Pancetta substitute for guanciale

Best Guanciale Recipe in 2023 : A Beginner’s Guide to Curing Meat Brilliance

Attention all food adventurers! Ever drooled over the rich and robust flavors of Guanciale but felt held back by a total lack of meat-curing experience? (I’ve been there, trust me.) If your interest in taking your culinary skills to the next level has been sparked, but the world of curing feels like uncharted territory, you’re in luck. This guide will ignite your desire to transform ordinary pork jowl into mouthwatering Guanciale, all from the comfort of your own kitchen. Ready to take action and become a home-curing hero? Grab that apron, and let’s get started. Time to make Guanciale magic happen! 🥓

What is Guanciale?

The meat that dreams are made of – well, Italian culinary dreams at least. It’s like bacon’s suave and sophisticated cousin from the rolling hills of Italy. While I’m usually up to my elbows in coffee beans, bourbon bottles, or smokin’ BBQ, I can’t help but tip my hat to this delectable delight.

Guanciale is made from pork jowl, cured with salt, sugar, and spices like thyme and fennel. It’s then air-dried to reach that perfect chewy-yet-melty texture. When you toss it into a pasta like Carbonara, the flavor bursts like a symphony in your mouth. If bacon and pancetta had a wild Italian love child, Guanciale would be it!

What is Guanciale?
Credits to La Cucina Italiana

Is Guanciale Healthy?

Oh, my food-lovin’ friend, you’ve opened up Pandora’s BBQ pit with that question! Guanciale, in all its rich, savory glory, is not exactly what you’d put on the cover of “Health Magazine.” It’s like asking if a bottle of top-shelf bourbon is a substitute for a protein shake. (If only, am I right?)

Here’s the tasty but troublesome truth: Guanciale is packed with fat, cholesterol, and salt. It’s those things that make it so incredibly delicious but not the go-to choice for the health-conscious crowd.

Moderation, though, that’s the key. If you occasionally sizzle some Guanciale in a pan and use its heavenly flavor to amp up a dish, you’ll probably survive to tell the tasty tale. Just don’t make it a daily habit, or your scale (and your doc) might start giving you the stink eye.

So, healthy? Not really. Delicious and worth an occasional indulgence? You bet your BBQ tongs!

Reasons You Need to Know How to Make Guanciale

Making Guanciale at home isn’t just a culinary project; it’s an adventure into the rich world of Italian flavors and traditions. Here’s why embracing this artisan skill is more than worth the effort:

  • Unparalleled Flavor: Homemade offers a unique taste that store-bought options can’t match. It’s a flavor journey that’ll elevate your dishes to gourmet status.
  • Culinary Creativity: Making it allows you to experiment with herbs, spices, and maybe even a splash of bourbon (wink, wink). The customization is endless, and so is the fun!
  • Impress Your Friends: Imagine serving a dish made with Guanciale you cured yourself. Talk about a showstopper at your next BBQ or dinner party!
  • Connection to Tradition: Embracing the art of curing is a nod to time-honored Italian culinary craftsmanship. You’re not just making food; you’re honoring a legacy.
  • Cost-Effective Gourmet: High-quality Guanciale can be pricey. Making it at home offers a more budget-friendly way to enjoy this luxury ingredient regularly.
Credits to Taste of Artisan

So, whether you’re an ambitious home cook or just someone who loves a culinary challenge, learning to make Guanciale is an opportunity you won’t want to miss. Get ready to roll up those sleeves and join the ranks of those who’ve discovered the joy and satisfaction of crafting this Italian delicacy. Buon appetito! 🍖

Why You Need Guanciale In Your Life

If you haven’t yet made its acquaintance, let me tell you, friend, you’re in for a treat. Here’s why you need it in your life:

  1. Flavor Explosion: takes flavor to a whole new level. It’s like the superstar who swoops in and turns your ordinary pasta dish into a five-star experience. Rich, robust, and a touch salty, it’s the culinary equivalent of a standing ovation.
  2. Versatility: From pasta to stews to even giving your BBQ a twist, Guanciale’s got your back. It’s the best friend that fits into any foodie situation, lifting up the flavors and smiling while it does so.
  3. Adventure: Cooking with Guanciale is an adventure. It’s the chance to explore new recipes, to play with combinations, to challenge your palate, and to look darn impressive at your next dinner gathering.
  4. A Touch of Italy: Maybe you can’t jet off to Rome on a whim, but a bite of Guanciale transports you to an Italian trattoria, complete with the sounds of laughter and clinking glasses.
  5. Home Curing Fun: If you’re the adventurous type, curing your own Guanciale is a rewarding culinary project that’s sure to impress your friends and satisfy your gourmet cravings.
You Need Guanciale In Your Life
Credits to La Cucina Italiana

In short, Guanciale is like that favorite album you never knew you needed but now can’t live without. It’s music to your taste buds, a culinary dance, and a delicious secret that’s too good not to share.

Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Make Guanciale

Ah, the magic of making Guanciale! Get ready for a culinary adventure that’s both rewarding and delicious. Here’s your step-by-step guide:

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • Pork jowl preferably with skin still attached
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • Optional: crushed red pepper flakes, garlic, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, or other desired seasonings

Tools you’ll need:

  • Mixing bowl
  • Plastic wrap or food-grade plastic bag
  • Kitchen twine or string
  • A cool, dry, well-ventilated area for air-drying

Step 1. Select the Perfect Pork Jowl

Look for quality, fresh pork jowl from a reputable source. The better the meat, the tastier the Guanciale!

Making guanciale: high-quality pork jowl with good marbling

Step 2. Prepare the Cure

Mix salt, sugar, pepper, and your chosen herbs and spices (maybe a hint of coffee or bourbon?) together for the cure. Your kitchen, your rules!

Making guanciale: a mixing bowl, combine a mixture of coarse kosher salt, coarsely ground black pepper

Step 3. Apply the Magic Dust

Rub that flavorful cure all over the pork jowl, ensuring it’s well coated.

making guanciale

Step 4. Waiting Game – “Curing Crescendo”

Place the coated jowl in a sealed bag in the fridge. Turn it daily, and let the curing magic happen for about a week.


Step 5. Rinse and Dry – “Prepping the Star”

Rinse off the cure, pat the jowl dry, and hang it in a cool, well-ventilated place.

guanciale drying

Step 6. Age Like Fine Wine – “The Flavor Maturation”

Allow the Guanciale to age for 3-4 weeks. Patience is key; great flavor takes time!


Step 7. Slice, Cook, Enjoy – “The Encore”

Slice your Guanciale, cook it up in your favorite recipes, and enjoy the applause from your taste buds.

guanciale is fully air-dried, remove it from the drying area and trim off

The journey of making Guanciale is like crafting a symphony of flavor, with each step playing its part in creating a gourmet masterpiece. It’s a blend of art, science, patience, and a sprinkle of adventurous spirit. Ready to make your kitchen the stage for this Italian delight? Let’s do it!

How to Cook With Guanciale: 3 Ways to Use Guanciale

Pasta all’Amatriciana

  • In a pan, sauté diced guanciale until it’s crispy and its fat has rendered.
  • Add chopped onions and cook until they’re soft and translucent.
  • Stir in crushed tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Let the sauce simmer and thicken.
  • Meanwhile, cook your favorite pasta until al dente.
  • Toss the cooked pasta in the sauce and guanciale mixture. Serve with a generous sprinkle of Pecorino Romano cheese.
all'Amatriciana, sauté guanciale

Guanciale-Wrapped Asparagus

  • Wrap trimmed asparagus spears with thin slices of guanciale.
  • Place the wrapped asparagus on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until the guanciale is crispy and the asparagus is tender.
  • Serve as an appetizer or side dish, optionally drizzling with balsamic reduction for extra flavor.

Guanciale and Egg Breakfast Skillet

  • In a skillet, cook diced guanciale until it’s crispy. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
  • In the same skillet, sauté diced potatoes until they’re golden and cooked through.
  • Create wells in the potatoes and crack eggs into them. Cook until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny.
  • Sprinkle the crispy guanciale over the skillet and garnish with chopped fresh herbs, like chives or parsley.
Guanciale and Egg Skillet
Credits to Eater DC

These three recipes showcase the versatility of guanciale, whether it’s used to create a classic pasta dish, add a flavorful twist to vegetables, or elevate a hearty breakfast skillet. Enjoy experimenting with this delicious ingredient in your cooking!

