As a foodie, I am a big fan of ingredients that are unique and interesting. I love trying different foods that have interesting backstories. Foods with history always taste best!
I recently discovered Serrano ham and I must say, I am a huge fan. It is salty, and savory and is definitely a specialty food. Only very specific hams can be called Serrano hams!
As much as I do enjoy a thin slice of Serrano ham, I know that eating a whole lot of cured meat may not be so healthy for my family.
Serrano ham has about 60 calories per ounce of ham. It also has a high-fat content with 3 grams of fat per ounce.
For that reason, I wanted to find Serrano ham substitutes that would be just as delicious and exciting.
If you run out of Serrano ham, want a healthier ham substitute, or even a vegetarian substitute, I have suggestions for you!
The best substitute for Serrano ham is prosciutto. It is aged and cured just like Serrano ham, giving it a similar taste and texture. Prosciutto may also be easier to find, making it a more accessible substitute.
Try using sliced Black Forest turkey as a healthy and pork-free substitute for serrano ham. Look for pea protein ham if you need a vegetarian substitute.
Serrano ham is definitely a specialty food. If you are having a hard time finding serrano ham, give one of these close substitutes a try!
I have also found some great vegetarian options that are similar to Serrano ham and will work well in recipes.
Check out the pork-free replacements for ham. I also have a few Serrano ham replacements that are healthier than the original Spanish ham.
Serrano Ham Substitutes
Prosciutto is also sliced super thin so it will melt in your mouth.
Prosciutto does have a saltier and sweeter taste than Serrano ham. Many people find prosciutto to be a more mild ham option.
However, you can use sliced prosciutto to replace Serrano ham on any sandwich, cheese platter or to pop in your mouth!
Prosciutto is nutritionally comparable to serrano ham. It has 70 calories per ounce and 3.5 grams of fat.
Prosciutto is often called parma ham or jamon de parma. The name “parma” refers to the region where the prosciutto is cured.
Ask for parma ham in your local store and you will be directed toward the prosciutto!
2. Iberico Ham
Iberico ham is a dry-cured Spanish ham. It is made using the hind legs of Black Spanish Iberico pigs.
The thinly sliced meat can replace Serrano ham perfectly thanks to the similar flavors and textures.
Iberico ham is quite tender and has a herby, mushroom flavor. The taste of the ham increases with age.
Look for Iberico ham that has been cured for several years to get the strongest tasting ham.
Iberico ham has about the same number of calories, fats and vitamins and minerals as serrano ham.
This is another type of cured pork that is served thinly sliced. Speck comes from Northern Italy and the Southern Austria region.
The pork is cold smoked for several months over beechwood chips rather than air cured.
Smoking the meat and seasoning it with herbs gives speck a very unique taste. It is slightly more potent than a traditional Serrano ham.
However, you can use the same amount of speck to top your sandwich and still get that meaty, pork flavor you are looking for.
Speck has a few more calories than serrano ham with 70 calories per one ounce. However, the rest of the nutritional content is about the same.
4. Westphalian Ham
Westphalian ham comes from wild-caught pigs in the Westphalia forest in Germany. The pigs eat only acorns which give the ham a naturally nutty taste.
Since the pigs are wild, many people consider the meat to be healthier and more natural than that of farm-raised pigs.
However, Westphalian ham has about the exact same nutritional content as serrano ham.
The meat may be raised in a more natural way but the end product is nutritional the same.
This German ham is cured and smoked over a blend of beechwood and juniper berries.
The aging process takes about six months. This gives the Westphalian ham a very distinctive smokey flavor and pink-colored meat.
Use sliced Westphalian ham to replace serrano ham on any sandwich. The thin slices of meat are a perfect substitute for Serrano ham and will give your sandwich a nice smokey, nutty taste.
5. Ardennes Ham
Ardennes ham comes from the Ardennes woods in Belgium. It is cured with thyme, coriander and juniper berries for 5 months. Ardennes ham is air-dried, just like Serrano ham.
When thinly sliced, Ardennes ham can be used just like Serrano ham. It has a slightly spicier taste but is just as savory as Jamon Serrano.
Both types of ham have a smooth flavor and are great eaten raw. Both kinds of ham have the same calories and fats per serving.
6. Smithfield Ham
Smithfield ham may be the easiest type of ham to find in the United States. It comes from Virginia and is said to be one of the oldest ham brands in the country.
Smithfield ham is dry cured so it can be stored at room temperature. However, it is not fully cooked. Smithfield ham should be cooked before consumption.
