"But what about bacon?", asked the meat-eater with poorly-concealed horror on their face.
This is arguably one of the most popular and infamous comebacks vegans tend to get as they mention their lifestyle choice to others, perhaps second only to the protein and vitamin B12 arguments we've all heard a thousand times before. While the concern for bacon might sound puzzling at first, it's not really that surprising once we consider that many of the most beloved recipes for breakfast foods and lunches involve bacon. On top of that, it's also true that up until recently, vegan and vegetarian bacon was not a readily available product, and the very few brands that would offer this meatless choice were... well, not exactly the tastiest alternatives one could have.
Thankfully, the "cardboard bacon" nightmare is far behind us now, with revolutionary brands launching new vegan bacon products every year, constantly improving their recipes to get the flavor and texture closer and closer to the meaty original, but with no cruelty involved.
So, next time you hear the "bacon though!" rebuttal, make sure to keep this list at hand — it could make the difference between a friend scrunching their nose at your diet and them actually giving it a try!
So, What Is the Best Bacon Alternative in 2020?
We have ranked the best vegan bacon brands in terms of their versatility in cooking, as well as their faithfulness to the texture and taste of the original meat product.
You'll find that rashers and strips types are more likely to make the top of the list, as they can be cooked and used in a variety of ways, while bits will rank further down as they cannot be as versatile.
1. THIS Isn't Bacon Rashers
THIS is a newcomer in the plant-based food scene, crafting vegan meat alternatives that will impress even the most snobbish meat lovers. THIS has produced what are possibly the most realistic meat alternatives in the world, as the company was created by two ex-burger chain founders who used their in-depth knowledge and love of meat to replicate it in texture, appearance, and taste.
So, what makes THIS brand (pardon the pun) our favorite?
Its meat-free bacon rashers are the best on the market as the chewy yet crunchy texture is the closest we could find to "real" bacon, making for deliciously savory meat-free rashers that are perfect for a classic BLT or for a generous side to your breakfast tofu scramble, as well as being suitable for cutting into smaller bacon bits for pasta dishes, salads, and more.
You can find THIS in most UK supermarkets and health food shops, but if you live anywhere else you might have a hard time getting a hold of this great product. Luckily, the company has plans to expand to Europe and the U.S. next year!
2. Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon
Hickory and sage is the finger-licking combination that makes this seitan-based bacon substitute.
Sweet Earth is another relatively new brand that's already made a name for itself, with its bacon frequently making the top of the list when it comes to bacon alternatives. Smoky with a hint of sweetness, crunchy yet soft, this is the perfect addition to your lunch sandwich, burger, or hearty breakfast.
Unfortunately, this brand might be a little harder to get a hold of, as it's only stocked at a handful of stores like Target and Sprouts in the United States, and tends to sell out fast.
3. Vivera Veggie Bacon Pieces
Vivera, another newcomer onto the scene, originally hails from the Netherlands. Its meat alternatives are now readily available throughout Europe and the UK, and the latest addition to the range, the Vivera bacon pieces, are one of the most delicious and realistic bacon alternatives on the EU market.
They've got the saltiness, the slightly chewy texture, and the smoky flavor all pretty much there. They work best when added to creamy pasta dishes and stir frys, but they can also be sprinkled on top of scrambles, burgers, pizzas, and even salad for a bit of kick!
You can find Vivera products in supermarkets and health food stores throughout Europe and the UK, and they may also be expanding to Australia and the United States soon.
4. Lightlife Veggie Smart Bacon
An all-time favorite among vegans and vegetarians, Lightlife's smart bacon is marketed as a healthier, low-calorie choice for pork bacon lovers.
It holds up really well in sandwiches and on top of toast but tends to crisp up and burn fairly quickly. The saltiness and crunchiness are all there, but you may find its flavor not as rich as most of the brands from the top of the list.
You can grab Lightlife's smart bacon at several health food stores throughout the U.S., as well as online.
5. Tofurky Smoky Maple Bacon
Tofurky is an old-school vegan brand that has accompanied vegans throughout their transition for literal decades.
