The common joke says that everything tastes better with bacon. Hate vegetables? Add bacon. Want to add another element to cookies or sweets? Add bacon. Bad day? Add bacon. In North American culture, bacon is a staple, a crutch, a happy food and positive association for so many people.
Comfort foods are usually the hardest ones to give up. Ever try giving up bread? Luckily for me, most bread is vegan. But there was a time when I gave it up and guess what happened. I ended up binging on it because it’s something I truly love. Of course, there’s a difference when it comes to bread vs. bacon. One involves animal cruelty and the other doesn’t. And so while I can relate to the idea of giving up something “specific food”-lovers throughly enjoy, there is more on the line in terms of including it on our plates.
Thankfully, chefs and plant-based meat companies have been and are working to develop products and recipes that we can use in place of bacon. Some of those crisp up, smell, and sizzle just like real thing. I’ve tried a few, made a few and researched some more. Here are 10 variations (5 meat-mimicking and 5 vegetable-based) of bacon you can make to help sway the minds of those stubborn bacon-obsessed “wannabe” vegans.
1. NEXT! Foods Extra Crispy Bacon Style Strips
The New Zealand-based brand is garnering excitement for their similar-to-meat style of bacon. Aside from the taste, what the company wanted to achieve most was to imitate the way pork bacon sizzles and crackles when cooked in a frying pan. Their “bacon” is soy-based, but has quite the list of ingredients. We’re excited to try this when it reaches North America.
2. Hooray Foods Plant Based Bacon
Launching at Whole Foods soon, this plant-based bacon has the same marbling as real bacon and the company claims it “looks, cooks and tastes” like the real thing. This source says that “When it comes to texture, Hooray Foods has had incredibly positive feedback from customers.” The unique selling point about their bacon is that is is wheat-free and soy-free—two of the most common allergens—so most people will be able to eat their product.
3. LightLife Smart Bacon
Having tried this one, I can say it doesn’t really resemble real bacon and it smells and tastes a little bit like smoky hot dogs. It’s a great addition to a sandwich though if you’re looking to add a smoky salty element. It crisps up pretty well and depending on how long you cook it, you can alter the crispness to your preference. Though low in calories, this “bacon” is soy-based and extremely high in sodium and the pieces shrink quite a lot when cooked.
4. Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon
I’ve read some contrasting reviews on this “bacon.” Meat eaters think the smell and taste sort of resembles dog food. Which, I can’t lie, a lot of vegan meat replacements do (I’ve never tasted dog food, but I can imagine based upon the smell). Vegans on the other hand, love the taste, texture and crispness of this fake bacon. It’s soy-based and the strips come quite large but shrink up a lot.
5. THIS isn’t bacon rashers
I’m going to order these ASAP. They resemble a thinner ‘beef jerky’ kind of texture. And are described as being “chewy yet crunchy”, which sounds like the perfect kind of bacon to me.
Vegetable/Non meat- mimicking Bacon:
1. Rice Paper “Bacon”
This is the most highly regarded fake bacon recipe on the internet. For those who love crispy bacon, a quick and easy marinade is applied to sheets of rice paper and then can be either fried or baked. Think crispy puff pastry mixed with smoky bacon flavor. People who have tried this recipe say that it is very similar to crispy bacon.
2. Carrot “Bacon”
Depending on your marinade you can still imitate the smoky taste of real bacon, but without the crispiness, the “bacon” experience just falls short. Reviews for carrot bacon describe the finished product as not resembling bacon at all. The sweetness of the carrots come through too strong and the baking process can be a bit tricky.
3. Eggplant “Bacon”
Surprisingly, this type really resembles real bacon. I’m not a big eggplant fan because of the spongy texture, but when dehydrated, that sponginess turns to chewiness and the edges crisp up nicely.
I would definitely recommend this for bacon crumbles only, perfect for a salad topper or to eat as a snack. I’ve made this with fresh coconut and the fat really yields that meaty-fatty effect like real bacon does. However, the coconut taste comes through pretty strong.
I love mushroom bacon for the chewiness that it can retain when baking. The sweet smokiness really compliments the mushrooms themselves, and being that they don’t have a strong individual flavor are perfect for taking on any added flavor.
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Photo: (1) Mockup Graphics;Unsplash (2) Barroro; Unsplash (3) Han; Unsplash (4) nextfoods.com (5) Lightlife.com (6) nationalfood-USA.com (7) edyveg.com (8) minimalistbaker.com (9)