How to Make Pork Belly Taste Like Bacon: A Step-by-Step Guide

As a food blogger and mother of four kids who are bacon fanatics, I’m always looking for ways to get more of that smoky, salty bacon flavor into our meals without breaking the bank So when I had the chance to buy part of a pastured pig directly from a farmer, I jumped at the opportunity to stock up on bacon.

However when the pork arrived I realized the bacon selection didn’t fit my nitrate-free criteria. Instead, I opted for something called “fresh side pork” thinking it would provide the same bacon-y taste. Boy, was I wrong!

Fresh side pork basically tastes like a fatty pork chop. Not exactly what I was going for. Thankfully, after some trial and error in the kitchen, I discovered a few tricks to transform mild-mannered side pork into a tasty bacon doppelganger.

If you too have been underwhelmed when cooking up fresh pork belly and want to make it taste more like salty, crispy bacon, then read on! I’m sharing everything I learned about how to cook pork belly so it tastes like bacon.

What Exactly is Pork Belly?

First a quick pork primer. Pork belly comes from the underside of a pig. It’s the fattiest section of the belly and is where bacon originates.

Pork belly is basically what bacon looks like before it’s cured and smoked. So I thought uncured pork belly would deliver a similar flavor. Rookie mistake!

While pork belly and bacon come from the same cut of meat, they taste totally different in their natural states. Here’s why:

Bacon is cured and smoked – Curing enhances flavor and preserves the meat. Smoking infuses aroma and taste.

Pork belly is fresh and uncured – Without curing or smoking, pork belly is mild tasting. The fat content also changes the texture.

So while pork belly and bacon share the same origins, their preparation techniques produce different eating experiences. Let’s look at how to transform mild pork belly into tasty “bacon”.

How to Cook Fresh Pork Belly So It Tastes Like Bacon

Want your pork belly to taste like smoky, salty bacon? Then it needs special treatment in the kitchen.

Here are 5 tips to transform fresh side pork into a bacon clone.

1. Choose the Right Cut

  • Look for pork belly with plenty of fat. More fat = more flavor.

  • Get it sliced about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick so it cooks up crispy.

  • Skinless is easier, but skin-on works too if you crisp it up.

2. Cure That Belly

  • Make a simple dry cure of 1/2 cup salt, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, and spices like black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, etc.

  • Generously rub the cure mix all over the pork belly.

  • Let it cure in the fridge for at least 12 hours and up to 3 days. The longer it cures, the more intense the flavor.

3. Fake the Smoke

  • You won’t get true smoked flavor without actually smoking the pork for hours.

  • For a quick smoked bacon taste, use smoked paprika in the cure and liquid smoke in the pan.

4. Crisp It Up

  • Fry over medium heat in a skillet until brown and crispy at the edges.

  • Baste frequently with the rendered pork fat to get crispy bits.

5. Enhance the Bacon Taste

  • Cook it in rendered bacon fat instead of oil or butter.

  • Crumble crispy cooked bacon over the top.

  • Serve with maple syrup for sweetness or make bacon jam.

And that’s it! A few simple steps can transform mild pork belly into bacon’s smoky, salty doppelganger. Keep reading for more details on exactly how to prep and cook pork belly to taste like bacon.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Cooking Pork Belly Like Bacon

Follow this 6-step method to turn plain ole pork belly into tasty faux bacon:

Step 1: Choose the Right Cut

Not all pork belly is created equal. Here are some tips for picking the right package:

Get plenty of fat – The fat is where most of the porky flavor comes

How To Make The Best Homemade Bacon


Can pork belly be cooked like bacon?

While you can substitute pork belly for bacon in many recipes, you’ll likely need to adjust the meat’s salt content and cooking time. Bacon is saltier than pork belly—due to the curing process—and needs less time to cook. On the other hand, pork belly is unsalted and needs additional cooking time.

Is it cheaper to buy pork belly and make your own bacon?

Is it Cheaper to Make Your Own Bacon? This answer depends on how you source your pork belly and what kind of bacon you compare the cost to. If you’ve raised and butchered your own hogs, then the cost of your pork belly will be less than what you can buy it for from the grocery store.

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