Smoky, salty, and convincingly meaty, this recipe for Vegan Bacon strips and vegan bacon bits is sure to win you over. Best of all, it takes just 20 minutes to make this plant-based version of everyone's favorite breakfast meat!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
If you're a vegan, I'm sure you've had more than one incident where someone used a single word to counter your thoughtful decision to go plant-based: BACON. My friends, I'm happy to report that you'll soon have an effective retort at the ready. I've finally cracked the code to make the best vegan bacon around!
I can almost guarantee that once you try this fake-on (that's a contraction of fake bacon, thankyouverymuch) you'll be happier than a pig in hooey. This simple recipe is:
- Convincingly "Meaty". While that might not be a selling point in other recipes, you're here for a vegan bacon substitute. Meaty is the name of the game! Simply made with Butler's Soy Curls and seasoned with a smattering of vegan pantry essentials, this fake bacon has all the salty-sweet-smoky-chewy goodness of the original but is 100% plant-based and gluten-free.
- Super Versatile. Whether you're in the market for something to pair with your breakfast scramble or need some vegan bacon bits for a salad, this recipe has you covered. Read on below for lots of ideas!
- Oh So Easy. 10 ingredients (most of which are probably already in your possession), 10 minutes of prep, 10 minutes of cook time. It doesn't get much easier.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Making a passable vegetarian bacon substitute has eluded me for years, but I've finally found the right mix of ingredients. Here's what you'll need:
- Tamari - This is a gluten-free version of soy sauce. If gluten isn't an issue, feel free to sub soy sauce. If soy is a no-go, try liquid aminos.
- Apple Cider Vinegar - Feel free to sub in rice vinegar if needed.
- Better than Bouillon No Chicken Base - I always have a jar of this magic on hand to make veggie broth in an instant. Feel free to swap out the water and veggie bouillon or leave it out.
- Maple Syrup - Normal bacon has a hint of sweetness (even if it isn't specifically maple bacon) that comes from a compound known as maple lactone that is created during smoking. Replicate the flavor with maple syrup instead!
- Avocado Oil or Olive Oil (optional) - While you're free to omit this if you're on an oil-free diet, I find the addition of heart-healthy fat helps to mimic both the flavor and mouthfeel to create a more passable vegan bacon substitute.
- Smoked Paprika - "Smoky" is an adjective that I always associate with bacon, and it's easy to replicate using this smoked spice. Feel free to swap in regular or hot paprika if you like, then add a ½ teaspoon of liquid smoke to give your veggie bacon its proper wood-smoke flavor.
- Garlic Powder & Onion Powder - These two allium powders make it into most of my recipes because I love them!
- Black Pepper - Use freshly cracked black pepper for the most intense flavor.
- Soy Curls - Butler's Soy Curls have long been one of my favorite meat substitutes. They're made from 100% soy beans with no added preservatives or artificial ingredients, and they honest-to-goodness have a chew that tastes just like real meat! They're also shelf-stable, meaning this whole recipe can be made from just pantry ingredients. Amazing!
How To Make The Best Vegan Bacon
You're just 3 easy steps away from the best veggie bacon of your life. Here's how it's made:
Step 1: Make Marinade. Add all ingredients (except soy curls) to a small pot/saucepan and bring to boil. Turn off burner and remove from heat.
Step 2: Soak Curls. Add soy curls to the pot and let sit for 10 minutes to rehydrate. If the liquid does not cover all the soy curls add enough water to cover them.
Step 3: Cook On The Stovetop. Add soy curls (along with the liquid - no need to wring out all the liquid) to a cast iron pan (or pan of choice) and cook on medium heat for 8-12 minutes, stirring occasionally until all the liquid is absorbed and the soy curls are a tiny bit crispy on the outside.
Variation for Step 3: Cook in Airfryer. Wring out the liquid from the soy curls. Air fry at 370 degrees for 4 minutes shake the basket and then air fry for another 2-4 minutes until crispy to your liking.
Making Vegan Bacon Bits
The directions for making bacon bits are the same as the strips, only the cooking time is a little less.
Instead of cooking on the stove for 8-10 minutes, cook for 5-8 minutes or until the pieces are a little crispy on the outside.
For air frying, cook at 370 for about 6 minutes, shaking the basket every two minutes. Stop cooking when the bits get a little crispy - make sure you don't over-cook because they can get hard if over-cooked.
- Air-Fryer Cooking Method - While this method yields a little bit less intense bacon-y flavor, it'll still make some pretty tasty vegetarian bacon. Follow steps 1 & 2 in the instructions above, then wring out the liquid from the soy curls using either your hands or a potato masher and a colander. Air fry at 370 degrees for 4 minutes, shake the basket, and then air fry for another 2-4 minutes until crispy to you liking.
- Vegan Black Pepper Bacon - Crank up the heat by adding a full teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper to your marinade.
- Vegan Black Forest Bacon - Add a ½ teaspoon each of ground coriander, juniper berries, and ground celery seed to the marinade. Be sure to remove the juniper berries prior to eating; they're potent when you bite into one!
