One of the most popular pork cuts, pork belly has an exquisite flavor profile and juicy texture, making it a star component of many diverse recipes. But its popularity also means there’s a good chance you won’t always be able to find pork belly cut at your local supermarket.
Does that mean you have to miss out on the divine pork belly dish? Of course not. If you’ve got your heart set on a pork belly recipe but are missing the main ingredient, here’s a list of some of the best pork belly substitutes that don’t skimp on flavor!
1. Pork Bacon
Given its fine texture and excellent flavor, pork bacon is perhaps the finest substitute for pork belly. While pork belly is the entire slab of meat from the pig’s belly, pork bacon is part of this slab. So, make sure you get a thicker cut of pork bacon if you want the meat to shine in the recipe. Pork bacon also has a lot of fat, so you won’t need to use too much oil to fry it as the fat will melt when cooking.
You can replace the same amount of pork belly with pork bacon in any dish and have it mimics the original’s flavor profile. When it comes to seasoning, keep in mind that pork bacon is saltier than unprocessed pork belly, so be conservative with adding salt. Too much can make your dish overly salty.
2. Pork Fatback
As the name suggests, pork fatback is the meat from the back of the hog. Compared to pork belly, it has a higher fat content. When cooked properly, this cut of meat is exceptionally delicious. Pork fatback also tastes much better when salted, so you may want to go a bit heavy on the salt for extra flavor.
Its texture, size, and flavor profile are quite comparable to those of pork belly, so you can use it in any pork belly recipe without having to alter the seasonings. When it comes to cooking methods, you can cook it just like pork belly — grilling, braising, roasting, all work wonderfully. Make sure to add a spicy sauce or a pinch of chilly to the recipe as the spices tend to blend well with the fat layer, elevating its flavor profile.
3. Pork Shoulder
Tender, soft, and delicious, pork shoulder is not as popular as other pork cuts since it is often difficult to find. Pork shoulder is also fattier than other cuts of the pig, but it contains just the right amount of the lean part to successfully replace pork belly in recipes.
While pork shoulder will offer a similar flavor as pork belly, the texture will differ slightly. When using pork shoulder as a substitute for “pulled” recipes, stews, and chili, make sure to follow the original recipe and seasonings. You can also marinate pork shoulder with your favorite sauces and spices at least an hour before cooking to get more tender flavors.
4. Duck Bacon
Surprisingly enough, duck meat has a very similar texture to that of pork belly, making it an excellent substitute. However, to use it as a replacement for pork belly, you need to transform it into duck bacon using the breast filets. Alternatively, you can save yourself time and effort and just purchase duck bacon from your local supermarket.
Cook the duck bacon in the same way you would pork belly. It is lean meat but still has enough fat content to make the meat juicy and flavorful. Just pay more attention to the seasonings and spice combinations to mimic the taste of pork belly.
5. Goose Meat
Goose meat has a very dark red color that looks very much like pork belly. To use goose meat as an alternative to pork belly, you need to make sure you choose boneless goose meat that is fatter so you can replicate the taste of the original ingredient.
Just like duck meat, you will need to turn goose meat into bacon to enjoy the perfect balance of meat and fatty texture like pork belly. Get it ready-made from the market to speed up your cooking process. Goose meat also tends to be firmer and tougher than other meats. So, you’ll need to marinate it for at least an hour before cooking to tenderize the meat. As for the cooking options, you can cook the goose meat any way you desire!
6. Beef Bacon
Beef bacon is one of the best pork belly substitutes as well as one of the most popular! The more organic the meat, the better the beef bacon will taste. Grass-fed beef bacon would be an excellent choice for a more complex flavor profile and a higher quality of meat.
Use beef bacon in a variety of pork belly meals with the right pork seasonings to get the perfect flavor — you won’t be able to tell the difference because it tastes so much like pork belly! As for cooking methods, you can either fry or grill the beef bacon like you would pork belly or incorporate it into baked goods.
Don’t eat pork? That’s fine! You can still enjoy some of the same recipes that require pork belly by substituting it with these vegan options.
An equally protein-dense ingredient, beans are a really good meat substitute. Beans come in a range of colors, nutritional benefits, flavors, and textures, making them a very versatile ingredient.
You can use beans to replace pork belly in a variety of recipes for a protein-rich meal. They also cook significantly faster than pork.
Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and has a delicious flavor and texture, as well as a wealth of nutrients.
This superfood has a very umami flavor and works great in barbecues or grilled recipes, successfully replacing pork belly.
Another soy-based product, tofu is characteristically bland, allowing you a lot of leeway with seasonings.
It forms the perfect carrier for imitating the flavor of various pork belly recipes. When substituting for pork belly, simply marinate it for an hour before using it.
A popular substitute for meat, soy offers similar textures to any meat including pork belly.
Because soy serves as a “sponge,” flavoring the water before boiling it will help infuse it with spices in the best way.