The dilemma: You adore the salty, sweet and savory taste of bacon, but you're not a fan of the fat and cholesterol. What if we told you that it's possible to savor all your favorite aspects of bacon — including the irresistible aroma — without all the splashing grease?
Enter, vegan bacon. Tasty strips that come with all the flavorful perks of pork (and pluses of plant-based foods) minus the saturated fat.
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OK, we know what you're thinking: fake bacon? But before you balk at the thought of a meat alternative, trust us: mock meat products have come a long way in the taste and texture department. These seven dietitian-approved vegan bacon brands are the perfect example.
- Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon (Instacart, $5.39)
- Tofurky Treehouse Tempeh Smoky Maple Bacon (Instacart, $6.59)
- Upton’s Naturals Bacon Seitan (GoodEggs, $5.49)
- Yves Veggie Bacon (Wegmans, $4.99)
- Louisville Vegan Toppins' Bacon Bits (Amazon, $15 for a 2-pack)
- Pan’s Mushroom Jerky (Amazon, $7.99)
- Lightlife Tempeh Smoky Bacon (FreshDirect, $5.79)
How We Chose
While vegan bacon can be a healthy addition to your diet, not all products are made equally nutritious. That's why we consulted with dietitians (who have taste-tested these products) to break down the best brands to buy. Our top picks are based on their criteria, including:
- Sodium content
- Saturated fat
- Taste and texture
- Additional nutrient content
1. Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon
- 55 calories
- 0 g of saturated fat
- 120 mg of sodium
- 4 g of protein
"Benevolent Bacon stands out for its good nutrition," says Gena Hamshaw, RD. At 120 milligrams of sodium per slice, Hamshaw particularly likes that "it features less sodium than other vegan bacon products." Indeed, that's equivalent to only 5 percent of your daily value (DV).
Sweet Earth vegan bacon also made the fave list of Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, author of My Indian Table: Quick & Tasty Vegetarian Recipes. "It's a good choice because it's low in fat (with zero saturated fat) and provides some protein," Sheth says.
"It's flavorful and versatile," Hamshaw says. Sheth agrees: Notes of hickory, sage and garlic make this variety of vegan bacon extra tasty. And depending on how you cook it, the bacon's consistency can suit a spectrum of delicious dishes.
"The texture can become crispy with pan sautéing or baking, and it can also be soft, which is convenient for sandwiches," Hamshaw adds. It also goes great with Hamshaw's Caramelized Cabbage & Onion Pasta recipe.
Buy it: Instacart ($5.39); Whole Foods ($4.99)
2. Tofurky Treehouse Tempeh Smoky Maple Bacon
- 160 calories
- 1 g of saturated fat
- 370 mg of sodium
- 13 g of protein
Sheth gives this Tofurkey smoky maple bacon a shoutout as it's made from tempeh (i.e., fermented soybeans). Like other fermented foods, tempeh touts probiotics, which are great for digestive health.
Low in fat, this plant-based bacon also provides protein, fiber, iron and calcium, Sheth says. And at 16 percent of your DV of sodium, it's still considered a decent option when enjoyed in moderation. For reference, "high-sodium" foods have 20 percent or more of your DV.
But the best part of this bacon is, by far, the flavor. "This has a sweet, salty, savory and smoky taste," Sheth says. It would be a fantastic filler in a vegan bacon egg and cheese sandwich.
Buy it: Instacart ($6.59); Elm City Market ($4.99)
3. Upton’s Naturals Bacon Seitan
- 40 calories
- 0 g of saturated fat
- 400 mg of sodium
- 15 g of protein
"I love Uptons Bacon Seitan," Hamshaw says. "It's another very high-protein choice (15 grams per serving), and it supplies nearly 10 percent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of iron per serving, too."
"Like Sweet Earth bacon, which is also made with seitan, Upton's Bacon Seitan has zero saturated fat," Hamshaw says. "Seitan has been a part of Japanese and Chinese cuisines for centuries, and it's one of my favorite plant proteins to prepare and work with."
As seitan is soy-free, it's an awesome alternative for anyone with a soy allergy. But because it's made of wheat gluten, it's not a good option for people with celiac disease or other gluten sensitivities.
Seitan also serves up a "meaty, chewy texture that works well in a BLT-style sandwich," Sheth adds. Hamshaw also loves Upton's bacon for sammies: "These strips are smoky with a hint of onion flavor, and their flat, wide shape makes them perfect for layering onto sandwiches."
Buy it: GoodEggs ($5.49); Vegan Essentials ($5.79); Instacart ($6.29)
4. Yves Veggie Bacon
- 70 calories
- 0 g of saturated fat
- 470 mg of sodium
- 14 g of protein
Yves is another of Sheth's go-to brands for veggie bacon. This satisfying meat substitute packs a powerful protein punch (14 grams per serving) without all the saturated fat of pork products, and it's a stellar source of several vitamins and minerals, she says.
Indeed, one serving offers 10 percent of your DV for vitamin C, 20 percent of your DV for zinc and 25 percent of your DV for iron. Not to mention, this vegan bacon is brimming with B vitamins:
- Thiamin (20 percent of DV)
- Vitamin B12 (20 percent of DV)
- Vitamin B6 (15 percent of DV)
- Riboflavin (8 percent of DV)
- Pantothenic acid (6 percent of DV)
B vitamins are vital as they help enzymes to release energy from carbs and fat, break down amino acids and transport oxygen and other essential nutrients around your body, according to the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.
Plus, this veggie bacon's a palate pleaser thanks to its smoky flavor. These bacon strips crisp up to perfection in a toaster oven or the air fryer, making a crunchy addition to breakfast tofu scrambles and lunch salads alike.
