Best Guanciale Substitutes and Alternatives

In case you haven’t already guessed, guanciale is a cured version of the Italian salami and comes from pork cheeks.

This blog shows you how to use it as a delicious replacement for bacon, sausage, and other smoked meats.

Classic sauces like Sugo all’amatriciana and soul-warming dishes such as spaghetti alla carbonara can also be a little tricky to find because they’re hard to source outside of Italy.

But luckily many American-made imitations are just as flavorful and delicious as the originals.

If you can’t find any guanciale, you shouldn’t worry; there are plenty of other great options.

We’ve gathered some great alternatives, so let’s get started and find out what you can use.

What Makes a Good Substitute for Guanciale?

The best guanciale has a velvety texture and melts in your mouth. It’s usually thinly sliced, but you can also find guanciale in large pieces.

Sage, rosemary, thyme, fennel, garlic, and red pepper may be used to add different flavor undertones.

As it is not smoked, it is cured. It has a mild smell of salted meat without any smoky flavor. If you cannot find guanciale, use another cured or cured-like bacon instead.

To make a substitute for guanciale, you can use a few herbs typically used to flavor the pork.

The perfect alternative for guanciale should be dry and lean. Also, you need to use the same herbs that are used to cure guanciale as we discussed previously. 

What Can I Substitute for Guanciale?

These are the best and most popular alternatives you can use in the place of guanciale.


Pancetta is a dry-cured, unsmoked Italian pork product made from the hind leg. Because of its high salt content, it is typically used in cooking and to add flavor to dishes like pasta, risotto, and soups.

It is usually sliced and served cold. Pork belly is a type of pork product that is made from the hind leg. It is usually sliced and served cold.

The same herbs are used for both guanciale and pancetta. Adding garlic, pepper, and thyme to the meat makes it look similar to Guaanciale.

It is one of the best guanciale alternatives if it is not smoked.

Some recipes will benefit from guanciale, but you may not notice a difference in the final dish’s flavor.


When we speak about bacon, we mean two things. Firstly, we’re talking about pork back in the UK.

We call this meat “bacon”, and in this context “bacon” means any of the following: cured, smoked, or unsmoked.

Bacon may be either a suitable or completely unsuitable replacement for guanciale.

The good thing is, bacon generally has a similarity to guanciale’s fatty, melting texture and typically comes thinly sliced.

This salami is less salty than traditional guanciale, which may be an advantage for those concerned about their sodium intake. Bacon is also crisper than guanciale.

Unsmoked cured bacon makes a good guanciale alternative in many dishes, and for those who can only find smoked bacon, blanching it will significantly reduce its saltiness.


In traditional Italian cuisine, Prosciutto is considered one of the most versatile and delicious cured meats. It’s often sold as a whole pork leg or thinly sliced. 

If you make guanciale from your own cured pork loin, it will have a better flavor and texture than the cured prosciutto. Like guanciale, prosciutto is very salty and tender.

Guanciale is made of one of the fattiest cuts of pork. It’s like prosciutto without the fat.

Prosciutto is not creamier or smoother than guanciale, and it dries out more quickly. However, prosciutto is a better substitute for guanciale than pancetta.

Furthermore, this doesn’t have a lot of fat or calories.


Pork belly. In German, “speck” refers to mildly smoked and cured pork belly. “Guanciale” is a traditional Italian form of bacon.

The main difference is that guanciale contains pork fat, whereas speck is made from pork belly, the fatty part of the pig below the loin. Unlike guanciale, speck is usually seasoned with bay leaf and juniper.

As a result, speck tastes just a little more intense than prosciutto.

It’s similar to prosciutto in that it’s saltier and has a slightly fatty texture, but speck is a little less intensely flavored than the prosciutto you find at a deli.

The two types of Italian meats taste very different and some people prefer speck over the prosciutto.

Try both and decide for yourself which you think would work best in a recipe.

Is Guanciale Banned In The US?

The American Dietetic Association, in their code of ethics, states that “Guanciale is considered a traditional food with nutritional benefits.”

Although some sources claim it is banned in the United States, the FDA, the agency responsible for the food supply, says that there is no prohibition on guanciale.


I hope this guide helped you to choose the best alternatives for guanciale. You can even get a better taste with these substitutes when cooked properly. 

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