Smithfield ham is sliced much thicker than Serrano ham. This is another reason it is a great substitute for recipes rather than sandwiches.
Smithfield ham has a strong, salty, and meaty taste. This is similar to the flavor imparted into recipes by Serrano ham. However, Smithfield ham is a little milder than Serrano ham.
Use a little extra Smithfield ham to replace Serrano ham in recipes. About 1 ½ the amount of Smithfield ham should give you the same flavor as Serrano ham.
Smithfield ham is lower in calories than Serrano ham. It has only 33 calories per ounce but still about 3 grams of fat per serving.
7. Black Forest Ham
Black forest ham comes from the Black Forest region of Germany. It is a boneless, smoked ham that is seasoned with coriander, juniper, pepper, garlic, and salt.
After two weeks of curing, the salt is scraped off of the ham and it is cold smoked over fir and pine branches.
The smoking process gives Black Forest ham a rich flavor and deep red color. It can be sliced and eaten fresh or used in any recipes.
Black Forest ham only has about half of the calories as serrano ham so you can eat a little more, too!
Black forest ham is great for replacing Serrano ham in quiche, pasta recipes or in baked goods.
Use the same quantity of black forest ham as Serrano ham in any recipe to try.
Capocollo is a cured ham made from pork shoulder. The pork shoulder is much fattier than the pork leg which makes capocollo have a higher fat content than Serrano ham.
There are about 6 grams of fat per ounce serving of capocollo. It also has about 90 calories compared to serrano hams 60 calories.
Fat can be a good thing especially in cooking! Using capocollo to replace Serrano ham will add more natural fats to your dish. Saute the Capocollo in a skillet and it will crisp in it’s own juices.
You may hear capocollo called “gabagool” which is an Italian slang term for this tasty pork.
Capicola is another name for the cured meat. No matter the name, it is a great substitute for Serrano ham.
9. Soy Ham
Soy ham is a vegan alternative to Serrano ham. It looks and tastes similar to ham but it is made completely from soy. It is quite an interesting ingredient!
Soy ham has about 35 calories per ounce serving making it much lower than serrano ham. It is also completely fat-free!
When using soy ham to replace Serrano ham, you will want to season it well. Many soy hams have a very basic taste.
To meet the same flavor of Serrano ham, your recipe may need some adjusting.
Try adding black pepper, oregano, and salt to your dish when replacing serrano ham with soy ham.
This will give a little bit of that classic Serrano taste without needing actual ham.
10. Pea Protein Ham
Look for vegan and vegetarian ham made from pea protein. Pea protein is made from dehydrated peas. The pea protein is made to look like real ham.
Pea protein is very rich in iron and fiber. It is lower in calories than serrano ham and also contains no fat.
Pea protein ham has a nice, earthy flavor. It is just as flavorful as serrano ham so you will not have to adjust your recipe too much.
Simply replace the Serrano ham with the same amount of pea protein ham and enjoy!
11. Oven Roasted Chicken
Many of the unhealthy aspects of Serrano ham come from the fact that it is high in sodium. This comes from curing the meat. Salt is needed to cure and preserve the ham correctly.
Try roasting your own chicken breasts at home. You can use less salt and make the chicken fresh, anytime you’d like!
Chicken also has less fat and calories than ham. There are only about 1.5 grams of fat in an ounce of oven roasted chicken.
Slice the roasted chicken very thin and then use it to replace serrano ham in any recipe. Try this recipe from Gimme Some Oven which is very easy and tasty!
12. Smoked Salmon
Salmon has always been revered as a healthy protein. It is low in calories and fats. Smoked salmon has only 52 calories and 2 grams of fat per ounce serving.
It also has lots of healthy omega-3 which are great for supporting brain health.
Salmon is coated in salt and sugar and then cold or hot smoked. It develops a sweet, smoky flavor that is similar to Serrano ham.
Slice the salmon into very thin pieces and then use it to replace Serrano ham in any application. It may be your new favorite meat to use!
13. Cured Chicken
You can find the cured chicken in the deli section of the grocery store. Thinly sliced chicken can be a great substitute for Serrano ham if you are trying to avoid pork.
Look for a chicken that has little seasoning. Serrano ham isn’t heavily seasoned so a deli sliced chicken with less spice will be the best replacement.
Using sliced chicken to replace serrano ham is not only a great pork-free alternative, but it is also healthier. Chicken has 40% fewer calories than Serrano ham.
