Cracklins vs. Pork Rinds: What Makes them Different
You’ve seen them featured on social media, lining the shelves in grocery stores, and maybe even served fresh in restaurants in place of bread or chips. Pork rinds and cracklins are making a big comeback in food culture, but the truth is they never really left!
Just like fashion, the world of food goes in cycles (we know, we’re shocked that low-rise jeans are coming back too), and we tend to see classic ingredients and recipes make their way back into the fold after being out of the spotlight for years. This is exactly what’s happening with these crispy, crunchy pork products that have so many different names and forms.
Whether you’ve been a fan of these foods for years, or they’re appearing on your radar for the first time, there’s probably some gaps in your knowledge when it comes to pork rinds, cracklins, and all the rest.
Let’s do a deep dive on the similarities and differences between cracklins and pork rinds, and look at a few other products in this category of goodies you should know about. Let’s get it poppin’!
Why People Love Cracklins and Rinds
If you read that first section with a huge question mark over your head, you might need a proper introduction to the world of pork rinds, cracklins, and their crunchy accomplices.
The first thing you need to know is that these all fall into the broader category of pork products, right alongside ribs, chops, and yes, bacon.
If you’re someone who loves stuff like jerky and mini-meat bites, you’ve got a reason to celebrate. Cracklins and pork rinds are known for their savory flavors, tasty textures, and highly snackable form.
Believe it or not, these foods are also no slouch when it comes to nutrition. They tend to be high in protein and saturated animal fat, which is the ideal ratio for those on a low-carb or keto diet.
If you’ve been looking for a new snack to take the place of chips, puffs, or crackers, you should definitely add pork rinds and cracklins to your grocery list or ask about them when you go out to eat at a restaurant.
What Makes Cracklins Unique
Of all the crunchy pork creations out there, cracklins are probably the most old-fashioned and established of the bunch, with roots in classic Cajun cooking and other Southern cuisine styles.
This product is what naturally happens when cooks render pork fat in a pan, the typical starting point for many classic recipes. Those little crunchy pieces that remain in the pan when the fat is rendered? Those are strained out and lightly salted to make some tasty cracklins!
Some restaurants serve cracklins in a basket just like they would fries or tortilla chips, while others toss them into tacos or sandwiches for extra flavor and crunch. They are not puffy - but rather hard and require some tough teeth. Never bite into cracklins unless you’re ready to take on some serious crunch!
The presence of fat prevents cracklins from “poofing” into the big, curly shapes we tend to see with standard pork rinds, but we’ll get more into those details in a minute.
For now, those are just the basics of how cracklins have traditionally been prepared and served. If you’re intrigued, there are plenty of fun and interesting variations emerging on the scene as they get more popular—so let’s get to taste-testing, guys!
Some cracklins, for example, get a second treatment in the fryer after they’ve been cooled down and cut into even-sized strips. Producers also take this opportunity to add some appetizing flavors to the cracklins and pack an extra punch of spice or tang.
Nothing beats cracklins fresh out of the fryer, so if you find yourself in a place that serves them up in this classic style, nab a basket (or five).
Pork Rinds’ Newfound Popularity
There’s nothing quite like a genuine cracklins experience at a BBQ joint or authentic street vendor, but you sometimes want to stock up on crunchy pork snacks to keep in your pantry or keep in the backseat for the next time you go on a road trip.
In that case, pork rinds are the best option for you. Unlike cracklins, which retain some fat and perhaps a bit of meat, these rinds are 100% pork skin and nothing else.
They are prepared with care before they ever touch hot oil, ensuring that the skin is super tender. You should be able to poke a fork right through the skin with zero resistance! Once dried, they can be fried. That’s where you’re going to get that fluffy, delicious, golden crunch—okay, we’re drooling, are you?
When that skin is ready to go, it’s carved up into strips and then lowered into the fryer, where they quickly go “POOF” and expand to many times their original size.
The transformation is an amazing sight to behold - seriously, videos of this are going to be your new ASMR obsession. One moment you’ve got a small handful of little strips, and less than 20 seconds later, the entire pan is overflowing with big, beautiful pork rinds ready for snackin’.
The mouth-feel of pork rinds needs to be experienced first hand, and the melt-in-your-mouth sensation is something totally unique and delightful. Just a little bit of salt or seasoning can go a long way since the natural flavors of this snack are so drool-worthy.
It’s easy to see why pork rinds are so popular in parts of the world where hogs are just a part of life. Why not use every part of the animal and take advantage of skin that would otherwise just be tossed in the garbage?
The other upside of pork rinds is their durability and versatility. They can be produced in high volumes and hold up surprisingly well in bags and plastic tubs. You can easily eat a few handfuls for a quick snack, or use them in a pinch for many different recipes that call for some extra crunch.
The keto crowd has gone head-over-heels for pork rinds in the last couple of years, so there are so many new variations coming to market and earning new fans across the country. Give these snacks a shot if you want a high-protein alternative to your classic chips and crackers!
Other Variations to Look For
Cracklins and pork rinds are the heavy hitters in the world of snackable pork products, but you’ll also see items such as chicharrones, chitlins, and fat backs.
Chicharrones land somewhere between rinds and cracklins—basically, like those people who said they were Team Switzerland when everyone else was Team Edward or Jacob (yes, the Twilight renaissance is happening). They tend to have a bit more meat attached to the skin, but with lower fat content. The result is a thicker, heavier ingredient that works well as a filling for sandwiches, tacos, or a topping for salads.
Chitlins might look similar to our favorite pork products, but be warned - these are made from the intestines of pigs, so if you’re easily grossed out, maybe go find another snack...and go into another room, because these babies have a strong smell. Adventurous eaters, on the other hand, will love the unique texture of chitlins and should be eager to give ‘em a try.
Finally, sample fat backs if you spot them on a menu. They’ll only make an appearance once in a while at BBQ spots because they’re labor-intensive, but jeez, are they delicious when done right—no cap. These are basically French lardons with a Southern twist, creating the ultimate contrast of fat, skin, and tender meat in every bite. We’ll take twenty, thanks!
Vegan Pork Rinds - Too Good to Be True?
Let’s say you’re a vegan or vegetarian, and you’ve somehow made it this far in the article - that’s some dedication to foodie culture! However, you might also be a longtime lover of pork rinds or cracklins who literally needs a meat-free alternative to these animal products to survive their snack cravings.
We get it - both pork rinds and cracklins are a bit heavy on the fat and sodium. That combination is not always the best for the belly, and maybe you’re planning a sick trip to Cancun once the pandemic chills out.
Regardless of your reasoning, you’ve simply got to try our Pig Out Pigless Pork Rinds, which replicate the puffy pleasure of traditional rinds with none of the unwanted extras.
Each bag has 25 grams of protein, plus way less fat and salt than the usual suspects. Plus, in five different amazing flavors, you can tantalize your tastebuds in a new way from Monday thru Friday!
If you’re more interested in a classic cheese-puff style snack (hold the cheese), our Outstanding Puffs are your next best bet. This product still packs a ton of protein, but also delivers on essential vitamins and minerals to keep you going all day long.
At Outstanding Foods, we’ve got love for pork rinds - so we decided to make them healthier than ever and accessible to everyone! We can safely say: mission accomplished.