25 Bacon Substitutes (Vegan and Non-vegan)
Some say there’s nothing like freshly fried, crispy bacon. Others say there’s nothing like its sweet and salty flavor. Others like its smokey notes. Whatever it is, there are times when you may be forced to find a bacon replacement.
Whether you want to cut back on red meat and try something leaner and healthier, or you’ve run out of bacon and still want to create that yummy recipe. Or perhaps you want to forego meat altogether and adopt a plant-based lifestyle, or maybe you follow a kosher or halal diet. No matter your reason for not using bacon, we present the best substitutes.
Loving bacon? Are you forced to let it go? Don’t worry, we’ve got you!
Bacon was produced to preserve the meat through the long winter months. Originally, cured and preserved meats, stored in cellars to dry and maintain their nutrients, were consumed in moderation. Nowadays, bacon is a daily choice and some not so healthy ingredients can be added to it to enhance its flavor. However, America has quite a relationship with bacon.
There’s nothing like pancakes and bacon. There’s nothing like eggs and bacon. There’s nothing like a BLT with some extra crispy bacon. There’s nothing like pasta or pizza with some bacon on top. Is there anything better than a donut with bacon bits? Maybe some ice cream with bacon bits! There are even drinks (sodas and beer) flavored with bacon. Even toothpaste! So yes, America loves bacon.
Bacon makes everything better. The numbers show that bacon sales are up, reaching about $500 million in January 2021. But the thing is, even if you are not thinking of a more sustainable diet for the planet, you might want to reconsider your dietary choices since bacon is not so healthy.
Full of fat, sodium, and cholesterol, bacon should be eaten in moderation. If you have a health issue, if you’re watching your sodium or fat intake, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you may want to opt for the best bacon substitutes.
Let’s get meaty: Check out how to substitute bacon
We’re not stating that the following ingredients are just like bacon. Some replicate its taste while others have the same crispy texture and bite to them. Some ingredients have the same sweet, salty, and smoky flavor.
And while they are not bacon, the following ingredients can replace it in your recipes. Whether you’ve run out or you’re simply looking for a healthier alternative, here’s what to use instead of bacon.
This Italian ham is lower in fat and cholesterol but does have the same amount of salt. If you’ve run out of bacon but still have some prosciutto lying around in the fridge, yes you can use it.
Made from pork leg, prosciutto is cured for about three years, then it’s cut in paper thin shavings and it’s usually served uncooked. You can, however, crumble it or make it crispy like bacon on top for some of your favorite dishes.
2. Beef Bacon
When it comes to bacon alternatives, beef is a popular option if you’re trying a keto or zero-carb diet. Just like any meaty bacon replacement, beef bacon is also unhealthy when cooked and consumed in large quantities.
But, if you’re simply looking for an alternative, beef bacon is leaner and quite tasty. And yes, we can say it “as good as real bacon”.
This is the Italian version of bacon. Made from salt-cured pork belly, pancetta is not smoked but it is heavily cured. We added it to the list of suggestions since it can replace bacon in recipes when you’ve run out.
4. Turkey Bacon
If you’re a bacon aficionado this suggestion may well annoy you. Well, this entire article will probably make you a little irritated. We get it. Still, for when you are forced to make some changes in your diet, turkey bacon is a great suggestion. It’s a healthier alternative, it’s white meat, and if cured and smoked properly, it has a similar taste.
Sure, the texture is not the same even if you oven-bake it. Oven baked is the closest you’ll get with this meat since it lacks fat for crisping up and become sweeter when cooked. But here’s the good news: that sweet taste from fried bacon comes from animal fat transforming into something not so healthy for your body. Annoyed yet? No? Well, keep reading! We haven’t got to tofurky yet! 🙂
5. Duck Bacon
Duck bacon is made from the breast of the duck and is not as fatty as pork. Also, it’s usually cut in thicker bits so you’ll be missing that crispy texture you probably love about pork bacon.
Duck bacon is still a delicious option for your BLT of added in salads or pasta. And it’s a little healthier. Just a tad.
Sure you’ve heard of it! It’s “gabagool”, as Tony Soprano says. Well, Capicola is a red, cured meat and resembles prosciutto. It can replace bacon and is lower in fat. FYI, it is higher in sodium.
7. Salmon Rashers
This is one of the best bacon substitutes that don’t quite taste like bacon but is rather yummy. Salty, smoked salmon will not crisp like bacon, but rashers? Yes, they will.
8. Fish Skin Bacon
One of those you either hate or can’t get enough of it! While fish skin bacon does not taste like the pork version, if you only eat fish or are trying to cut back on red meats, it’s a good choice.
9. Salt Pork
Salt pork comes from the lower portion of the pork belly. It means it’s filled with fat and has some muscle fibres along the way. As the name suggests, salt pork is saltier. It’s also very onctuous and rich when it comes to flavor. If you don’t have bacon but do have this in your fridge, it’s best used in chowders, beans and veggie dishes, or as a crispy topping.
If you’re in Italy and are trying an American recipe, guanciale is one the best substitutes for bacon. No, it does not taste the same. This doesn’t mean it tastes bad though!
After all, guanciale is made from pork cheek. It’s fattier than bacon and has a rather buttery taste and can be added in pasta, salads, and sandwiches.
