I swear I was never one of those guys crowing about BACON-WRAPPED-BACON EVERYTHING, but I must admit that it was one of the last animal-based food I signed off on. It was almost as saddening to wave goodbye to BLTs as it was to bid adieu to hard cheese, but as with all things, I found plant-based substitutes and had no trouble satisfying my dietary cravings. So, if love the salty, smoky flavor of bacon, but not the reality of what goes into it, rejoice! Here's how to make 3 of the most popular "fake" bacons!
I make coconut, tofu and shittake bacon at home, though there are also seitan and tempeh versions I've purchased as well. Coconut is the most time-consuming, but it's also the closest consistency you will find to the real deal. So...there's your toss-up. It has the same fibrous texture as thick-cut bacon if you slice the coconut strips to similar thickness. Plus, the oil within the coconut meat helps to crisp everything up and give an approximate mouth-feel too. Tofu is much easier, but pressing and baking times are crucial to achieving the right texture. Shittake is the fastest and easiest, but lacks some of the aesthetic appeal of coconut and tofu. It's also a bit rubbery - it's shittakes, after all - but still worth trying.
All 3 use the same marinade. I always make significantly more than most recipes call for, as I've found that the pressed tofu in particular sucks up a lot of liquid.
2 T. nutritional yeast
2 T. olive oil
2 T. maple syrup
4 T. liquid aminos or tamari sauce
1 t. sea salt
1-2 T. liquid smoke
1 T. water
½ T. paprika (I use smoked)
pinch of onion powder (optional)
-1 ripe coconut (yields ~¾ lb. of meat if harvested well)
To check if your coconut is ripe (or has gone bad), pick it up and give it a good shake. If you can easily hear/feel the coconut water sloshing around, it should be fine. You will also know right away if it's overripe once you break it open - the smell is quite unpleasant...
-1 package tofu (yields ~20 slices, depending on how it's cut)
-½ lb. shittake mushrooms (yield varies based on mushroom sizes)
First, you want to drill through the coconut’s “eyes” (using an electric drill, preferably) and drain the water. Now the fun part: grab your biggest knife or cleaver and a large, clean kitchen towel. No, we’re not going to re-enact Psycho, but we are going to attempt to crack the coconut into pieces. Wrap the coconut in the towel and hit it along the pre-cut equator with the blunt side of your knife. Again, use the blunt side to crack the coconut. If it breaks into multiple pieces, that just saves time going forward, as I normally break a coconut into at least 6 pieces to get to the meat easier.
Now that it’s open, take a sharp vegetable peeler or paring knife and get to work. Try not to cut yourself!
Once you’ve harvested all of the meat, toss it in a large bowl with the marinade and let sit for 15-30min before removing meat and baking for 20-40min at 325. Flip everything once or twice so it cooks evenly, and take smaller pieces out as they cook so that they don't burn. You can store for about a week in the fridge, but it never lasts that long around here...
Easier than the coconut prep, only requiring a sharp knife, cutting board, kitchen towels and weights with which to press your tofu strips.
Remove the tofu (extra firm) from its package and place on your cutting board. Slice thinly, trying to keep them uniformly around ¼” thick. This should yield ~20 strips.
Drape a clean kitchen towel over a large baking sheet with a lip and place your tofu slices on top. Cover with a second clean kitchen towel, then another baking sheet and stack with a few heavy things; I normally just use our sugar and flour containers. Let sit for ~30min, then remove weights and place strips in your marinade for another 15-30min. Bake for 20-40min at 325, flipping once so both sides cook evenly.
The easiest of the 3; all you need is a sharp knife and a cutting board.
Wash your mushrooms under cold water in a colander and let them drip dry for a few minutes. Slice off the bottoms (I save all mushroom cuttings in a freezer bag for veggie stock) and slice into ½” strips - they will cook down a bit. Marinade for 15-30min and cook for 20-30min at 325, once again flipping as needed and removing thinner slices that may finish cooking early.
Long live alt-bacon!