Although they are similar in appearance and they are from the same animal, there are differences in the battle of serrano ham vs. prosciutto, including the fact that serrano ham is less sweet than prosciutto and serrano ham is cured for longer.

Serrano Ham vs. Prosciutto: What is the Difference?

There are several differences when we talk about serrano ham vs. prosciutto. While we will delve into further details, this chart tells you the basic differences:

FeaturesSerrano HamProsciutto
Origin Spain Italy 
Ingredients White pig meat, saltPig, salt, extra herbs
Cured period 18-24 months10-12 months
Taste Salty flavor More of a herbal flavor and sweeter taste 
Texture Dry Less dry than serrano ham 
Color Darker red Lighter Red 

Serrano Ham vs. Prosciutto: What are the Similarities?

Although the chart shows many differences, if you don’t mind the difference in flavors, then they can be interchangeable. Both do look similar, and both can be delicious as part of a sandwich or in a salad. Many people choose to use either meat as part of a topping on a pizza.

Both serrano ham and prosciutto are made from meat from white pigs, and both are dry-cured. Both also have a salty texture and are very thinly sliced.

Although both serrano ham and prosciutto are found around the world and come at a similar price point, prosciutto is more common in places like Europe and Spain, so you may have to settle for it if you’re in those areas. 

Serrano ham is less common, and it’s for an interesting reason. There’s swine flu going around Africa, and it’s affecting many of the pigs in Spain. For that reason, the importation of serrano ham is banned in many places, including the United States. 

What is Serrano Ham?

A better way to understand the differences between serrano ham vs. prosciutto is to understand more about each meat. To start, serrano ham also goes under the name Jamon, and it originated in the Serrano region of Spain. However, these days, it is produced all over the world with slightly different preparation methods based on the place. 

Serrano is a dry-cured ham, and that goes back to its origins. Back then, serrano was prepared in the mountains, where the climate frequently changed from dry and hot to cold and moist, and that created a gradual aging process that continues until this day. 

How Serrano Ham is Prepared

The preparation process for producing serrano ham requires three main steps that give the meat its unique flavor. 

  1. The meat is cut from the pig and then rubbed with a generous layer of salt. Then, it’s placed in a cold and humid room for between 20 hours to two days. This process allows the salt to absorb.
  1. After that, the first layer of salt is rinsed off so that the bacteria washes away as well as excess water.
  2. The most important part comes next. In order to mimic the changing of the seasons, the meat is hung in a special cellar. While it’s in there, the conditions change from humid and cold to hot and dry. This process is meant to melt the fat, preserve the ham, and give the meat its unique flavor. 

If you make this meat in many places around the globe, then you could add your own personal touch. However, if you were to produce serrano ham in Spain, then it would need to be produced using these exact steps in order to match the quality control required by the Consorcio del Jamón Serrano Español.

Other requirements for the top quality mark include that the ham must have a minimum fat cover of one centimeter, that it must have a 34% decrease from its fresh weight, and it is dry-cured for an average of 12 months.

What is Prosciutto?

Prosciutto slices with figs on a dark wooden background
Prosciutto is a delicious ham that comes from the heart of Italy.

© Semenova

The word prosciutto literally translates to “ham” in Italian, and it is primarily made in Italy, but it is also made around the world. Like deli ham, prosciutto can be both cooked and eaten raw, and it’s delicious either way. 

How Prosciutto is Prepared

Like with serrano ham, the process of producing prosciutto can differ by region. However, if you make it the authentic way as they do in Italy, then you would do as follows:

  1. The ham is cut from the pig’s leg.
  1. The meat is rubbed generously with salt. 
  1. Then the meat is left to rest for between a week to several weeks. It is during this time that the salt absorbs the excess water and remaining blood. This process is also essential to prevent bacteria from getting into the meat.
  2. After that period, the meat is washed so that the first layer of salt is rinsed away. Then, a new layer of salt is applied, along with other spices and herbs, like garlic and thyme. What is added will depend on the chef.
  1. The meat is left to rest and age in a dry and cool room for a period of 14-36 months. This is when the prosciutto acquires its unique flavor.
  2. In order to be official prosciutto di Parma, the final product must have a Ducal Crown mark that is issued by the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma 

What are Substitutes for Serrano Ham?

If you’re on the side of serrano ham in the serrano ham vs. prosciutto debate, but you want to try something similar but also a bit different, then these alternatives should fit the bill:


This is a cured ham that is also made from pork leg and is seasoned with salt and other unique spices, like juniper, garlic, and bay leaves. It’s also sliced thinly, so you’ll get that unique texture. When you eat it, you’ll notice a mild, slightly salty, and smoky flavor. You can add it as an alternative to serrano ham in many different recipes.


Pancetta is an Italian cured meat that is made from pork belly and is seasoned with salt and a mix of herbs and spices. It offers a very similar texture, flavor, and color to serrano ham. It can be sliced, diced, and used on salads. It’s also tasty on its own, like serrano ham.

Bayonne Ham

Produced in the French city of Bayonne, this ham provides a mild and sweet flavor and a tender texture that makes it a great alternative to serrano ham. You can use it on salads, pizza, and as a filling for omelets. It’s also amazing as a garnish, and it works great on charcuterie boards.

Iberico Ham

This is another cured ham from Spain that is made from Iberico pigs, and it’s considered to be one of the most expensive hams in the world. It offers a bit of a different taste to serrano ham, as it’s more nutty and rich. However, it has a similar consistency, and it works great in many of the same dishes.

Prosciutto Recipes

If you love prosciutto, then you’re sure to love these tasty recipes that use the delicious meat as a component or a topping.

  • Charcuterie Board – Add prosciutto and tasty cheeses to your board, and your guests will thank you.


These are the primary differences and a few similarities that can be discussed in the debate of serrano ham vs. prosciutto. Both meats represent their own proud culture, and if you ever visit Spain or Italy, then you must try the meats at least once. Then, add some to your next dish and bring it to the next level.

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