- Vegan Bacon Bits - Chop the cooked fake-on into small bits and sprinkle on everything your heart desires!
Omnivores claim that bacon makes everything better. I personally feel the same way about my vegan bacon! Here are a few ways to put it to good use:
- Use it for breakfast. Serve with your favorite scrambles, add to my Vegan Quiche with Spinach & Artichokes, or roll it up in tortillas for extra tasty Vegan Breakfast Tacos.
- Make a VBLT (Vegan BLT). Toast up your favorite bread, add a swipe of vegan mayo, layer on crispy vegan bacon strips, juicy farm-fresh tomatoes, and crunchy lettuce. YUM!
- Make a Vegan Carbonara. Add bacon bits to your choice of cooked pasta topped with my Vegan Cashew Alfredo Sauce.
- Add bits to soups for extra pizzaz. My Creamy Vegan Corn Chowder and Vegan Potato Leek Soup are great places to start.
- Or add it to salads! Vegan Ranch Pasta Salad, Herbed Potato Salad, or Vegan Buffalo Chicken Salad sound like winners to me.
What are your favorite ways to use vegan bacon? Let me know in the comments below!
This is the best vegan bacon recipe because it's delicious, healthy, and most of all, EASY. That said, I have a few tricks up my sleeve:
- Use the longer pieces of soy curls if you want more of a strip bacon feel. The smaller bits are great if you are just looking for bacon bits!
- Make it extra crispy by air frying after you cook on the stovetop. Cooking on the stovetop is my preferred method because the marinade gets reduced and sucked up by the soy curls, which intensifies the bacon-y flavor. If you're someone who likes shatteringly crisp bacon, though, the cast iron can't do it alone! Toss the cooked veggie bacon in the fryer for 2-3 minutes at 370F after the stovetop and you'll be in hog-free heaven (teehee).
- Meal Prep FTW. Once made, the bacon will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, if you can make it last that long. You can also freeze it for up to a month!
It honestly depends on what recipe you use. I use Butler's Soy Curls in this recipe, but I've seen other versions that use tofu, tempeh, coconut meat, and even rice paper as the base ingredient.
The seasonings I use are also pretty simple: maple syrup for sweetness, tamari for some gluten-free umami goodness, and a handful of spice cabinet staples to round out the flavors.
If we're talking about this recipe, YES!
The only processing that happens in this recipe is quite minimal. First, I should note that foods that have been flash frozen, cooked in any way, canned, or even chopped are considered "processed," so don't go running for the hills just yet.
Soy curls are made from minimally processed soybeans. There are no chemicals used during processing, making them one of the least processed meat alternatives on the market.
Then, we further "process" them by rehydrating in a flavorful marinade and cooking on the stovetop or in an air fryer. So, technically, yes, this veggie bacon has been processed. But, when compared to regular bacon, the processing is nothing to bat an eye at.
More Vegan Meat Alternatives
If you make this recipe and LOVE IT, please give it 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐!
Vegan Bacon (& Vegan Bacon Bits)
- cast iron or other large frying pan
- air fryer optional
- ¼ cup low sodium tamari can sub soy sauce or liquid aminos
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar can sub rice vinegar
- ⅔ cup water can sub vegetable broth (more if needed)
- 2 teaspoons Better than Bouillon No Chicken Base can use 1 teaspoon if you want to cut doen on the salty flavor (optional but adds flavor)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil can sub olive oil (optional)
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika see notes
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 pinch black pepper
- 2 cups soy curls choose the longer strips of the soy curls for bacon strips, smaller pieces for bacon bits
- Add all ingredients (except soy curls) to a small pot/saucepan and bring to boil. Turn off burner and remove from heat.
- Add soy curls to the pot and let sit for 10 minutes to rehydrate. If the liquid does not cover all the soy curls add enough water to cover them.
- Add soy curls along with the liquid to a cast iron pan (or pan of choice) and cook on medium heat for 8-12 minutes, stirring occasionally until all the liquid is absorbed and the soy curls are a tiny bit crispy on the outside. For bacon bits, cooking time will be a little less. Cook until the liquid is absorbed and they're crispy to your liking.
Air Fryer (this cooking method makes the soy curls a little less intense in flavor)
- Wring out the liquid from the soy curls (see notes). Air fry at 370 degrees for 4 minutes. Shake the basket and then air fry for another 2-4 minutes until crispy to your liking. For bacon bits, shake the basket every 2 minutes. Bacon bits will be done faster than the bacon strips.
PLEASE NOTE: Nutritional information data is computer generated and only an estimate so it should be used only as a guide.
Mary Ellen Valverde MS, CNS, LDN is a Licensed Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist who empowers vegans to feel confident in creating sustainable habits that align with their values and health goals. She shares easy gluten-free plant-powered food to nourish your body + satisfy your tastebuds. Mary Ellen's recipes and nutrition info have been featured on Yahoo News, Parade, VegNews, LIVESTRONG, Dr. Axe, Greatist, LIVEKINDLY, Brit+Co, Well+Good, and more.