Cheeks are usually a less popular cut of meat, but it’s a well-known secret among home chefs and connoisseurs that they are actually one of the most tender parts of an animal.
However, it’s not always easy to find in your local grocery store. And actually, if you do, it can be pretty expensive.
If you’ve been looking for substitute for pork cheek, you’re in luck! Here are 14 easy-to-find cuts from different animals, along with tips on preparing them, paired with their measurements.
These alternatives are perfect for those who want to experiment with a different cut of meat that’s equally flavorful.
In short, " What can I use instead of pork cheek?" Beef Cheek, Turkey Thighs, Ox Tail, Salmon Fillet, Chicken Thighs, Veal Cheeks, Duck Breast, Lamb Shoulder, Cod Loins, Beef Chuck Roast, Venison Neck, Beef Chuck, Salmon Belly, Goat Shoulder.
What is pork cheek, and what does pork cheek taste like?
The pork cheek is a cut of meat from a pig’s face, specifically the area around the cheek muscles. Because these muscles are used quite a bit by the animal, the meat is quite tough and fatty.
However, when prepared correctly, pork cheek can be incredibly flavorful and tender.
The flavor profile of pork cheek is often described as being more intense than other pork cuts. It is rich, meaty, and has a deep pork flavor, almost akin to bacon or ham but without the smokiness.
The high-fat content contributes to its rich taste.
In terms of texture, when pork cheek is cooked low and slow (such as braising), it can become incredibly tender, almost melting in your mouth. Some compare it to the texture of slow-cooked beef, short ribs or pulled pork.
It’s a less common cut in many Western cuisines, but it is valued in certain regional cuisines for its flavor and texture.
For example, it’s used in Italian cuisine (like in ‘guanciale’) and Spanish cuisine (such as in ‘parrilla’).
Uses of pork cheek
Pork cheeks can be used in a variety of dishes, particularly those that require slow cooking methods to break down the tough muscle fibers and connective tissues. Here are some common uses:
1. Braising: This is a popular method for cooking pork cheeks. They are often seared and then cooked slowly in a small amount of liquid. This method yields tender, flavorful meat.
2. Stews and Soups: Pork cheeks can be used in hearty stews and soups. They add a depth of savor and a unique texture to the dish.
3. Guanciale: In Italian cuisine, pork cheeks are cured and seasoned to make a type of meat called guanciale. It’s similar to bacon or pancetta, and it’s often used in pasta dishes like carbonara or amatriciana.
4. Carrillada: In Spanish cuisine, pork cheeks (or ‘parrillas’) are braised with red wine, garlic, onions, and herbs until they are tender and flavorful. This is usually served with mashed potatoes or rice.
5. Barbecue: In some Southern US barbecue traditions, pork cheeks are smoked low and slow to create a tender, flavorful barbecue dish. They might be served as is or shredded for sandwiches.
6. Tacos: In Mexican cuisine, pork cheeks are sometimes used in tacos. They’re typically braised or stewed with spices until tender, then shredded and served with traditional taco accompaniments.
7. Charcuterie: Pork cheeks can also be used in making various types of charcuterie, such as pates or terrines.
Where to buy pork cheek?
If you’re searching for where to buy pork cheek, there are a few different places you can go. Many specialty food stores carry it, as do some international grocery stores.
You can also order online from many retailers that provide a variety of diverse flavors and types of pork cheek.
Best substitutes for pork cheek
1. Beef Cheek
Beef Cheek is famously known for its delicate and rich flavors, and it is a popular substitute for pork cheek, perfect for slow-cooking recipes. Cut it into one-inch cubes before cooking.
It will become incredibly tender after 3-4 hours of braising.
Ratio or measurement: For stews or as a sandwich stuffing, use 2 pounds of beef cheek.
2. Turkey Thighs
Deboned and sliced turkey thighs have a somewhat similar texture to pork cheek. Season this with salt, pepper, and herbs of your choice.
Grill or roast for best results.
Ratio or measurement: One turkey thigh, sliced and deboned as appropriate, is equivalent to one pork cheek in most recipes.
3. Ox Tail
Ox Tail meat contains high amounts of collagen, which helps produce a rich and velvety texture when cooking. Cut it into pieces of two or three inches to prepare a hearty stew.
Ratio or measurement: Use 2-3 ox tails in place of pork cheek in most stews and curries recipes.
4. Salmon Fillet
This may come as a surprise, but salmon fillet makes a tasty and healthy substitute for pork cheek. It has a firm and meaty texture that’s great poached, grilled or baked.
Ratio or measurement: Replace one pork cheek with a 6 oz salmon fillet or increase or decrease the amount as per the recipe.
5. Chicken Thighs
Chicken thighs are always a handy substitute for pork cheeks. They can be prepared in different ways, such as braising, grilling, or frying.
Ratio or measurement: Each chicken thigh is approximately equivalent to half a pork cheek.
6. Veal Cheeks
This is a slightly pricier option but one that is well worth the splurge. Veal’s cheeks are similar in texture to pork cheeks but with a much richer flavor that’s perfect for braising or stewing.
Ratio or measurement: Use 2-3 veal cheeks in place of pork cheeks in any recipe you desire to cook.
7. Duck Breast
Duck breast can be pan-seared, roasted, or grilled, making it an excellent substitute for pork cheek. It has a slightly gamier flavor and richer texture than pork.
Ratio or measurement: For each pork cheek that needs to be replaced, use a 6 oz duck breast for most recipes.
