Gone vegan but missing bacon? Or simply want to add more smoky crunch to your meals because, well, who wouldn’t? Don’t worry, help is at hand. Try one (or all) of these ten fantastic bacon alternatives.
1. Vegan bacon bits
The classic vegan bacon substitute. You may be surprised by how many commercial bacon bits contain no bacon at all. Sure, they may be far from a healthy alternative exactly, but if that’s a concern for you then why not try making them yourself?
The Shane and Simple food blog has an easy recipe that’s low in fat and calories – yet high in smoky, crispy deliciousness. The only obstacle might be the availability of some ingredients in your local supermarket. If nowhere near you stocks textured vegetable protein (TVP), tamari, maple syrup, or liquid smoke then look online instead.
2. Tofu bacon
It’s hardly a surprise to see tofu on any list of vegetarian bacon alternatives. It’s been a go-to meat substitute for decades in the West and respected as a peerless ingredient in its own right for centuries in the East. Click here to learn how to turn a humble block of soy curd into crispy, delicious vegan tofu bacon using a simple four step process: slice, press, marinate and fry.
3. Coconut bacon
Many people believe a bit of bacon can improve any meal. Many also believe a hint of coconut has the same effect. And if you’re one of those, like us, who sit in the intersection between the two, we have some great news.
If you haven’t tried coconut bacon yet then where have you been? It’s crispy, smoky, juicy and, well, pretty coconutty too. Will Frolic for Food has a great vegan coconut bacon recipe using Thai coconut (the kind you get in dried strips) that’s perfect as the hero ingredient in vegan BLTs and the like. But if you’ve only got coconut flakes to hand, or if you simply intend to use your coconut bacon as a sprinkled topping, then try the Minimalist Baker’s instead.
4. Carrot bacon
In case you missed it, carrot bacon became an internet craze shortly after coconut bacon did. Nico at Yumsome has our favourite vegan carrot bacon recipe here. It involves dehydrating the strips of carrot and has helpful hints for those lucky enough to own a dehydrator, but otherwise the directions assume most people will be using their oven.
5. Seitan bacon
Like tofu, seitan is a meat alternative that has been around for centuries. Unlike tofu, it hasn’t yet become a household name in non-vegetarian households. It’s also made from wheat gluten, rather than soy.
Don’t let that put you off. Your vegan seitan bacon won’t come out weird and doughy. The texture is surprisingly similar to meat. Find out for yourself with this excellent vegan streaky bacon recipe at Avant-Garde Vegan.
6. Eggplant bacon
You probably haven’t heard of this one but is it all that surprising? After all, eggplant (or aubergine) has a naturally smokey taste and fairly meaty texture. It was only a matter of time before someone figured out how to make it into vegan bacon.
As with the vegan coconut bacon, we turn to the Minimalist Baker again for the vegan eggplant bacon recipe. They say the inspiration came from loving the flavour of coconut bacon but desiring something closer to an authentic texture.
7. Mushroom bacon
If vegan mushroom bacon has passed you by then it’s no wonder. There are two secrets to nailing this recipe from Serious Eats: finding the right mushrooms (King Oyster/Trumpet Royale) and smoking it over applewood, hickory or mesquite. That last part might sound scary, but if you’re careful, confident, and have a well-ventilated cooking area, their rudimentary smoking technique is a great trick for home gourmets without space or budget for a proper smoker.
8. Banana peel bacon
Even in the increasingly experimental and molecular world of vegan cuisine, this one stands out as being a little bit weird. Who the hell eats banana peel? We hear you, but bear with us.
It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken has our go-to banana peel bacon recipe. It’s the right balance of crispy and chewy – and even a little greasy. Just be warned that this one, unsurprisingly, can go very wrong. Be sure to use very ripe bananas and follow the steps closely.
9. Rice paper bacon
Shannon at Yup, It’s Vegan claims her vegan rice paper bacon recipe could change your life. That might be hyperbole, but it’s definitely delicious at least. And if you’re a culinary aesthete, it’s worth mentioning that the rice paper bacon is probably the most authentic looking bacon substitute we’ve ever seen, without falling into the uncanny valley of trying too hard and failing. (We’re looking at you, seitan.)
10. Tempeh bacon
Tempeh is the hearty, fermented cousin of tofu. It isn’t for everybody – and can be a bit tricky to get right – but it’s better for you than its better known soy relative and those who like it swear by it. If you’re one of them, why not try something a little special with this smoky baked tempeh bacon recipe courtesy of Nora Cooks. It’s arguably the healthiest option on this list, at least as a great source of protein.