The time has come for me to share my tofu bacon recipe with all of you! Now, I can just here some of you screaming, ‘YES!!’
I can also hear some of you saying, ‘Tofu bacon? Gross…’
Ok, look… I get it. I can see why you might be skeptical. I mean, tofu on its own is not that great (like if you eat it cold and out of the package- which would be oh so silly). But that’s not what we’re doing here so you need to relax and drop the attitude.
Here’s the T: bacon is mainly fat and salt, usually with a smoky flavor. Sometimes with a sweetness. Always with lots of umami (savoriness). So if we take a bland and juicy protein, like tofu, cut it into thin strips, season it correctly and add lots of fat, shouldn’t it cook and taste like bacon? The answer is YES. I even gave some to my next-door neighbor (who is very skeptical of tofu) and he told me he was very impressed. Success!
Regardless if you have a prejudice against tofu or you simply don’t think you would like this recipe, I dare you to try it. I truly think you will be surprised. The best part? This recipe is cheap, easy and quick to make.
Now if you’re smart like me, you will pick you up some juicy, summer tomatoes, a crisp head of iceberg lettuce, some fresh ciabatta rolls (or a killer sourdough loaf) and some vegan mayo. Having these on hand combined with the tofu bacon, will make you my favorite recipe of all time: a classic BLT. Now let’s get back to the bacon.
Rule #1! Remember, we are trying to recreate the experience of eating bacon. That makes me think of chewy, crispy, salty, and fatty- all at the same time. When looking for tofu, go with extra firm or high protein. You need strength so that the slices aren’t too delicate. When slicing the tofu, you want to make sure you aren’t slicing too thin. This will make the strips cook faster and they may become too crunchy or burnt. Now, these characteristics are actually quite good for bacon, but not for the whole strip. Basically, don’t worry about making them perfectly even. You want variation in thickness as this will create variation in the crunch and the chew.
Also, I suggest gently patting the tofu strips with a paper towel once cut. You don’t need to squeeze the whole block of tofu- just remove any excess water from the strips. This will help the marinade to stick better. Ok, next!
To help this marinade become one thick mixture, I like to add a little drop of yellow mustard which helps emulsify everything. Slowly drizzling in the oil after the initial ingredients are mixed leaves you with a thick marinade full of flavor which will beautifully coat the tofu strips. If you make your marinade in advance, simply whisk vigorously before using.
One important step to remember is to flip the tofu. This will encourage browning, crisping up each side perfectly. If you ended up adding a few smaller scrap pieces to the sheet pan, this would be a good time to gobble them up so they don’t burn. It’s also important to taste test your recipe as you go, right? Enjoy.
See that bubbling? That’s what we want, people! We want those strips of tofu to FRY. I remember making bacon as a teenager and seeing those same bubbles- don’t you? It’s a glorious sign that your tofu is fatty enough to compare to its traditional counterpart. However, so much better because little squooshy piggies are not involved. :)
serves 4-6, gluten-free
1 -14 ounce block extra firm tofu
¾ cup avocado or sunflower oil
⅓ cup nutritional yeast
½ cup tamari
1 tablespoon Colgin liquid smoke (hickory*)
½ teaspoon yellow mustard
Preheat oven to 375 F and line one baking sheet with parchment paper.
Slice tofu into thin rectangles ⅛” thick (see pictures above). Combine half of the oil, nutritional yeast, tamari, liquid smoke and mustard in a small bowl and whisk well. Slowly drizzle in the remaining oil, whisking as you go. Dip each strip of tofu into the marinade and transfer to the baking sheet. Pour remaining marinade over strips of tofu.
Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove baking sheets from the oven and gently flip each strip with a fork. Rotate baking sheets in the oven (top to bottom) and bake for another 20 - 35 minutes depending on your oven and how crispy you like your bacon! Definitely check it at 20 minutes and if you think it’s done, it’s done. Or continue to bake for an additional 5-10 minutes until it’s crunchy on the edges. This will also depend on how thin or thick you slice the tofu. The thinner crisps will cook faster. Feel free to transfer to one sheet towards the end as the strips shrink in size. At this point, you should be very careful. Don’t wander too far out of the kitchen. You want to push the bacon to the point where it is about to burn but it doesn’t.
Tips, Tricks & Other Tidbits
For a BLT, I highly recommend using ciabatta rolls because they are soft and chewy. This allows you to hold everything in as you bite them. You can use ‘Vegenaise’ or ‘Just Mayo’ for this sandwich. I ONLY recommend iceberg lettuce. If you must, you can use romaine hearts. But whatever you do, don’t even think about using a soft lettuce like arugula or spinach. I will report you on Instagram. Of course, with a BLT, you can add avocado if you’d like. This would be called a BLAT. So, not as pretty as BLT but still damn good.
This Tofu Bacon is best served the day of. I have saved it for the next day, and it’s best to keep at room temperature when serving. I tried toasting it up and it became dried out and hard. So don’t do that, thanks.
Don’t crowd the sheet pan! By that, I mean don’t overlap the strips of tofu when you’re laying them out on the baking sheet. You want them to have plenty of room to be free and to express themselves. And by that, I mean become crispy.
Towards the end of the cooking time, feel free to check every five minutes, the visual cues you are looking for are edges starting to brown and curve. The goal is to have variations of crispy, crunchy and chewy.
I always recommend Colgin liquid smoke. I think the hickory would work best for this, but the mesquite or pecan flavor would be just fine! This brand is delicious and not bitter which some liquid smokes can be. (I’ve had some that are straight up bad.) If you must use another brand, make sure it is not bitter otherwise it can ruin the whole recipe. If it is in fact bitter, pull back the full tablespoon to 1.5 teaspoons.