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I do a great simple dish that involves bacon so I'm interested whether there is a vegetarian substitute for bacon. It would be quite useful having one since I use it all the time.

Here's the recipe:

I make small ball doughs that I boil for a couple of minutes until they are a bit firmer. In the mean time I fry bacon pieces (not slices but small square pieces) and eventually add dough balls to bacon and add sour cream.

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7  
Personally I would substitute the vegetarians instead of the bacon. You could substitute them with... more bacon! –  Sobachatina Apr 25 '12 at 13:28

8 Answers 8

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Bac'n Bits are, in fact, vegetarian. They're a passably good crunchy garnish.

There's also Bacon Salt; which has many variety and spin-off products. It's vegetarian and kosher!

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I am looking for the texture and the taste. Bac'n Bits might be what I'm looking for. Check my other reply to see what the actual dish is. –  John Doe Apr 26 '12 at 2:53

If the bacon is just for flavor, go for anything that has a lot of umami flavor. If you want it to taste specifically like bacon, you could try bacon salt (I've never had it but it's vegetarian and is supposed to taste like bacon) - but remember that a lot of vegetarians might not want things to taste like meat. Otherwise, there are a ton of options with plenty of umami - for example, some types of mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, parmesan, seaweed (nori), or even straight-up MSG. There's actually a question about vegetarian sources of umami with extensive lists.

If you're looking for a textural substitute too, I'm guessing you've got crispy pieces of bacon. At that point, pretty much anything crunchy/crispy that doesn't clash with your recipe would work, and it can probably be separate from the source of umami. It's hard to say much without knowing what you're actually making, though.

Finally, it's not too glamorous, but if you want something like crumbled pieces of bacon, storebought bacon bits (e.g. Bac-Os) are vegetarian - they're basically flavored fried soy cracker pieces.

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Good to know what I can use for the taste. Well, the recipe is as follows - I make small ball doughs that I boil for a couple of minutes until they are a bit firmer. In the mean time I fry bacon pieces (not slices but small square pieces) and eventually add dough balls to bacon and add sour cream. Very very simple yet delicious. Now you know so you might have another idea to share. But Bac'n Bits seems adequate since nothing really can replace bacon as such! –  John Doe Apr 26 '12 at 2:58

Bacon provides 3 things to any meal:

  1. Flavour
  2. Texture
  3. Fat

I typically use bacon when roasting a pork tenderloin, as it's an extremely lean meat, and needs the extra fat.

Substitutes:

  1. Flavour -- Try this http://www.baconsalt.com/ I don't know if it's any good, but it's worth a try.
  2. You want something a bit crunchy I'd try some sort of fried potato slices.
  3. The potato will add some fat, but depending on the application, you may need to baste the dish with vegetable oil while cooking. Cheese can also help here.
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Thanks, potatoes won't work since it's a dish with cooked dough. Check my other reply for a dish recipe. –  John Doe Apr 26 '12 at 2:54

There are several good substitutes. It's not the same, but you can get smokey, chewy and/or crispy. All of these work well for BLTs or veggie bacon cheeseburgers, things with bacon in them. But they don't all work great as standalones like real bacon.

  1. Tempeh bacon. I'm surprised no one has mentioned tempeh bacon yet - that's by far the most common alternative. You can find tempeh bacon pre-made by Lightlife or Turtle foods (Tofurky), usually available at Whole Foods or other supermarkets and health food stores in the refrigerated mock meat section. But it's easier/cheaper/healthier to make it yourself by marinading and frying thinly sliced tempeh. Google tempeh bacon to find a marinade recipe - I usually use a simple marinade with liquid smoke, maple syrup and soy sauce.

  2. Tofu bacon. If you take thin slices of tofu, marinade in a similar mixture (might add miso for extra umami and so it sticks to the tofu) and then bake for 45-60 min it will get chewy and be a decent substitute. Vegan Yum Yum has a good recipe that I've made several times.

  3. Commercially made bacon substitute. Lifelife's Smart Bacon is my favorite of these and it's vegan. Find in the refrigerated mock meat area of the supermarket. Morningstar farms makes a frozen one that's also not bad, but it contains eggs it's so ovo-lacto, not vegan. There are others that you can find on vegan catalog websites as well (for example).

  4. Coconut bacon. This is one of the newest kinds on the scene. You need large coconut flakes, or if you have a fresh coconut you can make into longer strips with a peeler, sharp knife, or maybe a mandolin. The idea is the same as above, soak in a smokey marinade and then fry or bake. It's got a great texture and sounds like it would work well in the recipe you mentioned above. Also good in salads. Again, google for lots of specific recipes.

  5. Baco's/Bacon Bits. As mentioned baco's are often vegan. The brand Frontier makes a "bac'un" bit that's organic and maybe healthier than the others?

In general, the idea is to use a smokey/sweet/umami marinade on something vegetarian that can give you a similar chewy or crispy texture. Seitan (cooked wheat gluten) would probably work as well. I haven't tried it for bacon, but it's good for making vegan bbq "ribz".

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For your specific recipe, and for a lot of other dishes where you fry the bacon separately and then add it into the dish, halloumi is a great vegetarian substitute for bacon. It has a lovely salty flavour which has a lot of similarities to bacon, and it also provides a nice crisp but chewy texture.

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I signed up specifically to answer this question. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloumi Halloumi cheese, fry this and I swear to you they will not be disappointed. I am amazed that this is not recommended here, is it available in the states?

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tofu is a meat substitute for vegetarians but to get that bacon-ish taste, you might want to make thin slices of tofu and deep fry it with over low flame until it is very crispy.

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Have you ever tried this? I doubt that tofu can be made to taste like bacon. Unless you mean that by crisping it to the point that it is a tasteless husk it gets a similar mouthfeel to bacon which has been crisped to the point of being a tasteless husk. –  rumtscho Apr 25 '12 at 11:49
    
Bacon has a very strong flavor, and that's almost certainly what the OP wants. If he just wanted something crispy there are tons and tons of things he could use. –  Jefromi Apr 25 '12 at 14:18

Some vegetarians, such as myself, are put off by the taste of meat, even if it's just simulated. Make sure that you don't offend any of your guests.

I would recommend tofu as it is probably one of the closest things to meat.

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