What is the difference between Jamon Serrano and Prosciutto?

Seems they are both cured meats, but I am sure the curing salts and processes are quite different.



Juan J. February 24, 2019
The main difference is prosciutto ham is like mid-quality Spanish ham, jamón serrano.
Apart from that in Spain there is the Iberian ham and in this category there is the ham made from porks fed with acorn. This is the highest quality ham, and also the most expensive. These porks are different, their meat contains high quality intramuscular fat, marbled like the kobe beef.
Juan J. April 4, 2018
Unlike most pigs and other animals Iberian pigs are slowly grown in the wild eating acorn at the Dehesa for several years.
That's why they are so expensive.
Kevin April 4, 2018
It is with great sadness that the intensive rearing of pigs for Jamon and Proscuito have hit the UK press recently.

The cruelty in some units is beyond belief.

I love Serano, Iberico and Parma hams... I cannot bring myself to buy these until the industry sorts itself out.

Very sad.
Kevin April 4, 2018
It is with great sadness that the intensive rearing of pigs for Jamon and Proscuito have hit the UK press recently.

The cruelty in some units is beyond belief.

I love Serano, Iberico and Parma hams... I cannot bring myself to buy these until the industry sorts itself out.

Very sad.
Kevin April 4, 2018
It is with great sadness that the intensive rearing of pigs for Jamon and Proscuito have hit the UK press recently.

The cruelty in some units is beyond belief.

I love Serano, Iberico and Parma hams... I cannot bring myself to buy these until the industry sorts itself out.

Very sad.
Juan J. July 28, 2017
THis is like comparing Kobe beef to a regular beef.
Bruno December 20, 2015
When the Spanish ham is labeled "Jamon Serrano de pata negra de bellota" or something like that is "Spanish Mountainous Ham of Black Paw fed with Acorns" It is the highest of the highest Spanish "Jamon". It is "Serrano" meaning from the Mountains or "raised on the mountains", "De pata negra" meaning a specific pig breed that are known by their black hooves (be aware of imitations... some people are 'dyeing' normal pig hooves to sell it at a higher price), "De bellota" which means feed with a acorn based diet, which gives its meat a distinctive flavour. Normal Jamon Serrano is a tasteful, delicate bit of cured meat, however the "pata negra" is the more superior sort. Although within "pata negra" there are different levels still. These different levels are accompanied by different price ranges, reaching over US$3,000 (three thousand US Dollars) for a whole leg (bone included). I have had both normal and "pata negra". I loved "pata negra" however I would not eat it unless is a very cozy dinner for two, or want to impress someone special. The standard "Jamon Serrano" is divine too and would use it in other gatherings as tapas, cook with it, or even just slices over a slice of toasted bread with garlic and tomato scratched on it, and of course a small drizzle of oil.... just heaven!
Michael S. April 4, 2018
While staying I Marbella last summer I tried Jamon Serrano de pata negra de bellota. Nothing compares. I normally take it out of the fridge and let it reach room temperature before eating it in a flute, with a thin drizzle of olive oil. As said, a de bellota is A whole different level. Luckily my local deli here in Sweden has it. It is pricy, but worth every penny.
minkowski November 12, 2012
Ok, first of all i have to day that I'm Spanish so I'll try not to be baised.
There is a lot of confusion about the Spanish product this is Jamón mostly because it's beginning to be exported enough to be judged right now, so people tend to talk as if it was the same product of jamón serrano and jamón ibérico, which is not true.
The first one, jamón serrano, would be the equivalent to prosciutto, made from white pigs, the process is about the same just for the difference of the serum of parmigiano cheese in the diet of the italian ones. In this case I have to admit that even though spanish jamón is a high quality product, italian prosciutto is just better.
But when we talk of jamón Ibérico, this is a different product, it's made from the ibérico pig breed and it just doesn't have the Italian version because this breed only happens to exist in spain, and the meat is much more tastier, that simple, but of course there are differnet qualities.
cebo: pigs only eat fodder.
recebo: pigs are half fed with both acorn and fodder but they are inside installations
bellota: this is the mos valuable product, and the most expensive, pigs are completely free, that gives to the meat a very valued infiltration of fat inside the meat, and they only eat acorn, which gives to jamón de bellota that rich flavour.
I think most of the people is mistaken by trying to compare prosciutto with jamón ibérico and they are not the same product, of course jamón ibérico is a higher quality product but prosciutto should be compared with jamón serrano.
About nitrites, well I don't know if jamón serrano has them, I really don't think so, and no way that jamon iberico has them.
usuba D. August 24, 2012
I stand by my comments. I am third generation dry cured processor who works very closely with both the Italians and the Spanish dry cured manufacturers. Because of a botulism out break many years ago in Spain, ALL Serrano started adding nitrates and nitrites as a chemical salt to their product. All Parma and Prosciutto imported from Italy is produced WITHOUT chemical nitrates or nitrites. There are some products in this country, mostly produced in Canada that appear to be Italian origin, but are not. Some of those products do contain nitrites. If you can point out a particular example that proves otherwise, then please do. I will say I have had some discussions with a Serrano producer in Spain to make a Jamon without nitrites. . . . stay tuned.
Yup February 24, 2019
Juan J. February 24, 2019

