Despite America’s waning enthusiasm for fatty meats (red meat consumption has been on the decline since the 1970s), bacon seems to live in perpetual popularity. Be it in bourbon, ice cream, donuts, or breakfast burritos — people are all about their rashers.
Nonetheless, there are plenty of good reasons to steer clear of the b-word. For one thing, pigs are as smart as three-year old children. And as plenty of piggie Instagram accounts (@Prissy_Pig, anyone?!) have demonstrated, they’re pretty adorable, too. Not to mention that the World Health Organization (WHO) put processed pork (i.e. bacon) in the same cancer risk category as cigarettes and asbestos. Ugh.
Luckily, this is the age of culinary innovation, and you can have your pig and eat your pork, too. There are all kinds of savory, crunchy, umami-esque vegan bacons that won’t cause any harm to your bod — or to the world’s swine population. Here are seven of the best.
Tofurky Tempeh Smoky Maple Bacon
The quintessential faux meat maker has stepped up its game in recent years, unleashing a host of new products, including a line of tempeh-based (fermented soybeans for noobs) products. One innovative new item is the tempeh maple bacon. The molasses and maple-syrupy strips are a perfect addition to any breakfast or BLT.
Rice Paper Bacon
This may sound bizarre, at best, but rice paper bacon is actually the hottest new craze to hit the internet. Dreamed up by a couple in Denmark and dubbed “laekon,” the concept is pretty brilliant. The recipe involves double-stacked sheets of rice paper, lots of umami flavor (thanks to Liquid Smoke, soy sauce, and a few other ingredients) — and a couple of pastry brushes. Six minutes in the oven and it’s ON.
Upton’s Naturals Bacon Seitan
Believe it or not, this seitan-based bacon has as much protein as a pig itself — but without the cholesterol and carcinogenic qualities. You can bake it or pan fry it, and add it to any recipe that could use a salty, smoky flavor. Think BLTs, burgers, chowders; get creative with it. And, a portion of proceeds from this compassionate product goes to caring for the lucky pigs who live at Farm Sanctuary!
Lightlife Smart Bacon
Unlike its “real” counterpart, this bacon doppelganger is free from saturated fat and cholesterol. Consider it health food — kinda sorta. Slap it into a grilled sammie, crumble it onto a salad, or add it into some pasta. And it’s the best-ever for breakfast, obviously, particularly when paired with a tofu scramble. Because when is bacon not a brilliant meal idea?
The Gentle Chef’s “Bacun”
Chef Skye Michael Conroy is basically a food magician. He can make cheese out of coconut oil, hard-boiled eggs out of tofu, and “bacun; out of wheat gluten and a handful of other easy ingredients. It looks like bacon (marbling included), tastes like bacon — and you can make it yourself. No chef training required. You can score a “Bacun Bits” recipe free on his blog, but for the full “Bacun” experience, his Seitan and Beyond cookbook is where the action is.
Phoney Baloney’s Coconut Bacon
Coconut bacon is actually a thing. Somehow, the texture and taste of coconut flakes paired with tamari, maple syrup, and some other baconey flavors create the most delicious of savory sweet snacks. It’s also gluten-free. The company even created an Elvis-inspired banana, peanut butter, and “bacon” cupcakes recipe, so you can indulge in the king’s favorite flavors without his — ahem — health issues.
Sweet Earth’s Benevolent Bacon
This plant-based, hickory-sage version of everyone’s favorite pork product comes with a whopping 10 grams of protein per serving — and boasts 75 percent less fat than the piggie version. Plus, it’s crispy and delicious — satisfying enough to please even a bacon-obsessed omnivore. Just remember it cook it per the instructions: burner to medium heat; add a little oil to the pan; cook two minutes per side (a little longer if you like your bacon crispy); and let it sit for a minute before chowing down.
Hannah Sentenac is a freelance writer and journalist who covers veg food, drink, pop culture, travel, and animal advocacy issues. She’s written for Live Happy magazine, Foxnews.com, MindBodyGreen.com, and numerous other publications and websites. Hannah is also the Editor-in-Chief of LatestVeganNews.com, a publication dedicated to positive, original news from the vegan and plant-based world.