8. Lamb Shoulder
The lamb shoulder is another flavorful and tender substitute for pork cheek. The meat is juicy, flavorful, and perfect for slow-braised recipes.
Ratio or measurement: Use 2-3 pounds of lamb shoulder to replace a pork cheek in most recipes.
9. Cod Loins
Another seafood alternative to pork cheek is the cod loin. It has a firm and meaty texture, perfect for recipes that require flaked fish.
Ratio or measurement: One cod loin, weighing roughly 6 oz, is equivalent to one pork cheek in most recipes.
10. Beef Chuck Roast
Beef chuck roast is the most affordable cut available and makes for a perfect substitute for pork cheek in various recipes.
It’s best suited for slow-cooking dishes such as stews, pot pies, and braised dishes.
Ratio or measurement: Use 2 pounds of beef chuck roast to replace a pork cheek in most recipes.
11. Venison Neck
Another great substitute for pork cheek is venison neck. The cut of meat is lean and tender, with a slightly stronger flavor than pork cheek.
Venison neck can be slow-cooked or pressure-cooked to make it tender and delicious.
12. Beef Chuck
Beef chuck is a versatile cut of meat that can use as an alternative to pork cheek in many recipes. It has a rich flavor and a tender texture when cooked correctly.
Beef chuck can be slow-cooked in a Crock-Pot or pressure cooker for juicy, fall-apart tender meat.
13. Salmon Belly
If you’re looking for a seafood alternative to pork cheek, try using salmon belly. It has a rich, fatty texture and a buttery taste that make it a great substitute in recipes like ramen or curry.
Salmon belly can be grilled, pan-fried, or baked to get that perfect, crispy skin.
14. Goat Shoulder
The goat shoulder is an excellent substitute for pork cheek as it has a similar flavor and texture. Goat meat is leaner than pork, which makes it a bit healthier, but it’s still packed with protein and nutrients.
Goat shoulder can be marinated and slow-cooked in a Dutch oven or delay cooker for tender and flavorful meat.
Substitute pork cheek with pasta
6. Coppa (Capocollo)
What is a vegetarian substitute for pork?
9. Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
11. Soy Curls
12. Beyond Meat
13. Impossible Foods
Conclusion on substitute for pork cheek
There are many substitutes for pork cheek that you can use to take your recipes to the next level. These 10 cuts of meat from various animals can be easily found in your local grocery store.
They offer varying flavors and textures, so it’s easy to experiment and see which one works best for your dish.
Don’t hesitate to try to substitute pork cheek with these options. Savor the flavors and enjoy the journey!
If you’re looking for vegetarian or vegan substitutes, you might consider the following
1. Tofu: It’s versatile and can take on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with.
2. Seitan: Also known as wheat meat, it has a chewy, meat-like texture.
3. Jackfruit: When green, it has a texture identical to pulled pork and can be used in similar dishes.
4. Tempeh: Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh has a nutty flavor and firm texture.
5. Plant-Based Meat Substitutes: Brands like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, or Quorn offer products designed to mimic the taste and texture of meat.
FAQs on substitute for pork cheek
Q1. What is similar to pork cheek?
1. Pork Shoulder (Boston Butt)
2. Pork Belly
3. Beef Cheeks
5. Lamb Neck
6. Beef Brisket
7. Pork Jowl
8. Beef Short Ribs
9. Lamb Shanks
10. Pork Spare Ribs
Q2. What can I use instead of pork jowl?
If you’re looking for substitutes for pork jowl, here are a few options:
1. Pork Belly: This is a fattier cut of meat that can be used similarly to pork jowl. It can be smoked, braised, or used to make bacon.
2. Bacon: Regular bacon can be a good substitute for pork jowl in most recipes. However, it may be leaner and less rich in flavor.
3. Pancetta: This is an Italian style of cured meat that’s similar to bacon. It’s made from pork belly and can be a good substitute for pork jowl in many dishes.
4. Guanciale: This is another Italian cured meat made from pork cheek. It’s very similar to pork jowl and can be used as a substitute.
5. Fatback: This is a cut of pork from the back of the pig that’s very fatty. It can be used similarly to pork jowl, though it may have a slightly different flavor and texture.
Q3. What is the closest substitute to pork?
If you’re seeking a non-pork substitute that’s still a type of meat, you might consider:
1. Chicken: Certain cuts, like thigh meat, can mimic the texture and flavor of pork in many dishes.
2. Turkey: Dark meat turkey can be a good substitute for pork in various recipes.
3. Beef: Depending on the cut, it can replace pork in many dishes, but the flavor will be noticeably different.
4. Veal: It has a delicate flavor similar to pork but is less common and can be more expensive.
Q4. Which vegetable is equal to pork?
These foods can be seasoned and cooked to provide a similar taste and texture experience.
1. Jackfruit: Unripe jackfruit has a texture similar to pulled pork when cooked and can be seasoned to taste similar to pork.
2. Mushrooms: Certain types of mushrooms, like portobello and king oysters, have a meaty texture and umami flavor that can work well as a substitute for pork in some recipes.
3. Eggplant: When cooked properly, eggplant can have a meaty texture, and it absorbs flavors well.
4. Lentils: Lentils can provide a hearty texture and can be seasoned to mimic the flavors of various meat-based dishes.
5. Tofu and Tempeh: Both are made from soybeans, and they can be seasoned and cooked to resemble the flavor and texture of pork.
6. Seitan: This is a meat substitute made from vital wheat gluten that can be used to mimic pork in various dishes.
7. Cauliflower: When roasted or grilled, cauliflower can take on a meaty texture and absorbs flavors well.