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25 Best Prosciutto Substitutes Including Vegan and Vegetarian

25 Best Prosciutto Substitutes Including Vegan and Vegetarian

If you find that you are out of prosciutto, or if you are a vegan or vegetarian that cannot have it, are there things you can use in place of prosciutto in recipes?

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Best Prosciutto Substitutes Including Vegan and Vegetarian

The best prosciutto substitutes include black forest ham, pancetta, bacon, boiled ham, capicola, soppressata, culatello, mortadella, bresaola and deli ham. Vegan and vegetarian versions of these deli meats as well as other meat replacements, commonly soy and wheat-derived, with added seasonings, can also be used as effective prosciutto.

Best Prosciutto Substitutes Including Vegan and Vegetarian
Best Prosciutto Substitutes Including Vegan and Vegetarian

What is Prosciutto?

Prosciutto is an Italian delicacy that is much sought after for its unmatched delicate yet indescribably delicious flavor. It is generally served in such thin slices it is almost transparent. 

Three main regions of Italy are the most famous for prosciutto and each has a slightly different flavor although all are simply smoked ham that is salted and left to cure for months or even up to a year. To break this down, then, prosciutto is simply smoked ham that “sits” until it ages. 

The flavor and texture can be somewhat imitated and substitutes used and we give options in this post. 

25 Best Prosciutto Substitutes Including Vegan and Vegetarian

There are many ways to substitute prosciutto in recipes, and while the taste may not be exactly the same, some of them come really close and can be successfully used in your recipes to mimic the taste of prosciutto.

In the following sections, we’ll look at the best meat substitutes for prosciutto, as well as explore some of the vegan and vegetarian options as well.

Best Meat Substitutes for Prosciutto

1. Black Forest Ham – Most Popular Substitute

Black Forest Ham is both smoky like prosciutto and cured for a very long time. It is also from a fairly good cut of the ham. It is not the most affordable either but if sliced thinly comes close to the taste of prosciutto

It is named after the Black Forest of Germany where it originated and is one of the most popular deli meats in the USA. Not the cheapest of hams, but certainly not as expensive as prosciutto. 

2. Pancetta – Closest to Prosciutto

According to the Food Network, pancetta can be almost indistinguishable in flavor from prosciutto and used in the same manner. (1) Fraya Berg, Date: Unknown. 

Pancetta can be purchased diced or sliced and is easy to find and not as costly. It is made from pork belly.

Pancetta looks very similar to prosciutto and is made from pork belly.
Pancetta looks very similar to prosciutto and is made from pork belly.

3. Bacon – All American Favorite

Yes, we did say bacon. Bacon is cured and many types are hickory smoked. It is also a flat slab as is prosciutto. But a transparent slicing is necessary to pull this one off! Bacon is also a pork belly product. 

According to Mental Floss, It is not as healthy as pancetta as it contains more fat. (2) Jeff Wella, Dec.30, 2008). 

4. Boiled Ham – Less Salt

Some individuals cannot consume much salt. Boiled ham is not really a great substitute for prosciutto as it is “boiled” but it does have less salt and even lower salt varieties can be purchased although never totally salt-free either. 

5. Capicola – Spicier Italian Substitute

Also called Capocollo, it is coated in red or black pepper giving it a much more fiery taste. If you do not like spicy food then this would not be a good substitute. Its ancestry is also Italian. 

6. Soppressata – A Salami 

Soppressata is Italian salami and closer to prosciutto than a salami from the US although some individuals do use salami as a substitute. All salami has a garlicky taste though so we are not very enthusiastic about this one. 

7. Culatello – Salami Family Again 

Culatello may work better, however, as it is less garlicky and is smokier, and hails from Italy as well. Not that easy to find in the US though except in Italian shops. 

8. Mortadella – An Unusual Substitute

Mortadella seems risky to substitute for prosciutto as it is a salami but depending upon where it originates in Italy, it can contain fruits and/or grains, so the flavor would be quite possibly not close enough to prosciutto with it being a bit too sweet. 

9. Bresaola – Non-Pork Substitute

Bresaola is a beef substitute for prosciutto for those that do not want to add or do not like pork products. It is cured and dried and sliced thinly and in some markets in the US, is called “dried beef.” It is very thinly sliced or even shredded.

10. ANY Deli Ham – Thinly Sliced

If someone is not picky and on a budget, thinly sliced deli ham will do the trick in replacing prosciutto. Buy what you can afford and what you like and spice it up if needed. The slicing makes the difference and transparent slices are sought. 

