Pancetta is a salty pork delicacy from Italy. It pairs perfectly with pasta dishes, omelets, risottos, and pizza. But if you don’t eat meat, you might miss this flavorful ingredient.
The good news is that there are vegetarian alternatives to replicate pancetta’s distinctive taste.
You can create a perfect vegetarian substitute for pancetta using staple ingredients like tofu, tempeh, and mushrooms.
Some options are pancetta-specific, like green olives. However, the pre-made department has some catching up to do.
Although you might not be able to find store-bought vegetarian pancetta yet, I’ll show you pre-made alternatives that are just as delicious.
Read on to learn more about your options.
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Why Choose a Vegetarian Substitute for Pancetta?
It’s not only vegetarians who might be looking for a pancetta substitute.
Its cost may also be a factor in sending cooks looking for a replacement. On top of that, it might also be challenging to locate, as it isn’t considered a traditional product.
Apart from its cost, some are looking to swap out pancetta for health reasons.
Moreover, since pancetta is made from pork belly, it’s high in fat and calories. In addition, it may lead to high cholesterol, and it isn’t advisable for people suffering from heart diseases or diabetes.
Finally, you might strongly oppose the meat industry for its animal treatment and environmental impact.
Not only is the sector the leading contributor to global warming, but it causes deforestation and water and air pollution as well.
What Is a Vegetarian Substitute for Pancetta?
When looking for an authentic vegetarian substitute for pancetta, it’s essential to find flavorful ingredients that can do it justice.
Unfortunately, its smoky taste and delicate texture aren’t as easy to replicate as other meat styles. That’s why pre-made vegetarian pancetta still isn’t available.
However, there are ways to cook up excellent alternatives or buy another similar pre-made product to serve as a substitute.
Pancetta is typically used for cooking, so its flavor and texture are more important than looks.
For a reasonable substitute, go for the ingredients that can be infused with spices and crisped up when fried.
No matter the reason for quitting meat, you can follow your favorite pancetta meal recipe and produce impressive results using an alternative.
Let’s take a look at my recommended vegetarian substitutes for pancetta.
Tofu is a mainstay of the vegetarian diet. It can be used to replicate almost any style of meat, including pancetta.
It’s best to use extra-firm smoked tofu to make tofu pancetta. If you only have a softer variety of tofu, try draining and pressing it before marinating.
As tofu is known for soaking up the flavors of other ingredients, make sure to use different herbs and spices to recreate pancetta’s salty taste.
For the smoky effect, increase the amount of smoked paprika.
After marinating your tofu, fry it as you would pancetta. The end product is a salty, crispy, and slightly chewy vegetarian pancetta copycat.
Tempeh is another versatile vegetarian ingredient made from soybeans.
It’s commonly used as a substitute for bacon, so it can serve as a great vegetarian substitute for pancetta.
Unlike tofu, tempeh has a meaty texture and flavor. With the right spices, it can perfectly mimic the flavorful pancetta.
Additionally, the taste doesn’t come at a health cost. Tempeh is protein-packed and low in fat and cholesterol, making it healthier than regular pancetta.
Due to their versatile cooking potential, mushrooms act as a perfect meat substitute.
The trick is to know which type of mushrooms will meet your needs. For example, when recreating pancetta, consider trying porcini mushrooms.
These mushrooms are an excellent substitute for pork products. They’re brown-caped, meaty, and rich in flavor.
To prepare them, cut them into smaller cubes, add spices and cook them as you would have the pancetta.
Olives aren’t a frequent meat substitute in a vegetarian diet, but they will work great for pancetta. Make sure to use full-flavored green olives.
These olives are already salted, just like pancetta. It has a meatier texture but lacks pancetta’s flavor, so don’t forget to add your favorite seasoning mix.
Note that olives have a strong taste and might be too much for your taste buds if you use too much.
Textured Vegetable Protein
Textured vegetable protein (TVP) is a highly nutritious product made from soy flour.
It usually comes pre-made, in a variety of shapes and sizes. Its most common use is as a ground meat substitute, but you can use it for pancetta too.
To use TVP as a vegetarian substitute for pancetta, select the appropriate size based on your needs, add the herbs, and cook it like regular pancetta.
Pre-Made Vegetarian Substitute for Pancetta
Unfortunately, the pre-made pancetta department is empty at the moment. There are currently no store-bought options to reach for if you don’t feel like cooking.
The main difference between pancetta and bacon lies in the curing process.
Namely, bacon is smoked while pancetta is salt-cured and dried. Regardless, both pack a mighty flavor punch and can be swapped when needed.
There are various pre-made vegetarian substitutes for bacon on the market.
Let’s start with one of the best-reviewed – Upton’s Naturals Bacon Seitan.
As the name suggests, this product is made from seitan, a commonly used meat substitute made from vital wheat gluten.
Its texture is remarkably similar to meat leading to a great variety of cooking options.
Upton’s Naturals’ product mimics pancetta’s smoked flavor. You can crisp it up in the pan and serve it with your favorite dish.
Another excellent option is MorningStar Farms Veggie Bacon Strips.
This faux bacon looks like the real deal, with the same meat and fat lines as regular bacon.
When using it as a pancetta substitute, it’s best to pan-fry it to get it nice and crispy.
As far as prosciutto goes, it undergoes a similar curing process as pancetta, but it lacks a smoky taste.
Nevertheless, it still acts as a worthy pancetta alternative and if you’d like to give it a try, consider Good&Green’s Sliced Plant-Based Veggie Prosciutto.
While the pancetta is nothing short of a delicacy, there are many reasons to stop you from indulging in it.
Whether you’re unable to find the real deal or staying away from meat, there are notable pancetta alternatives to consider.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you choose the best vegetarian substitute for pancetta. All that’s left is to give it a try and be the judge of just how similar it is to the beloved pork pancetta.