Healthy vegan bacon bits are irresistibly crunchy and perfect for your salads and baked potatoes. Made with 1-ingredient soy curls, they're salty, smoky, have a hint of maple, and are SO much better than store-bought vegan bacon bits! Oil-free, 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 vegan bacon bits?
Not only are these soy curl bacon bits totally delicious (check out the comments below), I also love that this recipe doesn't require any special equipment. And start-to-finish it only takes 30 minutes!
RELATED: Curious about soy curls? Check out this new post: 19 Vegan Soy Curl Recipes + FAQs.
Most homemade vegan bacon bits recipes call for TVP, or textured vegetable protein. TVP is an easy way to create vegan bacon bits, but I prefer this richer (and healthier) soy curl version. TVP is not considered a whole-food since it doesn't contain all parts of the soybean (it's a by-product of soybean oil production).
What You'll Need
- 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
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.
- Now have a seat at a table, and go to your zen place because this next step takes 4 or 5 minutes. Use your hands to break the soy curls into smaller pieces. Try to get them somewhat similar in size so they cook evenly. No need for perfection, though.
If breaking up the soy curls by hand starts to hurt your fingers, you can finish the job AFTER pouring on the marinade, when they're softer.
TIP: You might be wondering whether a food processor can be used to break up the soy curls. Unfortunately, this doesn't work. Some soy curls end up as dust while other pieces are still large. This unevenness in size leads to smaller bits burning in the oven before the larger pieces are done.
- 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.
Checking for Doneness
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.
They also freeze well. From the freezer, just move them back to the fridge, then use as desired.
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.
How 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 LOVE 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! And check out this post about soy curls for more fun ideas.
Best Vegan Bacon Bits
- 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, lite or full fat, optional - For extra crispy bacon bits omit coconut milk or reduce to 1 Tbsp, 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.
StorageStore bacon bits in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. They're probably fine longer than a week since it is essentially a dried food. Soy curl bacon bits freeze well, too. Make sure they're in an airtight, freezer-safe container. They contain almost no moisture, so they don't require much time to thaw before using.
Oil OptionIf you include oil in your diet feel free to add 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil or another neutral oil to the marinade. Obviously bacon is very high in fat, and soybeans are not! A touch of oil adds more richness, if desired. But they're absolutely delicious and crisp even without oil.
NutritionAs always, nutrition facts are estimates. This values are based on 8 servings per batch. The number of servings you'll get per batch will depend on how the bacon bits are used.
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. For the most accurate nutrition information we recommend calculating it yourself to reflect the specific ingredients used in your dish.