Bacon Alternatives That Will Seriously Upgrade Your Breakfast

Classic bacon and eggs. A velvety bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. Crispy bacon and avocado toast. A decadent bacon, mushroom, and spinach frittata. It's true: Everything really does taste better with bacon! And it makes sense. With its rich, savory combination of fat, protein, and salt; its potent umami-packed flavor; and its one-of-a-kind tender yet crunchy texture, bacon truly is in a league of its own. It's perfect for breakfast or any meal.

But as good as bacon is — especially first thing in the morning, cooked to crispy perfection and served with some eggs and toast — you (sadly) can't eat it every day. Eating bacon too frequently robs the meat of its specialness. It dulls your senses as to just how amazing bacon is. And perhaps most importantly, it keeps you from enjoying some of the many other wonderful meats that exist, and that can also be a perfect complement to any morning meal.

That's right: As incredible as bacon is, it's not the only game in town. There are plenty of other meats to try and enjoy — bacon alternatives that will seriously upgrade any breakfast, at least from time to time. So mix your morning meal up. Try something new while you scroll through your A.M. social media feed. Enjoy the taste of variety and something fresh and unexpected. And don't worry. Once you've tried these meaty alternatives, there'll still be plenty of delicious bacon to return to later on. 

Canadian bacon

Canadian bacon is one of our neighbor to the North's greatest exports. Also sometimes referred to as "back bacon" or "peameal bacon" when it's been rolled in cornmeal, Canadian bacon is a leaner and denser alternative to bacon with less fat marbling and a milder, slightly sweeter flavor. Unlike traditional bacon, which is made from the underside or belly of a pig, Canadian bacon comes from pork "loin" or the upper rear portion of a pig's leg. Canadian bacon is also cured, but to a lesser extent, so it's not as salty and smoky tasting in most cases.

As a substitute for regular bacon, the two fantastic meats are interchangeable in many ways. Canadian bacon fries or grills up beautifully as a side for eggs and toast. It's definitely similar to ham, but with its smaller, pre-sliced round shape, it's also far more manageable an ingredient in the morning. For instance, Canadian bacon is ideal for all types of breakfast sandwiches — nice and flat, pre-portioned, and perfect for piling layers of eggs and cheese on as you build any wake-up creation. It's also a traditional staple for dishes like Eggs Benedict, forming the perfect base for a beautifully poached egg and a drizzle of hollandaise sauce.

Canadian bacon pairs wonderfully with pineapple on a Hawaiian pizza. But it's also ideal for decadent egg and cheese breakfast pizzas, as well as being a hearty and satisfying chopped filling for quiches, omelets, breakfast hashes, and even all variety of wraps.


Another tasty variety of pork — and a great alternative to bacon to wake up with in the morning — is the popular Italian staple pancetta. Like bacon, pancetta is also made from pork belly. However, in this case, the meat isn't smoked like bacon is. Instead, a large strip of pork belly is heavily seasoned with salt and spices, then rolled tightly and left to cure for several weeks (or longer), depending on the recipe. Pancetta is different from bacon in that it tends to be more mildly flavored and less fatty overall. It can sometimes be a bit sweet, but might also pack the flavor of spices like black pepper, garlic, and juniper berries (which give it a piney, citrus-like flavor).

When cooked, the fat in pancetta renders beautifully, giving the meat a creamy, luxurious mouthfeel and a smooth texture that couldn't be more different than the crisp and crunch of traditional bacon. Like Canadian bacon, pancetta is fantastic in all variety of breakfast sandwiches — try it with avocado and tomato on crusty bread, paired with sautéed spinach and melted provolone in the middle of a bagel, or stuffed into a croissant along with scrambled eggs and your favorite cheese.

Pancetta is also an ideal ingredient for frittatas — just mix it with your eggs, cheese, and veggies and cook until golden. Or, use some pancetta in a quick on-the-go breakfast taco. Simply fill a flour tortilla with scrambled eggs, cheese, avocado, salsa, and plenty of the diced meat!

