Vegetarian bacon: ranked from best to worst
(Updated Oct 2021)
Back in the mists of time (4 years ago?) when I decided to become veggie, people couldn’t stop telling me that I was mad, because I wouldn’t be able to eat bacon any more. Oh but what about bacon, they’d wail, as if it was the greatest foodstuff known to man (hint: it’s not). The obsession with bacon that seems to have started in the US and been adopted by people over here in the UK always seemed like a bit of a mystery to me – it’s just bacon. Most of the time, it wasn’t cooked the way I liked it, and the rest of the time, sausages were the far superior breakfast protein.
However, veggie and vegan food manufacturers have caught on to this frenzied “BUTWHATABOUTTHEBACON” madness and produced multiple kinds of substitute bacon – from soy, seitan or miscellaneous plant proteins. So here is a list, from worst to best, of all the veggie bacon products I’ve tried. It will be updated as more of the weird stuff makes its way onto my plate…
WORST: QUORN BACON
You’d think, being one of the longest-running veggie protein brands, Quorn would sometimes get things right. However, they seem to be happy with churning out bland, boring mycoprotein meals, one after the other. Quorn’s bacon offering is no different – whether chilled or frozen, it has the texture and appearance of a shoe insole, and the taste of watered-down Frazzles. I’ve tried multiple ways of cooking it, too – straight frying, microwaving for a few seconds then frying, steaming… nothing. Always crap, all the time.
PRETTY GOOD FOR A CARBONARA: VIVERA VEGGIE BACON PIECES
A spaghetti carbonara is one of life’s simple joys. I shared my recipe here, which includes vegetarian hard cheese (can be difficult to find, most hard cheese contains rennet), and the essential bacony pieces are provided by Vivera. Vivera is a Dutch company, who make a variety of good veggie substitutes, including their plant steaks, which are fantastic as a meat substitute in fajitas. These bacon pieces are a bit too small for a breakfast – you could maybe put them in scrambled egg, or as part of some kind of hash – but for other cooking purposes, they’re pretty good. They’re soy-based, and have a decent, strong bacon flavour. The pack is also pretty big, and lasts us for 4 meals usually.
BEST BUT SADLY MISSING IN ACTION: UPTON’S SEITAN BACON
They say that the good die young – sadly, for the best veggie bacon we’ve ever tried, this is certainly true. Spotted first in Sainsbury’s, Upton’s Seitan Bacon was the bomb – it came in thin slices, but fried up well, was chewy, full of flavour, and if unopened, lasted forever in the fridge. However, I’ve not seen it in shops for over 6 months, so have been forced to accept that I may never taste it again. It was perfect for breakfast, if you peeled off a thicker slab; perfect in a BLT if slightly thinner, and chopped-up it was good in anything. RIP, Upton’s Seitan Bacon – may we meet (meat) again someday.
GLORIOUS UPDATE: UPTONS RETURNS AS IT’S NOT BACON
Now I’m not sure if it’s actually the same, but it seems like too much of a coincidence that one disappeared just as the other was launched, and the shape/flavour/texture/form is exactly the same. Now more widely available too, so fill yer boots!
STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE AWARD GOES TO NAKED WITHOUT THE OINK
Fancy packaging in Artisan Finnebrogue’s Naked Without The Oink bacon (a confusing and crap name) does not make up for the disappointing contents. These rashers, while they look interesting, are almost entirely flavourless. Not even the weird Frazzle taste of the Quorn bacon – these are literally a waste of time and money.
HONOURABLE MENTION FOR A BREAKFAST PROTEIN: MOVING MOUNTAINS SAUSAGE BURGER
If, like me, you are essentially a trash person trying to keep your mortal shell going for as long as possible, but you still enjoy a grubby, delicious McDonalds breakfast, then I have the solution: the Moving Mountains Sausage Burger. It’s a beast of a thing, larger and thicker than Maccy D’s own offering, and a glorious addition to any breakfast, or lunch. We’ve even had it as an accompaniment to a roast dinner. It’s made of mostly mushrooms, with a bit of soy, and since Upton’s has disappeared, is the main protein in our fry-ups. 10/10 can recommend.
This bacon-ranking list is a work in progress – send me a message here or on Twitter if you want to recommend a bacon substitute, and I will gladly eat it, then rank it!