A lot of people say that they’d go vegetarian if it weren’t for one holdout: bacon.
Yes, bacon might be delicious but there is absolutely no reason it has to come from pigs (or any other animal). It isn’t just about animal welfare either. There are many reasons to ditch bacon, like all of the health risks that it is linked to. Try this formula for a perfect vegan bacon alternative and you will never miss the real thing again.
Why Do We Love Bacon Anyway?
Once you know why bacon tastes so good, you’ll see that it is actually pretty easy to replicate it. The reason we love bacon is because it is loaded with fat and salt. Both are things that our bodies are hardwired to love.
As Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Moss talks about in his book Salt Sugar Fat, we are each born with innate food preferences. We love fatty food because it is a good source of energy. We love salty foods because our body needs salt to survive. Remember, when our food preferences were developed in evolutionary history, salt was hard to come by.
With about 3.3 grams of fat per slice and a whopping 137mg of sodium, it is no wonder that we find bacon irresistible!
The pleasure of the fat and salt is amplified even more by a chemical reaction that occurs when you heat bacon. As this infographic from Compound Chem shows, heat causes sugars in the bacon to react with the amino acids and the fats also liquefy. This results in a full array of flavors and aromas. What it all comes down to is this:
Fat + Salt + Sugar + Amino Acids + Heat = Bacon Deliciousness
Replicating Bacon with Plant Foods
When you break it down, bacon is really just a combination of fats, salts, sugars, and amino acids which have been heated. You can easily replicate these components with plant foods. Below are the steps on how to do it.
Step 1: Choose a Base
There are a lot of things you can use for your vegan bacon base. Try to choose something which holds together well and has a “meaty” texture. Some of the best options are eggplant, tofu, tempeh, and portabella mushrooms. You can also use crunchy foods as your base, like carrots or coconut chips.
Step 2: Choose a Fat
As for the fat, the consensus seems to be that coconut oil is best. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, so it replicates the fat from bacon better than oils like sunflower, canola or olive oil. Don’t worry though. As talked about in this article, coconut oil mostly contains the healthy type of saturated fat called lauric acid.
Step 3: Choose a Sweetener
Maple syrup has a taste that we associate with bacon. You can also use other sweeteners like agave syrup or vegan sugar.
Step 4: Choose Something Salty
Soy sauce, tamari and coconut aminos will all work for giving your meatless bacon the salty taste that our bodies are hardwired to love.
Step 5: Add Vinegar
Vinegar has an acidic taste which, when combined with the other ingredients, helps replicate the taste of bacon. Vinegar also serves to help tenderize your base.
Step 6: Choose Additional Seasonings
To really take your vegan bacon up a notch, add some liquid smoke, paprika, or onion powder. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
Eggplant Vegan Bacon Recipe
Remember, the individual ingredients don’t matter so much when making vegan bacon. What does matter is getting them in the right ratio. So here’s a recipe for vegan bacon to get you started.
- 1 medium eggplant, cut into ¼ inch strips
- 2 Tbsp. coconut aminos
- 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
- 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp liquid smoke
- Pinch of onion powder
- Pinch of paprika
- Mix all of the ingredients except the eggplant together in a bowl or Ziploc bag.
- Put the eggplant strips in and let them marinade for at least 1 hour.
- Put a bit of oil on a griddle and heat to high. Carefully place the marinated eggplant strips on the griddle and let them cook until they have griddle marks.
- Flip them and cook the other side. (You can also cook your “bacon” strips on a grill, fry it, or dehydrate it.)