Prosciutto is an Italian dry cured ham that is thinly sliced and served raw.
It is a popular cured meat that is served on cheese platters, in appetizers, sandwiched between crunchy bread, nestled into salads, pasta recipes and main dishes.
“Prosciutto” means ham in Italian and is prepared from the hind legs of pigs. However the word prosciutto is also used to describe cured air dried meat that is seasoned.
Prosciutto are of two kinds: prosciutto cotto and prosciutto crudo, the only difference is; prosciutto cotto is cooked ham and prosciutto crudo is uncooked ham that comes under a cured meat.
The cured meat has a salty flavor as the ham is rubbed with salt and then more salt, drawing out the moisture. Even so, the taste depends on the preparation and curation processes but the overall flavor profile leans on the quantity of herbs and spices used to season the meat.
The ham is regionally cured in Italy, including the famous Prosciutto di Parma and Prosciutto di San Danielle. Both have a subtle flavor similar to each other however Prosciutto di Parma comes from the region, Emilia Romagna in Italy while the Prosciutto di San Danielle is made in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of Italy.
Today thin slices of prosciutto can be found in a grocery store deli selling cured meats including Italian bacon, smoked ham, cured sausage, sandwich hams and many more.
Recipes incorporate prosciutto either raw in a cold dish like antipasto or cooked in a hot dishes.
It can be used in pasta dishes, to wrap fish or meat before grilling, pan frying or baking, draped over bruschetta and tossed into side dishes like green beans for added flavor.
It will fit perfectly with ingredients like mozzarella, tomatoes, figs apart from other ingredients.
Sometimes a recipe calls for prosciutto specifically and not all grocery stores might have it stocked, don’t worry!
You can substitute prosciutto with other alternatives in equal proportions keeping in mind, it should have a strong, rich taste and should be thinly sliced like prosciutto. The alternative doesn’t have to be cooked but it must have a chewy texture.
In reference to taste, the best substitute for prosciutto has to be ham. It is a dry cured meat as well and has a very similar taste to prosciutto depending on the type of ham used, some of them are:
It is made in Spain using Iberian pigs hence why it is highly esteemed. It is air dried for 1-2 years and is best eaten raw at room temperature which makes the fat on the thin slices naturally sweat.
Also means “mountain Ham” in Spanish. The cured meat varies regionally but mainly has a sweet and rich taste with a chewy texture. Serrano ham is eaten as tapas or added into appetizers and salads.
The cured ham is exactly as it sounds, you mainly use it in sandwiches and wraps. The thinly sliced ham can be purchased at most deli counters in a supermarket.
This meat is a wet cured ham, as it is injected with brine to speed up the curing process unlike the Iberico ham and Serrano ham that is purely air dried meat.
Originally comes from Germany and has an intense smoky flavor due to the combination of wood used to smoke the raw meat, herbs and spices.
Black forest ham is a dry cured meat that can be eaten raw with rye bread, fruit, among other ingredients.
It has almost the same taste as that of prosciutto crudo hence considered to be the cousin of prosciutto. It is thinly sliced and contains higher meat content in comparison to fat but it can be used as a substitute in pasta dishes and many cold dishes.
It is one of the most common cured meats. It comes in many forms from a variety of animals however it is popularly found under streaky bacon or back bacon. The only difference between them is the cut of pork that is used, streaky bacon is originally made with pork belly (more fat) and back bacon is made using pork loin (more meat).
Depending on the curation and smoking process, you need to cook the bacon in boiling water for a few minutes before frying or fry in a pan directly.
You can substitute prosciutto for bacon in recipes covering grilling and panfrying.
Thinly sliced bacon has a crispy texture when cooked in a pan or hot oven adding texture and taste to sandwiches, salads, pastas, or specific recipes like bacon wrapped figs or pigs in blankets.
It is also called Italian bacon and can be eaten raw if thinly sliced in which case it has a similar taste and texture bacon. However, pancetta is usually sliced thicker than bacon where it needs to be heated before eating.
It is a good substitute for prosciutto in pasta sauces, casseroles and soups.
Is an antipasto derived from beef. The red meat is salted, flavored with juniper berries, herbs and spices depending on the region of Italy it is made in.
It is less fatty than prosciutto but pairs well with bread, arugula and parmesan.
Is a cured meat however it is not the same as prosciutto. It is meat that has been ground up with other ingredients such as herbs, spices, offcuts etc. The resemblance is based on the preparation hence why it is used in similar recipes.
It comes from Italy with more prominence in North America today. It is a dry cured pork neck or shoulder that has been spiced, sealed and locked away for half a year to cure. The flavor is similar to prosciutto due to the curing process.
The sweet cured Capicola also known as Capicollo and has a rich mouthfeel yet overall peppery flavor.
Is similar to prosciutto but comes from the pork loin in the leg and is cured with salt and aged. It is usually served as an appetizer or in a starter dish that require a saltier meat.
Be mindful while using it as it can get very salty.
It comes under the fattiest cured meats as the jowl or cheek of pork is used, hence why it is mainly cut fresh. The cured meat is similar to prosciutto in reference to how it is prepared and cured. The seasoning varies based on regions and traditional curing habits.
It can be used in recipes to replace prosciutto in the same way.
This is a good vegetarian substitute for prosciutto. Cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino, Swiss cheese, Asiago, Manchego replace prosciutto in recipes.
The saltiness in the cheese balances a dish well however it is important to keep in mind the recipe, these cheeses fit into salads, appetizers and starters.
This is a vegan substitute for prosciutto that adds a layer of taste and texture to a recipe that calls for prosciutto. Toasted nuts like walnuts and almonds add a nutty taste and crunch to a dish. It is best used in making pasta, salads, risotto, appetizers and starters.
They add a savory meaty note to the dish. It is common to use mushrooms in place of meat for a vegetarian option as the bold mushroom flavor works across many recipes.
They should be cooked and seasoned well before adding to a dish. Mushrooms like brown button, portobello, shiitake or oyster mushrooms are good alternatives used in equal amounts within the same appetizer using prosciutto in the recipe.
The above mentioned substitute options will aid you in achieving a taste similar to prosciutto within your recipe. They cannot give you the exact true prosciutto taste or desired texture. As discussed some of the alternatives are made from various parts of pigs and beef among other ingredients .
Ham, Bacon, Pancetta, Capicola, Speck.
Beef or turkey bacon, Bresaola, Beef salami.
Cheese, Nuts, Mushrooms.
It is similar that of pancetta based on the cut of meat, preparation and curation process hence it can be used as to replace prosciutto in recipes.
Colin is a passionate chef by trade and a kitchen nerd on the side. Growing up in the kitchen, Colin has always had a passion for learning the absolute best way to cook a dish. He quickly realized most kitchens have duplicate cookware and small appliances and had to decide which ones were going to be the “keepers” – causing him to take a closer look at all his products.
As it turns out, small differences make a big impact on the experience. Whether it’s how hard you have to press a microwave button, to how long a cast iron skillet stays warm after you turn off the heat, these little difference changed everything.