If you’ve never had plant-based bacon before, then it’s hard to even fathom how anything could replace the mouthwatering, fatty cut of meat that literally makes anything taste better. And while you won’t find plant-based bacon that will generate as much sludgy grease as the real thing, we’re willing to bet that you’ll be impressed by the taste and versatility.
Finding the perfect recipe for plant-based bacon has taken years of tweaking, but it just keeps getting better and better. Each brand adds its own unique ingredients to the mix, but some ingredients seem to work across the board to help plant-based bacon products achieve their desired flavor profile.
The foundation for almost all plant-based bacon products is soy. It may be soybeans, tofu, or tempeh, but you’ll find a good number of brands use this as their base. Why? Soy is notorious for being able to imitate both the texture and taste of meat. On its own it’s relatively flavorless, but it soaks up and holds onto whatever you season it with. Soy has tons of high-quality protein, better than double than meat. On top of that, it is low in fat and calories. If you choose a soy bacon product, make sure that you look for one like All Y’alls, made using whole Non-GMO soybeans.
Soy sauce or tamari is a widespread ingredient in plant-based bacon. Soy sauce has a very distinct flavor that is the perfect combination of umami, sweet, salty, and slightly bitter. Because of this varied flavor profile, it is used as a flavor enhancer for tons of different dishes, including faux meats. Soy sauce helps to give plant-based bacon the same dark depth of flavor as real meat. Tamari is a gluten-free version of soy sauce so it is all soy and no wheat and is less salty than full-flavor soy sauce. Brands will typically use tamari if their recipe is specifically made to be gluten-free.
Liquid smoke is used to give plant-based bacon a smoky, meaty flavor. It is made by literally condensing down smoke from burning wood, turning it into a liquid that you can add to your favorite recipes. It instantly makes food taste like you ran it through a smoker but is much more convenient. The smoky flavor is very commonly associated with meat, so it’s perfect for making faux meat products taste meatier.
Spices and herbs
Spices give plant-based food its full depth of flavor and they’ll vary based on the brand of plant-based bacon that you choose. The most common spices used to season plant-based bacon include sea salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and chili. These spices are used in many mock meat products as they help create a well-rounded flavor. You may also see fragrant herbs like sage, thyme, or rosemary.
What you’ll notice about all the ingredients in our list so far is that none of them are particularly colorful. Most of them are brown, beige, black, or dark green. None of these ingredients will create an accurate bacon color. Bacon is a pinkish-brown color, and to produce a color that is as close to the look of real bacon as possible beetroot powder is a great option. Many companies use red food coloring which is made from crude oil. While beetroot powder naturally gives plant-based bacon a reddish look without any artificial colors.
Using vinegar gives recipes a sharp sour kick, thanks to its high acidity levels. There are tons of different types of vinegar available, with some of the most popular being apple cider vinegar (our favorite!) balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, rice vinegar, malt vinegar, and white wine vinegar. They all have one thing in common, they are made from fermenting alcohol. Vinegar is often the base for meat marinades, and that association makes it a great ingredient to use in plant-based bacon. Vinegar also helps to balance out the smokiness, saltiness, and sweetness of the other ingredients.
All plant-based bacon products contain some form of sweetener. Sugar, agave, and maple syrup are all commonly used, but aim to choose brands that use unrefined sugar types like cane sugar since it’s better for the environment and your body!
Vital wheat gluten/seitan
Some brands will choose to use vital wheat gluten as the base for their plant-based bacon rather than soy. Vital wheat gluten is a natural protein made by removing everything that isn’t gluten from wheat flour. This concentrated gluten is sometimes used in baking to increase the rise of dough but also is used to make seitan, a common meat replacement. Seitan has a very similar texture to meat, and, like soy, it doesn’t have a strong flavor profile on its own. By properly seasoning vital wheat gluten with some of the above ingredients, you can make it taste very similar to bacon.
What can you make with plant-based bacon?
Plant-based bacon takes little to no prep, and with our bacony bits, you can eat them straight from the bag! Beyond just eating them by the handful, you can also incorporate plant-based bacon into your favorite recipes. Sprinkle them over a summer berry salad to add some crunch and saltiness or add to a classic caesar salad. You can use plant-based bacon as a topper for pizza, mac and cheese, burgers, hotdogs, or add to sandwiches and wraps.
And don’t forget breakfast. Choose a healthier and more ethical breakfast option by switching to plant-based bacon and mixing it with your eggs, hashbrowns, or grits.
Where to get plant-based bacon
Plant-based bacon is full of protein, fiber, and that mouthwatering flavor that only bacon can deliver. Vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike are As the demand increases, it’s becoming easier to find at grocery stores like H-E-B and health food stores like Whole Foods Market or Trader Joes. Or, you can order it online and have your plant-based bacon shipped right to your door. Regardless of where you get it, you can rest assured that you can find a plant-based bacon option that contains only natural ingredients without anything you can’t pronounce.