Test Kitchen: Plant-based Bacon!

If you’re like me, you grew up eating bacon. My parents would cook it for breakfast on weekends. In high school, I would eat bacon egg and cheese muffins from unnamed fast food restaurants. In college, I enjoyed BLT sandwiches after workouts or soccer games.

Luckily, bacon really isn’t one of those things that I miss, but I am aware that it has become a classic burger topping over the years. This article alleges the bacon cheeseburger was invented in Houston in 1941. I don’t know who invented the plant-based bacon cheeseburger, but I do know that I made a delicious one today!

Green lentil patty with rice paper bacon and vegan smoked gouda!

I tested four different kinds of plant-based bacon!

It was a short week for me after the What A Vegan Burger Festival this Sunday. I was a bit behind my normal schedule for inventing a burger, so I decided to take this classic burger topping to the test kitchen instead!

I started with a bit of internet research, and I found four different kinds of bacon I wanted to test out:

  • Mushroom bacon
  • Rice paper bacon
  • Tempeh bacon
  • Seitan bacon

How can you make plants taste like bacon?!

Every recipe I looked at involved a marinade step. I took elements from all of the recipes I looked at to create a test marinade for these four dishes.

I was going to do a different marinade for each one, but I decided to keep them consistent across the experiment. I wanted to keep as many variables fixed as I could when deciding which bacon was my favorite.

In order of volume, the ingredients I ended up using in my marinade were:

  • Soy sauce
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Maple syrup
  • Miso paste
  • Liquid smoke
  • Spices

Pretty simple! I had most of these ingredients in my fridge already. I did have to go to the store to buy miso paste and liquid smoke, but I will definitely continue to use these in my kitchen.

The miso paste is a great way to add umami and salty flavors to broths, so that will certainly come in handy if it ever gets cold in Houston.

I am excited to experiment with the liquid smoke. A little bit goes a long way. Off a quick search, I am excited to try it in carrot dogs, mac and cheese, and mocktails!

There were several ways to do this test…

and I decided to see how these bacons tasted on a bacon egg and cheese biscuit. A vegan sweet potato buttermilk biscuit to be exact!

I used Just Egg and Violife cheddar slices for the other elements of the biscuit.

Are mushrooms better as bacon?

After I made my marinade, I sliced crimini mushroom caps into 1/4″ pieces. I like crimini mushrooms because they are meaty and take on flavors well.

I let my mushrooms marinate for about 15 minutes, then put them in the oven at 400º for 20 minutes. I used the slotted baking sheet that came with my Breville Smart Oven, because I wanted to see if these would get an even char on top and bottom without flipping halfway through.

These mushrooms tasted delicious raw in the marinade!

I could have taken 2-3 minutes off of the time, because these came out pretty charred.

Honestly, I think a mushroom, egg, and cheese biscuit would have been better than trying to char mushrooms into bacon texture. Less time and work with a meatier flavor. Matter of fact, I think I will make one of these for breakfast this weekend!

Rice paper bacon? Seriously?!

That’s right, bacon made out of rice paper! I stumbled on a few of these recipes from a quick Google search, and I found out it’s actually pretty easy to make.

The rice paper was also really easy to find. 42 rolls cost $3.50, and each roll makes about 3 pieces of bacon. This one is super cost effective!

I found these in the “International” aisle at HEB. I will definitely be making egg rolls this week!

The process here is fairly simple. First, cut two sheets of rice paper into inch-wide strips. Take two pieces that are roughly the same size, and dip them into a bowl of water. The pieces will stick together immediately – you won’t be able to get them apart if you try!

Next, dip in the marinade to coat. Place the bacon on a piece of parchment paper, and repeat until your baking sheet is full. These go in the oven at 400º for 7-9 minutes.

After about 6 minutes, I watched these pretty closely. Each piece of bacon was ready at a different time based on the temperature profile of my oven. There is a pretty short window for these to go from crunchy to burnt!

You also don’t want to undercook these. Parts will be nice and crunchy, but parts will be quite chewy. Nobody likes chewy bacon!

These passed the test onto the bloom menu!

Whether on a sandwich, breakfast plate, garnish, or quick snack, this rice paper bacon was a success! The marinade adhered really well to the rice paper. I could taste the salty, smoky, and sweet flavors from the mixture.

I just had a piece that had been in the fridge for two days, and it was still really crispy and flavorful! Definitely try this one out!

The first time I had tempeh bacon…

was on the TTLA at Whole Foods – their vegan take on a BLT that has tempeh, tomato, lettuce, and avocado. I liked the texture of the tempeh, and I started to make my own version a while back to save some of that paycheck.

In case you were wondering, tempeh is a fermented soy bean product that originated in Indonesia. Different varieties are made with wheat, rice, millet, peanuts, or coconut. It is high in protein, so it is great for 100% plant-based eaters!

