Guanciale vs Pancetta – The 6 Most Important Differences

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Guanciale and pancetta are both fatty pig products that have been cured and are often used in Italian cooking. Both of these items come from the pig. They provide dishes an abundance of taste, texture, and complexity, and are very important for the production of dishes like carbonara, matriciana, or gricia.

The overwhelming majority of people have the preconceived notion that they are similar, but is this really the case?

What are the key differences and similarities between these two distinct kinds of pork products?

Guanciale vs Pancetta – What is The Difference?

The belly of the pig is used to make pancetta, while the cheeks of the pig are used to make guanciale, both of which are cured pork products. Pancetta and guanciale are both delicious. Guanciale and pancetta are two pork products that are very comparable to bacon. Both are traditionally prepared without smoking, then cured with salt, pepper, and an assortment of herbs and spices, and finally aged and dried after the curing process is complete. Dishes such as pasta and soups are enhanced both gastronomically and texturally by the contributions of both of these ingredients.


PORK CUT Cheeks or Jowl Belly
ORIGIN Lazio / Central Italy All over the country
METHOD OF CURING Dry cured Dry cured or Brined
CURING TIME Minimum of 60 days 1-2 weeks, can be longer
CURING INGREDIENTS Salt, pepper, herbs, garlic Salt and pepper, some spices
FLAVOR & TEXTURE Stronger taste and softer Saltier
FAT CONTENT More fat Less Fat
PACKAGING Sold whole Sold in slices or cubes

The Difference Between Guanciale and Pancetta

Both guanciale and pancetta see a significant amount of usage in traditional Italian cuisine. Both bacon and ham are cured pig products that are high in fat and provide a distinct taste and texture to a meal.

Because of its striking similarity to bacon, pancetta is well-known to a large number of people. Guanciale, on the other hand, is not as well-known, but many people consider it to be of a higher quality in terms of the recipes it can enhance.

Where do they intersect and where do they diverge? Below, you’ll find a comparison of the two.

1. Pork Cut

Both guanciale and pancetta are fatty pork products, but pancetta is made from the belly while guanciale comes from the cheeks. Guanciale is made from the cheeks or jowl of the pig, whereas pancetta is made from the belly of the pig.

2. Origin

Although pancetta is popular throughout Italy, guanciale is considered to be a regional delicacy that can only be found in central Italy, more specifically in the Lazio region. Because it is so well liked in that area, almost all of their well-known pasta dishes incorporate guanciale.

3. Method of Curing

Guanciale is aged and matured for at least sixty days after being dry-cured with salt and spices such as black pepper, rosemary, and sage. The curing process takes place in a dry environment.

On the other hand, pancetta can be dry-cured or wet-cured in brine. Typically, only salt is used in the curing process, but other spices may also be added at times. It is possible for the curing process to be completed in as little as two to three weeks, but depending on the producer, it may be cured for a longer period of time.

When compared to other kinds of cured meat, the curing process for guanciale and pancetta is typically much shorter. As a result, these types of cured meat are able to keep a significant amount of moisture within them, which is one of the reasons they are so delicious when used in dishes.

4. Ingredients and Curing Agents Used

Typically, only salt and pepper are used to cure pancetta; however, depending on the manufacturer, other seasonings may be included in the curing process.

On the other hand, guanciale is typically cured with salt, pepper, and other herbs and spices like garlic, sage, and rosemary, although the specific combination can vary from region to region depending on personal preference.

5. Flavor, Taste, and Texture

In comparison to pancetta, guanciale has a more robust flavor and a texture that is noticeably more tender. Guanciale has a milder flavor than pancetta’s saltiness.

Guanciale, on the other hand, has a higher percentage of fat than pancetta does, which is one of the reasons why some people believe it does a much better job of adding depth and character to dishes.

6. How They Are Packaged and Prepared

Both guanciale and pancetta are cured pork products, but pancetta is traditionally smoked while guanciale is not. Guanciale can also be found in smoked forms.

Guanciale is typically offered for sale in its entirety, whereas pancetta is typically sold in the form of slices and cubes. In spite of the fact that they are both cured products, most recipes for both kinds of meat call for the meat to be cooked before it can be consumed.

What is Guanciale?

Although guanciale is not as well-known as pancetta, many people think that it gives foods a more robust taste and more layers of complexity than pancetta does.

So why is guanciale such a popular cut of pork?

The pork jowl or the cheeks of the pig are used to produce the dry-cured pork product known as guanciale. This is the section of the pig that may be found between the mouth and the neck, directly behind the cheeks. The origin of the name may be traced back to the Italian word “guancia,” which can be translated as “cheeks.”

It has been around for generations and is historically a staple meal of farm labourers, who would normally eat it over bread, with a little bit of pecorino cheese, and some wine. This meal would typically be had in the evening.