Chicken has about 57% less saturated fat than ham. A baked chicken breast has about 259 calories and 135 calories from fat.
Use sliced chicken the same way you would use sliced serrano ham. The chicken may be a little drier so you might want to add some extra dressing or sauce to your recipe.
14. Deli Style Turkey
Deli-style turkey is considered to be the healthiest of all the deli meats. It is lower in fat and sodium than most other cured meats in the deli case.
It is also a great pork-free substitute for serrano ham.
Try using black forest deli turkey to replace serrano ham. The peppery taste is close to the flavor of serrano ham.
Use the same quantity of thinly sliced turkey to replace serrano ham in any recipe.
What is Serrano Ham?
Serrano ham is a specialty Spanish ham. The ham comes from the hind legs of white Spanish pigs. It is dry-cured for a minimum of 12 months.
Serrano ham is often called Jamon Serrano. Jamon translates to me “ham” and the word serrano refers to the mountains where the ham is produced.
The ham is sometimes labeled as “reserva” however this is simply a marketing term and does not reflect the age of the ham.
The flavor of Serrano Ham
Serrano ham is considered a Spanish delicacy. It has a much meatier flavor than Virginia hams and is also less salty.
Curing the ham in the dry country air adds a deep aroma. Serrano ham needs to be cured for at least 12 months so it has a richer flavor than younger hams.
Serrano ham is sliced paper thin. It will melt in your mouth with just one bite. That is just another appeal of Serrano ham!
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Is Serrano Ham Healthy?
You may not think of Serrano ham as having very many health benefits. How can something so delicious be good for you too?! There are actually a few benefits to eating serrano ham.
Serrano ham is high in protein. It has about 43 grams of protein for every 100 gram serving. That same 100 gram serving has around 300 calories.
Serrano ham has essential vitamins and amino acids. It contains vitamins B, D and also E.
Eating a lot of ham can increase cholesterol. The high salt content of any cured meat can increase blood pressure as well.
Eating Serrano ham as part of a balanced diet is okay. However, if you are looking for a healthy substitute for Serrano ham, we can help! Just keep reading.
Serrano Ham vs Prosciutto
Serrano ham and prosciutto are often mixed up. While they are both paper thin slices of ham, they are a little different.
Serrano ham has to be made in Spain. Prosciutto, on the other hand, is mostly made in Italy. However, prosciutto can be made anywhere in the world and still labeled “prosciutto”.
Serrano ham needs to come from the Landrace breed of white pig. Prosciutto also typically comes from white pigs but the breed can vary.
Finally, prosciutto has a milder, sweeter flavor when compared to Serrano ham. Prosciutto is saltier, too. Serrano ham is known for its intense, savory flavor.
While prosciutto and Serrano ham are quite similar, they are in fact, two different types of cured meats.
Iberico Ham vs Serrano Ham
Iberico ham is another type of ham that is often confused for Serrano ham. Once again, these two hams are quite similar but have some fundamental difference. Yes, they are both types of cured Spanish ham, but the differences lie in the technicalities.
To begin, Serrano ham is much larger than Iberico ham. Jamo Serrano needs to be at least 9.5kg while jamon Iberico can be 7.5 kg.
Serrano ham needs to be aged at least 210 days while Iberico ham ages for 425 days. This extra aging time also makes Iberico ham much more expensive than Serrano ham.
Serrano ham is lighter and more pink since it comes from white pigs. Iberico will be a deeper purple color as it comes from rare, black Iberian pigs native to Spain. Pig breeds can really affect the taste of the ham!
Jamon Iberico is known for its fatty, juicy taste. Since the pigs used to make Iberico ham are wild animals, not farm raised, the flavor can sometimes vary. As you can see, the two types of cured Spanish hams are quite different!
Pancetta vs. Serrano ham
Pancetta is a salt cured, thick cut pork. It is similar in taste to Serrano ham but sliced much larger. Pancetta can also come from any type of pig from anywhere in the world.
Why is Serrano Ham Illegal?
Serrano ham is not illegal. There were import restrictions on the ham in years past due to the Spanish swine flu which could infect domestic pigs. However, you can now get your Serrano ham right at Costco without a problem!
Serrano ham is definitely an ingredient that most foodies adore. The specific requirements needed to get the name “Serrano” ham are fun and exciting. The flavor is interesting and rich. It can also be used in so many different ways.
However, if you ever run out of Serrano ham or just are not a ham person, these substitutes will work well. Hopefully you give one or two of them a try!
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nanny do it, no judgment here :)) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.