I got my tempeh from Wiwas Tempeh, a tempeh maker here in The Woodlands, TX! Their product is made from soy and Rhizopus, the mold that is used for fermentation. Check out their website to see where you can buy their tempeh, it’s really high quality and very affordable!

I started by slicing this tempeh into about 1/8″ pieces. As I treat other soy products like tofu (or pumfu), I let this tempeh marinade for about an hour.

I grilled half of the batch in olive oil for about 5 minutes on each side. I baked the other half at 350º for 25 minutes, flipping half way through.

Both methods really came out about the same. If you’re doing a small batch, I’d recommend grilling because it’s ready faster. Larger batches are more suited for the oven.

Tempeh is a really good plant-based sandwich bacon!

I really enjoyed the tempeh on the bacon egg and cheese biscuit! It took the marinade really well. I could taste it the most out of all of the bacons.

It was meaty, and a bit crunchy. It’s probably the easiest one to control the crunch on. If you like crunchy bacon like me, you can cook longer to get to that texture. If you like your bacon with a bit more give, take it off a few minutes earlier!

This ingredient is so versatile. I can see myself using it on may other sandwiches – perhaps with BBQ sauce, a cajun dry rub, or a sweet and sour treatment!

We will see tempeh featured in Bloom Foods dishes in the future!

Seitan bacon is last, but certainly not least.

Seitan is a plant-based “meat” made from the gluten in wheat flour. It is sometimes referred to as wheat meat!

I’ve seen seitan used for chicken sandwiches, barbecue ribs, meatballs, pepperoni, and more. After trying it with bacon, will I experiment with it more?

Cooking seitan is a really long process…

It takes about 1-2 hours to cook initially, then a few more hours to cool it and get a good flavor. Since I had never tried this product before, I decided to buy some at the store to see if it was something I wanted to spend more time on.

I checked Whole Foods, and the only seitan-based bacon I could find was by Sweet Earth. The hickory and sage flavor seemed really appealing to me.

This small pack was pretty pricey – 8 pieces of bacon for about $6.

This one was pretty straightforward. I seared two slices of this bacon in some olive oil over medium heat for about 3 minutes on each side. The result was a crispy piece of bacon that held together really well!

So, whats the verdict on the seitan?

I was a bit surprised at how good it was!

The texture was pretty mind-blowing. The pieces started out flimsy like raw bacon, and they crisped up really well in the pan. I will say, these did continue to crisp a bit after I took them out. I probably should have cooked for 3 minutes on each side like the package says, and let them rest to finish.

The crunch was the most noticeable of all of the biscuits.

The flavor was really solid. It was not as smoky or defined as my marinade, but it definitely got the job done.

If you do not want to go through the steps to make a marinade and do some basic assembly, I would definitely recommend this bacon.

This seitan definitely convinced me to make some from scratch in my own kitchen. Seitan will definitely be on the Bloom menu, maybe as bacon, definitely in other experimental forms!

Take a look at the video

I made to get some good visuals of how each bacon turned out. Check out the recipe for the marinade and bacon preparations below!

Plant-Based Bacon Three Ways

Marinade and preparation of mushroom, rice paper, and tempeh bacon
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Marinade Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 40 mins

Equipment

  • Baking sheet
  • Cast iron skillet

Ingredients

Marinade

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce or acceptable replacement
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup the real kind!
  • 1/4 cup olive oil unrefined
  • 1/2 tbsp miso paste there are soy free versions available
  • 1/2 tbsp unrefined salt
  • 1/2 tbsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke

Plant Bacons

  • 1 cup mushrooms cremini, portobello, other meaty mushroom
  • 2 sheets rice paper spring roll sheets
  • 4 oz tempeh

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients for marinade into a bowl and whisk together.

Mushroom Bacon

  • Cut mushroom caps into 1/4" thickness. Coat and toss with 1/4 cup of marinade.
  • Bake in oven at 400 ºF for 15-20 minutes, until mushrooms are golden-brown crispy.

Rice Paper Bacon

  • Cut two sheets of rice paper into 1" strips.
  • Take two equal sized strips, line them up, and dip them into a bowl of water. They will stick together.
    Dip the combined piece into the marinade and lay flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Repeat with the rest of the rice paper strips. Place in oven at 400 ºF.
  • After 6 minutes, keep a close eye on the oven. When pieces look bubbly and crispy, remove them one at a time. Do not remove all pieces at once, their consistencies will vary and some may still be chewy.

Tempeh Bacon

  • Cut tempeh into thin 1/8" strips. Place into a glass dish and cover with marinade. Place in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes, preferably one hour.
  • Oven method:
    Place tempeh on parchment-lined baking sheet in oven at 350 ºF. Cook for 15 minutes, then flip and cook for 10 more minutes until golden-brown and crispy.
  • Skillet method:
    Heat skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and cook tempeh on each side for 3-5 minutes. Add some marinade in the pan during cooking for extra caramelization.

Published by Chester Chambers

MIT grad with a mission to make the best veggie burger in the world

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