Satisfy your cravings with these mouth-watering slices of vegan bacon. These tofu strips are salty, smoky, chewy and boasting loads of that fried, umami flavour.
This vegan bacon is what every vegan who misses the taste of bacon has been waiting for! There’s so many vegan versions of bacon made out of rice paper, coconut, carrot, even banana peel….
But for us, the ultimate vegan bacon is made from tofu. It’s got that chewy, meaty texture. Plus it’s a great source of protein so it makes the ideal swap in many dishes. And when combined with our simple marinade, the smell of it frying is mouthwatering!
Why we love it:
- It’s simple & easy
- High in protein
- Few ingredients
- Fried in the pan – just like real bacon
- Tastes absolutely amazing!
The firm tofu as the main ingredient plays two roles in our vegan bacon recipe. Firstly, it provides the texture of fried bacon. It can be chewy or crisp, depending on how thin you slice it and how hard you fry it.
Secondly, the tofu is the vehicle for all the flavours we throw at it to transform it into an amazing vegan bacon substitute. Without these, the tofu would just be what it is: tofu!
Plain vs. smoked
We use plain tofu in our vegan tofu bacon recipe rather than smoked tofu, for one practical reason: It is widely available around the world. A plain block of firm tofu as simple as it gets and is pretty much the same for every brand out there.
However, if you have it available a block of unsalted smoked tofu can be used to save you the need for liquid smoke. Speaking of which…
Now, what makes our tofu bacon taste like bacon? Bacon is fatty and salty and may have a smoky note. When it’s cooked, a lot of umami flavour is released, also known as savouriness.
So that’s what we are trying to do here, but how? By marinating the sliced plain tofu in a clever combination of ingredients that when you fry it up, transforms the tofu into the delicious vegan bacon!
The biggest part of the marinade is soy sauce, which gives both savoury umami flavour and saltiness to this recipe.
We don’t really have to explain the role of liquid smoke, do we? A little goes a long way. We really like Stubb’s Hickory Liquid Smoke, available online in the UK at The Vegan Kind Supermarket.
Just a tiny bit of maple syrup makes sure that there is just the right amount of caramelisation going on that you normally get when frying up some bacon. It also balances the whole flavour profile of our vegan tofu bacon.
To complete the marinade we add some black pepper and finely ground rosemary. The rosemary with it’s pine aroma elevates the smoky flavour of the tofu bacon to another level, making it even more woody.
Now that you know what you need – let’s make some vegan bacon, shall we?
Step by step pictures
Step 1 – Cut the tofu into thin slices. The thinner, the crispier!
Step 2 – Soak the tofu in the marinade for at least 15 minutes, or overnight in the fridge.
Step 3 – Fry the tofu in some oil until both sides are golden brown.
Step 4 – Pour on the remaining marinade, coating the fried tofu stripes.
- Although it’s not a crucial step, marinating the tofu overnight in the fridge will give it plenty of time to really absorb the sauce into its pores. This gives you tofu bacon that’s full of flavour inside and outside.
- After pouring the remaining marinade into the frying pan, don’t let it catch! Better to reduce heat and take it off a few seconds earlier.
- All the stuff that stays in the pan when you take out the bacon? Don’t waste it! A tiny splash of water turns it into delicious bacon ‘juice’. Just give this gravy a quick taste to make sure the marinade hadn’t caught and gone bitter.
Variations and substitutions
Haven’t got all the ingredients or want to try something a bit different? Here are some ideas:
- Liquid smoke: If you can’t get liquid smoke, maybe you are more lucky with smoked tofu? A simple, unsalted block of smoked tofu will do the trick. Adventurers can place the tofu above a smoking, not too hot campfire for about 30 minutes before slicing and marinating.
- Maple syrup: Agave or date syrup are also good, golden syrup would work too. In an emergency, dissolve some (brown) sugar in the marinade.
- Rosemary: Sage or mixed herbs can be used as a substitute. Finely ground herbs are preferred as they completely disappear in the marinade and don’t produce any bits.
- To make vegan bacon cubes, cut the tofu into small cubes instead of slices. Great to use in other recipes!
How to eat it
- In a BLT – the classic Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich
- As a filling for savoury Spinach Pancakes
- To top a vegan omelette
- As vegan bacon cubes to upgrade a Lentil Salad or Breakfast Scramble
- Just on its own – YUMMY!
If you love tofu as much as we do, you’ll want to check out our other popular tofu recipes!
Vegan Tofu Bacon
- 1/2 block (140 g) firm tofu
- 2 tbsp soy sauce tamari for gluten-free
- 2 tsp liquid smoke
- 1/4 tsp maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp dried rosemary ground
- 1 pinch black pepper ground
- 2 tsp oil for frying
- Wrap the tofu in a clean cloth or paper towel and gently squeeze it to press out some excess water. This will help the tofu soak up the marinade better. If your tofu isn't very firm, then press with a weight on top until firm.
- Slice the tofu into strips. Thin slices make more crispy, slightly thicker slices more chewy vegan bacon.
- Mix all the ingredients for the marinade – soy sauce, liquid smoke, maple syrup, rosemary and black pepper. Dip the tofu slices in the marinade and leave to marinate in a shallow dish or bowl for at least 15 minutes. See notes for tips.
- In a large frying pan, heat up the oil on medium-high heat.
- Add the marinated tofu slices, reserving the marinade. Fry for about 3 minutes on each side until golden brown and slightly crisp.
- If your frying pan is not big enough, cook all the tofu in batches, then add it all back into the pan before continuing to the next step.
- Turn the heat down to medium and pour on the remaining marinade. Toss the tofu around in the marinade.
- Continue to gently cook until the liquid has mostly evaporated and the tofu strips have turned dark brown.
- Bonus: If you don't want to waste all the flavour left behind in the frying pan, add a tiny splash of water and stir it around to take up all that fried smoky goodness. Use the 'bacon juice' as you please.
Make sure all the tofu is well coated with marinade. To do this, we place the marinade in a shallow dish and dip each slice into the liquid on both sides, then sit it down in the dish. Towards the end of the marinating, we use a teaspoon to pick up marinade from the dish and pour some over each slice. If you know you want to make tofu bacon in advance, try marinating the tofu for a few hours or overnight in the fridge. The tofu soaks up the marinade and the colour and flavours are evenly spread throughout the whole slices of tofu.