is pancetta healthier than bacon

Pancetta vs. Bacon Which Pork Belly Product is Healthier?

Pancetta and bacon are both made from pork belly, but is one ultimately healthier than the other? As someone who loves the rich, savory flavor both bring to dishes, I wanted to find out how pancetta and bacon truly compare nutritionally.

While they share some similarities, there are also key differences when it comes to ingredients, curing methods, fat content, and more. Read on for a detailed nutritional breakdown of pancetta versus bacon to determine which comes out on top health-wise.

Pancetta Overview

First, let’s start with a quick pancetta primer for those unfamiliar with this Italian cured meat. Pancetta is made from the pork belly and cured with salt, sometimes spices, and sodium nitrite to preserve it. The pork belly is then rolled up into a log shape and aged for 3 weeks up to 3 months.

Compared to bacon, pancetta is not smoked, so it has a purer pork flavor. It can be eaten raw in very thin slices, or diced up and cooked to add flavor to pasta, vegetables, pizza and more. Proper pancetta is produced in Italy, while American-style pancetta may use different curing methods.

Bacon Overview

Bacon is also made from pork belly that’s cured, usually with a combination of salt, sugar, and nitrites. After about 5-7 days of curing, it’s smoked for hours over wood chips to take on that distinctive smoky flavor. The smoking and cooking process also allows bacon to be safely eaten uncooked.

Bacon can be sliced thick or thin to enjoy fried or baked on its own, in sandwiches, with breakfast, atop burgers and salads, or chopped up in recipes. Like pancetta, it adds a salty, meaty punch of flavor.

Nutrition Face-Off: Pancetta vs. Bacon

Now let’s see how these two pork belly products stack up against each other nutritionally.

Fat Content

Pancetta has slightly less fat than bacon, with about 15 grams of fat per 100 gram serving compared to bacon’s 17 grams of fat. Pancetta also contains less saturated fat at 5 g per 100 g serving versus bacon’s 6 g.

So pancetta has a small advantage when it comes to fat content, but both meats are on the higher end due to their fatty pork belly source.

Sodium Content

Bacon contains significantly higher sodium compared to pancetta. Two slices of pan-fried bacon have about 380 mg sodium, while two ounces of pancetta have around 200 mg sodium.

The longer smoking process for bacon seems to increase its sodium load. Pancetta’s lower sodium content makes it a better choice for those limiting salt intake.


Surprisingly, pancetta and bacon have very similar calorie counts. Two ounces of cooked pancetta contains about 129 calories, while two slices of pan-fried bacon have around 53 calories (26.5 calories per slice).

So in a typical serving, pancetta and bacon deliver a similar calorie punch. Those watching their calorie intake will want to limit portions of both.

Added Sugars

Here is one area where bacon differs more significantly from pancetta. While pancetta contains no added sugars, bacon is often cured with sugar as one of the ingredients. A serving of bacon can have around 1 gram of added sugars.

So pancetta has the advantage for those wanting to avoid added sugar in their diet.


Both pancetta and bacon are commonly cured with sodium nitrite to inhibit bacteria growth and give the pork that appealing pink color. There are concerns that nitrites may be linked to increased cancer risk when eaten in high amounts.

However, both meats would typically contain similar levels of nitrites since they are cured using similar methods. So neither has a clear advantage when it comes to this ingredient.


Micronutrient-wise, pancetta and bacon are fairly similar. Neither is a significant source of vitamins, minerals or fiber. Bacon does contain a small amount of zinc and B vitamins, while pancetta provides traces of iron and potassium.

But you won’t be relying on either to provide major nutrients, beyond their hearty dose of protein.

The Winner?

When all the nutritional factors are compared, pancetta does come out slightly ahead of bacon in terms of health effects for a few key reasons:

  • Lower in sodium
  • No added sugar
  • Slightly less saturated fat

However, the differences are relatively modest. Both meats should be eaten in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet. Three ounces per week is a commonly recommended serving limit for processed meats like bacon or pancetta.

Of course, nutrition isn’t everything. Bacon still reigns supreme for many bacon lovers based on its signature smoky flavor, crispy texture, and versatility in recipes. And pancetta has its own distinct savory, porky flavor profile that shines in Italian dishes.

