3 Delicious Ways to Make Vegan Bacon
These three delicious vegan bacon recipes are a great way to add more plant-based foods to your diet without sacrificing flavor or texture.
The rise of vegan bacon
Plant-based eating is rising in popularity, so it’s no wonder vegan bacon is stepping into the spotlight. With an increase in vegan bacon products filling store shelves and a rise in vegan bacon recipes online, it is easier than ever to replace that delicious, crispy meat with a plant-based alternative.
We know what you’re thinking: a plant-based food that looks and tastes like cured meat but doesn’t have its high saturated fat content? Sounds too good to be true. It’s not. With a few key ingredients, everything from mushrooms to tempeh—even rice paper—can be transformed into a crispy, plant-based bacon taste-alike.
But not every vegan bacon recipe is equal. What really goes into creating a passable vegan replacement for this breakfast favorite? Keep reading to find out.
Why switch to vegan bacon?
If you aren’t sold on switching to vegan bacon, consider its health benefits.
“We all know bacon is delicious, and I believe it can have a place in anyone’s diet,” says Kelly Sloan, a registered dietitian in Honolulu, Hawaii. “However, plant-based bacon options contain less saturated fat than traditional bacon.” Reducing your saturated fat intake is a heart-healthy move; getting too much saturated fat can raise your risk of heart disease.
Keep in mind: being vegan doesn’t automatically make a bacon product healthy. “Some of the vegan bacon you buy in the store can be pretty processed,” says culinary dietitian Jackie Topol, RD. This is why making your own vegan bacon at home can be the best choice.
Vegan bacon vs. animal bacon
Adding plant-based foods to your diet can be beneficial to your health, especially when they replace high-fat animal proteins. Take, for instance, vegan bacon. A one-ounce serving of prepared pork bacon contains 133 calories, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, and 477 milligrams of sodium. In comparison, the same portion of a vegan bacon contains 49 calories, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, and 234 milligrams of sodium—a savings of 84 calories, 3 grams of saturated fat, and 243 milligrams of sodium per ounce.
In addition to reducing your intake of saturated fat, sodium, and calories, a switch to vegan bacon can offer an additional benefit. These plant-based meats are typically uncured and therefore contain fewer, if any, nitrates. “Foods that include nitrites and nitrates have been associated with increased risks of some types of cancer,” says Sloan.
Homemade vegan bacon made with vegetables and seasonings can offer a tasty, healthy alternative. And if you think making vegan bacon at home is complicated, think again.
(Here’s what you need to know about plant-based vs. vegan.)
How to make vegan bacon that tastes like the real thing
Making vegan bacon that tastes like the real thing may sound intimidating, but it is doable even for a novice home chef. “My best advice to prepare tasty vegan bacon is to focus on flavor as well as texture,” says vegan chef Lucia Fusco, who runs the website Sweet as Vegan.
One common thread among vegan bacon recipes is the addition of liquid smoke. Using it will impart a more authentic bacon flavor.
“This is a hickory-based ingredient with a rich, smoky flavor,” says Fusco, who is quick to point out that a little goes a long way. “Some brands are stronger than others, so I always recommend testing how concentrated the ingredient is before using it in a batch of vegan bacon.”
Alternatively, you can use spices like paprika to add flavor. “Spices like cumin and smoked paprika mimic the savory, smoky flavors that are in bacon,” says Topol. (Try these plant-based fast food options that taste delicious.)
If flavor is king when it comes to perfecting your vegan bacon recipe, then texture is queen. Depending on your selected plant-based bacon alternative, you may need to use a variety of cooking methods to achieve the desired crispy, crunchy texture of traditional bacon.
You can do this by choosing plant-based foods that are already crispy, such as dehydrated coconut and rice paper. Or you slice ingredients as thin as possible and bake or fry them to your preferred level of crispiness.
(Like cheese sauce? Try this vegan cashew “cheese” sauce recipe.)
The best vegan bacon recipes
If you are ready to start making your own vegan bacon at home, these three recipes are the perfect place to start. Each uses a different key ingredient, so you are sure to find a vegan bacon recipe that works for your individual taste.
Courtesy Jackie Topol, MS, RD
This recipe is from Jackie Topol, RD
Chefs and home cooks alike love to create vegan bacon from tempeh, a plant-based protein make from soybeans. But there is a science to making tempeh look and taste like a bacon alternative. “The trick with tempeh bacon is to cut the pieces really thin and lightly pan fry them so they get nice and crispy,” says Topol.
In her tempeh bacon recipe, she uses a blend of cumin, smoked paprika, and a hint of maple syrup to provide a smoky, savory flavor with a hint of sweetness—just like you would find in traditional versions. Whipping up some of this vegan bacon will give you a source of plant-based protein in your diet. Plus, like other vegan bacons, it’s lower in saturated fat and calories than traditional bacon.
