Prosciutto is dry-cured Italian ham that is usually thinly sliced and served as an appetizer, flavor enhancer, or delicious topping that brings out the other flavors in several recipes.
Since prosciutto might not always be easy to find when you need it, we made a list of several alternatives that you can use instead. Each one of them is a good prosciutto substitute because it can mimic the taste or texture of this appetizing delicacy.
The best substitutes for prosciutto
There are two types of prosciutto: crudo and cotto. The first one is served raw, the other is served cooked. Both combine the delicacy of a savory product that goes well with multiple flavors in your dishes.
Prosciutto is commonly used in different cuisines and multiple recipes because this delicate meat is so versatile. There are different types of prosciutto in several Italian regions, and each one of them is a unique variation.
For example, prosciutto crudo di Parma has a nutty flavor while prosciutto di San Daniele is sweeter. Generally speaking, the meat is salmon pink to reddish-brown with streaks of fat that appear when it’s thinly sliced. There are other versions of prosciutto that are seasoned with herbs and spices.
Prosciutto can be eaten with bread, as an appetizer, wrapped around a piece of melon, or sprinkled on top of your pizza or salad. It’s usually used in recipes where the strong savory taste can be balanced with another sweet ingredient.
But if you can’t find prosciutto, there are other good alternatives that you can use to enjoy the deep flavor and intense taste. Some of these options are also available if you don’t eat pork but still want a good substitute for prosciutto that delivers the same texture.
1. Jamón Serrano
Jamón Serrano, also known as Serrano Ham, or Spanish Ham, is a delicacy that can be used to replace prosciutto in various dishes. It’s a rich, dark cured meat that has a deep and nutty flavor and aroma.
Unlike prosciutto, Jamón Serrano doesn’t use a lot of salt during the curing process, which lasts for more than a year. The lengthy curing process and the spices added give this cured meat a distinctive flavor that is less salty than prosciutto but bold and intense enough to elevate your dishes.
You can use Jamón Serrano in any recipe where you want to replace the flavor of prosciutto with something less salty. It can be served on its own or combined with fruit, vegetables, bread, nuts, cheese, and even fish.
This famous Italian cured meat is an excellent substitute for prosciutto as it’s prepared in the same way. However, unlike prosciutto, which contains a small amount of fat, culatello is cut directly from the thigh muscle, resulting in a leaner alternative.
Because it’s rich in flavor, using only a tiny amount of culatello might be all you need to enjoy a delicious dish. It has a distinctive winey taste because it’s cured with salt, pepper, garlic, and dry white wine.
Culatello is great as an appetizer, usually served with fruits like cantaloupe and watermelon. It also goes well with cream and hard cheese on your charcuterie board. You can add it to your pasta, on top of your pizza, or any other dish where you want to enjoy a rich, savory flavor.
Ham is the most common prosciutto substitute because they have almost the same flavor. In Italian, ham just means prosciutto, but in the rest of the world, ham can indicate different products. It has a tangy, distinctive taste that gets intensified when it’s served with other ingredients like honey-glazed veggies and cheese.
There are different types of ham that you can consider when you’re replacing prosciutto. So, you can find smoky ham, black forest ham, which is seasoned with blueberries and garlic, and honey ham, which is rather sweet.
Compared to prosciutto, ham has a slightly more subtle flavor, so you can add it to a salad or a sandwich where the sauce or vinaigrette will add extra saltiness.
Bacon is another alternative that you can eat raw or cooked. When it’s served raw, bacon tastes like a fattier version of prosciutto.
This is a type of salt-cured pork meat that has a savory and slightly smoky taste. There are different types of bacon-based on where the meat is cut from, but thinly sliced smoked bacon can be a good substitute for prosciutto in several dishes.
Bacon can be served on its own, incorporated into a savory recipe, wrapped around a piece of fruit, or used to prepare a bold dessert. It’s one of the most versatile ingredients that you can use and provides a very similar texture to prosciutto.
Also known as Italian bacon, pancetta is salt-cured pork belly meat. Pancetta tastes a lot like bacon, but it’s not smoky.
It has a deeply savory taste like prosciutto, so it’s an excellent substitute for recipes where you want a tangy and bold flavor. Pancetta can be sliced on top of your salad, pizza or added to stuffing to elevate its taste.
Pancetta is only cured, so it must be cooked before eating, unlike prosciutto, which is salt-cured and air-dried. So if you’re using pancetta in a salad or a cold sandwich, cook it first and let it cool before blending it with the other ingredients.
Salami is traditionally made of pork meat, but there are versions made of beef or poultry that you can use if you want non-pork substitutes for prosciutto.
This is an Italian air-dried cured meat like prosciutto, but it’s made of fermented sausages that give a bold, tasty flavor. The fermented flavor of salami and the spices used in the curing process make it a great addition to multiple recipes.
