Skip to Content

The 9 Best Substitutes for Guanciale

Guanciale is an Italian cured meat made from the pig’s cheeks that adds a unique hint of smokiness to any dish.

It’s an essential ingredient in traditional dishes like spaghetti alla carbonara and amatriciana, but it can be difficult to find outside of Italy.

What are the best substitutes for guanciale? The best substitutes for guanciale include bacon, pancetta, lardons (or cubed bacon), smoked ham, proscuitto, mortadella, salami, or chorizo. If you don’t have any of these meats on hand, you can also use olive oil and garlic.

Looking for a substitute for guanciale to make your favorite Italian dish taste just as delicious?

You’ve come to the right place!

Let’s take a look at the 9 best substitutes for guanciale and how to use them.

What Is Guanciale?

  • Guanciale is a type of cured meat that is derived from the cheek or jowl of the pig.
  • It is a highly-flavored pork product that is commonly used in Italian cuisine, particularly in pasta dishes from central Italy, such as spaghetti alla carbonara and amatriciana.
  • The name guanciale comes from the Italian word guancia, which means cheek.
  • The meat is typically cured using salt, pepper, and other spices, and is aged for at least three months.
  • Guanciale has a high fat-to-meat ratio, which gives it a rich, tender, and melting texture.
  • It has a distinctive, savory flavor that is similar to bacon or pancetta, but with a more intense pork flavor.
  • Guanciale is an essential ingredient in many classic Italian dishes, and it is often used as a substitute for pancetta or bacon.
  • Some other types of cured meats, such as prosciutto, soppressata, and speck, can be used as substitutes for guanciale in recipes.
  • Guanciale is a popular ingredient in Italian cuisine, but it may be difficult to find in some regions outside of Italy.

The 9 Best Substitutes for Guanciale

Guanciale is a type of Italian cured meat that can be hard to find outside of its native country.

If you’re looking for an alternative, here are nine substitutes that will still give you the same intense flavor and texture:

1 – Pancetta


Pancetta, an Italian cured meat made from pork belly, is renowned for its unbeatable flavor and versatility.

Its salty-sweet flavor and rich texture make it a top choice for adding a decadent touch to dishes.

Pancetta is especially suitable for use in pasta dishes and sauces, thanks to its robust and complex profile.

In the absence of guanciale, pancetta provides an ideal alternative.

Unlike guanciale, which needs to be cooked before consumption, pancetta can be eaten raw or even crumbled over salads.

However, when used as a substitute for guanciale, pancetta should be softened by heating it in a saucepan over low heat until lightly crisp around the edges.

2 – Bacon


Bacon is perhaps one of the most beloved breakfast meats throughout the world due to its irresistible smoky-salty flavor and delightful crunchy texture.

This classic favorite has been embraced across cultures as a flavorful addition to countless dishes.

As an alternative to guanciale, bacon can provide the same indulgent taste without sacrificing any of the umami goodness of guanciale.

To emulate the texture of guanciale while cooking with bacon, cook it on medium-high heat until crispy before using it as desired in your meal.

3 – Prosciutto


Prosciutto is an air-cured ham originating from Italy that offers an intense nutty flavor and luxurious melt-in-your-mouth texture.

This classic delicacy adds elegance to appetizers or entrees alike, creating tasty memories for those lucky enough to enjoy it.

When properly cared for during its curing process, prosciutto develops unique notes of sweetness that positively enhance dishes prepared with this delicious cured meat.

When substituting prosciutto for guanciale in recipes, always pre-cook it on low heat until slightly crispy around the edges before adding other ingredients as desired.

4 – Lardo


Lardo, a tender and flavorful cured pork fatback, is an Italian specialty oftentimes used as an alternative to guanciale.

Originating in the region of Tuscany, lardo has become increasingly popular for its unique taste and versatility in various recipes.

Its rich flavor and aroma make it an ideal addition to dishes such as pasta alla carbonara, pizza Margherita, or frittata di cipolle.

Compared to guanciale, lardo contains a higher fat content, rendering it more suitable for low-heat cooking methods such as baking or roasting.

Fully embracing lard‘s potential in your kitchen arsenal allows you to achieve a delightful culinary experience free of guanciale.

5 – Chorizo


Chorizo is a smoked and cured pork sausage with origins tracing back to Spain and Portugal.

It is characterized by its spiciness, providing an assertive flavor to dishes while delivering a truly unforgettable culinary experience.

As a substitute for guanciale, chorizo can easily replace the latter without compromising on taste or texture.