It has the appearance of pancetta or bacon, but its texture and flavor are far more delicate. In addition to this, its taste is more robust than that of pancetta or bacon.

In Italy, it is an essential component in pasta dishes such as carbonara, amatriciana, and gricia. In addition to being mixed with spaghetti, it may also be rendered and sautéed with vegetables, meat, or fish to provide additional texture and taste.

Guanciale is traditionally dry-cured using salt and a variety of spices, then let to air-dry for at least sixty days before being aged. When guanciale is kept for a longer period of time, its flavor improves, and the dishes it is added to take on a more strong flavor as a result.

It may be eaten in its natural state or spread on toast, but its true potential is shown when used into stews, soups, and sauces.

How Is Guanciale Made?

Guanciale is typically made in the following way:

1. Salting and Seasoning

After being salted for a few days, the butcher will add various herbs and spices to the pig jowls before cooking them.

The precise combination of spices used varies widely from butcher to butcher and from area to region; in most cases, this is a well kept family secret that goes along with a family recipe. On the other hand, herbs and spices such as black pepper, rosemary, thyme, and sage are often used.

2. Curing

In order to allow the salt to penetrate the meat completely, the guanciale is hung and cured in an environment that is on the chillier side. The salt is what protects the meat from bacteria and other pathogens that might otherwise cause the meat to become spoiled.

3. Drying and Maturing

In order to kickstart certain enzymatic processes, such as the production of lactic acid, the internal temperature of the guanciale is raised during the drying phase. After this phase, however, the temperature is lowered to between 50 and 57 degrees Fahrenheit, and the guanciale is allowed to age and mature in an environment where the temperature and humidity are controlled for at least two months.

Due to the chemical reactions that take place during the aging process, it is said that the longer it is aged, the more developed and desirable the flavor becomes. This is because the amino acids and fatty acids in the meat are broken down during this process.

This prolonged aging process is what lends it its character and depth, in addition to imparting a robust flavor of pork.

Is Guanciale The Same As Jowl Bacon?

Jowl bacon, also known as hog jowl, is a type of bacon that is prepared using pork jowls or the cheeks of pigs. In the cuisine of the South in the United States, it plays an essential role.

Guanciale and jowl bacon are similar in that they are both made from pork jowl; however, they are distinct from one another in that guanciale is typically unsmoked, whereas jowl bacon is smoked and is typically prepared and used in a manner that is very similar to that of regular pork belly bacon. Guanciale is also similar to jowl bacon in that they are both made from pork jowl.

Guanciale is typically aged for a longer period of time than jowl bacon, and the spices that are used to cure guanciale are distinct from those that are used to cure jowl bacon.

What Is Pancetta?

The belly or the underside of the pig are used in the production of a cured pork delicacy known as pancetta.

It is sometimes referred to as “Italian bacon,” and although it does have some similarities to its cousin from the United States, it also has some significant variances. Pancetta is normally not smoked, in contrast to bacon found in the United States.

There are two primary varieties of pancetta, which are:

1. Pancetta Tesa

“Flat” or slabbed pancetta, which has a look that is comparable to that of regular bacon. It retains its original form after being cured and dried.

2. Pancetta Arrotolata

“Coiled” pancetta refers to pancetta that has been firmly rolled and trussed into a log. In order to maintain its form, “rolled” pancetta is occasionally put into a casing. This version of pancetta is perhaps the one that is eaten the most.

In general, it has a lower fat content than tesa pancetta. When lean cured pig belly is wrapped around another sort of dry-cured meat, called coppa or capicola, which is comparable to prosciutto, a kind of pancetta called pancetta coppata is created. Pancetta coppata is a type of pancetta arrotolata.

It is not common to smoke pancetta, but when it does happen, the resulting product is known as pancetta affumicata. In spite of the smoking, the taste is significantly distinct from that of smoked bacon produced in the United States.

How Is Pancetta Made?

Pancetta is made in the following way:

1. Salting and Curing

The pork belly is salted and left to cure for about a week to 10 days.

2. Washing and Seasoning

After this amount of time has passed, the pig belly is washed to remove the salt, sometimes with white wine, and is then seasoned with various spices and herbs such as pepper, fennel, coriander, and juniper berries.

Depending on the manufacturer, the seasonings could be different. This substance is referred to as “concia.”

3. Rolling

In order to make pancetta tesa, the concia or spice blend is rubbed all over the exposed skin of the pancetta before it is hung to dry in a room in which the temperature and humidity are both controlled.

When making pancetta arrotolata, the pork belly is tightly rolled into a log, and the spices or concia end up inside the log along with the pork belly. After that, it is placed inside of casings, and after that, it is tied and trussed before being hung to dry.

