Just as most humans don’t crave flesh in its natural state as carnivores do, I never craved raw bacon. However, I did used to eat my share of it because the cooking process chemically transformed it into something that excited my taste buds. A waffle or pancake just didn’t seem complete without a side of bacon or sausage, and I also loved BLTs.
Of course, this was not great for the arteries, and not kind to the pigs, either. Nonetheless, there are a few flavors that for better or worse, simply don’t have a plant-based equivalent. Bacon seems to be one of them. This is why vegans hear so many bacon jokes. The thought of a bacon-free lifestyle may simply seem unimaginable to some.
Fortunately, if you’re really craving that fatty, salty, fried flavor, some plant-based products produce a similar effect. Just don’t expect it to be exact, because bacon is bacon. But it can still be quite tasty, and because it doesn’t have animal fat built in, you have more freedom to adjust the oil amount/type and salt to your desired flavor/health ratio.
There are some bacon analogs on the market, of which I’ve tried one or two–yes, with vegan waffles or pancakes. My favorite thus far has been a seitan-based product cooked in vegan margarine with a bit of maple syrup. The carmelization of the sugar in the syrup added a bit more crispiness. However, they didn’t have quite the flavor I was seeking.
One day, shortly after discovering Daiya’s cheddar flavor, I was making a grilled cheese sandwich in the iron skillet. I got overzealous with the Daiya, and it ran out onto the pan as I was grilling it. Interestingly, the Daiya that had crisped up while frying directly in the pan had a somewhat bacon-like flavor. After reporting this odd discovery to some local Vegan Meetup friends who are smitten with a certain type of vegan cheese, I decided to take things a step further. This is dedicated to them.
Daiya Vegan Baconish Patty
Makes one sandwich-sized patty that can be cut into smaller strips
(This would probably also work with another brand of meltable vegan cheese; if you try and are successful, please post a comment!)
- 1/4 cup Daiya cheddar or other meltable vegan cheese shreds
- 2 tablespoons vegan margarine, divided (see note)
- 1 tablespoon miso (use your favorite variety)
- 2 teaspoons brown rice flour
- 1 teaspoon molasses
- 6 to 8 drops of liquid smoke
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl, flatten into a 1/4-inch-thick patty, and set aside. Melt 1 tablespoon of the vegan margarine in a small pan over medium heat. Fry the patty for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes, or until it is well browned on one side. Then lift up the patty with the spatula, place the remaining tablespoon of margarine in the center of the pan, and flip the patty onto the pool of fresh margarine. Fry another 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes, or until it is well browned on the second side.
If desired, slice into strips with a pizza cutter (knife may be tricky because it will still be somewhat melty inside), or just serve alongside vegan waffles or pancakes, or atop a vegan BLT.
Note: If you want a lower fat and oil content, just use less margarine. I’m being pretty generous with it here because bacon is very fatty and salty. If you want less salt, use olive oil in place of vegan margarine. Eliminating the miso will also cut salt, but it will also cut other flavor.
As another homemade vegan bacon option for accompanying your vegan waffles, the June 2011 print issue of VegNews Magazine has a “Banging’ Bacon” recipe by Allison Rivers Samson. It just came in the mail so I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but it uses tofu and looks very good. And you’ll find many great uses for liquid smoke once you have it in your pantry.