5-ounce package tempeh
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons tamari or light soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
dash of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon avocado oil
Cut tempeh width-wise (the shorter way) into very thin slices. In a shallow dish, combine all of the ingredients except the avocado oil. Marinate the tempeh strips for about 5 to 10 minutes. In a large nonstick skillet, warm the avocado oil and pan fry the tempeh strips. (You should hear a sizzle when you place the strips in the pan.) Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until crisp and browned on one side, then flip over and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the pieces from the pan and let cool. Try the bacon on top of a salad or in a sandwich.
Vegan Rice Paper Bacon Bits
Courtesy Lucia Fusco
This recipe is from vegan chef Lucia Fusco
Vegan bacon that achieves a crispy texture can fool your mouth into thinking it’s the real deal. That’s why rice paper is a great option to use as a base. It’s a very thin wrapper made from rice, water, and salt. You’ve probably eaten it in Asian cuisine—it’s used for dishes like summer rolls.
When rice paper is marinated in a blend of seasonings and then baked, it can provide a delicious, crunchy vegan bacon alternative. Rice paper bacon can be served in slices or broken into bits to provide a meatless alternative to traditional bacon bits.
In this rice paper vegan bacon recipe, the rice paper is blended together with a mix of pepper, brown sugar, barbecue sauce, and a hint of liquid smoke to replicate the sweet, savory flavor of bacon without any animal products. And because it’s fried in just a small amount of olive oil, it provides a source of healthy, plant-based fat instead of the saturated fat found in traditional versions.
3–4 sheets of rice paper
2 teaspoons of soft brown sugar
2 teaspoons of garlic salt (or garlic powder + salt)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon of vegemite (or marmite) diluted in a half cup of warm water + the following
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon smokey barbecue sauce
1 drop of liquid smoke
1 tablespoon shredded coconut
Olive oil for frying
Cut 3 to 4 sheets of rice paper into 1- to 2-centimeter-long segments. Don’t worry about being precise; irregular shapes are fine. Add the rice paper pieces to a bowl and poured in the rest of the ingredients, except the olive oil. Mix well.
Add a little bit of organic olive oil to a nonstick pan and cooked on medium heat for about 10 minutes. The rice paper will absorb all the flavors and become a sticky ball. Using kitchen scissors, cut the rice paper ball into dozens of smaller clumps. Cooked, these will be your bacon bits.
Lay the bacon clusters on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You can use aluminum foil instead, but the bits may get stuck.
Preheat the oven at 350° F, using the convection setting, if you oven has one. (If you don’t have a convection oven, a good rule of thumb is to add 25° F. You may need to bake slightly longer, too.) Once heated, bake for about 10 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 320° F and leave the oven door slightly open for the last two minutes of baking.
Let cool down for at least 10 minutes. After cooling, the texture will become crunchy. You can store them in the fridge for up to a week.
Vegan Mac & Cheese with Mushroom Bacon Bits
Courtesy Kelly Sloan, MS, RD.
This recipe is from Kelly Sloan, RD
Vegetables can also serve as a great base for vegan bacon, which is evident in this shitake mushroom bacon recipe. Not only can mushrooms provide a meaty taste and texture, but this vegan bacon is also a good way to increase your daily vegetable intake.
1 (8 ounce) box of plant-based pasta, such as Banza’s elbow chickpea pasta, cooked according to directions on the package
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, washed and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon light maple syrup
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegan cream sauce:
1 small head cauliflower, washed and cut into florets
1/3 cup unsweetened almond (or soy) milk
1/3 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional Toppings: vegan cheese, tomato, or parsley
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Combine mushroom, maple syrup, soy sauce, oil, paprika, salt, and pepper, evenly coating the mushrooms.
Place mushrooms onto a prepared baking sheet, in a single layer. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until crispy.
While mushrooms bake, prepare vegan cream sauce. In a small pot, boil water. Add cauliflower florets and boil for 10 to 15 minutes, or until soft.
Add cooked cauliflower to a blender with almond milk, onion, garlic, nutritional yeast, mustard, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth.
Add vegan cream sauce to cooked pasta, evenly covering pasta. Set aside.
Remove mushrooms from oven. Let cool 5 minutes to allow mushrooms to crisp up and harden. Once cool, chop mushrooms into bits.
Sprinkle mushroom “bacon” bits on top of creamy pasta mixture and top with your other favorite toppings. Enjoy immediately.
- Kelly Sloan, MS, RD, registered dietitian based on Honolulu, Hawaii
- Jackie Topol, MS, RD, registered dietitian and culinary nutritionist
- Lucia Fusco, vegan chef
- USDA FoodData Central: "Bacon, meatless"
- Jackie Topol: "Tempeh Bacon"
- Sweet as Vegan: "Vegan Rice Paper Bacon (Vegan Pancetta Style) Invented by Sweet as Vegan"
- Kelly Sloan: "Vegan Mac & Cheese With Mushroom 'Bacon' Bits"