Real Spanish ham and all Iberian and acornd fed ham are certified as having no chemical conservaties (including nitrates, nitrites...).
Coronaburg August 24, 2012
Leave it to the italians to uber market their products while down grading the rest of the world, your information is very misleading usaba and is not just.

Giovannia50, yes there are SOME brands of parma and prosciutto that do not use chemical nitrites, but honestly and being fair, there are many more brands that do use them than we know. But guess what, As for serrano hams, the same apply, some brands do, and some don't.

There is no perfect answer, we would have to discuss brands in particular to pinpoint the information you need, and not generalize with an ALL or NONE answer as usuba does.
GIOVANNI50 April 19, 2012
So, does Serrano contain nitrites or not? I am confused by the answers above.
usuba D. April 19, 2012
Serrano has nitrites, Italian Parma & Prosciutto does not
Kevin July 29, 2017
Prosciutto merely means a 'cured ham'. There are many different Proscuittos from Italy, Parma is merely one. Some allow nitrates / nitrites for some it is forbidden. You are correct that Parma ham is not allowed to contain these salts.
Kevin July 29, 2017
usuba D. April 18, 2012
Unfornately the USDA did not have these natural curing systems available at the time of writing CFR317.17 (a)(b)(c) that controls the use of the word "uncured" and having to use the words "no nitrites or nitrates added". They have admitted that these terms have to change when using natural cures, but unfortunately can not til the regulation is changed or modified. They have been petition by the industry to change, but again this will take anywhere from five to ten years from their own admission. The government moves too slowly. So, companies that use natural cures agree that the meats are cured, but have to continue to follow regulations til they change. The public knows from all of the articles written on this subject that the use of celery and Swiss chard juice have nitrites and nitrates, but they also understand that it is a big difference over natural occurring and chemically induced. Again, you might as well stop eating veggies if you feel otherwise. I have spent so much of my lifetime studying this issue and working with the natural and organic meat industry when it comes to this discussion. I am happy to discuss this further with you if you have any questions, but until the FSIS-USDA make the regulatory change, it is what it is.
ChefOno April 18, 2012

I absolutely love your use of the term "health speculations" Rachel because that's precisely why there is a controversy. On one side you have worries caused by theoretical guesses and an irrational fear of "chemicals", on the other you have the clear and present danger of botulism and other foodborne illness.

Guess which side I'm on?

According to the USDA, the required statements "No Nitrites or Nitrates Added" and "Uncured" were intended to be a warning to consumers, not to attract people frightened by the words "nitrite" and "nitrate". That didn't work too well because not only do they believe they're not consuming "harmful chemicals", they think they're eating uncured meat. Ha!
Kevin July 29, 2017
Five years on and the issues of Nitrates and Nitrites have, too, become a clear and present danger.
Kevin April 4, 2018
Meat treated with Nitrates and Nitrites are listed internationally as Class 1 Carcinogens.

