This obsession has earned the honor of a dedicated Wikipedia entry to bacon mania. The country is so in love with its smoky, salty goodness that even the most gung-ho meat-eaters are willing to sprinkle bacon-flavored TVP bits all over their salads and baked potatoes.
But if you think bacon mania is only for meat-eaters, think again. During college I waitressed at a vegetarian cafe, where the “fakon” routinely sold out during Sunday brunch.
Most fake bacon barely counts as food
At that same cafe, I remember serving one unsuspecting elderly diner who had not yet noticed that all the “meat” on the menu was written in quotes.
He took one bite of his tempeh “bacon,” threw down the strip, forced the plate back into my hands, and declared:
“This is the worst food I’ve had since the war!”
And really, who could blame him? Besides being heavily processed and expensive, most veggie bacon, well, just plain sucks.
The surprising secret to great vegan bacon? Beans and buckwheat
Today, after a lot of tasty research, I finally have an inexpensive, gluten-free, whole-food and freaking delicious solution. If you’ve ever woken in the middle of the night and found yourself drooling to the scent of unexplained bacon, this recipe is for you.
Yes, this bacon is not only ready to stand in for pancetta in your pasta carbonara and gourmet mac’n’cheese, but is even good enough on its own during breakfast or as the star of an avocado BLT!
This batch makes about 24 slices, or 1 cup total. You’ll be surprised about how quickly that amount disappears, so do yourself a favor and triple the batch, store in the freezer, and enjoy the luxury of pigless-but-obsession-worthy bacon at a moment’s notice.
Homemade Vegan Bacon
- 1/2 cup dried adzuki beans or other small red beans
- 1/3 cup hulled wholegrain buckwheat (not buckwheat flour)
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon hickory liquid smoke
- 4 teaspoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon Braggs Liquid Aminos (May be substituted with soy sauce)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
Rinse the beans and buckwheat, place in large bowl covered with several inches of cold filtered water; let soak overnight.
[UPDATE: Several people have asked if it's okay to bake the beans and buckwheat, as the recipe suggests, even without having boiled them, as boiling is the usual cooking method for beans and is known to remove most of the toxins in uncooked beans. While we've never had any problems with the soaking-and-baking (not boiling) method, and have seen the same method used for black-eyed peas in Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet, you can pre-cook the beans and buckwheat by boiling if you'd prefer to do so.]
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Strain the soaked beans and buckwheat and rinse. Place in the bowl of a food processor. Add the onion powder, liquid smoke, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, aminos or soy sauce, salt, tomato paste, coconut oil, and maple syrup. Pulse several times to combine, scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl and continue pulsing until uniform but not as pureed as hummus.
Line a 9×13 casserole dish with parchment paper and coat pan with baking spray. Place bacon mixture in pan and spread as much as possible with a spatula. To get the mixture very thin and evenly spread, spray another piece of parchment paper lightly with baking spray and press the paper on top of the mixture and flatten with your hands. Remove and discard the top piece of parchment paper, then use a spatula to spread over and fill in any bare spots.
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then slice into 24 strips, about 1 inch by 4 inches (Do this by making one lengthwise cut down the center, and then twelve cuts across the shorter side). Remove the strips with a small spatula.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat. Fry the bacon slices for 2-3 minutes, flipping once. Alternatively, before frying, you can freeze the bacon, then fry when ready to serve (no need to thaw first).