The amazing “chicharron” or “crackling” is an important ingredient in many of our recipes. They are often referred to as “pork rinds” and we find them sold as a snack food at our local grocery. These puffs of deep-fried pork skin are free of carbohydrate and are high in fat content and protein. One ounce of chicharrones contains 10 grams of fat and about 160 calories, but, we stress, no carbohydrates! For our recipes, chicharrones become a key substitute for bread crumbs. They do not add a strange porky flavor and when crumbled they work the same way as bread crumbs.
They can be used as a binder in crab cakes, meat loaf or meat balls, or as an outer coating for chicken tenders, fish, or pork chops. They become a great topping for any “au gratin” or casserole dish. For many of our recipes we combine the chicharrones in crumbled form with grated parmesan before coating. Joanie even used them in her Thanksgiving turkey dinner in her “stuffing” or “dressing.”
We also eat them as a snack food whenever the urge for something salty arises. They are crunchy and light and have a vague bacon flavor. Potato chips usually have at least 14 grams of carbohydrate per ounce – chicharrones certainly win that battle. They can be dipped in a cheese sauce, a low carb salsa, or even with a drizzle of Sriracha on top. There are flavored varieties, but they may contain some hidden carbs or sugars so make sure you inspect the nutrition label on the bag. Also, make sure that the manufacturer does not add any MSG or other additives. The best brands simply use pork skin and salt.
Preparation is easy – crumble them! Joanie uses a rolling-pin and plastic bag for the task and Chris likes a mini-blender to crumble. Regardless of your preferred method make them as fine as you want and watch the magic as they substitute perfectly for the carb-laden bread crumb. As we expected, you can also find the work already done for you in the form of “pork dust” sold by Amazon. However, there they cost $21 for a pound; we prefer to save money and make our own. It does point out that you can make a batch of crumbs and store them like bread crumbs.
Most local groceries carry them in the snack food section. We haven’t tried freezing them for later use, we simply grab a bag and crumble fresh what we need for each recipe we make. They go fast in our house.
For the health conscious out there, the fat contained in pork skins are mono-unsaturated; the same as that which is touted in olive oil, macadamia nuts, and avocados. Pork rind snacks will also not spike your insulin levels. Are you sold yet? Try them out as a bread crumb substitute or simple low-carb snack!