When searching for an alternative to prosciutto, look for something salty, well seasoned and flavorful. The substitute doesn't necessarily need to be pork or a meat that's already cured or cooked, but you do want something with either a chewy or crispy texture or with deep savory flavor.
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Italians eat prosciutto raw as an appetizer on an antipasto plate, with or without fruit, and they eat it cooked and added to pasta or vegetable dishes. Your options for substitutions vary depending on the appetizer or entree you plan to serve.
- Thin-sliced country ham or deli ham substitutes for prosciutto draped over melon slices; wrapped around a fresh fig or an asparagus spear; or placed on top of a small piece of toasted bread as a canape.
- Thinly sliced Swiss cheese also wraps around a melon slice or breadstick like prosciutto and also adds a soft textual contrast to the crisp fruit or crunchy bread.
- Parmesan, pecorino or Manchego cheese works as a holder for small slices of melon or pieces of figs, bringing the same salty contrast to the fruit that prosciutto does.
- Phyllo dough baked into small cup-like shapes gives the same crunch that prosciutto cups do in appetizers that hold bits of cheese, tomatoes or beans.
- A slice of bacon wrapped around a large shrimp and baked in a hot oven replicates that same appetizer that works with prosciutto featured in a recipe on the Real Simple website.
- Bacon bits, cooked until crunchy and drained, substitute for prosciutto sprinkled into omelets, pasta dishes and vegetables, such as green beans, asparagus, and spinach.
- Pancetta substitutes for prosciutto in the same way that bacon does, adding saltiness and crunch to dishes. Sometimes called Italian bacon, pancetta is cured and needs cooking like bacon, but it tastes more like ham than like smoky bacon.
- Toasted nuts, such as walnuts or almonds, add savoriness and depths of flavors in the same way prosciutto does when tossed into pasta or risotto entrees or sprinkled onto pizzas.
- Cooked until they achieve a deep caramelized flavor, mushrooms also add savoriness and flavor similar to the umami flavor of toasted nuts.
Freeze pancetta slices for five to 10 minutes to make slicing and chopping them go more easily without the meat sticking to your knife.