Salt pork is a delicious ingredient that is used in a variety of ways. It enhances the most humble of dishes and it’s flavor is hard to beat.
What is Salt Pork?
There are several stories on the origin of salt pork, but no matter who came up with it first – it is the same everywhere. Simply put, salt pork is a salt cured pork belly. It provides flavor both from the saltiness and from the pork belly itself.
If you are needing a salt pork substitute, there are several different options to try ranging from various meats to vegetarian options. Bacon, smoked salmon, butter, even dehydrated vegetables can offer a creative alternative. You can find something to please your palate if you need a salt pork substitute.
How Do You Use Salt Pork?
Salt pork is used in a variety of ways, depending on the cuisine and offers a punch of flavor. Because it is salt cured most often it is used as a flavoring in beans, stew, greens, and other long cooking meals. It can also be used in cornbread and other baked products.
Before cooking with salt pork you may choose to rinse it, soak it in water, or even boil it to remove some of the salinity – although doing so is not necessary.
Alternately, you may cut it into smaller chunks and pan fry it to render some of the fat out prior to cooking with it. This provides the rendered fat for flavor and a crispy end product to add to your favorite dish.
Is Salt Pork the Same as Bacon?
Although both salt pork and bacon are made with pork belly, they are two very different things. Salt pork is either dry cured with salt or wet cured with a brine mixture while bacon is smoked. Both lend a delicious addition to a multitude of dishes.
What Can I Substitute Salt Pork With?
Salt pork is normally used as a cost effective way to provide flavor and meatiness to dishes. It lasts for a long time and is relatively easy to work with. However, not everyone keeps salt pork on hand or wants to use meat as a flavoring agent. Depending on what you are cooking, there are many different substitutes for salt pork.
Bacon is probably the most widely used salt pork substitute. It is a familiar ingredient for your average home cook and readily available. If you are cooking a pot of beans, it makes for an excellent flavor enhancer.
Another popular way to get the most flavor out of bacon without crisping it up, is boiling a few slices with red potatoes and fresh green beans. Instant crowd-pleasing side dish.
Pancetta is like the Italian cousin to salt pork. Similar to salt pork, pancetta is dry cured pork belly. The main differences are the pink salt used for curing and the addition of herbs, giving it a very distinct flavor.
Using pancetta in pastas is one of the best uses for this delicious meat. Pancetta can be harder to find but is well worth the hunt.
3. Olive Oil or Plain Butter
If wanting to keep a dish healthier or vegetarian, the use of olive oil as a salt pork substitute is a good idea. Using olive oil at the start of a dish to sauté vegetables provides a good fat in cooking.
Not truly vegetarian, unsalted butter can also be used as a salt pork substitute. It adds great flavor, fat, and richness to even the simplest pot of green beans. By using unsalted butter you are able to control the salt within the dish, a healthy benefit.
4. Flavored Oils
Flavored oils are a great option as a salt pork substitute and still gives a rich fatty enhancement to your dish. Flavored oils can be used at the end of cooking by drizzling on the top of your dish before serving. Try a spicy jalapeño infused olive oil on top of roasted vegetables for an unexpected twist!
5. Salted Butter
Salted butter is a great choice to use instead of salt pork. The salty fat makes adding it to your food an easy solution. Salted butter is most often used in baked items, but can also be melted at the beginning of a recipe or added at the end.
6. Smoked Ham Hock
Much like bacon, a smoked ham hock will give a great smoky quality to your dish. You can find these already prepared in most grocery stores and they are a great alternative to salt pork.
Because cooking the smoked ham hock for a long time is needed to break down the tough skin, it is best when cooked in a pot of beans, greens, or slow simmered soups. Smoked ham hock is almost a staple in southern kitchens.
7. Beef Jerky
While most people may consider beef jerky to be a quick and high protein snack, it can also be used as a salt pork substitute. Since it is not a raw food product, it doesn’t need to be cooked for a long time. Beef jerky lends itself well adding flavor to any dish.
Depending on what flavor of beef jerky you have on hand, you may want to rinse it off in fresh water to make sure it goes well with your dish. Or, simply chop or shred it and add it to the pan!
8. Cured Or Dehydrated Vegetables
Another vegetarian substitute to salt pork, would be the use of cured or dehydrated vegetables. This is a great replacement that you can keep on hand in your pantry.
Using dehydrated mushrooms, for example, can give an earthy quality to your dish that is packed with protein. By salt curing or even lightly smoking vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, or cauliflower you can impart great flavor in your vegetable soup.
9. Smoked Salmon
You may think of smoked salmon best at the breakfast table with bagels and cream cheese, but this ingredient is great used in replace of salt pork. The shelf life of smoked salmon can be extended if frozen, making it a good thing to keep on hand.
Smoked salmon provides a wonderful, healthy fat with an in-depth and rich flavor that is excellent in chowders, soups, and even vegetable side dishes.
Fatback can be cured, but oftentimes is not, and is pure fat from the backside of a pig. Since it is so similar to salt pork, it makes for a great substitute.
Rendering the fatback before using it to cook is ideal. It can also be used if adding it to a dish, such as beans, that needs to cook for a long time. A little goes a long way with this ingredient.
11. Homemade Salt Pork
If you have the time, making your own salt pork is of course the best way to go! By doing this, you will get to determine if you want a wet or dry brine and how much salt you use.
How to Make Homemade Salt Pork
Making your own salt pork takes a little elbow grease – or pork belly rather, but is fairly simple to do. One of the biggest benefits of curing your own pork belly is the shelf life will be substantially longer than most commercial varieties.
The quickest and easiest way to make salt pork is by mixing salt and sugar together with pork belly.
- Gather your ingredients- salt, sugar, sliced pork belly,a glass bowl, and food plastic wrap
- Mix the salt and sugar together
- Generously sprinkle this mix onto your sliced pork belly
- Continue to layer your sliced pork belly with the salt and sugar
- Once everything is used, cover and chill it for 48 hours.
Voilà! You now have salt pork that will last months in the refrigerator if stored properly.
Can you cook salt pork the same as bacon?
If you are wanting to fry your salt pork similarly to frying up bacon, you can absolutely do that! Some people recommend frying it in a little water so as not to burn it before the fat is rendered, or cooked down.
How long does salted pork last?
Depending on how salt pork is made and stored, it can last months to years. As mentioned above, homemade salt pork can be stored for several months in the refrigerator to over a year in the freezer.
However, if buying your salt pork from a grocery store, be sure to read the label for storing instructions.
How do you know if salt pork is spoiled?
Salt pork will have a rancid smell and become slimy if it has spoiled.
Salt pork is such a great ingredient to use that adds both flavor and fat into your favorite pot of beans, collard greens, chowder, and more. It can be added into a slow simmering stew without having to cook it, or you can fry it up to add both flavor and texture.
Although salt pork is an excellent ingredient to use, sometimes there is good reason to use a substitute for salt pork. Whether you don’t have any on hand, you want a healthier dish, or just a slightly different flavor – there are so many great choices.