So the healthiest option may come down to choosing whichever you can savor in smaller portions, and not overindulging in either! At the end of the day, pancetta and bacon can both have a place in a balanced diet when enjoyed responsibly.

Tips for Picking Healthier Bacon

If you don’t want to give up your bacon completely, here are some tips to choose a healthier bacon option:

  • Opt for low-sodium bacon to cut back on excess salt.

  • Look for bacon without added sugars or maple flavoring in the ingredients.

  • Choose bacon cured with celery powder instead of sodium nitrite.

  • Select bacon made from heritage breed pigs for more nutrients.

  • Check the label for buzzwords like “organic” and “no antibiotics”.

  • Look for thicker bacon slices so you use less.

  • Prepare bacon in the oven instead of frying to reduce fat.

Simple Ways to Use Pancetta

If you’re inspired to give pancetta a try, here are some easy ways to start cooking with it:

  • Add diced pancetta to cooked pasta dishes.

  • Use it in place of bacon in recipes like Brussels sprouts or quiche.

  • Fry cubes in olive oil, then sauté veggies like peas or green beans.

  • Bake diced pancetta bits for 15-20 minutes until crispy, then use as a salad topping.

  • Add thin slices to sandwiches for an Italian-inspired BLT.

  • Stir pancetta into risottos or frittatas for deeper flavor.

  • Wrap shrimp or scallops with thinly sliced pancetta and bake.

Whatever your preference, remember that both pancetta and bacon are very flavorful, so you only need a little to make a big impact. Try using about 2 to 3 ounces of either meat cut per 3 to 4 servings of any recipe. This will keep portions balanced so you can continue enjoying both in moderation!

What Is Pancetta And What Does It Taste Like?


How healthy is pancetta?

Offering a good amount of dietary protein, pancetta is rich in B vitamins and minerals like phosphorus and selenium. It has lower fat contents than other bacon products. But, on the other hand, the preservatives that are sometimes added to the pancetta and its high sodium content can be undesirable for some people.

Is pancetta a processed meat?

Health concerns Associated cancer risk is likely related to the presence of nitrosamines in processed meat products like pancetta. Nitrosamines are carcinogenic compounds formed by the reaction of nitrites and amines.

Is pancetta a good substitute for bacon?

If you can’t find pancetta, it’s almost always OK to substitute bacon for pancetta. Alternatively, you can substitute pancetta in recipes that call for bacon lardons. The two have very similar textures and flavors since they’re both made from pork belly, although bacon has a heavier, smokier flavor.

Which is healthier, pancetta or prosciutto?

Prosciutto is cut from the hind leg of a pig and is salt-cured over the course of weeks or months. While prosciutto is a saltier product than pancetta, it has less fat and is considered by some to be the healthier option between the two.

What is the difference between bacon & pancetta?

Bacon also tends to be fattier and greasier because of the part of the pig it comes from. Pancetta is cut from a leaner piece of the animal, so it tastes less rich. The main difference in flavor between pancetta vs. bacon is that bacon has a smokier flavor to it. Pancetta lends a ham flavor to dishes, which is why it is often used as a flavor base.

Why are bacon & pancetta so good?

Thanks to being cut from pork belly, both bacon and pancetta have a high fat content. This fat renders out during cooking and it’s what gives both meats their rich and satisfying flavours. It also makes them ideal for rendering and using the leftover fat to cook other elements in a dish, enhancing the overall flavour profile.

Does Bacon have more protein than pancetta?

Proteins Bacon has a higher protein content than pancetta but contains more fats and cholesterol. It stands out at 33.33g per 100g serving, twice as much as in pancetta. Since the body can absorb up to 25g of high-quality protein in bacon, eating bacon will provide more health benefits [ 1 ].

What makes pancetta and bacon different from other pork products?

What makes pancetta and bacon stand out from other pork products is how they are processed after they have been cut. Both of their production methods start out the same: once the meats have been cut, they are cured in a salt mix. To be cured means that the meats are covered in a salt mix until the meat absorbs most of that salty flavour.

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