Taking it to the Next Level: How to Make Your Own Guanciale

So you’ve mastered cooking with Guanciale, but are you ready to elevate your culinary prowess even further? Buckle up, it’s time to delve into the artisan world of making your own Guanciale:

Embrace the Cure

Making Guanciale at home starts with quality pork jowl and a blend of curing ingredients like salt, sugar, and spices. You’ll need patience, as the curing process can take several weeks. Research or consult with a knowledgeable butcher to get the right mix.

hanging guanciale

The Art of Aging

After curing, you’ll hang the Guanciale in a cool, well-ventilated space to age. It might sound intimidating, but this process adds depth and complexity to the flavor. Guidelines vary, so refer to expert sources or consider a curing class to get it just right.

herbs and spces
Credits to FSR magazine

Experiment and Enjoy

Once you’ve got the hang of it, making your own Guanciale opens a world of culinary creativity. Experiment with different herbs, spices, or even bourbon-infused cures (I couldn’t resist!). The possibilities are as endless as they are delicious.

This is a journey for the true food enthusiasts, a culinary adventure that combines science, art, and a touch of Italian flair. Homemade Guanciale is more than a recipe; it’s a statement, a connection to tradition, and a testament to your passion for great food. Are you ready to take it to the next level? Buon appetito!

Alternatives to Cooking with Guanciale

I know, I know, Guanciale’s charm is hard to resist, but sometimes, you might need an alternative. Maybe it’s hard to find, or you’re cooking for someone with specific dietary preferences. Either way, fear not! Here are some alternatives that’ll still make your taste buds dance:

Pancetta substitute for guanciale


This Italian bacon is often cured with similar seasonings to Guanciale and is readily available. It’s leaner but still brings that rich, meaty flavor. Try it as a substitute in pasta dishes or as a flavor-enhancing ingredient in soups and stews.

Bacon substitute for guanciale


Good ol’ classic bacon can come to the rescue too. It might lack some of the sophisticated flavors of Guanciale, but let’s be honest, bacon never disappoints. Opt for thick-cut bacon and consider adding a touch of extra seasoning to mimic that Guanciale goodness.

Vegetarian Options:

Vegetarian Options

If meat’s off the menu, smoked tempeh or even mushrooms sautéed with smoky spices can offer a satisfying texture and flavor. It won’t be a direct match, but it’ll bring a rich, savory element to your dishes.

While these alternatives might not fully replicate the unique character of Guanciale, they’ll still keep your culinary creations flavorful and exciting. Sometimes, improvisation leads to the most delightful surprises in the kitchen. Happy experimenting!

Key Considerations For Successfully Understanding How to Make Guanciale

Embracing these considerations takes your Guanciale-making adventure from a mere recipe to a full culinary experience. It’s like adding that perfect shot of bourbon to your BBQ sauce – elevating the experience to something truly special.


The Right Environment: Successfully making Guanciale isn’t just about the ingredients and the process; it’s also about the environment.

Quality Matters: Selecting top-notch pork jowl and using high-quality seasonings can be the difference between good and mind-blowing Guanciale.

It’s a Journey, Not a Race: Understanding how to make Guanciale requires patience and a willingness to embrace the process.

Wrapping Up and My Experience

And there we have it, folks – the fascinating journey of turning a humble pork jowl into a symphony of flavor known as Guanciale. From selecting the meat to curing, aging, and savoring, we’ve covered it all, step by tantalizing step.

Why tune into this culinary concert conducted by yours truly? Because I’ve been where you are, curious and ready to explore the world of flavors. From my first batch (which, let’s just say, was a learning experience) to the many that followed, I’ve found joy, creativity, and some seriously satisfied taste buds.

So whether you’re a seasoned chef or a culinary newbie ready to take on a fun challenge, grab that pork jowl and let’s make magic. After all, life’s too short for boring flavors. Here’s to Guanciale, BBQ, coffee, and all the good things in life!


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