Creating the closest thing to bacon without using any animal-derived ingredients might seem like an impossible goal, so why even bother to go after it, you might ask?
Because I learned that it’s soo much easier than you think! Lately, I’ve noticed that we are being deluged with TV images of bacon-wrapped burgers, tacos, pizzas and every fast food you can think of. Let’s face it–that smokey, salty taste can add lots of flavor to many recipes and, of course, many people take pleasure in just feasting on strips of it.
As a person who does not eat meat, it’s always a challenge to create a new food that can evoke the same taste, flavor and texture of its inspiration. What a bonus that I have found a solution that is not only better for you and me, but better for animals and the planet we all share. As I journey along this vegan road, my experience has often been that it’s the flavorings and spices that meat-eaters put into and onto many meat, chicken, fish and shellfish recipes that gives it that distinct flavor. This idea was sort of an epiphany for me when I first stopped eating meat. It has really affected how I think about food now and how I cook what I cook. So why should bacon be any different?
OK, we can do that!
But I know we can do even better than that with these veggie ingredients!
We experimented with 5 different bases: tofu, tempeh, beans & buckwheat, shiitake mushrooms, and of all things, coconut. We agreed that one produced the best and most convincing Fake Bacon. And it turns out that the easiest recipe was the best!
My assistant chef (my daughter and mad, cooking scientist) and I spent a day in the kitchen creating Fake Bacon these 5 different ways, then had a taste test. Yes, we admit that we had so much fun, tasting all day and laughing a lot. Each recipe had definite advantages, great flavors and many uses but the one that evoked the most bacon-y experience was Fake Bacon, from The Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller. (Leave it to people who are strict about never eating pork to come up with a great simple recipe!)
All 5 recipes used an essential ingredient that I had never heard of and that now, I will never be without: Colgin Liquid Smoke. (No, this is not something you drink to quit cigarette smoking!) It is all-natural, vegan, gluten-free, contains no animal product. The ingredients are: water, natural hickory smoke flavor, vinegar, molasses, caramel color and salt. It has 0 calories and zero everything else. So basically it’s just a smoke flavoring but boy, does it pack a punch!
- 1 package tempeh, sliced thin
- 2 tbsp. liquid smoke
- 4 tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
- oil for frying.
- 1. Marinate tempeh in liquid smoke and tamari mix for 10 minutes.
- 2. Heat frying pan over high heat. Add oil and fry tempeh strips until browned on both sides about 10 minutes each.
Notes: It’s good to get this blackened –don’t be afraid to burn it! Could use a bit of added salt.
- 5 ounces tempeh (2/3 a standard 8 ounce pack)
- 1-2 Tbsp maple or agave syrup
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- a dash of cayenne
- 1 tsp liquid smoke (opt’l)
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp thick black pepper
- for pan: 2 tsp olive oil
- *if you don’t have liquid smoke use these BBQ spice combos: (garlic, pepper, paprika and onion)
- 1. Very thinly slice the tempeh.
- 2. As thin as you can slice it without it falling apart.
- 3. Combine all ingredients in a shallow dish.
- 4. Soak tempeh in marinade for 1-2 minutes.
- 5. Turn saute pan on high, add 1-2 tsp olive oil. Lay the tempeh flat on skillet. One layer only. Drizzle a bit of excess marinade onto skillet-it should be sizzling a lot now.
- 6. Allow to cook for 1 minute, then flip. Allow to cook for another minute on other side-or until both sides are crisp and browned.
- 7. Lay cooked tempeh on parchment paper to cool. Sprinkle with black pepper and thick sea salt to taste.
- 8. For a crisper tempeh bacon, do not pour excess marinade in skillet, and allow all liquid to steam off of pan while cooking.
Notes: Used Liquid Smoke with this recipe and maple syrup.
>USES SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS
From Olives for Dinner
- 1 TB olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp liquid smoke
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
- 2 cups shiitake mushroom caps, sliced thinly
- 1) Preheat oven to 350. Place a silpat over a baking sheet, set aside.
- 2) Combine all of the ingredients except for the sliced shiitake into a shallow glass pyrex or bowl. Whisk to combine.
- 3) Add in the sliced shiitake, and stir gently to combine. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes to an hour.
- 4) Place the shiitake in a single layer onto the silpat. Bake for 10 minutes, flip, then bake for an additional 15 minutes*. Increase the heat to 375, then bake for 10 minutes more. Flip, then finish for 10 more minutes. Keep an eye on them towards the end to ensure they do not burn.
