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Southern Streak o’ Lean

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Streak o' Lean has a long history in traditional southern foodways having been used for everything from seasoning to rendering for fat.  This recipe showcases it on its own, dredged in flour and fried.
4.7 from 35 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Finished slices of streak o' lean on a white serving plate.

Somewhere between bacon and lard, you’ll find Streak o’ Lean. It has a long and varied history in traditional southern foodways having been used for everything from seasoning to rendering for fat. This recipe showcases it on its own, dredged in flour and fried. One of the tastiest recipes from my childhood!

I debated with myself for a long time about whether to post this recipe. A really long time. Not just because almost no one will know what it is. Those folks are going to be few and far between.

Finished slices of streak o' lean on a white serving plate.

But mostly because old-time southern food has such a bad reputation. It doesn’t need me adding fuel to the fire with old recipes that just reinforce that stereotype. Yet, despite all those reasons nagging me, I still wanted to do it. So, here it is. Streak o’ Lean.

Who’s ever heard of Streak o’ Lean? Speak up. (testing, testing, is this thing on?)

What the Heck is Streak o’ Lean?

To start with, you’ll hear it called various things depending on what part of the south you’re from. In my area, it’s mostly streak-o-lean (Streak of Lean). Some folks run that all together it comes out sounding like “stricklin.” It’s also called fatback, side meat, white meat, and just plain salt pork.

You can think of Streak o’ Lean as kind of the opposite of bacon. Where bacon is smoked and has a streak of fat among the lean meat, streak o’ lean is salt cured and has a lean streak among the fat. It’s salt pork that has been elevated by coating it in flour and pan frying.

Finished slices of streak o' lean on a white serving plate.

Now before you send the food police around to my house and start proceedings to revoke my official food bloggers license, just wait a minute. As crazy as the food world is today about bacon if I had said I was deep frying bacon some of y’all would be in a swoon right now. You know you would.

And besides, this is not something to be eaten every day of the week. As a matter of fact, the best I can remember it has been at least 10 years since I last cooked Streak o’ Lean.

Although it can still be found on restaurant buffet lines in rural areas of the South, it’s really one of those once or twice a year (maybe decade) kinds of recipes. But be warned, once you’ve had it, you’ll never forget it. You’ll crave it. You will look for it at every buffet, and you’ll make an excuse to “just have a little bite.”

Finished slices of streak o' lean on a white serving plate.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Part of our southern food traditions.
  • Budget friendly (okay, it’s just flat out cheap).
  • It’s just plain delicious!

Ingredient Notes

All ingredients needed for the recipe.

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  • Salt Pork (Salt pork is very easy to find anywhere throughout the south. It should be available in most other areas because of its association with baked beans.)
  • Peanut Oil (I use peanut oil for any frying because it has a high smoking point. Canola or vegetable oil can be used as well.)
  • Black Pepper (No salt is needed because… *salt* pork.)
  • All-Purpose Flour (Makes a lovely crispy fried coating.)
  • Buttermilk or Regular Milk (You’ll soak the salt pork to draw out some of the salt before cooking.)

Note that the amounts given in the recipe are merely estimates. It’s very hard to give exact measurements because it’s one of those old recipes where you use what you need at the moment.

You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe at the bottom of this post.

How to Cook Streak o’ Lean

So how do you cook Streak o’ Lean? Well, you start with some salt pork. It’s the same thing that you use to season a pot of greens or a pot of baked beans.

TIP: Salt pork is available in one whole piece or in slices. You can slice it yourself with a very sharp knife or purchase the pre-sliced to make preparation very simple.

  1. The first step is to soak the salt pork. This step draws out a lot of the salt and, believe me, you don’t want to skip this. I know some restaurants that don’t soak it at all, just fry it up, but I prefer to draw out some of the salt first. Remove the salt pork from the milk letting most of it drain away. Discard the milk.
  2. Place the salt pork on a board or pan and sprinkle it liberally with ground pepper.

TIP: Any kind of milk or cream works fine for drawing out the salt. Some people, instead of soaking, will boil the salt pork for about ten minutes, drain it and then proceed with the recipe. If you’re short on time, that works as well.

  1. Then flour it well on both sides.
  2. Heat about a ¼ inch of peanut oil in a heavy skillet. When the oil is hot, carefully lower the prepared pieces of salt pork into the pan. Cook, turning once, until lightly browned, crispy, and cooked through – about 3 minutes on each side.

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  1. Put the finished slices on a paper towel lined plate to remove excess oil.
Finished slices of streak o' lean on a white serving plate.

Questions

Is streak o’ lean the same thing as pork belly?

Streak o’ lean and pork belly are similar, but they come from different areas of the pig. Pork belly comes from, well the belly, and streak o’ lean comes from the side (why it’s also called “side meat”) and is fattier. It’s also not bacon. Bacon is cured pork belly.