5. Louisville Vegan Toppins' Bacon Bits
- 90 calories
- 0.5 g of saturated fat
- 390 mg of sodium
- 7 g of protein
Like bacon's itty-bitty cousin, bacon bits boast all the flavor of larger bacon strips but in a small package. And when it comes to meat alternatives on the market, Louisville Vegan Toppins' bacon bits take the top prize, according to Hamshaw: "They're little bundles of smoky and salty goodness."
Their fabulous flavor comes from a short list of whole-food ingredients like tamari, maple syrup, extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar, beet juice and paprika.
Not only do they tantalize the taste buds, but they're also loaded with the muscle-building macro. "The bits are made with textured soy protein, so they're high in protein," Hamshaw says. A single ounce will add 7 grams of protein to baked potatoes, tofu scrambles, casseroles, soups, chilis and more, she adds. Literally, the possibilities are endless.
Buy it: Louisville Vegan Jerky Co. ($5.99); Amazon ($15 for a 2-pack); Walmart ($21.34 for a 2-pack)
6. Pan’s Mushroom Jerky
- 110 calories
- 1 g of saturated fat
- 190 mg of sodium
- 1 g of protein
"While Pan's isn't technically a vegan bacon, I think that the sweet, smoky and salty flavors of the original version — and especially the Applewood BBQ version — are very reminiscent of bacon," Hamshaw says.
Made of shiitake mushrooms, this vegan jerky will jolt your taste buds in the best way with its savory umami taste and dense consistency, which is surprisingly similar to meat.
"I love the chewy texture of this product, which I throw into salads sometimes and also use as a topping for bowls of vegan chowder or potato leek soup," Hamshaw says. Of course, you can also nibble on plain jerky for a satisfying snack.
"As a bonus, mushrooms are rich in phytonutrients associated with lower rates of a number of common, long-term illnesses," Hamshaw says. A September 2019 study in the International Journal of Cancer found that eating mushrooms at least three times a week is tied to a lower risk of prostate cancer in middle-aged and older people.
Buy it: Pan’s Mushroom Jerky ($8); Amazon ($7.99); Walmart ($9.99)
7. Lightlife Tempeh Smoky Bacon
- 140 calories
- 0.5 g of saturated fat
- 680 mg of sodium
- 12 g of protein
Made with tempeh (i.e., fermented soy) this savory yet sweet veggie bacon has probiotics, which can promote gut health, Sheth says. Plus, these high-protein bacon strips also offer filling, gut-friendly fiber (5 grams) and iron (10 percent of your DV), she says.
While Hamshaw prefers to make her own vegan tempeh bacon, she leans on Lightlife's version when she's short on time. "Lightlife's smoky tempeh strips are very reminiscent of the homemade tempeh bacon that I love so much," she says. She especially enjoys how crispy these strips become by baking or air frying them at 425 degrees.
Still, keep in mind that one serving of four strips runs you up to 680 milligrams of sodium (that's 30 percent of your DV), Sheth says. So this veggie bacon variety might be better thought of as an occasional treat.
Buy it: FreshDirect ($5.79); Instacart ($4.99); Whole Foods ($4.89)
What to Look for in a Healthy Vegan Bacon
"Store-bought vegan bacons can be made with quite varied ingredients, so the nutrition isn't uniform," Hamshaw says.
So, before you buy a vegan bacon product, consider these factors:
"Nearly all vegan bacon is relatively high in sodium," Hamshaw says. Again, anything labeled 20 percent or more of your DV is considered a high-sodium food.
"Instead of aiming to avoid sodium in these products, I try to use the vegan bacon in moderate amounts, and I incorporate it into otherwise balanced and potassium-rich meals," Hamshaw says.
"Maintaining a diet that's adequate in potassium can help to mitigate the impact of sodium on blood pressure," she adds. Some foods high in potassium include leafy greens, beans, salmon and avocado.
"Look for higher protein options whenever possible," Hamshaw says. Sheth recommends aiming for products with 7 grams of protein or more per serving.
Vegan bacons that are made with tempeh, seitan or soy protein will help you hit your protein target, Hamshaw says.
"I also try to select vegan bacon products that are relatively low in saturated fat," Hamshaw says. A diet high in saturated fat can increase harmful LDL cholesterol levels, raising your risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
To lower your odds, try limiting your saturated fat intake to no more than 5 to 6 percent of your daily calories, per the AHA.
"My favorite vegan bacons are made with seitan and tempeh, both of which are naturally lower-fat — and very low-saturated fat — foods," Hamshaw says.
Fiber and Other Nutrients
Fiber is another factor to consider when buying veggie bacon, Sheth says.
That's because this gut- and heart-healthy nutrient is often missing from most people's diets. In fact, about 95 percent of Americans don't get the recommended daily amounts of fiber, according to a January 2017 paper in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
So when shopping for vegan bacon, Sheth suggests aiming for brands with 3 grams of fiber per serving.
Likewise, look for products that provide a variety of vitamins and minerals, she says. Fortunately, plant-based foods are often full of these essential nutrients.
- Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health: “B Vitamins”
- International Journal of Cancer: “Mushroom consumption and incident risk of prostate cancer in Japan: A pooled analysis of the Miyagi Cohort Study and the Ohsaki Cohort Study”
- BioMed Research International: “In Vitro Assessment of Shiitake Mushroom (Lentinula edodes) Extract for Its Antigingivitis Activity”
- American Heart Association: “Saturated Fat”
- American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine: “Closing America’s Fiber Intake Gap”