Smoked salmon

For an altogether different — yet equally delicious — alternative to bacon, consider starting your day with smoked salmon. Many cultures around the world found ways to preserve fish before the days of refrigeration and freezing, and smoked salmon remains one of the tastiest of those traditions. To make smoked salmon, filets are coated with salt and a mixture of spices and then smoked over wood chips or in a smoker until fully cured. This process gives the salmon that distinctive rich, smoky flavor that it shares with bacon, yet also allows it to maintain its distinct buttery, briny, delicate fish flavor as well.

Smoked salmon is already a breakfast favorite with cream cheese on a toasted bagel. But you can also use it much like you would regular bacon, with scrambled eggs, for example. Just fold your salmon into the eggs as they finish setting in the skillet. You want to warm the salmon, but don't actually cook it. You can also use smoked salmon as a tender, flaky alternative to bacon in an egg and cheese omelet (it's fantastic paired with a filling of cream cheese and fresh herbs like dill). Or, stuff some salmon into a hearty wrap made with a whole wheat tortilla plus some diced avocado, arugula, and a drizzle of your favorite sauce or dressing.

Have time for a leisurely breakfast? Make it count with a smoked salmon breakfast bowl filled with mixed greens, salmon, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, and a refreshing lemon-dill vinaigrette. Yum!

Smoked mackerel

Smoked mackerel is another fantastic smoked fish, prepared in much the same way as smoked salmon. It's also ideal as a substitute for bacon when you're looking for a breakfast meat that's salty and smoky, but that also has a unique and distinct flavor profile all its own. Compared to bacon, smoked mackerel is firm yet flakey, rich, and oily. It has a savory and robust flavor filled with natural brininess plus the bold, almost nutty, potent umami flavor you really only find in the most assertive varieties of fish.

As a breakfast meat, smoked mackerel pairs well with flavors like lemon and lime, which add a refreshing and zesty note to its taste. You can swap it for the salmon on your bagel, but it's also delightful with a delicately poached egg or used in place of bacon in a light salad of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber, plus a citrus vinaigrette to really bring out its flavor. For an exceptional breakfast quiche, skip the bacon and pair those eggs and cheese with some smoked mackerel and asparagus. Pour the savory mixture into a pie crust-lined pan and let bake until everything is set and beautifully browned.

For a breakfast brunch your friends or family are sure to remember — and post about in their feeds — use smoked mackerel in place of bacon in some easy-to-serve tiny sandwiches. Simply layer flaked smoked mackerel, thinly sliced cucumber, and herbed cream cheese between pre-cut, shaped slices of whole-grain bread.


For something altogether different from smoked salmon or mackerel — but that still makes a wonderful alternate to bacon on days you're craving something a bit different — consider picking up some chorizo. A favorite in countries like Spain and Portugal, where it originated, chorizo is a highly seasoned type of sausage made from ground pork plus a mixture of spices, including paprika, garlic, and chili pepper. The centuries-old dish can either be purchased fresh (which requires cooking before you serve it) or in a cured form, which can be eaten right from the package.

Compared to bacon, chorizo offers an even more distinctive, bold, and sometimes spicy flavor. The sausage often contains vinegar or citrus juices, which impart a tangy and refreshing taste to the meat. Spices like cumin and oregano also give chorizo an earthy, aromatic quality that you don't find in traditional bacon. And, of course, spices like paprika, cayenne pepper, and garlic give chorizo its distinctive heat and kick.

While many different bacon alternatives can be used in a potato and cheese breakfast hash, chorizo is perhaps most perfectly suited for the job, thanks to all of its ample flavor and spice. It's also an ideal addition to breakfast burritos — way more so than bacon could ever be. Fill your flour tortilla with scrambled eggs, sautéed chorizo, black beans, cheese, and salsa, and you have an ideal, hearty, and flavorful breakfast to head out the door and start your day with!