So, unsurprisingly, Tofurky's marinated tempeh bacon is absolutely delicious and packed with a smoky, maple syrupy flavor that can complement both sandwiches and breakfast spreads, without needing any additional seasoning.
The reason why it's pretty low on our list is that its flavor, while delicious, is definitely not the most bacon-like out there, with the tempeh notes overpowering most of the smokiness and making for a product that won't fool any meat eater into thinking they're taking a bite of the real thing.
On the other hand, you can get Tofurky's tempeh bacon almost anywhere in the world ( yes, even online too!), making it one of the most readily available plant-based bacon alternatives on the market.
6. Upton's Naturals Bacon Seitan
Upton's bacon seitan truly shines when it comes to its meaty texture, showing us all exactly why this American brand has been hailed as the seitan master.
Upton's bacon is quite high in protein compared to other brands, but it's also regarded as one of the blandest brands of veg bacon around, so if you do love a kick, you might have to add some of your own soy sauce as you get frying.
You can find this bacon at Whole Foods, international health food stores, and online at a number of different virtual vegan supermarkets!
7. Cheatin' Streaky Style Bacon Rashers
VBites' Cheatin' range has been keeping UK vegans happy for a long time, and these rashers are certainly no exception.
They come in quite cheaper than most of the brands on this list, and while their flavor might not be at the level of gourmet brands like THIS, Sweet Earth, or Vivera, the savory, smoky taste and crispy texture gets the job done just fine if you're in a pinch.
You can find Cheatin' rashers in health food stores across the UK and online.
8. Cool Foods Veggie Bacon
Cool Foods' vegan bacon bits are shelf-stable, soy-free, and absolutely packed with a smoky hickory flavor.
Made out of pinto beans, this alternative is one of the healthiest choices around, and it's ideal for sprinkling on top of soups, potatoes, stews, and salads for a satisfying crunch.
The best place to get them is online, as they are stocked on Amazon as well as on several vegan online supermarkets.
9. Organic Matters Vegan Bacon Bits
These coconut bacon bits are soy-free, gluten-free, non-GMO, and low-calorie.
While they definitely won't fool any bacon connoisseur (the coconut flavor is pretty pronounced), they can add a surprisingly smoky kick to all sorts of dishes, or even just enjoyed as a snack.
Vegan coconut enthusiasts, this is the option for you. You can get them online on Amazon, as soon as they're restocked!
What Is Plant-Based Bacon Made Of?
In this glorious day and age, plant-based can be made out of any plant ingredient under the sun.
From coconut to unassuming rice paper, vegan chefs have been experimenting with the most creative ingredients to replicate the signature taste and texture of this breakfast favorite. When it comes to commercial vegan bacon brands, however, soybean and wheat products seem to be core ingredients of the best vegan bacon alternatives.
Tempeh, tofu, seitan, and coconut are the preferred ingredients for a texture that's meaty, chewy, and crispy at the same time — just like bacon! In order to achieve the smoky and salty flavor of rashers and bacon bits, all the best products are packed with herbs, spices, and condiments that replicate "real" pork bacon to a T.
These usually include soy sauce, maple syrup, garlic, onion powder, liquid smoke, and olive oil.
Is Vegan Bacon Food for You?
One thing we all know for sure is that "real" bacon is definitely not good for you.
It wasn't too long ago that the World Health Organization came out with an official report linking the consumption of processed and red meat with colorectal cancer, leading many bacon lovers to start looking at their favorite breakfast food with a little more scrutiny. Switching to plant-based bacon will most likely be the easiest option for those looking to improve their health while feeling like they can still indulge in their childhood favorite.
So, is vegan bacon actually good for you?
Compared to its meaty version, plant-based bacon is undoubtedly better for your overall health, as it contains good amounts of gut-healthy fiber, with no saturated fats and no cancerous additives. When it comes to caloric content, as well as sodium and fat content, veg bacon is usually not that different from its meat counterpart, so it should only be consumed in moderation as part of a whole food plant-based diet rich in whole grains, legumes, fruit, and veg.
Special varieties such as rice paper bacon and coconut bacon can be considered much healthier than highly-processed meat substitutes, although tempeh and tofu varieties will provide a higher protein intake.