Deli ham, as long as it is thinly sliced, can also be a great substitute for prosciutto.
Deli ham, as long as it is thinly sliced, can also be a great substitute for prosciutto.

Vegan vs Vegetarian Substitutes for Prosciutto 

If you are vegan, you do not have to be left out of the scrumptious flavor of prosciutto. Vegans eat no foods derived from animals at all. Vegetarians, on the other hand, sometimes eat eggs, cheese, and dairy, but like vegans, do not consume any meat or fish flesh. Veganism is a stricter form of vegetarianism.

Best Vegan Substitutes for Prosciutto

1. Vegan Ham – Most Common Substitute 

Vegan ham is available in most grocery stores now and is also available in big box stores. It looks and tastes like meat but is entirely plant-based. The slices can be thick, however, so slicing very thinly is needed for it to be a substitute for prosciutto.

It is generally vegetables mixed with binders such as tofu or chickpeas that are finely ground. Some versions have used mushrooms as binders.   

2. Vegan Capicola – Spicier

Vegan products mirror the same substitutes for prosciutto as closely sometimes as the meat substitutes. However, spices make the difference and of course, capicola is spicier so red or black pepper needs to be added. Or even roll it in hot sauce before rolling it thin. 

3. Vegan Bacon – Not as Fatty

While it is possible to use vegan bacon as a substitute, it will not be as fatty as pork bacon since pork bacon contains a lot of animal fat.

You can try using it for a prosciutto substitute but getting it thin enough is a challenge. Animal fat is more malleable. 

Vegans eat fats, but the fats are oils such as canola and this does not hold bacon together as well when trying to roll it down thinly.

Vegan bacon is not as fatty as its pork counterpart.
Vegan bacon is not as fatty as its pork counterpart.

4. Vegan Ready-to-Eat Slices – Simplest of All

Since these are already sliced somewhat thinly, and ready to eat out of the package, with smoke flavoring already injected into them, having them resemble prosciutto with its smoky saltiness and thin slicing seems the easiest substitute. 

5. Vegan Beef Substitutes – Resembling Dried Beef 

This can be a bit more tricky substitute for those that do not want the flavor of pork just like in the actual meat substitute. Vegan beef, however, uses Seitan which originates in China and is made out of wheat. 

Those with wheat allergies will need to avoid this but this substitute is easily made into a chunk or log and rolled out to desired thinness

6. Vegan Jerky – Wheat-Derived

Yet another common substitute and is really solid enough to be thinned out, but another Seitan-based product so wheat sensitivities need to be watched. 

7. Soy Sausage Patties – Looser Texture

While you can use soy-based patties of any type, the soy will not be as firm as some of the other substitutes and this might not come close enough to prosciutto. Making it thin enough can lead this substitute to fall apart. 

8. Vegan Turkey Slices – Ham-Like

When substituting for prosciutto, just like the ham substitutes mentioned, this can be the simplest way to imitate prosciutto. Smoked vegan turkey slices are also available almost everywhere now. 

9. Vegan Salisbury Steaks – Made Thinner Easily

These can be a combination of ingredients, however, so the package should be read thoroughly if purchased from a store. All types of additives can exist as well as wheat. Making your own “faux meat” will help you control additives. 

You can press the Salisbury steak down with your hands carefully and make it thinner. Each brand might have different ingredients and smoke flavoring will be needed. 

10. Your OWN Recipe – For Purists

While tons of recipes for making your own vegan burgers, patties, jerky, and meats, all seem different somehow. It is hard to decide what to start with. 

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), is a good place to start your search however as info on Veganism and foods exist there. Tofu is used in a lot of substitute recipes.  

Caution exists though as Tofu is rubbery enough to be made into almost anything but is considered GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) and the health risks are unknown. Vegan cookbooks abound. 

Vegan meat substitutes can be soy or wheat-derived, and can be flavored with seasonings to mimic prosciutto.
Vegan meat substitutes can be soy or wheat-derived, and can be flavored with seasonings to mimic prosciutto.

11. Vegan Bologna – Not Really as Tasty 

This would include any salami products. It will hold together very well while you add spices and can be pounded thinly, but the garlic taste will reign no matter how much smoke flavoring is added. 

Best Vegetarian Substitutes for Prosciutto

Vegetarianism is different than being Vegan, and not as strict. Having more of a selection of additives makes it easier to find or make substitutes for prosciutto. 

PETA again leads the way with suggestions for substitutes that do not include soy, wheat, or tofu, which can create sensitivity in some individuals or have health risks. 

