Are there any good substitutes for prosciutto or are you better off just skipping it altogether? The good news is that there are indeed good replacements, otherwise I wouldn’t be talking about it.
On the other hand, you’re going to have to determine whether these substitutes are easier to find or if you’re better off going the extra mile and buying prosciutto and be done with all of it.
Moreover, you must consider that prosciutto has indeed a unique taste, with the perfect combination between sweet and salty.
I absolutely love it so I’m totally biased. However, I know a few people who aren’t crazy about it, thinking that it has an intense taste. That might be the case for you or for someone you know.
Prosciutto crudo is an Italian uncooked and dry-cured ham. It’s not smoked. But it still manages to have an intense taste that brings total happiness to my taste buds. The streaks of fat that dissolve on the tongue are perfect.
The most famous is Prosciutto di Parma, produced in Parma, Italy.
15 Best Substitutes for Prosciutto
The best substitutes for prosciutto are going to be some kind of ham. Basically, we’re going to cover a few different hams that will work as replacements.
Nevertheless, I also have other interesting suggestions that don’t involve any pork meat. There’s something for everyone.
1. Prosciutto cotto
If you want the milder-tasting substitute for prosciutto crudo, go for prosciutto cotto.
Prosciutto cotto translates to cooked ham.
The cooked process results in a much milder taste and you won’t mind the uncooked, dry-cured streaks of fat at all.
You can also use the cotto one in cooking recipes since it was already cooked slowly at controlled temperatures.
However, the crudo one is never cooked. Even if you want to use it as a topping on pizza you’ll have to add it on the pizza after you’ve removed it from the oven.
2. Beef bresaola (Non-fat, non-pork prosciutto substitute)
Prosciutto is high in fat and sodium. This might be one big reason for people searching for substitutes that will suit their diets better than a porky, dry-cured delight that has a high content of fat and sodium.
If you don’t want porky delights, how about trying a beefy delight? Plus, they’re both Italian.
Beef bresaola is the non-fat substitute for prosciutto.
It’s a lean cut that works perfectly for those trying to maintain a balanced diet.
Beef bresaola is one of the best things that you can eat. And you can enjoy it in the same way as prosciutto crudo. They have these aspects in common. It’s just that one has a lot less fat than the other.
3. Ham (City Ham)
When we’re mentioning ham among the best substitutes for prosciutto, things can get a bit complicated.
That isn’t because ham isn’t delicious. It’s actually because there are so many types of hams that it’s a bit difficult to refer to all these kinds under one simple word.
After all, prosciutto is also a ham, an Italian one.
There are so many different flavors of ham, you’ll have to choose what you buy depending on what the stores around you offer.
However, thanks to this variety, it also means that this pick is one of the most easiest to find, no matter where you live. Most countries have their own plus whatever they import.
There are 3 large categories of hams:
- city ham: sold fully cooked
- country hams (like prosciutto): dry cured, uncooked
- fresh hams, which are also the hardest to find: uncured, uncooked
There’s one important question that we should answer, since we’re trying to make a substitute: does prosciutto taste like ham?
Since prosciutto is ham the direct answer will be yes.
If we were to give a more complex answer, then we would say that each ham tastes a bit different, depending on how it’s prepared and served. As you saw, there are 3 big categories of hams. They all differ from each other.
However, when we’re referring to ham, we’re actually talking about city ham.
It’s the one we use in cheese and ham sandwiches, as topping for pizzas, in omelets, and in ham cordon bleu.
City ham is sold fully cooked and it has a nice, mild flavor. It’s easy to use and it pleases everyone’s tastes. It’s what a lot of us grew up eating regularly.
4. Jamón serrano/Jamón ibérico (Serrano ham)
If someone were to ask me “which is the perfect prosciutto substitute for you” my answer would be Jamon serrano.
When I first tasted Jamon it was in Spain because that’s where it hails from. It was love at first bite.
For me, prosciutto crudo and Jamon serrano are just absolutely delicious and I love them both.
They’re both dry-cured, uncooked, and unsmoked.
The difference between the two is that Jamon contains less fat and moisture. It can have an even more powerful flavor than prosciutto.
Basically, if you don’t like the prosciutto, chances are that you’re going to stay away from Jamon serrano or iberico, too.
5. Black Forest ham
This one hails from Germany, the Black Forest region in Germany, hence the name.
Herbs are added to the cure so it has a blackened exterior.
However, you must also pay attention to the fact that it’s smoked. Some might love it, while others might not.
It can have quite the intense flavor and the flavor is also influenced by the type of wood used for smoking it.
I guess it’s one of the best substitutes for prosciutto if you’re looking for an intense, smoked alternative.
This pick is actually used for cooking because it can add a nice depth to soups and pastas.
