What Are Pork Rinds?
And how exactly are they made?
By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen
Layla Khoury-Hanold is a contributor at Food Network.
Pork rinds are a common snack and culinary accompaniment in Spain, Central and South America and the American South, among other countries, although the names and composition vary (more on that later). Pork rinds make for a rich, savory snack that is commonly found at gas stations in the U.S., but thanks to pork rinds’ rising popularity among Keto- and low-carb diet followers, they’re widely available at grocery stores and specialty food shops too. Pork rinds can be seasoned to create different flavors, such as barbecue, salt and vinegar, chili or cinnamon. But what exactly are pork rinds made of and how are they made? Here, we answer all your pressing pork rind questions.
What Are Pork Rinds?
Pork rinds are pork skin that have been dehydrated and deep-fried (or baked) until puffy and crisp. They have a deeply savory, pork flavor and eat like a bacon-flavored chip. Several cuisines feature pork rinds, though they go by different names and vary slightly.
In Central and South America, pork rinds are called chicharrons, and often have some meat attached to the skin as well (pork belly). They’re eaten as a snack and can be served with dips, salsas and tortillas. In the Philippines, the food goes by the name of chicharron, and can be made by frying pork skins or pork belly strips to be consumed as a snack or main meal, respectively. In Thailand, deep-fried pork rinds are called kaeb moo; they can be made with just pork skin or pork skin with a bit of fat attached.
In the American South, pork rinds are called cracklings, or cracklins, and have a bit of fat and meat attached. Because they have some fat attached, it prevents the pork skin from curling when it puffs. You can find cracklings at gas stations and grocery stores in a variety of flavors, at barbecue joints or in contemporary American restaurants where they might accompany pimento cheese or smoked fish dip. In the U.K., pork rinds are called pork scratchings, where they are a popular snack served at pubs alongside pints of beer. Pork rinds have found their way onto restaurant menus here too, where they add savory crunch and bacon-esque flavor to dishes ranging from roasted vegetables to desserts.
What Are Pork Rinds Made of and How Are They Made?
Basic pork rinds are deep-fried pork skins (without any fat or meat attached). The skins are boiled to soften the skins and render any fat under the skin; after the skins are cooked and cooled, the additional fat is scraped away so that only the outer layer of skin remains. The skin is then cut into strips (or bite-size pieces) and dehydrated low and slow. Next, the dried pork skins are deep fried (or baked) until they puff up. The airy and crisp pork rinds are seasoned while hot—common seasonings include salt and pepper, barbecue seasoning, sea salt or chili.
What Are Chicharrons? How about Cracklins?
Chicharrons are deep-fried pork skins that are popular in Spain (where they are called chicharron) and Central and South America. Often, chicharrons have a little bit of meat (pork belly) attached as well. They’re enjoyed as a snack or served with salsas, dips, tortillas, and salads. Try making Marcela Valladolid’s Chicharrones en Salsa Verde to serve with warm corn tortillas, or use chicharrons as a scooping implement alongside her Roasted Corn, Zucchini and Jalapeno Salad. In the Philippines, it’s spelled chicharon in Tagalog; there, fried pork skins are served as a snack with a vinegar-based dipping sauce, or fried pork belly strips are paired with rice and eaten as a more of a main meal.
Cracklings, or cracklins, are fried pork skin that also includes fat and a little meat, which gives them a deep, savory meat flavor. They are still puffy and crunchy but because of the fat, they don’t curl up in the same way pork rinds do. In the American South, cracklings are sold as bagged snacks at gas stations and grocery stores, served on barbecue menus, and are sometimes used to season a pot of greens.
Are Pork Rinds Healthy?
Pork rinds have no carbohydrates and are high in fat and protein, so they are a popular chip-replacement and snack among followers of low-carb or Keto diets. But pork rinds are a processed food that are high in sodium, which can increase blood pressure, and high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which can raise levels of LDL cholesterol (aka the bad kind), so it’s best to consume them in moderation.
When purchasing pork rinds, it’s helpful to read packaging and nutrition labels to find ones that are lower in sodium and made without artificial flavors, preservatives and colors. To moderate consumption, try crumbling pork rinds to add a bacon-like garnish to roasted vegetables, salads, tacos or grain bowls, or crushing them to make breadcrumbs for Keto-friendly recipes such as meatloaf or breaded chicken cutlets.
Are Pork Rinds Keto?
Pork rinds have no carbohydrates and are high in protein and fat, so pork rinds are Keto friendly.