- 5) Remove from the oven and place on paper towels to drain. As they drain, the edges will become crispy. Serve immediately.
- *Baking times will differ based on the thickness and type of shiitake you are using. After baking for 15-20 minutes, just keep an eye on them to prevent burning ingredients
Notes: Shrinks down a lot! Great for sprinkling. I didn’t have a silpat so I used a baking sheet.
>USES COCONUT SHREDS
from Fettle Vegan
- 3 1/2 cups flaked coconut
- 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
- 1 tablespoon Braggs liquid aminos or soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
- 1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- 2) Combine liquid smoke, braggs, maple syrup, and water in a large mixing bowl.
- 3) Pour in flaked coconut, using a wooden spoon to gently toss the coconut in the liquid mixture. If adding smoked paprika, add and toss to coat evenly.
- 4) Once the coconut is evenly coated, pour it onto a non-stick baking sheet and slide it the oven.
- 5) Bake for 20-25 minutes, using a spatula to flip the ‘bacon’ about every 5 minutes so it cooks evenly. This stuff WILL burn if you’re not keeping an eye on it and regularly flipping it, so please do.
- Coconut bacon can be stored in a sealed bag or container for up to a month, refrigerator optional.
Notes: Great for snacking on!
> USES RED BEANS AND BUCKWHEAT
- 1/2 cup dried adzuki beans, or other small red beans
- 1/3 cup whole grain buckwheat groats (not buckwheat flour)
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/3 tsp garlic powder
- 1/3 tsp rubbed sage
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1-1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp liquid smoke*
- 3 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1-1/2 tbsp coconut aminos (if no need to be soy-free, sub bragg’s, tamari, or soy sauce)*
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1-1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
- 1 tsp coconut oil (may sub any oil you prefer)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1) Rinse the beans and buckwheat, place in large bowl covered with several inches of cold filtered water; let soak overnight.
- 2) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- 3) Drain and rinse the soaked beans and buckwheat. Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with an s-blade, along with all of the other ingredients. Pulse several times to combine, scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl and continue pulsing until uniform, but not completely pureed.
- 4) Line a 9 x 13 casserole dish or rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with baking spray. Place bacon batter in pan and spread evenly with a spatula. You may choose to spray another piece of parchment paper lightly with baking spray and press the paper on top of the mixture and flatten with your hands. Remove and discard the top piece of parchment paper, then use a spatula to spread over and fill in any bare spots.
- 5) Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Slice into 24-32 strips, whatever size you prefer, I cut mine into 1 inch by 4 inches slices
- 6) At this point freeze any strips your don’t plan on eating immediately. Frozen strips can go straight into the skillet at a later date, no need to thaw first. To fry, heat a skillet with a small amount of oil and fry both sides to desired level of crispiness. You may also choose to fry slices in cooking spray, for a less crispy, but still very delicious result.
Notes: I used red beans and whole grain kasha. It’s nice to take slices and put on corn chips.
- 1 (7.5 ounce) package smoked firm tofu (or non-smoked)
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 dash liquid smoke flavoring (1-2 tbs if using regular tofu)
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons vegan margarine
- 1) Slice the thawed tofu into very thin slices (like bacon). In a medium bowl, stir together the yeast, water, maple syrup, liquid smoke, soy sauce, onion powder and garlic powder. Place the tofu strips into the bowl to marinate for at least 10 minutes.
- 2) Heat butter or margarine in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Quickly fry tofu strips until crisp, turning once, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels, and serve immediately.
Notes: Slice as thinly as possible. I didn’t have smoked tofu so I added extra Liquid Smoke to the recipe.
The American Heart Association says this about the saturated fat in bacon and red meat:
Eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood. High levels of blood cholesterol increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Be aware, too, that many foods high in saturated fats are also high in cholesterol – which raises your blood cholesterol even higher.
Thank You, Sources:
The Joy of Kosher by Jamie Geller Fake Bacon from Tempeh
Olives for Dinner Fake Bacon from Shiitake Mushrooms
Fettle Vegan Fake Bacon from Coconut
Ordinary Vegetarian Fake Bacon from Red Beans & Buckwheat
All Recipes by Holly Boxrud Fake Bacon from Tofu
LunchBoxBunch Fake Bacon from Tempeh and a Touch of Sweetness
If you’ve tried different recipes to make Fake Bacon, please share with us!