This exceptional sausage is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants, making it both flavorful and nutritious.

Whether you use it as part of your main course or incorporate it into appetizers such as crostini or pinwheels, chorizo ensures your guests leave with unforgettable memories of your meal.

6 – Soppressata

Soppressata is an Italian dry-cured salami made from various types of meats such as beef, lamb, pork, or even wild game depending on the region or local customs where it originates from.

This delicious cold cut offers a sharp yet subtle flavor profile that adds depth to dishes while enhancing their flavor components.

As a substitute for guanciale soppressata delivers everything you need: texture contrast when incorporated into sauces omelets; aroma enhancement when sprinkled atop pizzas; and succulent texture when diced and added to stews or soups –all without compromising on its distinctive flavors.

7 – Speck


Speck, a type of cured ham from northern Italy, is treasured for its smoky, savory flavor and supple texture.

This specialty pork product can be used in a variety of dishes, providing a unique and delicious touch.

As an alternative to guanciale, speck offers a comparable taste and texture while being easily obtainable at most grocery stores.

It’s important to note that while the two may have similar flavor profiles, speck tends to be saltier than guanciale.

When using this substitute, monitor the salt level of your dish and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

8 – Duck or Goose Confit

Duck or goose confit is a classic French technique involving cooking meat slowly in its own fat.

This method creates incredibly tender meat with an unforgettable aroma that can add depth and complexity to any dish.

It is a superior replacement for guanciale due to its resemblance in flavor and texture as well as its luxuriousness.

To use as a replacement, simply shred the cooked duck or goose confit into thin strips before adding it to your recipe.

9 – Smoked Turkey or Chicken Breast

Smoked Turkey

Smoked turkey or chicken breast offer an ideal alternative to guanciale due to their similar smokey scent and robust taste profile.

These poultry products are widely available at most supermarkets and provide enough fat content for any recipe requiring a guanciale replacement.

Additionally, both options are much leaner than guanciale so you won’t have to worry about excess grease while cooking.

For best results, slice thinly then fry until crispy before adding to your recipes; this will also help release more flavor into your dishes!

What is difference between pancetta and guanciale?

Pancetta and guanciale are both types of Italian cured pork that are used in cooking to add flavor and texture to dishes. While they may look similar, there are some key differences between the two.

Pancetta is made from pork belly, which is cured with salt and spices, and then rolled and dried. It is similar to bacon, but is not smoked. Pancetta has a delicate flavor and texture, and is often used in pasta dishes, soups, and salads.

Guanciale, on the other hand, is made from pork jowl or cheek. It is also cured with salt and spices, but is not rolled or dried like pancetta. Instead, it is hung to dry for several weeks, which gives it a firmer texture and a more intense flavor. Guanciale is a crucial ingredient in many classic Italian dishes, such as carbonara and amatriciana.

The main differences between pancetta and guanciale are their flavor and texture. Pancetta is milder and more delicate, while guanciale is stronger and firmer. Guanciale is also more expensive than pancetta, due to the fact that it is made from a less common cut of pork and requires more time to cure.


In conclusion, while guanciale is a popular ingredient in Italian cuisine, it may be difficult to find in some regions outside of Italy.

Fortunately, there are several alternatives that can be used in its place.

Pancetta, bacon, prosciutto, lardo, chorizo, soppressata, speck, duck or goose confit, and smoked turkey or chicken breast are all great substitutes for guanciale, depending on personal preference and the specific dish being prepared.

Each of these alternatives has its own unique flavor and texture, and can be used in a variety of recipes to add depth and complexity to the dish.

So, if you can’t find guanciale or simply prefer a different flavor, don’t hesitate to try one of these alternatives in your next recipe.

The 9 Best Substitutes for Guanciale

The 9 Best Substitutes for Guanciale

Looking for substitutes for guanciale? Check out our comprehensive guide on the best alternatives for this popular Italian cured meat. From pancetta to smoked turkey or chicken breast, we've got you covered with a range of options to suit your taste and recipe needs. Discover the unique flavors and textures of each alternative and elevate your Italian dishes to the next level.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 4 people


  • Pancetta
  • Bacon
  • Prosciutto
  • Lardo
  • Chorizo
  • Soppressata
  • Speck
  • Duck or Goose Confit
  • Smoked Turkey or Chicken Breast


  • Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  • Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
jenny happy muncher
 | Website

Jenny has always been passionate about cooking, and she uses her platform to share her joy of food with others. Her recipes are easy to follow, and she loves giving tips and tricks to help others create their own unique culinary creations.