Pork belly is a unique cut of meat that can be used as a seasoning or cooked as a main or side dish. Since it’s a little pricey and sometimes difficult to find, you can choose other foods as substitutes, including turkey bacon, duck meat, and numerous others, both pork-centered and not.
What Is Pork Belly?
Pork belly is simply meat that comes from the belly of a pig. It is boneless and fatty, and it is often used in Chinese, Korean, Hispanic, and Thai dishes, among others.
If you visit a butcher for your pork belly, you will usually pay $2–$6 per pound, but online and specialty stores may charge you more. Because it is a bit expensive, many people use a substitute for pork belly. Sometimes, people even choose a non-meat or non-dairy option to make their dish healthier.
12 Popular Substitutes for Pork Belly
If you need a substitute for pork belly, try one of the following:
- Pork bacon
- Goose meat
- Pork fatback
- Beef bacon
- Beef belly
- Turkey bacon
- Duck meat
- Pork shoulder cuts
- Salt pork
- Pork or Boston butt
1. Pork Bacon
Some people consider pork bacon to be the closest thing to pork belly and, therefore, the perfect substitute for it. Pork bacon is inexpensive and easy to find, and you can use the same amounts as you would if you were using pork belly. Just follow the same directions and the same amounts, and the dish will turn out just like it should.
2. Goose Meat
Goose meat can be used in place of pork belly, but you’ll have to make a few adjustments. For starters, soak the meat in oil and seasonings for an hour before you cook it, and let it soak in brine for a while to get the best flavor in the end. Make sure you choose the fattier parts of the meat so that the dish tastes like you used pork belly instead of something else.
3. Pork Fatback
Pork fatback is meat that is cut from the back of a pig, making it very similar to pork belly. It has a high fat content, which makes it taste even better, and if you cure it with salt, it can be even tastier than pork belly. You can grill or bake fatback, and it makes for a great dish alongside some veggies. If your tastes lean more toward the fatty types of meat, fatback is what you want.
4. Beef Bacon
It may sound odd that beef can be a good substitute for pork, but beef bacon is actually an excellent substitute for pork belly. For one thing, this type of bacon has numerous uses and is therefore very versatile, and you can cook or fry the meat just like you would bacon made with pork. If you use bacon that comes from grass-fed cows, the taste is even better.
If you’re not a meat eater, you can substitute some types of beans for the pork belly. Try boiled or canned beans instead of pork belly. Choose any type of beans you prefer, such as white or red beans. Beans will make the dish tasty and greatly increase its protein count. You can use soft beans for curries, soups, and chilies.
6. Beef Belly
Also known as beef navel or navel-end brisket, beef belly is the same as pork belly, except it comes from a cow instead of a pig. From beef belly come products such as pastrami, bacon, and other boneless cuts of meat, and it can be added to soups, stews, and many other dishes.
7. Turkey Bacon
As a general rule, bacon—with its high fat content and delicious flavor—is a great substitute for pork belly, and turkey bacon is no exception. The texture, color, and fat content in turkey bacon are different from pork belly, which is why it isn’t used very often as a substitute for pork belly. Nevertheless, it is still a good substitute overall, especially when you’re in a bind. Turkey bacon also tends to be lower in sodium than pork bacon.
8. Duck Meat
Duck meat has a different flavor and texture from pork belly, but you can add a lot of seasonings and spices to it to make it taste yummy. Try using duck meat in place of pork belly in dishes such as stir-fries, sandwiches, and of course, stews and soups. Duck meat even looks a lot like pork belly.
9. Pork Shoulder Cuts
Pork shoulder cuts are not usually considered first as a substitute for pork belly, but they are delicious cuts of meat for sure. These cuts have a lot of fat compared to other types of pork, but since they have the right amount of meat, they can be used successfully as a substitute for pork belly. If you marinate the cuts in your favorite sauce for at least an hour before you cook them, the taste will be even better.
Tofu is another non-meat option when making a dish that calls for pork belly. Tofu is a soybean-based product that can be used to replace any type of meat in a lot of dishes, including pork belly. Tofu is high in protein and has numerous vitamins, so if you prefer that certain dishes not have meat in them, you might want to try tofu.
11. Salt Pork
Salt pork is essentially slabs of pork belly and pork sides that have been heavily salted. It was commonly used as a seasoning back when refrigeration wasn’t even on the radar. Wet or dry brine is usually used to cure and preserve the fat and the tiny bit of meat found in these cuts of pork. Keep in mind that this isn’t the same thing as fatback, which comes from the back of a hog and isn’t salted.
12. Pork or Boston Butt
Pork butt or Boston butt comes from the limb top of a pig and is very thick and marbled. Pork butts can be substituted 1:1 for pork belly and are perfect to use in chilis, pulled pork, and various stews. Its high fat content is one of the reasons why it is such a good alternative to pork belly meat.