When I realized I'd had pets that were not as smart as pigs (I've had a lot of really dumb animals in my life), I cut out most of my pork consumption. Most, I said, not all. The one piggy treat that somehow snuck back into my diet? Bacon.
I blame restaurants for leading me back, at first to bacon bits (have you ever tried picking those out of a salad?) and then to the occasional full-size bacon strip. I felt guilty, but, unlike beef — which has many passable imposters — and even pulled pork (jackfruit is pretty close to the real thing), there wasn't much in the way of tasty fake bacon to quell my craving. Until recently.
The vegan bacon market is booming — according to Future Market Insights, demand is expected to grow from $1,280 million in 2022 to $2,425 million by 2032. Not surprisingly, given those numbers, there's a larger variety of fake bacon to choose from these days. Unlike the sad, limp strips of tofu and tempeh that taste more like wet socks than bacon and that made up the early vegan trend, fake bacon (let's just call it facon to speed things along) now has a slew of pretty decent, baconish imitators.
Do any of them taste exactly like the real thing? If I find one that would pass a blind taste test, I'll let you know.
Still, facon has become a staple on my shopping list. The most important thing? My kids, husband, andI like MorningStar Farms bacon strips, so it's a win-win. It's also the only fake bacon my local Target carries, and it pops up at Trader Joe's every now and then, so I can get it when I need laundry detergent or kid clothing.
The fake bacon strips are relatively cheap, too. At Target, a 5.25 oz. package sells for $5.29, so about $1 an ounce. There are about nine servings (two strips) per box, so while there are more ingredients I can't pronounce than I would like, it scratches an itch for me, plus my family members are about as content as they can ever get at mealtime.
Why I chose to mess with that magic, I'm not sure, but I blame TikTok. Thrilling Foods' fake bacon product — Bakon — popped up on my feed, and it only took a visit to the website to make me think it was worth a shot. After all, the ingredients were recognizable, and it had that impressive pepper coating. It was, however, more expensive — especially when I bought it online. Though retail stores like California-based Erehwon are listed on the site, it was as likely I was going to drive to mid-L.A. as I was going to sprout wings and fly. The only problem was that I had to commit before I'd had a bite, as the Bakon was sold in packs of three and, to get free shipping, I had to get six. Each 8-oz. package worked out to $11.66, or roughly $1.40 an ounce.
Was it worth it? Well, you tell me. Because my kids had decided they liked the MorningStar Farms, they proclaimed the Bakon "weird" and rejected it after the first bite. My husband, who is less irrational about most things, at least when it comes to food, had a more balanced reaction. While he appreciated the pepper, he felt the Bakon was too salty compared to MorningStar — which is funny, since Bakon has 170mg of sodium per serving and MorningStar has 220mg of sodium per serving.
But because he was my only taste tester (besides me), I made two batches. The first, baked to the minimum recommended nine minutes, was a unilateral bomb, as it tasted "too soy" (his verdict) and like "chewy, smokey blurg" (mine). The second batch needed to be crispy, which wasn't easy. Even going five minutes over the 12-minute maximum, not all of the pieces were crispy. But, as I didn't want a house fire, they had to do.
And they were better, at least from a crispy standpoint, though my husband still proclaimed them too salty. I didn't mind the salt (whether or not it was really there) but did the Bakon have that greasy, meaty umami of real bacon? No. It didn't taste like soy or artificial smoke, but it didn't taste like much of anything else, either. Was I wowed? No. Was I glad I had four more packages of the stuff in my fridge? Not really.
The good news is that there's a ton of other fake bacon to try — versions by Be Leaf and Suprima get raves, and not just on TikTok. After I work my way through all the fake bacon currently in my possession, I might be open to tasting whatever I can find.
Until then, I'm not all that excited about bacon, fake or otherwise. I'm taking a fake bacon break (now say that ten times fast).