Vegetarian Substitute For Pancetta When You Don’t Eat Meat

Published Categorized as Journal, Ingredients Tagged

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, finding a good vegetarian substitute for pancetta can be hard. Still, there are quite a few alternatives that may pan out to be good substitutes for this chewy and delicious meat, albeit the taste may not be exactly the same. Surprisingly enough, however, you might like the vegetarian version of pancetta better! Read on to find out ways you can use vegetarian substitutes for pancetta.

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What Is Pancetta?

Pancetta is used for a variety of meals and is known for its salty and delicious flavor. Similar to bacon, pancetta is made from pork belly and is salt-cured meat. It originated in Italy and remains a popular way to add a savory and umami flavor to a variety of dishes.

raw meat on white paper

What Is Pancetta Used For?

Pancetta is used in a variety of delicious dishes. Check out these common dishes in which you usually find pancetta, and then read on for how you can convert these recipes into a vegetarian dish!


A popular dish from Italy, Carbonara is a well-loved dish in America, Italy, and other parts of the world. The dish takes on a beautifully rich flavor with Italian cheeses and cured pork, namely, pancetta, as the star of the dish. Carbonara can be recreated to be made vegetarian with just a few tweaks as you’ll see later in the post.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Pancetta Pasta

Often a lighter take on Carbonara, pancetta pasta won’t always contain heavy cream. But it will include many of the delicious ingredients that Carbonara possesses. These are garlic, cheeses, tomatoes, mushrooms, and of course, pancetta.

Pancetta Sandwich

Pancetta sandwiches can be made in a variety of ways using your favorite toppings, bread, cheeses, and sauces. Don’t be afraid to add a few pieces of pancetta, or vegetarian pancetta substitute, to your sandwich, or go all out and make the pancetta the star of the show. Either way, you can be sure that your sandwich will turn out delicious.

Pancetta Sandwich

Addition of Pancetta to Soups and Salads

In addition to the above traditional ways that pancetta is used, pancetta is often added to salads, soups, and other dishes to simply enhance the flavor of these entrees.

What Is a Good Vegetarian Substitute for Pancetta

Now that you know what traditional pancetta is and how it is best used, we can now understand what foods make great replacements for pancetta in a number of dishes. When you understand the most popular types of pasta and how they differ, you can begin replacing the meat in popular dishes with non-meats or veggies to closely imitate the texture and flavor of all of your favorite dishes.

Remember, sometimes replacing meat with something that is a vegetable or an otherwise non-meat item may not suit everyone’s fancy. While most pancetta substitutes may not taste much like pancetta, the consistency and texture of the substitution may be just what you need to disguise the fact that there is no pancetta in the dish.

And who knows…you may find that you like these light vegetarian substitutes for pancetta within certain dishes even better than the original!

Check out the following frequently used vegetarian substitutes for pancetta:

  • Tofu: Tofu is one of the most popular substitutions for meat in today’s day, and continues to be a staple in many Asian households. Tofu has a similar texture to meat and easily absorbs flavors and spices. Because of this, tofu is a great alternative to pancetta, especially when served as a stand-alone dish although the tofu really shines in these types of entrees too!)
  • Mushrooms: Because of the satisfyingly chewy texture of mushrooms and their impeccable umami flavors, mushrooms are a wonderful addition to any meal lacking pancetta. In pasta or soups, feel free to slice mushrooms in cubes as a substitution for pancetta. It may not be exactly the same, but this is one of those substitutes you may like even more than pancetta itself. Plus, you reap the benefits of mushrooms over pancetta. These include much lower salt content and the absence of fat contained in pancetta.
  • Cubed Tomatoes: Similar to mushrooms, cubed tomatoes make a great substitute for pancetta in soups and pasta. As long as you dice them and choose a firmer variety. They’re also a much healthier option than pancetta itself.
  • Olives: Many have suggested you use olives as an alternative to pancetta and we couldn’t agree more! The saltiness of the olive paired with its firmness gives carbonara or similar dish a similar texture. Though, the taste of the dish may be altered a bit. Definitely worth a shot!
  • Non-Meat Ham or Bacon Alternatives: This is quite possibly one of the best alternatives to pancetta you can find. Especially when you wish to add the “meat” to soups, pasta, or sandwiches. From vegan bacon bits to ham-alternative meats, you are likely to be able to find a wonderful salty substitute that could easily pass as pancetta in a vegetarian dish!

Vegan Pancetta

For vegans, most of the above suggestions should work. Just remember to eye-ball any ham or meat alternatives to ensure that they are truly vegan, not just vegetarian.

Vegetarian Carbonara Recipe

To make a vegetarian carbonara, consider this adaptation of this delicious vegetarian carbonara recipe from Bon Appetit.


  • 12 oz. Fettuccine Noodles
  • 4 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
  • ¼ cup of Oil
  • ¾ tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 3 Egg Yolks
  • ¾ Cusp of Parmesan
  • Vegan Ham or Bacon Chopped into Diced Cubes (Optional)


Cook pasta

Cook your pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, about 2-3 minutes. Reserve liquid from pasta for cooking. 

Cook garlic

Cook your garlic in a separate pan in oil until golden brown. Be careful not to overcook. 

Add spice

Add paprika to the garlic and set aside.

Prepare eggs

Use 1 cup of the reserved pasta water and add this, carefully, to egg yolks in a separate bowl and set aside. 


Place pasta within the same pot as the garlic and set over medium heat. Toss to coat.

Mix and stir

Add another cup of pasta liquid, egg yolk mixture, vegan bacon or ham is using, and parmesan until the sauce thickens and cheese melts. Stir continually, about 5 minutes, as the sauce incorporates. Add more pasta liquid as needed. 

Serve up

Place into bowls, top with more cheese if desired and black pepper, and serve.

Spaghetti carbonara plated


What’s a good substitution for pancetta? 

Aside from vegetarian or vegan options, there are plenty of real meat substitutes you can use for pancetta if you don’t have any on hand. Prosciutto, bacon, bacon bits, and ham tend to work really well. Other types of thinly sliced or cubed pork options can also be used, especially if they are salt-cured as this will yield a familiarly salty flavor when compared to pancetta. 

Do vegetarian pancetta substitutes taste like the real thing?

No matter what you do, some vegetarian substitutes won’t taste exactly like what you are used to as it can be difficult to imitate a meaty taste and texture, especially if you are new to vegetarianism. What we can say is that many of our recommendations closely mimic the texture of pancetta or can at least add a dimension to your pasta, soup, or sandwich that would otherwise be lacking without a pancetta substitute present. Feel free to play around with our pancetta substitute suggestions to see which taste and texture is the best fit for your personal taste preferences.

Vegetarian Substitute For Pancetta: Equally Delicious!

Though substituting a vegetable or vegetarian meat for pancetta may not always taste the same, the truth is that the results are often equally delicious. Substitutions such as olives, mushrooms, and even diced tomatoes offer a fresh and healthy way to liven up your carbonara, sandwiches, or pasta dishes without the addition of salty pork meat, while still retaining impeccable flavor.

If you’re really craving the taste of delicious salt-cured pancetta meat, don’t forget to test out vegetarian ham or bacon options to use as the ultimate substitute when vegetable replacements just won’t cut it.

Happy cooking… I hope it turns out delicious!

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By Anna

Anna Brooks, the voice behind, is a seasoned writer and editor with an insatiable love for food. While not a professional chef, her culinary adventures and unique insights have captivated readers for years. Anna believes in the transformative power of food, stating it "feeds the soul." Dive into her writings for a mix of inspiration, entertainment, and culinary wisdom. Author Pinterest Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Tumblr Reddit Quora

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