The meat industry played up botulism to keep going.

Nitrates and Nitrites speed up the curing process.

That's why the industry like it.

Yes modern fast 24/7 meat processing in in crisis with controlling infections.

Please read a little more deeply, for the good of yourself and your family.

There is a lot of misinfo out there.

Rachel S. April 18, 2012
I know this is an older feed, but there's a point of controversy here of which not many people are aware; many folks stray from meats that are cured using "pink-salt" (nitrate), and opt for "nitrate-free meats" instead. Almost all nitrate-free meats, however, contain celery juice in addition to other curing agents. Celery juice, while not a nitrate in itself, naturally contains very high levels of nitrates. So, while you may be opting for a piece of cured meat based on health-speculations, the term "nitrate-free" can be misleading. Both Jamon Serrano and prosciutto contain nitrates.
usuba D. April 18, 2012
Prosciutto is not cured with any nitrites, only salt. Serrano was originally cured without nitrites, but in the early 1900's they had a botulism out break because of bad processing practices, so it became law to use nitrites in Serrano. We all know that today that better processing practices allow not using nitrites. You might as well give up all green vegetables if you are worried about using celery as a curing agent. Nitrates and Nitrites are naturally occurring in all fruits and vegetables. The Nitrites used in commercial meats is a chemically processed. It isn't the NO2 and NO3 you have to worry about, but rather the high temperature of frying (can you say stir fried vegetables) that create nitrosamines that are carcinogenic.
Rebecca M. September 17, 2014
No. The only contaminated meat in a whole muscle is on the outside surface. Yes, botulism likes an airless environment, but the food must first be subjected to the air for the bacteria to even land on it. That is why Salami needs nitrates and nitrites (when you grind meat, it is being exposed to air). But whole muscles only really need to be salted on the outside and trimmed for a smooth surface. The salt makes an environment that will kill present dangerous bacteria, and make new bacteria in the air avoid landing as it is not their ideal environment.
pierino March 27, 2012
Prosciutto v Jamon is definitely a whole giant can of worms. Most of what you will taste in Italy or Spain isn't permitted for import into the US. And a lot of that is simply protectionism and not just protection. The USDA requires a longer curing time than the folks in Italy and Spain might think appropriate. But things are loosening up and you can now buy jamon iberico (at a frightening cost). You can also buy prosciutto San Daniele and speck as well as real mortadella. The other bit of good news is that here at home La Querica is producing really good stuff from pigs raised in Iowa.

Voted the Best Reply!

usuba D. March 27, 2012
Unless the Serrano say iberico Serrano in the US it is more likely to be from white pork (Danish hogs) because only one slaughter plant in Spain is USDA approved from export to the America. So, most of the jambon Serrano here is not all that wonderful. Serrano also is always made with sodium nitrite and nitrates . . . . proscuitto from Italy is not, including Parma. Most high quality proscuitto made in North America is also made without nitrites. Also, I have found a brand called Applegate that has proscuitto that is also antibiotic free and nitrite free . . . Very good quality. The way Serrano and prosciutto is cured is different, most the temperature that they are cured and aged. Proscuitto gets a coating of fat on the lean side to prevent crusting, Serrano does not.
ChompingTheBigApple March 27, 2012
I tend to find jamon Serrano to have a bit more intense flavor than prosciutto as well.
Rachel S. March 26, 2012
One difference is that they are made from different breeds of pigs; prosciutto can be made from pig or wild boar, whereas jamon Serrano is most often made from a specific breed of white pig. Another difference is in the diet of the pigs (which can also dictate levels of quality within the categories of Jamon and Prosciutto). My Spanish friends argue that Jamon Serrano is superior to prosciutto, but they might be a little biased. :) In any case, both are delicious and can be used in the same kinds of applications.
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