4. Drying and Maturing

The pancetta is hung to cure in a cool, dry environment for a period of time that might range from a few weeks to many months.

It’s possible that the process will be different for each manufacturer. Some people like to add the spice mixtures after the first salt cure, while others prefer to season the meat straight away with the initial salting and then re-season it with merely black pepper. In the end, it would come down to the discretion of the producer and the home chef.

The process of drying and aging the pancetta is essential to the development of its taste, regardless of the method by which it is prepared.

Is Pancetta The Same As Bacon?

Both pancetta and bacon are prepared from the pork belly, but while bacon is typically wet-cured and brined with salt, sugar, seasonings, and even sometimes nitrates and nitrites, pancetta is traditionally dry-cured and matured with primarily just salt and black pepper.

However, depending on the manufacturer, herbs and spices may also be included in the final product.

Pancetta is normally not smoked, unlike bacon is smoked to some degree. Pancetta may either be cut into strips or slabs, although bacon is often cut into either form. Pancetta, however, can also be cut into a circular shape.

Both of these ingredients have unique taste characteristics, yet in some recipes, they could work well as interchangeable substitutions for one another.

Is Pancetta The Same As Prosciutto?

There is a significant difference between pancetta and prosciutto. The pork legs used to make prosciutto are dry-cured, and the meat then undergoes a lengthy period of aging and curing that can last anywhere from a few months to several years. Prosciutto is a type of dry-cured ham.

It is typical for pancetta to only be cured for a few weeks to a few months, which is why it is considered a fresh cured meat.

Although pancetta can be eaten raw, this is not something that is typically done, at least not outside of Italy.

It is typically prepared by being cooked after being added to dishes. Raw prosciutto is typically eaten in order to get the full flavor experience that comes from the lengthy curing and aging process.

Conclusion to Guanciale vs Pancetta

Guanciale and pancetta are both cured pork products that can be used in a variety of dishes, including pasta, soups, and stews, to add an additional layer of flavor.

Pancetta is the one that has more of a widespread recognition, but most people agree that guanciale has a more superior flavor due to the fact that it is typically aged for a longer period of time and typically has more fat.

If you are unable to locate guanciale, you can use pancetta as a suitable alternative in many of the recipes that call for it.

Frequently Asked Questions to Guanciale Vs Pancetta

Should I Use Guanciale or Pancetta for Carbonara?

It is possible to use either, but guanciale is more commonly used in carbonara, and the majority of people believe that it contributes a more satisfying flavor to the dish when compared to pancetta.

What Can I Substitute for Guanciale?

If you live outside of Italy, guanciale may be more difficult to locate, but pancetta is a versatile ingredient that can stand in for it in many cooking applications. Bacon that has not been smoked is another option.

Is Pancetta the Same as Prosciutto?

Prosciutto and pancetta are not interchangeable terms in any way. Pancetta is prepared from the pig’s belly or underbelly, while prosciutto is created from the pigs rear legs or thighs. Prosciutto, on the other hand, is normally eaten raw and is aged and cured for a longer period of time than pancetta is.


What is the difference between guanciale and pancetta?

To begin, you might be curious about what guanciale is, so let’s start there. Pancetta is essentially pork belly that has been salted and peppered before being cured, and the majority of Americans have probably heard of it. Guanciale is a term that’s only familiar to a select few. A pork jowl or cheek that has been cured in a mixture of salt and spices is called guanciale.

What is the difference between guanciale pancetta and bacon?

Due to the fact that it is made from the jowl of the pig, the Italian ingredient known as guanciale (which literally translates to “pig cheek”) is typically very fatty and contains significantly less meat than pancetta and bacon do. Additionally, it has the lowest cost of the three options.

Does guanciale taste like pancetta?

Guanciale is a sort of cured meat that is traditionally prepared using the pork jowl as the source of the meat. It is a cut of pork that is exceptionally high in fat and is cured for at least three months after being seasoned with salt and other herbs. It has a taste profile that is comparable to pancetta or bacon in that it is salty, fatty, and rich.

What makes pancetta different?

The belly of the pig, which is the pig’s underbelly, is used to make pancetta. It is cured, but not smoked, and seasoned with salts, spices, and other additives like as juniper berries before being packaged for sale. The texture of pancetta is fatty and smooth, and it has a light pink hue and appearance. Pancetta may be eaten both cooked and uncooked. Pancetta has to cure for around three weeks.

Which is saltier guanciale or pancetta?

The battle between guanciale and pancetta does not appear to have a clear victor. Both kinds of meat are extremely popular due to the salty and savory flavors they exude as well as their lengthy shelf lives. However, given that you are now aware of the distinction between the two types of cured Italian meat, you are able to experiment with each of them in a variety of recipes to find out which one you prefer.