Ask the average home cook what bacon is and they’ll confidently describe its taste, texture and uses in the kitchen.

But what about pancetta and prosciutto?

Like bacon, they’re also salty, cured meats that come from the pig. They often get mixed up due to their similarities which is a problem because they have some gaping differences. If you’d like to get the scoop on pancetta vs prosciutto then keep reading. We’ll dissect these two forms of charcuterie to clearly explain their distinctions.

Pancetta vs prosciutto – how they differ

An infographic comparing pancetta and prosciuttoPancetta

pancettaBrief run-down

Pancetta is a light pink meat made from salt cured pork belly. It tastes similar to bacon although it has a deeper, sharper flavor and doesn’t have the same smoky undertone. During manufacture, the meat is often rolled, cased and finally hung during a drying process. This gives the meat a unique silky, dense texture.

5 delicious uses for pancetta

  1. Pancetta is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a range of recipes.
  2. Serve thin slices as part of a cheese board next to bocconcini.
  3. Slices or cubes can be used as a pizza topping along with tomatoes, rocket and mozzarella. Mamma Mia!
  4. Toss small cubes into your favorite pasta sauce for extra flavor. Reduce the salt a little though as the pancetta will add plenty.cured meats
  5. Wrapped around asparagus spears and grilled – the pancetta turns crispy and the asparagus inherits a lovely umami flavor.
  6. Add pieces to pastas, soups or casseroles for an intense flavor boost.

How it’s sold

In the U.S. pancetta is often sold as cubes in bags or, when requested, sliced thinly from the delicatessen.

Prosciutto

ProsciuttoBrief run-down

Prosciutto is a rosy pink colored meat that offers a lovely buttery mouthfeel, thanks to its fat content. It is made from salt-cured pork hind leg which is hung and dried for 6-24 months before eating. This drying process provides the meat with an extremely dense, tough texture. It would be difficult to chew if it wasn’t for the fact that it gets sliced very thinly.

5 delectable uses for prosciutto

Prosciutto is a very salty meat that pairs well with fruit, white wines and cheeses that aren’t overly salty.

  1. Serve slices as part of an antipasto platter with fresh mozzarella.
  2. Wrap prosciutto around pieces of melon – the salty/sweet combination is divine.
  3. Add to pizza with rocket leaves, pickled onions, mozzarella and a vinaigrette.
  4. Include small crispy slices with your favorite salad as a replacement for bacon.
  5. Layer a muffin tray with prosciutto and fill with and egg. Bake for the perfect breakfast.

How it’s sold

Prosciutto is usually sold in prepackaged thin slices or can be ordered from the delicatessen sliced. The slices are cut thin as the meat is dense and difficult to chew.

Pancetta and prosciutto on shelf
In the supermarket, prosciutto is usually sold sliced.

The similarities

  • Both are made from salt-cured pork and look similar to bacon.
  • They can both be eaten raw or cooked.
  • Salads, soups, casseroles, pizza and antipasto platters are ideal for both meats.
  • Both meats originate from Italy.
  • Both turn crispy like bacon when pan fried or grilled.

The differences

  • Pancetta is made from pork belly; prosciutto uses pork hind leg.
  • Prosciutto has 12g/100g fat, pancetta has 39g/100g fat.
  • Pancetta can be used to replace bacon in recipes, prosciutto usually should not.
  • Prosciutto is tougher than pancetta and needs to be cut very thin.
  • Prosciutto translates to ham, pancetta translates to bacon.

Best substitutes

Question: Does your recipe call for pancetta?
Answer: Best option is to use streaky bacon that’s been lightly boiled for 2-3 minutes to remove the smoky aroma then rinse in cool water and dry using paper towels.

Question: Does your recipe call for prosciutto?
Answer: You can use either ham or thinly slices Capicola. Neither will provide a close substitute but if you’re desperate, they’ll get the job done.

Capicola on a chopping board
At a stretch, capicola can be used as a substitute for prosciutto.

FAQs

Can you substitute pancetta with prosciutto?

If you don’t have any pancetta we recommend using streaky bacon as the next best option. Prosciutto has a different flavor and a much tougher texture that won’t work in a lot of recipes.

Which is saltier pancetta or prosciutto?

Prosciutto is a much saltier option.  Pancetta has 312mg of sodium per 1 oz of meat whereas prosciutto has 764mg of sodium per 1 oz of meat.
Reference: https://www.nutritionix.com/food/prosciutto

Wrapping it up

So the question you may be asking is: which is better, pancetta or prosciutto? There’s no clear winner on this as it comes down to personal preference. If you’re a lover or bacon then pancetta may be more to your liking. It’s amazing wrapped around vegetables or grilled until crispy and used to top pizza or salads. If you love a strong, salty meat then prosciutto may be to your liking.

Keep in mind that the way you use the meat can make all the difference. By balancing out the saltiness of these two cured meats with some sweet fruit or creamy fresh mozzarella, you’ll really lift these ingredients to a new level.