1. Vegetarian Black Forest Ham Substitute – Ideal 

Yes, this is sold in stores nationwide in the USA and can taste almost exactly like the real Black Forest ham. Like with all the other types of substitutes, getting it thin enough is the key. 

2. Tofurky – A Favorite Meat Substitute

While it can be used for prosciutto, it also can be used for many other meat substitutes. Can come in pre-packaged slices, and mimics turkey. If it is not smoked, you can add smoke seasoning to it. 

Holds together well as it is made primarily of tofu with other ingredients as binders that are added. 

3. Boiled Ham Substitute – Mixed Ingredients

As with the meat substitute for prosciutto any ham can substitute, and with vegetarianism, you can find a more solid product such as hummus, eggs, or other binders which will lead to a solid piece of “veggie meat.”

Another warning needs to be added here as it is not Non-GMO. 

4. Homemade Prosciutto Substitute – Most Cooks Prefer This

Since vegetarians have a wider array of diet choices, mixing ingredients at home that will hold together and adding spices such as smoke flavoring or Cajun seasoning can lead to a prosciutto taste or a Capicolla flavor. 

Control is what makes this method popular. 

Bonus: All Vegetable Prosciutto Substitute – Leafy Greens

And finally, a bonus option that both meat-eaters and vegans, and vegetarians can use is leafy greens. For those that are on a diet, this is a great option. You simply take Bibb or Iceberg lettuce, remove the back stem, flatten it, and add your smoke seasonings. 

It can taste like prosciutto and the leaves are already thin. Pressing down with your hand will flatten them even more. 

Why Would I Substitute Real Meat Prosciutto If Not Vegan or Vegetarian? 

Prosciutto can be quite expensive, ranging in price from the lesser qualities being around $70 to even up to $1000 for the highest qualities A search online will reveal it for sale offline and even online. 

According to Expensive Why, the high prices are due to the lengthy curing process, the additives used, and the manufacturing, shipping, and storage costs. (3) Duncan, Date: Unknown. 

Frequently Asked Questions to Best Prosciutto Substitutes Including Vegan and Vegetarian

Will the Vegan and Vegetarian Substitutes Really Taste Like Prosciutto? 

If done correctly, they can be close, but enough smoke seasoning must be added. The slicing needs to be thin as that is what makes prosciutto so “melt in your mouth” tasty! 

I Am Vegan and I Try to Watch My Diet But I Have Gained Weight. Why? 

Vegan diets are more restrictive than other types of diets. Typically, many oils, salts, and sugars are added to vegan food with flavorings, and these can be high in calories, which can result in weight gain. Vegans can consume more carbohydrates and even vegan junk foods as all manner of vegan pastries and junk food exists. Less protein is also eaten, which is what fills you up faster and staves off hunger pangs longer. 

What Can I Substitute for Protein with a Vegan Diet? 

Increasing consumption of beans, legumes, and lentils will help vegans and vegetarians with their protein intake. Protein shakes are available too but the sugars and caloric intake can be problematic with these. 

Do the Substitutes for Prosciutto Really Taste Like Prosciutto? 

They are close, but prosciutto is a culinary delicacy and the flavor and texture are hard to duplicate. You can get “close” but it will not be exactly the same. 

Conclusion to Best Prosciutto Substitutes Including Vegan and Vegetarian

Prosciutto is a delicacy and will always be a favorite of some individuals as it is luscious in taste and texture. However, it is not the healthiest of foods, and vegans and vegetarians might not be able to indulge. 

Other health reasons for not consuming prosciutto can exist as it is high in salt being a cured and smoked meat. It can be deleterious to those on a restricted salt diet. 

The same goes for the substitutes as all can contain sugar, spices, smoke flavoring, and other ingredients that will elevate blood pressure or cause digestive problems. 

Costs of real prosciutto can also be prohibitively expensive. Enjoy in moderation or use a substitute and remember you only live once so treating yourself to a flavorful delight is not necessarily overindulging. You only live once so remember that! 

  1. https://www.foodnetwork.com/how-to/packages/food-network-essentials/what-is-pancetta  Fraya Berg, Date: Unknown
  2. https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/85427/12-savory-facts-about-bacon Jeff Wella, Dec.30, 2008).
  3. https://expensivewhy.com/why-is-prosciutto-so-expensive/ Jeff Wella, Dec.30, 2008).

Daniel Iseli (Head Chef)

Hi, my name is Daniel and I am passionate about cooking and have made it my mission to answer as many open questions related to cooking and food as possible. I am by no means a professional cook. But cooking is a hobby that I have loved for the past 20 years and I am getting better by the day.