8 Best Pork Shoulder Substitutes That You Can Try

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You came looking for the best pork shoulder substitutes for many reasons. You might’ve wished to surprise your favorite nephew with his favorite dish, the pork pie. You were shocked at the realization that you are out of pork shoulder (insert horror face!!) What can you do so that you don’t disappoint your nephew? Grab substitutes for pork shoulder, right? 

Pork Shoulder

Wondering what the best substitutes for pork shoulder are? Some of the best substitutes for pork shoulder are pork butt, pork loin roast, ham, and pork escalopes.

Pork shoulder is the portion of meat cut from the shoulder of a pig’s forelimb. It is often used best as braised pork. But prominently, it is used for braising, stews, roasting, stir-fries, and grilling. Tasting pork shoulder is a heavenly task.

But it is not so heavenly if you are out of pork shoulder and clueless about how to proceed. Let us talk about pork shoulder and its best substitutes in this article.

Quick Peek: Pork Shoulder

The following scribbles tell you what pork shoulder is, its flavor, texture, culinary uses, and health benefits.

What Is Pork Shoulder?

Time to get into a little bit of pig’s morphology, I am afraid. Pork shoulder is the trigonous meat portion cut from the pig’s shoulder just above its legs. Picnic roast or picnic shoulder are its other names.

Is Pork Shoulder Same As Pork Butt?

The pork shoulder and pork butt are often assumed to be the same, but it is not. Both these meat portions come from the shoulder of the pig. Pork shoulder refers to the meat carved from above the pig’s hooves. 

Pork butt, also known as Boston butt, is cut from the shoulder blades. It has a higher fat content than pork shoulder. Pork shoulder is denser with less fat and marbling.

Describing Pork Shoulder: Flavor and Texture

Pork shoulder has a rich, fleshy pork flavor with a dense texture. When cooked slowly, it becomes tender and mouth-watering with added moisture content. Low heat with adequate moisture turns the meat into a soft, flavorful ball of yumminess!

Uses of Pork Shoulder

Pork shoulder tastes soft and delicious with long and slow cooking. When subjected to medium-flame, slow cooking, the fat melts, and the meat becomes delicate. As a matter of fact, the tough meat in pork shoulder necessitates slow cooking; if cooked accurately, it can render a crispy texture which makes it perfect for braising, stewing, roasting, and grilling.

Braised pork, easy roast pork, pulled pork, barbecued pork shoulder, BBQ sandwich, and crispy roast pork are a few of the yummy recipes that call for pork shoulder.

Pork Shoulder On The Health Radar | Looking Through The Wellness Telescope

Pork shoulder offers an impressive amount of nutrients as well. It is an excellent source of animal proteins and essential amino acids. It is a rich source of potassium, iron, zinc, and magnesium.

Why Should We Substitute Pork Shoulder?

Pork shoulder is one of the least expensive, tasty meat cuts. So, why should we look for the best substitutes for pork shoulder? Simply because there might be times when you are out of it and need the help of the best pork shoulder substitutes. 

Also, if you are abstaining from consuming pork for whatever reasons, some of the best substitutes for pork shoulder can help you enjoy a close flavor as that of pork shoulder without using it. So, shall we discuss the best pork shoulder substitutes right away?

Other Food Substitutes You Can Try

8 Best Pork Shoulder Substitutes 

Now that you know everything you need to know about pork shoulder let us discuss the eight best substitutes for pork shoulder.

1. Pork Butt

Pork Butt

You know what pork butt is by now. Pork butt and pork shoulder essentially come from different parts of a pig’s shoulder. Regardless of the difference in fat and marbling, pork butt is the number one substitute for pork shoulder.

Pork butt is high in fat, unlike pork shoulder, which saves you time ensuring moisture. It has enough moisture content on its own and has a meaty flavor similar to pork shoulder.

2. Pork Loin Roast

Pork Loin Roast

Pork loin roast also goes by the center of the name loin roast or a pork center rib roast. Pork loin refers to the part of the pig which comes in between the shoulder and the beginning of the leg.

Pork loin is leaner with less fat, very similar to pork shoulder, making pork loin roast one of the best substitutes for pork shoulder. The cooking methods are also the same – pork loin has to be slow-cooked for a long time for soft, juicy meat. Make sure you add enough moisture so that your meat doesn’t end up all scorched. Here is a recipe for crispy smoked pork loin for you to try.

3. Ham

Ham refers to the upper thighs in the back leg of a pig. This inner leg part of the pig has a structure similar to the pork shoulder. It can be available either bone-in or boneless. 

