Some people like to claim that bacon‘s smoky, salty and fatty flavor is impossible to substitute. We beg to differ.
There are tons of tasty bacon alternatives out there for vegans, vegetarians and those with Kosher or Halal diets. As if these weren’t all great reasons to bump bacon from your life, there’s another advantage: cutting bacon is also incredibly heart healthy, because it will help you reduce cholesterol intake!
Get ready to think outside the meat aisle … in some cases, far, FAR outside.
1. Peanut butter
Bacon is pretty much the star in the BLT, one of the most iconic sandwiches on Earth. But do you really need it? While there are a number of substitutes for bacon in this dish, one of them might really intrigue you: peanut butter, especially the crunchy kind. PBLTs are 100 percent vegan, as long as you choose a vegan bread — we recommend a hearty whole grain — they’re a snap to make. Best of all, peanut butter is shelf stable — you should really keep it in the fridge for a longer life, though — so you can enjoy a PBLT pretty much any time, rather than having to make a special trip to the store.
This is another entry on the list that might surprise you. But, like bacon, avocado has a high fat content — luckily, it’s the good kind of fat — and it can be dressed with salt for a little extra tangy crunch. Cut some thin slices to make an ALT – avocado, lettuce and, well, you get it — or slice over salad to replace crumbled bacon. You can even grill it! No seriously, grilled avocado is the bomb.
3. Sun-dried tomatoes
Want that concentrated burst of umami flavor? Sun-dried tomatoes are where it’s at. Toss them with pasta or salads, crumble them on pizzas and even use them as a topping on soups like corn chowder!
4. Pressed baked tofu
Lots of stores sell soy bacon and various bacon-style tofus, but you can also make your own. Start by pressing your tofu. Take a block, wrap it in a clean towel, lay it on a cutting board and add another board on top with a weight, like a brick or a book. Leave it for a few hours, or even overnight, to make a firm block, and then marinate it in maple syrup and liquid smoke to give it a rich umami flavor. Bake, slice thin and you’re ready to go!
Devilishly delicious! There are lots of great store-bought versions to choose from, but you can also marinate and cook your own, as above. If you really want to strut your stuff, follow this recipe for making your own seitan at home!
Nothing temporary about this one. Because tempeh is fermented, this soy product actually has a leg up on tofu; the fermentation gives it that rich umami flavor some bacon-lovers crave. Several companies make great tempeh bacon alternatives, but if you want to save some money and play with flavor, definitely try marinating your own tempeh.
One of the original players on the umami field, mushrooms — especially portobellos and porcinis — have a very rich, meaty feel and flavor. Whether you roast, saute or grill them, they’re great on sandwiches and in other foods like quiche — and you can whip up a variety of marinades for them to get them tasting just the way you like them. Want something crispy? Try frying up shiitakes, which make for a great bacon stand-in.
8. Fried shallots
Need a crispy topping? This humble allium has you covered. Dice up some shallots and toss with a bit of salt before frying them up in a healthy oil with a high smoking point, like coconut oil. They’ll give you the crunch you need for salads, casseroles, and soups, without the animal cruelty.
Paprika and chipotle peppers both have a tangy smoky flavor. Try adding them to dishes like soups and stews where some chefs might use bacon or “lardons” in the base, or sprinkle them onto a variety of foods to add a little something for the taste buds.
Yup. If you need something that’s just plain crunchy, it’s hard to go wrong with fried breadcrumbs. Toss them in a little bit of oil and either broil or pan fry them — add salt, paprika, nutritional yeast or a bit of liquid smoke if you want to give them more of a bacony taste — and you’ll be all set. They’ll keep for several days if you let them cool and toss them regularly to ensure they dry completely and evenly.