This Vegan Bacon Tastes Shockingly Like the Real Thing     – CNET

This Vegan Bacon Tastes Shockingly Like the Real Thing – CNET

Whenever I get to talking with a vegan or vegetarian, I can’t help but wonder, often audibly, which foods they miss most. One of the most frequent answers I get is “bacon” — and who could blame them? There are a few vegan and plant-based bacon substitutes on the market, though I never hear much buzz about them being overly tasty or realistic in the way Impossible Food and Beyond Meat get praise for their spot-on beef mimicries. 

Curiosity got the best of me when I spotted Hooray Foods’ Awesomer plant-based Bacon, so I fried up a batch of the faux pork belly one recent Sunday morning. It costs about $9 for a 5-ounce package (not cheap), but what I got out of the skillet after a few minutes of sizzling was a shockingly realistic imitation of real bacon in both texture and taste. 

Here’s how it went.

Read moreBest Vegetarian and Vegan Meal Delivery Services

package of hooray bacon

Hooray Foods’ plant-based bacon has less sodium and fat than real bacon but tastes a whole lot like the real stuff.

Hooray Foods

What is Awesomer plant-based Bacon made of?

The ingredients listed on Hooray’s packaging were mostly natural: water, coconut oil, white rice flour, pea starch, tapioca starch, natural flavors, curdlan gum, salt, natural smoke flavoring, maple syrup, gum acacia, apple extract, beet juice concentrate, purple sweet potato extract, yeast extract, inactive dried yeast and lemon juice concentrate.

Gum acacia (one of two ingredients unfamiliar to me) turns out to be a safe and commonly used food emulsifier and source of fiber. The other, curdlan gum, is a seemingly innocuous and Food and Drug Administration-approved gelling agent often used in modern plant-based meat substitutes. 

Read moreBest Veggie Burgers and Plant-Based Meats to Grill

Is Awesomer bacon healthy? Or healthier, at least?

This is the million-dollar question for anyone looking to swap out meat-based bacon for health reasons. As far as nutrition and health benefits go, the stats aren’t stellar: a whopping 40 calories per slice and zero grams of protein. That said, Awesomer Bacon has about 30% less salt than real bacon and about 1 less gram of fat per slice, too.

It turns out that neither real nor fake bacon is going to do much in the way of improving your health. But that’s never a claim bacon has made, is it?

Awesomer Bacon Back of Package

The No. 1 ingredient in Hooray Bacon is coconut oil and there are no scary additives or ingredients. 

David Watsky/CNET

This fake bacon cooks just like the meaty stuff, only faster

I followed the instruction on the package which directed me to let the bacon come to room temperature so it would separate easier. Upon opening the package, I was struck by the waxy texture. The strips had a faintly bacon-y smell and were all stuck on top of one another much like typical pork bacon. With some careful peeling, the Awesomer Bacon came apart and I laid five slices down in an ungreased nonstick skillet on medium heat.

uncooked vegan bacon on cutting board

A heap of uncooked vegan bacon with a waxy crust of congealed coconut oil around each slice.

David Watsky/CNET

Almost immediately it began to sizzle and become translucent with oil and fat. Once again, the fake stuff was behaving much as real bacon would. One difference I noticed was whenever two pieces came in contact they would become immediately stuck and it took careful careful prying to separate them again. If you’re making some, be sure to give each strip plenty of space. 

The Awesomer Bacon seemed to firm and crisp up within a few minutes and in about half the time it takes real bacon to cook. I lifted a piece gently and saw it was beginning to brown on the bottom so I gave them all a flip.

vegan bacon cooking in pan

Be honest. Could you tell the difference between this and the real thing?

David Watsky/CNET

Another couple of minutes on the other side and I had myself a panful of very crispy bacon that looked eerily similar to the real stuff I was used to.

Nothing tastes like the real thing, but Awesomer Bacon is darn close

vegan bacon cooked in pan

Cooked and crispy Awesomer vegan bacon just before I pulled it from the pan. It was a big hit at brunch.

David Watsky/CNET

While the texture was almost exactly like real bacon, the taste was slightly less dead-on but still very similar and about the best fake bacon substitute I’ve yet tried. There were sweet and smoky notes from the natural smoke flavoring and maple syrup and just enough salt and fat without being overpowering. The fatty pork flavor was just slightly muted compared to the real thing. 

How much does it cost and where can you find it?

Unfortunately, this fake bacon ain’t cheap. A small 5-ounce package retails for about $9.50 in my local stores. By comparison, a 12-ounce package of name-brand bacon is typically less than that. 

Awesomer Bacon is carried by a string of national grocery chains including Wegman’s and Foodland. You can use the bacon locator to find a retailer near you or try Instacart to find local delivery.

More vegan intel 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

David Watsky

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