Pastrami may not be the first meat you think of when it comes to breakfast. This smoked, salty variation of corned beef is more known for being a mid-day sandwich staple — it was one of the favorite meals beloved food critic Anthony Bourdain most craved when traveling abroad, for example. But pastrami is a cured and smoked meat and it does share a number of similarities with bacon, making it a wonderful alternative from time to time.

While bacon doesn't often have the bold, spicy, black pepper flavor you get from pastrami, both of the meats can be hardwood-flavored (smoked over applewood, hickory, or oak). They also tend to be very fatty — in the best way possible — and melt-in-your-mouth juicy no matter how you serve them.

You can elevate any breakfast meal by simply swapping pastrami in place of bacon. Try warming it in the skillet right as your eggs are finishing up frying and setting. Dice the meat and toss it into breakfast burritos, omelets, wraps, salads, and more. Pastrami is spectacular on top of a DIY breakfast pizza, paired with scrambled eggs, ooey gooey cheese, and sliced tomatoes, plus a thick, doughy crust. Or, create your new favorite go-to breakfast "sammie." Like bacon sandwiched in the middle of a toasted bagel with cream cheese? Try some pastrami there instead. Life changing! You may never go back to that pork-based stuff again.


Did you know that "prosciutto" in Italian means ham? Or that traditionally made prosciutto includes no other ingredients beyond salt? While those are just a couple of the many, little-known and fascinating facts about prosciutto, one thing we can all agree on is the fact that prosciutto makes a fantastic occasional alternative to bacon.

Like bacon, prosciutto has that rich, salty taste that we all love so much. It's also fatty and chewy, and crisps up wonderfully in a hot skillet or oven. Plus, it's super versatile and can be used in all the ways we enjoy bacon, and then some. (Plus, because prosciutto is available pre-sliced or in larger pieces, it's sometimes even more convenient to use in recipes than bacon would ever be.)

Prosciutto is a given for flatbreads, panini, and other on-the-go breakfast sandwiches. It can also be used as a filling for all sorts of burritos and wraps — pair it with scrambled eggs, black beans, diced tomatoes, and avocado slices for a Latin-style breakfast. Or go with sliced prosciutto, sliced pear, arugula, and Brie cheese for a distinctly Parisian-style breakfast. Speaking of France, how about some prosciutto-topped breakfast crêpes? Simply fill homemade crêpes with scrambled eggs, goat cheese, caramelized onions, and crispy prosciutto for an incredible — and elegant — weekend brunch. You could also make a "tartine" which is easier than it sounds. Just spread avocado slices on toasted sourdough bread and top with sliced tomatoes, poached eggs, and crispy prosciutto. Magnifique!


As anybody who follows a plant-based diet will tell you, bacon substitutes and alternatives don't always have to be "meaty." When it comes to foods that deliver the same rich, satisfying flavor as bacon, mushrooms are one of the best options around. For well-rounded home cooks, there are many different varieties of mushrooms to know and love. But when you're looking for bacon substitutes in particular, the list is a bit shorter. King oyster, shiitake, portobello, crimini, and maitake are generally the mushrooms that are the most savory and umami-packed — and are the ones that taste the most like bacon.

To maximize the "bacon-like" flavor in these mushrooms, you can follow a few different time-tested tips and tricks. For larger mushrooms, slice the cap and stem thinly and marinate everything in a mixture of soy sauce and liquid smoke before cooking. Then, use a hot skillet and let your mushroom chunks cook to maximum crispness. For smaller mushrooms, try grilling or roasting individual mushrooms to intensify their flavor and give them more of a bacon-like texture and crunch. You can also slice your smaller mushrooms into thin pieces or break them into individual clusters and roast them until crispy and golden brown, again intensifying their flavor and helping to create a more meaty texture.

