I’m on a mission, guys. I’m actually on lots of missions at any given time, but this one is a particularly important one. Why? One word. Bacon. Yep, you heard me. This vegetarian whole-foodie needs bacon in her life. As always, it’s not about the meat here. It’s about the smoky flavor and hearty texture that bacon adds. I don’t need it to taste exactly like pork bacon or turkey bacon. I just need that same flavor and texture profile. Simply put, I’m missing out on too many dishes without having a go-to recipe for a rich and chewy bacon substitute. BLT’s, mac and cheese with bacon, cobb salad, avocado and bacon toast…the list goes on and on. And so, my mission, if I choose to accept it (and I will because I thought of it), is to find the best bacon-y substitute recipe.
I’ve seen many different versions of a vegan bacon-style strip. Some recipes use tempeh, like the vegan bacon at one of my favorite Brooklyn sandwich spots, Urban Rustic. Some recipes use rice paper for a super thin and delicate strip. But today’s recipe, and my first attempt at fakin’ bacon, utilizes the most familiar option to me, tofu.
When the strips were done baking they were a beautiful deep red color and the flavor was subtle and balanced. Baking tofu tightens up the texture so that the soft, delicate slices turn into chewy, more dense strips. In terms of texture, I really like the way the tofu works and I find that the it’s exactly the texture I would hope for. The flavor was nice too and went perfectly on an English muffin with avocado and tomato (holy amazing vegan breakfast). The strips also held up nicely in the wrap I brought to work for lunch and tasted fab paired with blue cheese crumbles, red onion, avocado, tomato and Dijon mustard.
I give this bacon two thumbs up. But it’s all relative, so my final verdict will have to wait until after I’ve tried a couple more versions. Be sure to stay tuned for more trials and to chime in with any of your own suggestions or experiences.
Vegan Smoky Tofu Bacon
Serves: 4 Start to Finish: 1 hour 15 min (plus marinating time if needed)
1 package Extra Firm Tofu (organic is best)
1/4 teaspoon Paprika
Remove excess moisture from tofu using a tofu press. Or by sandwiching tofu between paper towel layers on a plate and applying weight with a heavy object on top, allow to sit for about 30 minutes, draining liquid when needed.
Slice tofu as thin as possible. I got 16 slices out of 1 block. Mix together remaining ingredients to made the marinade. In a pie plate or plastic bag, add tofu slices and marinade. Make sure all tofu is exposed to marinade. Seal out air and allow to sit in the fridge overnight (4 hours minimum).
You could also simmer the strips in the marinade over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or alternative.
When finished marinating (or simmering), place tofu slices in a single layer onto lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Flip. Continue baking for another 20 minutes or so, being careful not to burn the strips. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
Strips can be refrigerated for a couple days or frozen for a couple months. Reheat or bring to room temperature before serving again.