to tone down the oil you use to fry your bacon, as some of its oil melts away into your pan while it’s being fried, so if you don’t want too much grease, consider that too.

Bacon is great in ramen, noodle, soup recipes, casseroles, stir-fries, and stews.

2. Pork Shoulder Cut

pork cuts

Depending on your location, pork shoulder cut could be readily available or a bit difficult to source for, but when you do find it, it’ll be worth it!

Pork shoulder cut might appear fatter than other pork parts, but the taste, superb! For the best results, you might want to marinate in your favorite sauce for about an hour and then fry with a skillet or oven.

Due to its meatiness and fat presence, it is a great substitute for pork belly so you do not have to worry about the results. It’ll be epic!

What to do if pork shoulder is not available? Here are the top 6 substitutes for your choice.

3. Pork Fatback

pork fatback

Pork fatback is found on the back of a hog. It’s a combination of meat and fat, when prepared properly, the taste is just exquisite!

Pork fatback has more flavor when it’s seasoned, and if it has a lot of salt added to it, the tastier it becomes!

Pork fatback can be prepared with a grill or baked with vegetables, and if you would like to spruce things up, you can make it spicy by adding chili. You can be sure that the right amount of seasoning blends just fine with the natural flavor of pork fatback.

4. Pork Butt

pork butt

Relax, pork butt is not from the rear of the pig. It consists of different meat cuts like ham hock and pork sirloin.

Like most pork parts, it has a lot of connective tissues that can be broken down through slow cooking methods like braising and smoking.

If can be a great replacement when pork belly is not available.

Beef Based Substitutes for Pork Belly

5. Beef Belly

beef belly

Beef belly is yet another substitute that is not of pork origin. It has a combination of fat and lean meat layers; although it has buttery undertones, it still makes great pork belly substitute.

Beef belly can also be called navel end brisket, and it is the same as pork belly, only that it is found in the cow. So, a beef belly cut that has a similar look and taste to pork belly is a great substitute.

You can use beef belly as a meat replacement for pork belly or in your soup, stew, or grill.

6. Beef Bacon

Beef bacon comes in handy if you are looking for a substitute that isn’t from pork. The amazing thing about beef bacon is it tastes like pork bacon. Even though it is leaner than pork, has less fat content, and might feel drier, it still is a fantastic substitute for beef bacon.

If you feel a little skeptical about the taste of beef bacon and how it turns out at the end of your meal, you might add pork seasoning to give that “porky feel” besides that, and your meal would come out great!

Additionally, beef bacon is great if you want the taste of pork belly but less fat, and on the plus side, you don’t have to worry about cutting down your fat intake.

For the best taste and flavor, it’s advisable to purchase the beef meat of grass-fed cows.

Other Meat Substitutes for Pork Belly

7. Duck Bacon

duck bacon

Duck bacon is a good alternative to pork belly, although the duck is a bird, its bacon is still popular in homes and among chefs.

This type of bacon is gotten from fatty duck breast fillets. It might not be as fatty as pork belly (it’s leaner), but you bet it is succulent and tasty.

Duck bacon is readily available in local markets and grocery stores, so sourcing it would not be difficult. Regarding seasoning, you can use the same one for pork belly, but be careful not to over-season, else the result may be far from what you want to achieve.

It can be prepared by sautéing, baking, grilling, or even dicing. It’s pretty versatile, so play around with cooking methods and recipes.

Duck bacon has special seasoning. You could rely on those to create the flavor you desire. Sweet and savory!

8. Goose Bacon

Goose bacon is darker than duck, chicken, or turkey meat. Its boneless and red parts are close to the appearance of pork belly, which makes it a fantastic substitute.

It is important to note that goose bacon might have a slightly different taste from pork meat. But that can be fixed with the proper pork seasoning and marinating your goose bacon in them.

Goose bacon is not the only goose meat cut that can substitute for pork belly; boneless goose thighs or goose breast meat can suffice.

9. Turkey Bacon

Turkey bacon is a recommended bird meat that can be a pork belly substitute when you don’t have an option. It has a lighter color, a thinner texture, and lower fat content when compared with bacon.  

Since turkey bacon has less fat, it contains fewer calories, making it perfect for those who want to enjoy the feel of pork belly but with less fat.

Turkey bacon can replace pork belly in burgers, grilled meat salads, sandwiches, and more. With turkey bacon, you get a healthy substitute with flavor.

Vegetarian Substitutes for Pork Belly

This is a list of vegetarian substitutes that are perfect for vegans since they do not eat meat:

10. Tempeh

tempeh

Tempeh is rated one of the World’s healthy foods and it is completely plant-based. This makes it a perfect vegan pork belly substitute.

Tempeh is derived from a combination of fermented grains and soya beans. It has a great flavor and meaty texture.

Just like pork, tempeh should be cooked properly. It can be a replacement for meat in sandwiches in the form of gluten or Seitan.

11. Soy

Soy is quite flavorful and easy to prepare. It has a distinct soy taste and flavor to add to your meal.

Soy can be used when dry, but it is recommended that you make sure it has enough water in the pot while it boils, as soybeans absorb water.

Due to that quality, it is also advisable to season your water properly before you boil the beans that way, it absorbs both water and seasoning.

12. Tofu

tofu

Tofu is a malleable substitute that can fit just into your recipe.

Persons describe tofu as bland; while that might seem like a turn-off, it is of great advantage as it can be seasoned to your liking and its taste modified as you desire.

Soaking in some pork spice an hour before its use in meal preparation would be a great way to achieve the taste you desire.

Tofu can be found as wheat gluten, soy protein isolates, and mixed tofu.

13. Beans

Beans are a great vegan pork belly substitute! You can never go wrong with it. It is versatile and has a lot of variety, ranging from color, taste, nutrition, flavor, and texture.

It can be a good substitute for pork because it takes less time to prepare, and it is great for chili sauces and soups.

With beans as a vegan substitute, you can never go wrong. Do not be afraid to try it out in various recipes and see the flavor, color, and texture it adds to your meal.

FAQs About Pork Belly

What is another name for pork belly?

Pork belly is also called “side pork” in some regions of the USA. However, in different countries, it has a different name:

  • China: wǔhuāròu (五花肉)
  • Venezuela: tocineta
  • Korea: ogyeop-sal (오겹살)
  • Thailand: mu sam chan

Is salt pork the same as pork belly?

Slat pork is made from pork belly; it is salted pork belly.

What’s a good pork belly substitute for ramen?

Although it’s very hard to find a meat that tastes the same as pork belly, you can still make delicious ramen with roast pork (chashu pork shoulder). Most Japanese use this when pork belly is not available.

Final Words

If you are interested in cooking with pork belly recipes, try using these substitutes. Some of these may be available at your local grocery store, while others can be purchased online.

Remember that any substitutions will not carry the same flavor or texture as pork belly. But each of them can offer a unique taste for your cooking.

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I’m Jennifer Schlette, a Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I love cooking, reading, and my kids! Here you’ll find the healthiest recipes & substitutions for your cooking. Enjoy, and be well, friends!

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