A few years ago, the very idea of vegan bacon would have seemed a distant dream – but there are now a wide range of brands making realistic plant-based rashers and lardons that often resemble the real thing.
Many vegans, vegetarians, and plant-based eaters will have experienced the “but bacon tho…” put down from meat-eaters. Despite the huge ethical cost it carries, people often cite it as the main food they’d be unwilling to ditch to go meat-free.
In 2023, however, it’s now easier than ever to enjoy completely vegan bacon. While it used to be a niche product, it’s now available widely in mainstream supermarkets in a number of countries in the world.
If you still eat bacon and are considering making the swap, here’s everything you need to know about the product’s plant-based alternatives.
What is vegan bacon? What’s it made of?
Vegan bacon refers to a meat alternative product designed to mimic the taste and texture of bacon made from pigs. While the meat analogue market used to be made up largely of burgers and sausages, bacon products are seeing a sharp rise in popularity. The global vegan bacon market is expected to reach USD $1.331 million in 2023. It’s predicted to grow at a CAGR of six percent between 2023 and 2033.
The ingredients used to make it depend on the company – many use soy or pea protein, while potato starch and wheat are also commonly used. Vegetable extracts, like radish or carrot, may be used to give the bacon its pinky color.
Is vegan bacon healthier?
Veganism is a movement against animal exploitation, rather than a diet, and many plant-based eaters won’t mind if a meat analogue isn’t considered to be healthy. There is, however, reason to believe that vegan bacon is a healthier alternative to pig bacon.
Processed pig meat is classed as a group one carcinogen by the World Health Organization, meaning that there is “sufficient evidence” that it causes cancer. Bacon is put through a great deal of processing in its production, being cured, smoked, or salted. Nitrates or nitrites are used as additives to preserve the meat, and nitrites are thought of as a particular concern. As well as being used as a preservative, they also give bacon its color. According to the WHO, nitrites are a likely cause of bowel cancer associated with bacon.
As well as this, bacon is also high in salt and saturated fat, and has been linked to heart disease. Excess salt can also raise blood pressure and increase your risk of stroke.
Vegan bacon could therefore be seen as a better alternative to pig bacon, but that’s not to say it’s a healthy food product. Plant-based meats are ultra processed foods, and they also tend to be high in salt. They are, however, lower in saturated fat, and don’t contain the same preservatives as pig bacon. As long as you don’t eat too much of them, there’s no reason to believe that meat alternatives like vegan bacon can’t be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.
Vegan bacon brands to try
Vegan bacon brands are popping up in countries all over the world, and there are now a wide variety of different products available at grocery stores. Whether you’re in the UK or USA, here’s where to find them.
Vegan bacon in the UK
French brand La Vie has become known for its vegan bacon rashers and lardons, which it sells in many countries in Europe. The brand was set up under the name 77 Foods by Nicolas Schweitzer, Vincent Poulichet, and Kelly Floch in 2019. It rebranded to become La Vie in October 2021.
In January 2022, it raised €25 million in funding to expand its reach throughout France and Europe. The brand recently announced a new funding round, as well as the launch of its first ever vegan ham.
La Vie products are available in stores including Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Wholefoods, Planet Organic, and more.
Set up in 2019 by Andy Shovel and Pete Sharmon, UK-based company THIS has become well-known for its variety of vegan meats alternatives, and it has a number of bacon products on offer.
In December 2022, the brand hit headlines after announcing it would be adding a “game-changing” vegan streaky bacon to its collection. Made from soy and pea protein with olive oil, the product was heralded as its most realistic yet. THIS also offers bacon lardons and rashers. You can find its products in a number of countries in Europe, including Germany, France, and the UK. Tesco, Ocado, and Sainsbury’s are among the retailers that stock THIS products.
Richmond was set up 130 years ago, and specializes in pork sausages. It’s far from a vegan brand, but the UK-based company has added a number of popular plant-based items to its collection over the years.
As well as its meat-free sausages, which have been widely praised in the vegan community, it offers vegan streaky bacon rashers. They contain soy and wheat protein, and are said to be a good source of fiber. The product is available to buy in the UK in Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, and Waitrose.
Another meat company, Better Naked is known for its large collection of animal products, including pork, ham, bacon, and beef.
It does offer a few vegan items, however, including its plant-based bacon rashers. The bacon is made from soy and wheat protein, and also contains potato protein and potato starch. You can find the bacon in stores like Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Tesco.
Plant-based brand Vivera sells everything from meat-free steaks to fish-free salmon filets. It also offers a pack of vegan bacon pieces.
They contain 17 percent protein, and have also been fortified with B12 and iron. They can be used in a variety of recipes that use bacon, including carbonara and bolognese.
Find Vivera products at stores including Tesco, Asda, and Sainsbury’s.
Vegan bacon in the US
Lightlife’s Smart Bacon is probably the easiest vegan bacon to find on grocery store shelves, available in Trader Joe’s, Kroger, Wholefoods Market, Walmart, Target, and more.
It’s a popular product, made from soy and wheat protein as well as natural smoke flavors. It can be used in the same way as regular bacon, and is said to get crispy when cooked in a skillet.
US-based vegan brand BeLeaf has been growing in popularity over the years due to its expanding range of vegan meat alternatives. As well as offering vegan shrimp and egg products, it also features a meat-free bacon.
The product is thin, crispy, and is said to taste close to the real thing. You can find BeLeaf products online and in some restaurants and small grocery stores.
Up there with the most realistic products in appearance, Hooray Foods offers bacon that features fatty strips similar to the pork version. The bacon is made from mushroom, rice flour, and tapioca starch.
It’s available to buy online, and a number of selected smaller grocery stores.
Tofurky is a well-established brand sold in supermarkets, grocery stores, and health food shops all over the world. It was founded in 1980 as a meat-free turkey replacement, but the company has since gone on to add a number of other vegan alternatives to its line-up.
Its vegan bacon product is slightly different from other products on the list, in that they’re made of tempeh rather than pea wheat protein. Originating in Indonesia, tempeh is made from cooked and fermented soybeans. Tofurky’s tempeh bacon is marinaded in smoky maple bacon flavor, and contains 13g of protein per serving.