Ham is best prepared when slow-cooked, like pork shoulder. This allows the juices to be fully released, tenderizing the meat. Ensuring moisture content by adding water or any broth will make ham a good alternative for Pork shoulder. Country fried ham is another great recipe you can make using ham.

4. Pork Escalope

Pork Escalope

Escalope basically refers to a thin slice of boneless meat. Pork escalope is taken from the filet or eye of the loin. It is devoid of fat and hence marbled akin to Pork shoulder.

For a tenderized escalope as a good alternative for Pork shoulder, you can marinate it before cooking for best results. Pork escalopes with coleslaw and chargrilled pork escalopes are some of the best recipes using pork escalopes.

5. Ham Hocks

Ham Hock

Ham hocks refer to the meat portion taken from the ankle joint on the leg of a pig. They are also known as pork knuckles. These are not part of the ham or the food. They are part of the extreme shank portion of the bone.

Ham hocks have an intense, smoky, meaty flavor and can be a viable option for replacing pork shoulder. These require a lot of time to get smoked and cooked. They can also be a flavorful addition to recipes like Popeyes red beans and rice.

6. Beef Rib Eye Steak

Beef Rib-eye Steak

If you are completely out of anything related to pigs, let us talk about a few other meat options. Beef rib-eye steak is the boneless rib steak from the rib section of beef. It is extremely juicy and with a buttery flavor. Beef rib-eye steak can be the best beef substitute for pork shoulder, provided the variety you choose.

Failing to get a boned rib-eye steak cooked properly can be disastrous in your substitution. If you don’t have prior experience, always go with a boneless rib-eye steak. Here is a copycat recipe for beef ribeye steak.

7. Beef Brisket

Beef Brisket

Beef brisket is one of the primal, boneless meat cuts of a cow. It is a tough cut and has to be cooked slowly. When slow-cooked, it has a juicy flavor and a tender texture. Texas beef brisket, a popular type of beef brisket, is hailed as the ‘national dish of Texas.’

Beef brisket easily absorbs the flavors of the seasonings used, which helps you simulate the flavor of pork shoulder. It can be used to make steaks and blades, similar to pork shoulder.

8. Chicken Thighs

Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs are another perfect meat substitute for pork shoulder. They have a strong chicken flavor, but their texture and tenderness are very close to that of pork shoulder. Chicken thighs are neither too oily nor fatty and can be your last resort as an alternative for pork shoulder. These can be used for salads, noodles, soups, wraps, sandwiches, pizzas, and other dishes.

Short Recap Of Best Pork Shoulder Substitutes

 That must have been an exhaustive read on the best pork shoulder substitutes, right? Let me make it easy for you to remember the details with the help of some points.

 Pork-based Substitutes: The best pork shoulder substitutes based on pork are pork butt, pork loin roast, ham, pork escalopes, and ham hocks.

 Other Meat-based Substitutes: The best pork shoulder substitutes based on other meat are beef rib-eye steak, beef brisket, and chicken thighs. 

How To Use Pork Shoulder Substitutes In A Recipe

Pork Shoulder

Pork Shoulder Substitutes

Pork shoulder is the portion of meat cut from the shoulder of a pig's forelimb. It is often used best as braised pork. But prominently, it is used for braising, stews, roasting, stir-fries, and grilling. Tasting pork shoulder is a heavenly task. But it is not so heavenly if you are out of pork shoulder. That is why you need to use a substitute for it!
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  • Pork Butt
  • Pork Loin Roast
  • Ham
  • Pork Escalope
  • Ham Hocks
  • Beef Rib Eye Steak
  • Beef Brisket
  • Chicken Thighs


  • Go through the substitutes and see which one seems fit for the recipe.
  • Collect your ingredients and use your preferred substitute.
  • Use the substitute in the required amount and proceed to make the dish according to the recipe.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

 Final Musings

Now you know the closest ingredients that can work as best substitutes for pork shoulder. Most of them are pig meats of various cuts. They have similar cooking methods mostly, and thus substitutions become an easy task. I hope I saved you from embarrassment in front of your little nephew. Thank me later, and be sure to come back for more of my scribbles in another article on substitutes!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kind of meat can you use for pulled pork?

Pork shoulder is used for making pulled pork. 

Can I use pork loin to make pulled pork?

Pork loin roast can be used to make pulled pork.

What cut is similar to pork shoulder?

Pork leg, pork loin roast and top leg are some of the cuts similar to pork shoulder.

What is pork shoulder best for?

Pork shoulder is best for slow cooking, stewing, roasting and braising.

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