What can I serve with this?

Sides to serve with Streak O’ Lean are practically endless! Serve it with breakfast (grits, eggs, biscuits) in place of bacon. Or serve it as the main dish with sauteed fresh squash, butter beans, sliced tomatoes, and cornbread.

Have you tried this recipe? I’d really appreciate you giving it a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating in the recipe card or in the comments section.
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Recipe

Finished slices of streak o' lean on a white serving plate.

Streak o’ Lean

Streak o' Lean has a long history in traditional southern foodways having been used for everything from seasoning to rendering for fat.  This recipe showcases it on its own, dredged in flour and fried.
4.72 from 35 votes
Print It Rate It Save Text It
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Southern, Vintage
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 13 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 464kcal
Author: Lana Stuart

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces salt pork sliced
  • 1 ½ cups milk or buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • peanut oil for frying (1/4-inch deep)

Instructions

  • Place the sliced salt pork in a container and cover with milk or buttermilk. Let sit for several hours to draw out some of the salt. Remove the salt pork from the milk. Discard the milk.
  • Pepper each slice of salt pork and then dredge lightly in flour.
  • Add peanut oil to a depth of a ¼ inch to a heavy skillet. Heat the oil over medium high heat. Carefully add the prepared salt pork slices to the hot oil. Cook, turning once, until lightly browned and cooked through (about 7-8 minutes).
  • Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain excess oil.

Notes

  • Salt pork is very easy to find throughout the south. It should be available in most other areas because of its association with baked beans.
  • I use peanut oil for any frying because it has a high smoking point. Canola or vegetable oil can be used as well.
Tips —
Instead of soaking the salt pork in milk, some cooks will boil it for about ten minutes, drain it and then proceed with the recipe. If you’re short on time, that works well.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1 | Calories: 464kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 46g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 22g | Cholesterol: 49mg | Sodium: 1522mg | Potassium: 57mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 4IU | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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Finished streak o lean on a serving platter.

— This post was originally published on November 30, 2012. It has been updated with new photos and additional information.

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107 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I remember my grandmother in central North Carolina using streak of lean in her vegetables by boiling it to get some salt out then adding it to her cooking vegetables. Or she’d fry strips of it like bacon. I loved how crispy yet tender the fat got.

  2. 5 stars
    There wasn’t a DAY that went by that this wasn’t in my parents refrigerator… My father loved it and so it was always on hand. It was hard to come by when we moved from Eastern North Carolina to Florida, so when we visited my grandparents, my parents would LOAD up the trunk with Salt Pork, Fatback, Streak o’ Lean, Air-dryed sausage and country ham (not to mention all of the fresh and “put up” vegetables from my grandparents farm). What glorious memories. Now when I visit (and I do a few times a year) I do the same thing. There’s a place in Rocky Mount, NC, Ralph’s, that still does a great Southern buffet, Eastern Carolina BBQ, chicken pastry, butter beans, pickled beets and all of the other fixins and sides and of course, Streak o’ Lean…. but you gotta get there early. When it’s gone it gone and it goes quick! God it’s good to be Southern…

  3. 5 stars
    I am from the southern part of North Carolina. We fry side meat all the time to go with collards, mustard or turnip greens, or fried cabbage. My mother and grandmother never soaked it in milk or boiled it in water. We butchered hogs in the winter so we always had fresh side meat, and I don’t recall it being that salty. Fatback on the other hand is quite salty and we do boil it for a few minutes to get some of the salt out. I’m going to fry up some this evening to go with some fresh mustard greens, freshly dug new potatoes, stewed squash, and corn bread patties. I can taste it now! Thanks for sharing your recipe and putting the spotlight on one of our favorite pork meats.

    1. You’re welcome, Debbie! And, yes, if you have fresh you wouldn’t need to soak but if you’re using purchased salt pork it can really benefit from the soak.

  4. 5 stars
    I’m 73 yrs. old from northern New England, and as children we used to ask my grandmother to make this for us when we visited. It apparently became a common dinner meal here during the Depression, because her recipes were all typical of those times. Her father was a farmer, and fried salt pork was often included in the large hearty breakfasts my great grandmother cook every morning for all the farm hands. My mother never made it though, so I assume it wasn’t one of her favorites. I was pleased and surprised to easily find your recipe on an internet search. I find that no longer having to cook for a family with varied likes and preferences, I’m now desiring to occasionally re-experience many of the foods I had so long ago as a child… even if they are loaded with bad fat and sugar! The only differences between my grandmother’s fried pork recipe and yours is that I think she first soaked the salt pork overnight in water, didn’t add so much oil for frying, but then used the pan fat to make a gravy, and completed the meal with the addition of boiled potatoes and gravy.