Plant-based: Discover the Best Bacon Substitutes for Vegetarians and Vegans
If you are a vegetarian or vegan in order to have a healthier lifestyle or eat more sustainably for the planet, there are some amazing plant-based options out there! Here’s what to replace bacon with if you don’t want to eat animal-based protein.
11. Vegetarian Bacon
There are many brands of vegetarian bacon. Fakon, aka fake bacon, is especially designed for non-meat eaters. Made mostly from soy and peas, vegetarian bacon is perfectly designed to mimic the taste, smell and texture of bacon. Fakon is similar to bacon when it comes to taste and texture and while it doesn’t contain the fat that bacon has, it’s still processed food, so make sure to consume it in moderation.
12. Tofurky Smoky Bacon
If you don’t eat meat for moral reasons and would like to harm as few animals as possible, tofurky is a great alternative to bacon. Tofurky is made from tempeh, aka fermented soy, and has smoky flavors. Soy sauce, sea salt, maple syrup, and cider vinegar will make it even better.
13. Carrot Bacon/Zucchini Bacon
Peel your carrots and slice them really thin. Prepare a marinade of oil, maple syrup, tahini, soy sauce, liquid smoke and smoke paprika. Let the carrots soak up the liquid for an hour tops. Oven bake them for about 20 minutes, 10 minus for zucchinis.. Done and yum: vegan bacon!
All you meat lovers prepare to groan! Are ya done? Well, you might want to keep this one in mind when it comes to healthy choices. Tempeh strips are some of the best bacon substitutes out there. Made from fermented soy, they pack a great amount of protein and no cholesterol.
15. Mushroom Bacon
Yes, it’s a thing! And quite a tasty one for vegans and meat lovers too. It works great with portobellos and King Oyster ‘shrooms. You have to dehydrate them and marinade them to obtain the crispness and taste of bacon.
16. Seitan Bacon
First things first! If you’re gluten intolerant, this option is not for you since it’s well, uhm, pure gluten!
Seitan is made from wheat gluten. It’s actually a dough that’s been kneaded and boiled. And when fried up with some smoky condiments, it tastes just like bacon. True story! Just don’t eat it with bread because, well, the whole purpose is to eat a healthier diet after all.
What can you replace bacon with in salads or on top of your pancakes? Well, you probably won’t have thought of this, but smoked chickpeas! Marinade boiled and cooled chickpeas in some oil, maple syrup, liquid smoke, garlic powder, salt and then fry them to get the crunch!
18. Coconut Bacon
Coconut bacon is crispy and has great nutritional value. Make sure to choose unsweetened coconut flakes when making your vegan bacon, though! Just add some flavorings and drizzle some oil and you’ve got a great snack or topping for your dish.
19. Seaweed Bacon
It’s called Dulse and it’s packed with minerals and vitamins, such as B12 and Iodine. Seaweed bacon, however, does not provide the same taste as pork bacon. Also, in terms of calibrating your expectations, Dulse, when fried (do not eat it raw, it does not taste good!) gives the crunch and crisp of bacon but doesn’t provide the same chewiness. Actually, if we’re being honest, Dulse is quite tasty, having a papadum taste with a hint of seaweed, but it’s only a good bacon replacement if you’re keen on saving animals.
20. Cheese Bacon
You don’t eat meat? Or you’d love some extra crisp to your sandwich? Well, grate some cheese in a hot skillet, sprinkle in some smoked paprika, flip the cheese to get a crunchy bite and voilà: you’ve got a great replacement! Actually, you may want to keep this one in mind to add some taste to any dish at any time. Well, not any dish or any time because… cholesterol. But, yeah, sometimes maybe.
While tempeh can be a better vegan bacon option since it can turn into a crispy treat, tofu is not to be forgotten. Sliced up thinly and bathed in condiments and flavors, tofu can become a rather chewy vegetarian bacon.
22. Rice Paper Vegan Bacon
Have you heard of it? Well, rice paper vegan bacon has a nice similar flavor to its pork counterpart. Flavored in an olive oil, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, liquid smoke, Tamari, and maple syrup marinade, this is quite the replacement for bacon!
23. Shiitake Mushroom Bacon
Yes, we know we already covered the mushroom bacon. But shiitake is different! Shiitake mushrooms are delicious and quite meaty when it comes to texture and taste and when properly seasoned, can be added to meat-free burgers, pasta, and sandwiches instead of bacon.
24. Eggplant Bacon
Thinly sliced eggplant is seasoned to give the same taste as bacon. After that, it is cooked to get a bacon-like texture, crunchy, crispy and yet chewy as well. The taste is rather rich and meaty but it does not have the same aroma as bacon. The texture can become crispier if you salt the sliced eggplant first, leaving it to draw out the moisture, for about 20 minutes, before cooking.
This last suggestion is for those times when you’re in the mood to sprinkle some bacon bits in your pasta, veggies, on top of your pizza, or on your ice cream. If you slice up old bread into long, thin slices, add some spice to it (smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, soy sauce), and fry it, you’ll get a snack that resembles pork slices and you can use it with your eggs in the morning. Just make sure not to add more toast to your meal!
So, there you have it: 25 options to replace bacon, no more, no less. From which 15 are plant-based. Nature and research combined have contributed a lot to creating so many alternatives to each and every ingredient out there. Yes, even bacon!