Have you been searching for Guanciale but keep coming up empty-handed? You’re not alone.
It’s difficult to find the Italian delicacy, yet it’s a key ingredient in dishes like Carbonara.
Here is your go-to guide for the 5 best Guanciale substitutes to ensure you enjoy your favorite recipes without compromising on flavor.
Guanciale is a type of cured meat product made from the cheeks of pigs and it has a unique flavor that stands out among other popular Italian cured meats.
It closely resembles bacon, but is much more complex in taste and texture.
The cheeks are cured with salt, black pepper and spices like nutmeg, cloves, or garlic which brings out its intense aroma while concentrating the pork flavor.
When cooked, it has a delightful crispy outside and juicy inside unlike many other cured pork products that tend to be dry.
Guanciale adds an amazing depth to any dish as it infuses both fat and flavorful juices into the ingredients.
For best results, use Guanciale to add depth of flavor and directly substitute for bacon in dishes such as carbonara or gricia pasta sauces.
In many recipes you can also substitute prosciutto for guanciale with no perceived difference in taste even though guanciale does have more concentrated flavors from being cured differently than the prosciutto.
Give Guanciale a try in your next meal – you won’t regret it.
5 Best Guanciale Substitutes to Consider
Guanciale can be hard to find outside of specialty shops or Italy itself.
If you’re looking for a substitute that won’t sacrifice any of the flavor of guanciale, here are some of the best options to try:
1 – Pancetta
Pancetta is a savory, fat-studded pork belly cured with salt and spices.
This Italian bacon can be eaten as is, but it’s most commonly used to flavor soups, sauces, and stuffings.
Pancetta has a milder flavor than guanciale, but it shares enough similarities to make it a good substitute.
When using pancetta as a substitute for guanciale, try to find the thickest slices available or ask your butcher for cuts that are at least ¼-inch thick.
These will take longer to cook and thus yield better results, as they tend to remain tender rather than crisping up too quickly.
2 – Bacon
When searching for a suitable substitute for guanciale, bacon is probably the most common one that comes to mind.
Although it’s not an exact flavor match, it will still provide a decent replacement in many dishes.
Bacon is pork belly that has been seasoned with salt and sugar and then smoked or cured before being cooked.
Because of the smoking/curing process, it has a slightly different flavor than guanciale but will still provide some of the savory qualities needed in certain dishes.
For example, if using in carbonara sauce, the smokiness can add an interesting dimension to your dish.
Plus, it’s readily available at most grocery stores, so using bacon as your substitute is usually quick and easy.
3 – Prosciutto
Prosciutto is an incredibly popular cold cut from Italy and can be found in nearly every deli across the world.
It’s made from cured pork, although its flavor is far milder than that of guanciale.
Prosciutto comes in both a sweet and salty form, with the saltier variety being the closest substitute for guanciale due to its greater fat content.
It works exceptionally well as a topping on pizza or in sandwiches and has a long shelf life if kept refrigerated properly.
4 – Lardo
Lardo is another fat taken from different breeds of pig.
It is pork back fat that has been cured and seasoned with herbs, spices and garlic to create a fat that is similar in texture and taste to guanciale.
This is a great substitution for guanciale as it can be frequently found in gourmet shops, delis or Italian markets.
When substituting lardo in place of guanciale, you will need to add extra garlic and herbs such as oregano, thyme or rosemary in order to enhance the flavor.
5 – Chorizo
Chorizo is a heavily-spiced cured pork sausage from the Iberian Peninsula, where it is a breakfast staple.
Like Guanciale, Chorizo can be cooked in many dishes such as tacos, burritos, soups and pastas.
Its strong flavor is usually toned by cooking it with vegetables or ingredients such as onions and tomatoes.
Depending on the region where it is produced, chorizo can be either spicy or mild.
Unlike Guanciale, chorizo contains smoked paprika, cumin and other spices which give it its signature smoky flavor.
For that reason, using chorizo as a substitute might impart more of an intense smoky taste to your dish than Guanciale would.
It’s clear that guanciale is a distinctive, delicious and versatile ingredient that can bring new life to dishes.
However, for a variety of reasons, it may not be going to be able to use in certain dishes.
Fortunately, there are a number of excellent substitute ingredients that can give you a similar flavor and texture.
Bacon, pancetta, jowl bacon and turkey bacon are all great alternatives — each one providing its own unique flavor.
Prosciutto or salami may also be used as replacements, depending on the recipe.
Be sure to experiment with other types of cured pork products (like fresh chorizo) to find the taste you’re looking for.
In the end, what matters most is getting the right combination of flavors and textures in your finished dish.
Carrie is a food writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience. She has worked for some of the biggest names in the food industry, including Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Martha Stewart Living.
As the Editor in Chief of IntroChicago.com, Carrie oversees all of the content on the site. She also manages the team of contributing writers and editors, who help to create delicious recipes, helpful tips, and informative articles that you’ll find on the site.
A native of the Chicago area, Carrie is passionate about all things food. She loves trying new restaurants and experimenting with new recipes in her kitchen. She’s also a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, so she knows a thing or two about food!