You can use your perfectly cooked mushrooms as a replacement for bacon in almost any dish. They're especially ideal for egg-friendly entrées like omelets, frittatas, and quiches, and even as a simple, bacon-like side.  


Based on appearance alone, guanciale (gwaan-chaa-lay) is an ideal bacon substitute. This Italian cured meat is preserved with salt and spices and then air-dried for weeks, giving it a rich, savory flavor — like bacon. But the taste and texture of bacon and guanciale are also excitingly different and varied. While both of the meats are pork-based, guanciale is made with pork jowl or cheek. This gives the meat a very unexpected flavor and texture profile.

Guanciale is buttery, fatty, and unctuous — it's even richer than bacon in many ways. While tender and juicy when lightly cooked, it can also turn incredibly crispy and crunchy when rendered over time. Think of it as a "Bacon 2.0." — everything you already enjoy about the traditional stuff, but even more potent and flavorful.

For an unexpected breakfast treat, try making some guanciale bruschetta. Toast slices of baguette, then top each with ricotta cheese, crispy guanciale, sliced cherry tomatoes, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. You could also swap the bacon out of breakfast empanadas and use guanciale instead. Just fill your empanada dough with a mixture of scrambled eggs, chopped guanciale, diced green chilies, and shredded Pepper Jack cheese. Then, bake until golden and serve with salsa and crème fraîche or sour cream. Or, go all out and bake up a batch of guanciale frittata "muffins." Whisk together eggs, chopped guanciale, diced peppers, onions, and shredded cheese. Then, pour the mixture into muffin tins and bake until set.


If you didn't grow up in a large city with an Italian neighborhood, or haven't traveled to Italy in the past, then you may not be familiar with the cured, dried meat called bresaola. Pronounced "bre-zow-la," this lean cut of beef (usually eye of round) is cured through a mixture of salt, pepper, and spices plus ample air drying — several weeks or months, depending on the variety. (The longer it ages, the deeper the color!) 

Bresaola is delicate and tender. The meat is thinly sliced, mildly flavored, and fatty, like bacon. But it also has hints of earthy, nutty, sweetness and is so soft and delicate that it virtually melts in the mouth, making it a luxurious and satisfying delicacy.

You can use bresaola in all kinds of breakfast sandwiches in place of regular bacon. Layer the thinly sliced meat on toasted bread and top it with avocado slices, arugula, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Or, swap it for the "B" in your favorite mid-morning BLT. For something a bit more formal, split a croissant in half and layer thinly sliced bresaola with scrambled eggs and Swiss cheese. Then, toast those sandwich halves in the oven until the cheese has melted and begins to bubble. Your options are only limited by your creativity.

Sausage patties

Finally, when it comes to bacon alternatives that will seriously upgrade your meal, you can't go wrong with classic sausage patties. Sure, sausage is also made with pork, so it's similar to bacon in some ways. But these humble, seasoned, savory portions of ground meat have a lot of distinct and beautiful qualities to celebrate as well. Sausage patties are heartier than bacon. They tend to be larger and are packed with more rich, meaty flavor, so they're more filling and satisfying, especially if you wake up extra hungry.

Like a good burger patty, sausage is also moist and juicy when cooked properly. It can have a bold, sometimes slightly spicy or herbaceous flavor, and incredible depth. Sausage patties are "homey" and familiar, but also incredibly versatile and adaptable and able to be used in an endless variety of dishes.

Of course, sausage patties taste great served as a side with eggs any way you like them. But they're also ideal for a hash, crumbled and mixed with potatoes, onions, and peppers and cooked until crispy and golden brown. Shape bulk sausage into small patties and use them to make breakfast sliders. Just toast two halves of an English muffin, add some cheese, and a fried egg if you're feeling fancy. And, of course, ground sausage is also a key ingredient in perhaps the greatest breakfast food of all time — biscuits and sausage gravy. We love you bacon. But nothing compares to this comfort food classic!