Pancetta is not smoked, it’s salt-cured, but it’s also made from a different cut than prosciutto.
It’s made from pork belly, while prosciutto is made from high-quality pork legs.
Given that, you could understand why people would ask if pancetta is the same as bacon. It’s not but it does have a flavor that resembles bacon, with a slightly deeper and richer flavor profile. I definitely enjoy it in both soups and pastas.
I don’t regard it as the best substitute for prosciutto since prosciutto crudo is eaten raw while pancetta is mostly used for cooking, although it can also be eaten raw.
Since I’ve mentioned pancetta, I though I should also mention bacon. They’re flavors are a bit similar and they both work as substitutes for prosciutto.
The difference is that bacon is also smoked. If you’re interested in something different, I recommend trying and cooking with bacon grease.
I know that most of you are used to eating your bacon cooked. Making it crispy is the best way to indulge into this guilty pleasure.
However, you could also eat it raw. It is salt-cured meat cut from a pig’s belly or back. And smoked.
I will admit that it’s not my favorite meat to eat raw so, just like many of you, I prefer to cook it on the stovetop or in the oven.
8. Italian salami
Salami is definitely one of the most affordable substitutes for prosciutto. It can also have a less intense taste, it can be a favorite at any party.
When it comes to salami, there are many different types to choose from, which is another big plus.
9. Duck prosciutto
Are you in the mood for something completely different? We saw the pork and beef substitutes for prosciutto. But we should also cover this one made from duck breast.
You can even make it yourself at home, there are plenty of recipes online.
It’s an enjoyable project for those who are passionate about curing meat. I will admit that I’ve never tried it. Maybe when I have a bit of free time I’ll give it a go since duck meat is just the best.
The best news about making your own duck prosciutto is that it doesn’t take long to home-cure. It involves only a 48-hour salt cure. That’s Flash fast, considering that pork prosciutto is cured for 2 years or even 3 years.
The air drying is a bit more difficult because the temperature must consistently be between 50 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can also buy it, although I would definitely qualify it as hard to find for most regions on the planet.
Culatello is not as famous as all the other meats that I’ve recommended here. I’m pretty sure that many of us haven’t heard of it.
Obviously, in Italy it is very well known and one of the most prized salted, cured meats.
One major thing that it has in common with our other Italian ham is that it also comes from the province of Parma.
It’s actually only made by curing the rear muscle of the haunch, hence the name. It’s quite expensive since it’s only made from pigs born and raised in Lombardy and Emilia Romagna.
If you’re looking for a cheap prosciutto substitute, this isn’t it. It’s also not easy to find.
It’s also much more delicate and must be stored carefully.
Vegetarian & Vegan Substitutes for Prosciutto
If we’re talking about prosciutto substitutes that don’t involve meat at all, our choices are:
11. Parmesan cheese
I enjoy my prosciutto with parmesan cheese but you can just eat the cheese.
Salt the chickpeas, add paprika, and put them in the oven for 10 minutes. That’s how you get a vegan substitute for prosciutto by using just chickpeas and paprika. Use hot paprika if you want it spicy.
13. Nuts (toasted almonds, walnuts)
Some would say that prosciutto has a nutty taste.
You can use whatever type of mushrooms you like best, cook them until caramelized or however you prefer. After all, mushrooms are a famous replacement for meats.
15. Mock prosciutto crudo
If you’re in the mood to make something yourself, I found this recipe for mock prosciutto crudo.
It’s actually made from sheets of rice paper and colored with beet powder.
How to Eat Prosciutto Crudo
When I have potent ingredients like prosciutto crudo, I love to keep things simple with the other ingredients.
If you just want to enjoy it on its own, just eat it with awesome bread. I enjoy it with ciabatta or a simple focaccia.
You can make things a bit interesting by adding some olive oil on the bread.
Or make a bread dipping oil recipe for more complex flavors. A bit of parmesan cheese, some red pepper flakes, onion powder, 2 cloves minced garlic, freshly ground black pepper, and some herbs will go a long way. Oregano, rosemary can be used dry or fresh, the flavor is intense in both cases. If you’re going to use basil, I recommend using it fresh.
If it’s summer and San Marzano tomatoes are perfectly ripe, then I love making a simple platter of prosciutto, San Marzano tomatoes, and arugula. Roma tomatoes also work nicely. I drizzle olive oil on the tomatoes and arugula. A bit of balsamic vinegar doesn’t hurt in this case. Or a splash of lemon juice.
Not even the most exquisite recipes can compare with that simple platter if the ingredients are perfectly fresh. In this case, I don’t think there are perfect substitutes for prosciutto but you can definitely try using any of the above recommendations and see how it all turns out.