Need some crunchy vegan bacon bits for your salads and baked potatoes? Make your own with healthy, protein-rich soy curls! Oil-free, gluten-free, and so much better than store-bought bacon bits.
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 bacon bits?
You don't need any special equipment to make this recipe, and start-to-finish it only takes 30 minutes.
How To Make Vegan Bacon Bits With Soy Curls
Here's a quick summary to show you how EASY it is. Scroll down for the full recipe and instructions.
1. Put 4 ounces of dry soy curls (<--- Amazon affiliate link) in a large bowl. That's half of a bag.
2. Now have a seat at a table, and go to your zen place because this next step takes about 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.
TIPS: You might be wondering if you can use a food processor to break up the soy curls. Unfortunately, it doesn't work very well. Some soy curls end up as dust while others are still large. This unevenness in size leads to smaller bits burning in the oven before the larger pieces are done.
If breaking up the soy curls starts to hurt your fingers, you can finish the job AFTER pouring on the marinade, when they're softer.
3. 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 below left). It will take several minutes of tossing and stirring for all of the marinade to be absorbed.
4. On a large, parchment-lined baking sheet, spread the soy curls out in a single layer. Give them plenty of space, using two smaller baking trays if necessary.
5. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 17 to 23 minutes or until as crispy as you like.
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.
Keep an eye on them 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.
Storage and Tips
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 little more richness.
For a smoky and salty burst of crunch, vegan bacon bits are great on salads, grain bowls, and baked potatoes. If you also find yourself eating them by the handful I completely understand. That happens a lot in our house!
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.
- 3 Tablespoons canned coconut milk, "lite" or full fat For extra crispy bacon bits omit 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 hands you can finish breaking them after pouring on the marinade, when they're less crisp.
- 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.