Homemade vegan bacon bits are smoky, salty, crunchy, and completely irresistible! Perfect for topping salads, stews, soups, and baked potatoes. They're also great by the handful! WFPB, gluten-free, and ready in 30 minutes.
When I first started cooking with soy curls, I never dreamed they would be so versatile. I've turned them into ground taco meat, added them to pot pies and Instant Pot curries, and even made slow cooker BBQ with them!
So I figured, why not make vegan bacon bits?
Not only are these soy curl bacon bits totally delicious , I also love that this recipe doesn't require any special equipment. And start-to-finish it only takes 30 minutes!
Most homemade vegan bacon bits recipes use TVP, or textured vegetable protein. TVP is an easy way to create vegan bacon bits, but I prefer this richer (and some would say healthier) soy curl version.
TVP is not considered a whole-food since it doesn't contain all parts of the soybean. It has been de-fatted, which sounds like a good thing, but really TVP is just a by-product of soybean oil production.
Are bacon bits vegan?
This may seem like a silly question, but actually, there are some store-bought bacon bits that are vegan. McCormick and Frontier are two common brands of bac-un bits that happen to be vegetarian/vegan.
Even if you're lucky enough to come across vegan bacon bits at the market, most contain maltodextrin, dextrose, or other preservatives you may not want in your food.
The good news is that it's really easy to make your own vegan bacon bits at home, and your family will love the crunchy texture and delicious smoky flavor!
What are soy curls?
If you haven't cooked with them before, soy curls are simply dried and pressed soybeans. They have a chewy texture and absorb flavors really well, making them an excellent vegan meat alternative.
You can find soy curls online or at some natural food stores. I usually purchase them directly from the Butler Foods website or from Amazon.
- Soy Curls - made from one ingredient, whole, non-GMO soybeans; ordering online is the best way to get them (not widely available in stores). Check out this post about soy curls to learn more!
- Tamari (gluten-free) or Soy Sauce - important for the overall saltiness and savory notes
- Coconut Milk (optional) - omit for extra crispy bacon bits; adds a bit of richness
- Maple Syrup - balances the tamari with just enough sweetness
- Nutritional Yeast - adds umami
- Liquid Smoke - important for bacon flavor
- Apple Cider Vinegar - adds a bit of twang to balance the sweet-and-salty flavors
- Smoked Paprika - adds color and more smokiness
- Onion and Garlic Powder - for additional savory notes
How To Make Vegan Bacon Bits
Here's a quick summary to give you an overview of the process. Full recipe and instructions in recipe card below.
- Put 4 ounces of dry soy curls in a large bowl. That's half of a bag.
- Use your hands to break up the soy curls into smaller pieces. Try to get them somewhat similar in size so they cook evenly. No need for perfection, though.
If this starts to hurt your fingers, you can finish the job AFTER pouring on the marinade, when they're softer.
- In a small bowl whisk together the wet ingredients. Pour the sauce over the broken soy curls, and stir until everything is well coated (photo above left). It will take several minutes of tossing and stirring for all of the marinade to be absorbed.
- On a large, parchment-lined baking sheet, spread the vegan bacon bits in a single layer. Give them plenty of space, using two smaller baking trays if necessary.
- Bake in a 350 degree oven for 17 to 23 minutes or until as crispy as you like.
How do I know when they're done?
At 17 minutes they'll still be a bit chewy, which you might want depending on how you plan to use the bacon bits. If you want super crisp and crunchy bits bake them longer.
Another way to achieve crispier bits is to reduce the coconut milk to 1 or 2 tablespoons, or simply omit it.
Keep an eye on the bacon bits in the last few minutes due to oven variance and so they don't burn, which can happen quickly!
For me it usually takes 18 minutes to reach a chewy stage and about 24 for crispy bits, but keep in mind, the size of the pieces makes a big difference.
And that's it! You just made your own healthy vegan bacon bits.
Allow the bacon bits to cool completely before storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I feel comfortable keeping them for 1 week, though I'm sure they'd be fine longer since they contain almost no moisture.
Vegan bacon bits also freeze well. From the freezer, just move them back to the fridge, and use as desired.
Variation - With Oil
If you include oil in your diet feel free to add 1 to 2 tablespoons of a neutral flavored oil to the marinade. Obviously bacon is very high in fat, and soybeans are not. So a touch of oil adds a bit more richness.
Ways To Use Vegan Bacon Bits
For a smoky and salty burst of crunch, they're great on salads, grain bowls, and baked potatoes.
If you also find yourself eating these healthy bacon bits by the handful I completely understand. That happens a lot in our house!
----> Try these Oil-Free Vegan Bacon Pancakes.
I hope you enjoy these vegan bacon bits as much as we do. If you try the recipe be sure to comment below and give the recipe a star rating to let others know how they turned out!
Vegan Bacon Bits Recipe
- 4 ounces Butler soy curls (half of a bag)
- ⅓ cup tamari - This makes very flavorful, salty bacon; you may find you like less.
- 2 tablespoons canned coconut milk, optional, lite or full fat - Omit for extra crispy bacon bits, and NOTE, cook time will be reduced with less moisture.
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 ¾ teaspoons liquid smoke
- 1 ½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- ¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, optional
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
- Place soy curls in a large bowl. Use your hands to break the soy curls into smaller pieces (this takes a few minutes). Try to get them somewhat similar in size, so they cook evenly. No need for perfection, though. *If this hurts your fingers you can finish breaking them after pouring on the marinade, when they're softer.
- In a small bowl whisk together the tamari, coconut milk, maple syrup, nutritional yeast, liquid smoke, vinegar, paprika, garlic, onion, and pepper. Pour over the soy curls, and toss until the soy curls are fully coated and all of the marinade has been absorbed.
- Spoon soy curls onto the baking sheet. There shouldn't be any excess marinade in the bottom of the bowl, but if there is, leave it behind (it will burn on the pan). Spread soy curls in a single layer. Give them plenty of space, using a second baking sheet if necessary.
- Bake for 17 to 23 minutes or until as crisp as you like, stirring at the 10-minute mark. Keep a close eye during the last few minutes as burning can happen quickly. In addition to whether you want the bacon bits to be more chewy or crisp, the size of the pieces of soy curls also affects the cook time.
- Allow to cool completely before storing. See Notes below.
Estimated Nutrition (per serving)
Nutrition information is an estimate and will vary depending on the exact amounts and specific products and ingredients used. We calculate this information using the online calculator cronometer.com.