12 Best Guanciale Substitutes: Super Options for When You’re in a Pinch


Looking for a guanciale substitute? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

But don’t fret, we’ve got you covered.

Here are 12 of the best substitutes for guanciale. Happy cooking!

So, here’s the list.

12 Guanciale Substitute

1. Pancetta

Since pancetta is also obtained from pork meat like guanciale and contains a similar level of fat, it is one of the best alternatives. 

It offers a very similar taste and is suitable for making Italian dishes like carbonara and amatriciana.

Other dishes that go well with it include soups and casseroles. But remember that it would not offer the same strong flavor and delicate texture as guanciale. 

Check out this video to learn how you can make spaghetti using pancetta:

2. Bacon

A crispier alternative

Bacon is available in smoked, cooked, and cured versions. Its taste varies according to the region you’re living in. On cooking, its texture becomes deliciously crispy and crunchy.

But if you’re making an Italian dish, always opt for unsmoked bacon because its fatty nature and taste are very similar to guanciale. 

However, its porky flavor is not as strong as that of guanciale, but it is still good for making chicken, baked casseroles, and breakfast eggs.

Try this southern-style bacon and onion cabbage recipe:

3. Pork Jowl

Derived from a pig’s cheek-like guanciale, pork jowl is generally available in thin slices which are either freshly cut or cured. It has the same quantity of fats and delivers a similarly creamy texture.

The only difference is that it is saltier, so it doesn’t make a healthy alternative. 

You can eat it smoked, braised, with caramelized Brussels, grilled, and even put it into many types of stews.

Here’s a Thai BBQ Pork Jowl Recipe:

4. Lardo

A buttery alternative 

Lardo contains a good quantity of fat which, on melting, produces an amazingly creamy and silky texture that pairs well with pasta dishes.

Besides, it gives a greasy final touch to potatoes in both baked and roasted recipes and can also be added to pastries and bread.

You can also serve it with grilled asparagus, crostini, and sandwiches.

Try this slow-roasted lamb shoulder recipe made with spring garlic and lardo in white wine:

5. Salt Pork

Originating from pork belly, salt pork has less fat than guanciale, it is not smoky and is saltier.

So, before using it, you must rinse it properly under water to prevent its flavor from overpowering the final taste of your dish. 

Other recipes it tastes good with include fish chowder, southern collard greens, baked beans, clam chowder, and pea soup.

Watch this video to cook diced salted pork with cabbage:

6. Prosciutto

Prosciutto is an Italian cured meat that comes in varieties of cooked ham as well as cured ham.

Both of them offer different textures and flavors to your recipes. 

But when you’re substituting guanciale, always choose cured ham since it has the same salt and spice content that ultimately gives you a closely resembling overall taste.

However, it would not give you an identical smooth and velvety texture. 

Still, it is great for making salads and sandwiches.  

And you can also include it in baked eggs, mushroom pasta, Italian sausage, flatbread, buckwheat pancakes, grilled cheese, kale salad, and ricotta crostini recipes.

Try this 4 Ingredient Prosciutto Pasta recipe:

7. Speck

Speck is another good alternative with the same fat and saltiness. However, it might not offer the same taste as guanciale and is a bit smokey.

But since it is generally cured using bay leaves with juniper, it produces a very intense flavor that works well with almost any recipe.

Some dishes that you can make using speck include speck dumpling soup, mushroom pappardelle, cheesy cauliflower, eggs, croissant, mushroom pizza, quiche, pea soup, and cheese souffle. 

Check out this video to make cappelletti with cream and speck:

8. Pork Belly

Although pork belly is a good substitute, it is neither smoked nor cooked. But it has enough fat content to replace guanciale.

So, you can mimic its taste by adding some extra salt and spices to your dish.

Some delicious pork belly recipes include honey-glazed pork belly, sandwiches, salads, sliders, BBQ pork belly, ramen noodles, and teriyaki pork belly.

Here’s how you can make slow-roasted pork belly:

9. Homemade Guanciale

To make your own guanciale, first cut a pork cheek and then cure it properly for a minimum of 3 weeks in a good curing chamber.

Watch this video to know the process of making homemade guanciale:

10. Smoked Ham

Even though smoked ham has a smoky flavor and doesn’t contain as much fat as guanciale, it can still act as a substitute in a pinch. 

Other smoked ham recipes include ham casserole, salad, bean soup, baked ham with penne pasta, scalloped potatoes, cheese pizza, and ham hash.

Try out this Smoked ham hock soup recipe:

11. Turkey

A non-pork substitute

If you don’t want to use pork in your dish, then sliced and smoked turkey breasts are a good option.

Besides, you can also mimic the crip and salty flavor of pork by replacing guanciale with turkey bacon.

Other turkey recipes include cranberry stuffed turkey breasts, turkey salsa, turkey cobbler, turkey rice soup, turkey and rice meatballs, and chopped turkey salad.

Check out this video to cook butter herb turkey breasts:

12. Olives

A vegan substitute

The last alternative is brined olives which is a vegan option if you are avoiding meat altogether in your diet. It offers a soft texture and adds excellent saltiness to your dish. 

Some recipes to try using olives include an olive burger, herb roasted olives, mixed olive crostini, skillet chicken, stuffed olive cod, and pepperoni pizza spread. 

Here’s how you can make a green olive salad:


Q1. What can I use instead of guanciale in Carbonara?

Ans. Pancetta works as a good alternative for carbonara. 

Q2. Can you use prosciutto instead of guanciale?

Ans. Yes, you can use prosciutto but use its cured version to replicate the salt content, texture, and tenderness of guanciale.

Q3. Is salt pork similar to guanciale?

Ans. Salt pork is not the same as guanciale because it is not obtained from pig’s jowl like guanciale.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re a fan of guanciale or not, we hope this article has helped give you some ideas for what to substitute in your recipes.

If you have any other suggestions for substitutes, be sure to share them in the comments below.

Do share with your friends and family!

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About Jane Lewis

Jane loves spending time with her family, cooking delicious meals, traveling to explore new cultures and wines, and tending to her backyard garden. She's a passionate home cook who enjoys trying out recipes from all over the world.