Learn how pig skin goes from its original form to those crispy, puffy snacks you can find in the supermarket.

By Melanie Fincher
May 12, 2020
Pork Rinds in a bowl
Credit: LauriPatterson/Getty Images

While you may know pork rinds as the crispy snacks found in the chip aisle of the grocery store, the term can actually be used in a variety of different ways. "Pork rind" is the culinary term for the skin of a pig.

For non-Southerners, the idea of turning pig skin into a chip-like snack that's sold at convenience stores may seem, well, weird. But while pork rinds have been a staple in Southern cooking for years, different variations of the fried pig skin can be found all over the world.

So, how does the skin of a pig transform into those crisp, aerated snacks? Learn all about pork rinds, including how they're made.

What Are Pork Rinds Made of — and How Are They Made?

By now you probably get the picture, pork rinds are made of pig skin. But how are they made? The first step in the process is simmering the pork skin in boiling water. They're then divided up into bite-size pieces known as "pellets." These pellets are chilled for at least four hours, allowing the fat to solidify. This fat is then removed and discarded.

Next, the pellets are left in a low-heat oven for about eight hours in order to remove as much moisture as possible. This leads us to the final step: frying. Pork rinds may be fried in peanut oil, vegetable oil, or even lard.

During the frying process, whatever moisture remains in the skin evaporates when it hits the hot oil, causing the skin to puff as it fries. The rinds are then seasoned while they're still hot, and then cooled, transforming into the snacks we're familiar with. You can find pork rinds in all sorts of flavors depending on how they're seasoned, including barbeque, chile pepper, and more.

Pork Rinds vs. Cracklins vs. Fat Backs — What's the Difference?

There are too many regional variations of pork rinds to go into detail on each one. Different versions of the crispy snack can be found in much of Latin America, Asia, and Europe. However, there are three main variations of the fried pig skin snack that may be familiar with: pork rinds, cracklins, and fatbacks.

So what separates a cracklin from its cousin, the pork rind? While pork rinds are placed in the fryers devoid of any fat, cracklins still have some fat on the skin when it goes in the fryer, giving it a chewier, somewhat meatier crunch. The fat also prevents the cracklin from puffing up into a shape similar to that of a pork rind.

Fat backs, on the other hand, live up to their name. They still have most of the fat left on the skin when they come out of the fryer, making them dense and cube-like in shape. You're more likely to be able to find pork rinds and cracklins in stores, whereas for fat backs you may need to go local.

Pork Rind Nutrition and the Keto Diet

Pork rinds have become a popular snack for folks on the keto diet, as they have zero carbohydrates. This makes them ideal for the high-fat, low-carb lifestyle and diet.

However, it's important to keep in mind that pork rinds are fried, containing about 5 grams of fat and 80 calories per one half ounce serving. This makes a standard bag of pork rinds about the caloric equivalent of a Big Mac.

Whether or not you're on the keto diet, be sure to keep in mind the potential negative health consequences of consuming high quantities of fried foods.

How to Eat Pork Rinds

Aside from eating them straight out of the bag, pork rinds can also be used in your favorite recipes as well. They can be crushed and used as breadcrumbs (like in this All Protein Meatloaf or Crispy Keto Fried Chicken in the Air Fryer), or as a replacement for chips in nachos.