There are different types of salami that can be sweet, savory, or spicy. So, when you’re looking for a prosciutto substitute, make sure that you’re using a suitable alternative that would help bring the other flavors in your dish together.
Capicola is made of spiced and smoked pork shoulder meat. It can be thinly sliced just like prosciutto and used in any recipe that would call for this delicious Italian deli meat.
Compared to prosciutto, capicola isn’t as salty. It has a fatty smoky taste compared to prosciutto, which is sharp and savory.
Capicola can be a great salad topping or served within a panini with greens and cheese. It’s also a great addition to an appetizer board with bread, crackers, and several types of cheese.
This cured meat comes from the jowl of the pig, so it’s fattier than prosciutto. It’s not smoked but rather short-cured with sugar, salt, and other spices that give the meat a delicious taste and aroma.
9. Jamón Ibérico
Jamón Ibérico is a type of Spanish cured meat that comes from the leg of the pork. This specific type of ham comes from the black Iberian pigs, so it’s pretty expensive and is only kept for special occasions.
Nevertheless, it has a unique taste that makes it a mouthwatering substitute for prosciutto in many recipes.
It has a smooth texture and a deeply savory taste with a high-fat content or marbling, compared to other types of Spanish cured meat like the Jamón Serrano. In this way, it resembles prosciutto, which also shows some marbling when sliced.
The curing process of Jamón Ibérico can take up to 2 years. This makes its flavor very intense, so if you’re using it in your recipe, you need to add it in small amounts so it doesn’t overpower the other flavors.
10. Beef Bresaola
Beef bresaola can be used as a tasty prosciutto replacement in several recipes if you don’t like pork or can’t eat it for any reason. This is a type of Italian air-dried meat that goes through an aging process that lasts for about 2 months.
Once aged, the meat turns dark red in color and has a sweet, musty, and slightly nutty flavor. Bresaola is leaner than prosciutto and has a milder flavor.
11. Duck Prosciutto
Duck prosciutto is made of salt-cured duck meat, just like pork prosciutto. Thanks to the fully-flavored meat, duck prosciutto can feel a little bit porky, although no pork is used to prepare this delicacy.
Cured duck breasts are thinly sliced like prosciutto and can be used in a sandwich or served with crackers. The intense flavor also goes well with other sweeter ingredients like cherry preserves, pickled raisins, and fig chutney.
If you’re using it as a flavor enhancer, only a small amount of duck prosciutto will be enough. You can cut it into small pieces, sprinkle it on top of your salad, or incorporate it into a casserole to give it more richness.
Cheese can be a delicious prosciutto alternative when served with bread and crackers. In this case, you need to pick a hard-aged cheese like Romano, Swiss, or Asiago to create an intense flavor that goes well with the other ingredients in your recipe.
In most cases, cheese can be the perfect prosciutto substitute in an appetizer. You can add a slice of your favorite cheese on top of crackers or serve it with a piece of melon. Cheese is a versatile ingredient that you can also use to flavor salads and pasta dishes.
13. Toasted Nuts
Toasted almonds or walnuts can substitute prosciutto in several recipes if you’re looking for a vegetarian or vegan alternative. When the nuts are salted and toasted, they will add a unique flavor to several dishes like risotto, pasta, and salads.
You can even add paprika to your nuts to give them more edge. Toasted nuts can be sprinkled on top of your pizza or served with cheese on your cheese platter.
Mushrooms always have a rich umami flavor that allows them to be one of the best substitutes for prosciutto if you don’t eat pork or meat. Once cooked until caramelized, mushrooms will add a tasty flavor to any baked dish where prosciutto is used to add richness.
Portobello and Shiitake mushrooms are usually used in baked recipes because they’re meaty and rich. You can use mushrooms in your pasta, pizza, or salad instead of prosciutto after adding the right seasoning that would bring all the other flavors in your dish together.
How to choose a prosciutto substitute
If you’re in search of a substitute for prosciutto, there are several alternatives that deliver the same flavor or a slightly different flavor with the same texture.
Jamón Serrano is probably the closest substitute to prosciutto and can replace it in almost every recipe. Culatello can substitute prosciutto because it has an intense savory taste. Ham is another easy-to-find option with a more subtle flavor.
Bacon can replace prosciutto if you want to add a more subtle taste with a smoky flavor. Pancetta isn’t smoky and can replace prosciutto in cold dishes.
Salami has a fermented flavor that works if you find the prosciutto’s taste to be too strong. Capicola also adds a smoky flavor, but it’s fattier.
If you need a replacement for prosciutto in baked dishes, you can use Guanciale, which is fatty and rich in flavor. Jamón Ibérico is an excellent prosciutto substitute, but it’s not easy to find.
Those who don’t eat pork, beef bresaola, and duck prosciutto will add the tasty savory flavor to several recipes. You can also use cheese, toasted nuts, and mushrooms if you need a non-meat alternative.