Monday, September 17, 2012

Pigless Bacon

It doesn't really look like bacon, I know. But it looks kind of good, right?

Here’s why you should make Pigless Bacon: 1) You’re a vegetarian. 2) You’re a nostalgic former vegetarian. 3)Your kids or partner are vegetarians. 4) You’re cheap and/or broke, and you’ve done the math, and real bacon is $6 a pound, while homemade Pigless Bacon is $3.38 a pound. 5) You’re cheap and/or broke and you’ve done the math, and store-bought tempeh bacon is $10 a pound, while homemade Pigless Bacon is $3.38 a pound. 6) You love to make and eat weirdly scrumptious things. 7) It seems sort of healthy. 8) Your friend Maddie (of crack broccoli fame) borrowed some liquid smoke from you because she wanted to make her own tempeh bacon, and you said, like a jealous four-year-old, “I want to make tempeh bacon too!”

Maddie, this one’s for you. And it’s so ridiculously delicious that I almost literally made my self sick on it: smoky and crispy and chewy and sweet in all the right ways. And it works for Birdy, who, like any normal vegetarian, misses bacon. Make it and try saying you don’t love it. Seriously.

They probably make liquid smoke by soaking a bunch of cigarette butts in high-fructose corn syrup. And I don't even care.
Pigless Bacon
Makes 3 PBLTs

This is adapted from the Vegetarian Times, with some notable exceptions. They bake it, and all I can say is that if you’re not going to fry it, don’t bother. I tried baking it, I did—I even sprayed it all over with oil and roasted the living heck out of it—and it just doesn’t get properly crisp. Plus, they add a bunch of non-bacon spices, like cumin, which I don’t understand. And they suggest that the liquid smoke is “optional,” which is crazy, because that’s the whole recipe right there. That said, I am grateful to them for giving me the bones of this recipe to work with.

1 8-ounce package tempeh, sliced into 24 very thin slices
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
Canola oil for frying

Lay the tempeh slices in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Bring the soy sauce, water, vinegar, maple syrup, and garlic powder to a boil in small saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the liquid smoke, then pour it over tempeh slices. Let cool, then cover and chill 2 hours, or overnight or—better yet—up to 3 days.

Heat a generous slick of oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat. Fry the tempeh slices, turning them frequently so that they crisp up deeply brown on both sides without burning (around 5 minutes total).

From Trader Groovy's.
Unlike some other soy products I know (I'm looking at you, tofu!), tempeh is very easy to slice thin.
I used too small a dish for marinating, but it didn't really matter.
You can fry it all at once, or whenever you want it.
I'm a fan! Ha ha.
You really need more Pigless Bacon in your sandwich than this, but I ate the rest of it already, even though I knew I was going to be taking a photograph!


  1. Yippee! I am first comment-er!
    Seeing that you posted this post "2 minutes" ago makes me feel like we are both together on our laptops, you working and me not working instead reading your work! "Together" like you don't know me, but I am, as always one of your biggest adoring fans!
    Love and hugs and hope you are surviving your September melancholy.

  2. Anonymous11:54 AM

    This looks WONDERFUL! And I don't even really like pig-ful bacon to begin with! But this looks wicked good. Thanks!

  3. Allyson6:03 PM

    Mmmm. Kosher bacon. (Insert Homer Simpson drool sound here.) Seriously, I am perfectly happy to chow down on pig-ful bacon, although my fear of a vengeful God has so far prevented me from trying out your "larkdes". (Ok, that "trying out" may be the only lard-based pun I've ever written. And you may be the only person I know who would even get it.) But this looks so good that I am going to go out and buy liquid smoke and try it. (I already have the tempeh.) I was thinking of you today for some reason while I was peeling mountains of apples for my crock pot applesauce (one of the few non-Catherine recipes that is unfailingly part of my fall rotation). Anyway, shana tova my fellow half-Jew!

  4. It may have been a too small dish, but such a *pretty* too small dish! And you finally answered the age old question, "What the heck is liquid smoke anyway?" Marinated cigarette butts in high fructose corn syrup...of course!

  5. Anonymous12:55 AM

    I've always wondered about liquid smoke, too. You make it sound so tempting!

    I have a friend who also uses it in her split pea soup in lieu of ham hock.

    Your sandwich looks delicious and I might have to finally buy some liquid smoke to try this recipe.

    (Also having trouble with commenting for some reason. -v)

  6. Anonymous12:57 AM

    (Nevermind. Not having trouble. Just am technologically deficient.)

  7. Allyson2:23 AM

    Oh, and Catherine, if you really want to go nuts, you can try this: I think I'll buy mine, though, even if I can only find the cigarette butts in HFCS version.

    1. Allyson4:14 AM

      Damn inability to edit. Here it is in all its video glory (liquid smoke making starts at 9:15).

  8. I just like the *name* pigless bacon. But I also wanted to tell you that on account of studying fungus in our homeschool co-op, I learned that tempeh is created by fungus digesting soybeans! Those little white bits are the mycelium, which makes pigless bacon even more exotic and exciting.

  9. Anonymous12:04 PM

    i love this blog so much. your tomato is perfect. you must never, ever be sad.

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  11. Allyson3:16 PM

    Anyone else having trouble making the connection between pigless bacon and conservative Australian political parties? Just me? Ok then.

  12. What if you fried this in the bacon fat that you save after cooking real bacon...I am of the opinion that all tempeh bacon is inedible, even though I eat a mostly macrobiotic diet (hello mochi!)but I just can't stomach bacon imposters. I suppose I have never used liquid smoke. I'll give it try.

    1. Allyson10:42 AM

      I'm not a fan of meat substitutes, either, (though I do buy tofu dogs for my vegetarian-leaning daughter). Maybe if you thought of it as "Smoky Glazed Tempeh"? That sounds yummy in its own right. Or, you know, skip it altogether and just eat the bacon, which is reliably delicious if you eat meat, which I do.

  13. Anonymous9:54 AM

    I love this comment so much. It just makes me smile. A sweet sentiment in every way.
    --Cathy K

    1. Anonymous9:55 AM

      (This was meant to follow's comment.)--Cathy K

  14. Maddie5:59 PM

    First - I can't wait to try your pigless bacon recipe - especially now that I have liquid smoke in the house again! Last time my entire attempt involved marinating tempeh with syrup and soy sauce and an obvious lack of liquid smoke. At that point, what you have is tempeh snack sticks. Good but not pigless bacon by any means.

    Second - even though I read the entire post, when I got to the photos I couldn't figure out why anyone would want to eat a peanut butter, bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich or what it had to do with the pigless bacon recipe. I was picturing a schmear of peanut butter instead of mayo.


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  16. yum! and just in time for the impending bacon shortage...

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