Vegan Wonder

Savor the Sizzle: Discover the Best Vegan Bacon Alternatives

Bacon is one of those foods that can make even the most resolute carnivore consider going vegetarian for a moment. Crispy, smoky, savory, and ever-so-slightly sweet, the humble strip of pork belly has long reigned supreme over the breakfast table and has made inroads into lunch and dinner menus as well.

But what about those who choose to leave pork (and all other animal products) off their plates? Enter the world of vegan bacon, where soy, tempeh, coconut, mushrooms, and even chickpeas get their turn in the sizzling pan.

Why Vegan Bacon?

The demand for meat-free bacon is on the rise, with sales in the United States up by more than 30% in the past year alone, according to market research firm Nielsen.

Beyond satisfying the taste buds of vegetarians and vegans, choosing plant-based bacon over the real deal has some decidedly non-greasy perks. Most vegan bacon alternatives are lower in saturated fat than their pork-based counterparts, and many are free from artificial additives and preservatives.

Plus, there’s the not-so-small matter of animal welfare and the environment. Raising pigs for meat contributes to deforestation, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention the well-documented cruelty of factory farming.

So whether you’re giving up meat for good or just looking to cut back, we’ve got you covered with this mouthwatering guide to the best vegan bacon alternatives out there.

Soy-Based Vegan Bacon

One of the OGs of vegan bacon, soy-based varieties have been a staple in vegetarian and vegan households for decades. Soy protein has a natural meaty texture that lends itself well to mimicking bacon, and soy bacon comes in a variety of flavors and levels of crispiness.

Most packaged soy bacon needs to be cooked in a pan with a bit of oil to get that satisfyingly crispy exterior and chewy interior, so plan on a few extra minutes in the kitchen.

Some of our favorite brands include Lightlife, Tofurky, and Sweet Earth. All three make delicious soy-based bacon that would make even the most die-hard carnivore do a double take.

Tempeh-Based Vegan Bacon

Tempeh, a fermented soybean product with a nutty, earthy flavor and a firm, chewy texture, is a superfood in its own right. It’s also a blank canvas for all manner of savory flavors, making it a natural contender for the role of vegan bacon.

Cut tempeh into thin strips, then pan-fry it in a little oil until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. From there, you can season it with smoky paprika and maple syrup, or go for a sweeter, stickier glaze made from soy sauce, molasses, and brown sugar.

For a little added protein and fiber, try crumbling tempeh into bits before cooking it up as bacon. It will still get nice and crispy, and the smaller pieces will absorb whatever marinade or seasoning you choose to use.

Coconut-Based Vegan Bacon

Coconut bacon is a relative newcomer to the world of plant-based breakfast meats, but it has quickly won over fans with its irresistible sweet-savory flavor combination.

To make your own coconut bacon, start by shredding unsweetened dried coconut into thin strips. Toss the coconut with liquid smoke, soy sauce, maple syrup, and smoky paprika, then spread it out on a baking sheet and bake at 300°F (150°C) until crispy and golden brown.

Coconut bacon is delicious on its own, but it also pairs well with other bold flavors. Try serving it alongside sweet potato hash or as a topping for avocado toast.

Mushroom-Based Vegan Bacon

Mushrooms are a natural choice for vegan bacon, thanks to their meaty texture and umami-packed flavor. And with a little creativity, you can replicate not only the savory taste of bacon but also its satisfyingly crispy texture.

Start by slicing a pound of cremini or shiitake mushrooms thinly. Toss them with oil, salt, and smoky paprika, then spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 400°F (205°C) until the mushrooms are crispy and dark brown around the edges.

You can serve mushroom bacon as is, or go for a sweeter glaze by simmering the mushrooms in a mixture of soy sauce, maple syrup, and liquid smoke.

Because mushrooms absorb flavors so well, this is the perfect opportunity to get creative with seasonings. Experiment with different types of mushrooms, as well as smoky spices like chipotle powder or smoked paprika.

For a crunchier texture that more closely resembles bacon, try pan-frying sliced mushrooms in a little oil over medium heat. Stir frequently to prevent burning and achieve an even crispiness.

Homemade Vegan Bacon Alternatives

If you’re feeling adventurous, there are many ways to make vegan bacon at home using ingredients you probably already have on hand.

Try making chickpea bacon by tossing drained and rinsed chickpeas with olive oil, smoky paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Spread them out on a baking sheet and bake at 400°F (205°C) until golden brown and crispy.

For a more savory option, slice zucchini or eggplant thinly and marinate in a mixture of soy sauce, maple syrup, liquid smoke, and smoky paprika. Lay the slices out on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F (180°C) until tender and lightly browned.

And of course, there’s always good old-fashioned stovetop bacon made from seitan, a wheat-based protein that is often used as a meat substitute. Seitan bacon requires a bit more effort, as you’ll need to make the seitan from scratch, but the end result is well worth it.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, feel free to experiment with different seasonings and flavorings to find your perfect vegan bacon recipe.

Incorporating Vegan Bacon into Your Meals

Vegan bacon isn’t just for breakfast anymore. While it certainly makes a fine addition to any stack of pancakes or bowl of oatmeal, it’s also delicious when used as a topping or ingredient in all manner of savory dishes.

Try crumbling vegan bacon into a salad made with baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, red onion, and avocado, then drizzle with a simple balsamic vinaigette.

For a hearty and warming vegan lunch or dinner, cook up some brown rice and black beans, then top with crumbled vegan bacon, sliced avocado, diced tomatoes, and a generous squeeze of lime juice.

Or go all out and make vegan bacon wrapped dates stuffed with almonds and goat cheese, wrapped in prosciutto (or plant-based prosciutto) and baked until golden brown.

Choosing the Best Vegan Bacon for Your Needs

With so many delicious vegan bacon alternatives on the market, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the best vegan bacon for your needs:

  • Taste: Do you prefer a sweeter or savory vegan bacon? How about smoky or spicy?
  • Texture: Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside? Or soft and tender all the way through?
  • Nutrition: Are you looking for a lower-fat or lower-sodium option?
  • Availability: Will you be able to find your chosen brand of vegan bacon at your local grocery store, or will you need to order it online?

Once you’ve narrowed down your options based on these criteria, it’s time to get cooking and discover for yourself just how delicious plant-based bacon can be.