What is a Pork Rind & Is It Good For You?
If you didn’t grow up eating pork rinds, you may be wondering, “What is a pork rind, and is it worth indulging in?” Rising popularity of the keto and paleo diets have brought pork rinds out of relative obscurity and back into the spotlight.
But the crunchy, flavorful snack has long been a tradition in the Southern United States and Mexico, where “chicharrones” can be found on every street corner.
So, exactly what is a pork rind, and how is it made? Here’s what to know, as well as some healthier alternatives to this age-old treat.
What Is a Pork Rind?
Before the industrial revolution made vegetable oil more accessible, rendering the fat from pork skins and the skins of other animals was the only way to gather oil for cooking. But while we no longer need to collect animal skins to cook, we still have ways of including it in our diets.
“Pork rind” is the culinary term for the skin of a pig and is typically rendered, fried in fat, or roasted to create the snack we know today.
From cracklins (U.S.) to scratchings (U.K.) to chicharrones (Latin America), each region has its own version of the pork rind with its own unique fat content, texture, flavor, and cooking method.
Pig skins are first collected, frozen, and then sold to companies that sell pork rinds on a large scale. The skins are first boiled to soften and render any fat and then cooled so that the fat can be scraped away to leave just the outer layer of skin.
From there, the skin is cut into strips of bite-sized pieces and then dehydrated until browned and brittle. It’s then deep fried at high temperatures until it puffs up much like popcorn. Salt, flavors, and colorings are then added to give the pork rinds their own unique flavor and texture.
But Is It Good for You?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s FoodData Center, a typical 50-gram serving of pork rinds contains 310 calories, 35 grams of protein, 18 grams of fat, and 1,040 milligrams of sodium. Due to the snack’s high protein and fat content coupled with zero carbs, pork rinds are a favorite of those following the keto, paleo, and Atkins diets.
That said, FDA dietary guidelines advise limiting sodium consumption to 2,300 milligrams per day. Pork rinds, then, contain enough sodium per serving to make up nearly half of one’s daily suggested consumption and should be consumed in moderation.
High concentrations of sodium can create imbalances in equilibrium and “pull” excess water into the bloodstream, creating higher blood pressure. This subsequently puts increased pressure on the heart, which can contribute to heart disease and stroke, according to some studies.
Additionally, about half of the fat in pork rinds is saturated fat, which can contribute to heart disease by raising cholesterol levels.
Many brands also include artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives in their pork rinds, thus correlating with higher rates of obesity and insulin imbalance.
So, What Is a Pork Rind Alternative?
Fortunately, you can enjoy the flavor of pork rinds without the added sodium, fat, and artificial additives. Our PigOut Pigless Pork Rinds are created entirely from plant-based sources and contain 25 grams of protein. Plus, they have 75% less sodium and 67% less saturated fat than traditional pork rinds.
They’re also free of gluten, dairy, GMOs, soy, and cholesterol, so even those with dietary restrictions can enjoy them. But healthy doesn’t mean flavorless.
Chef Dave Anderson, creator of the Beyond Burger, a plant-based burger that has found its way into grocery aisles and fast-food restaurants all over the world, crafted our pigless pork rinds in exciting flavors like Texas BBQ, Nacho Cheese, and Hella Hot, in addition to the traditional pork rind flavor, so everyone can find a flavor to enjoy.
Pork rinds are prevalent in the culinary history of cultures from all over the world, with many different names and flavors. From pig skins that provided us with much-needed cooking oil to the pigless, healthier alternative, pork rinds have kept us crunching for centuries.
Whether you’re a longtime pork rind snacker or someone who’s never had one in your life, check out an Outstanding Foods store near you for our plant-based, protein-packed snacks.