I know what you’re thinking. Really Kristin? Fakin’ bacon? I know, I know. The self proclaimed fake meat hater bringing you just that. But hear me out. This is no ordinary fakin’ bacon.
This smoky invention did not come from a package; nor was it processed any more than a normal hunk of tempeh is before it came in my kitchen. It was not cooked to death, has no added chemicals and the only soy in it is organic, fermented soybeans. Sounds too good to be true, right?
It all started on my search for side dishes to have when my friend Eric came to visit. He asked for, “a new twist on an old favorite, in TV-chef judge style,” so I took it into my own hands to make him a fabulous vegan side dish that would blow his carnviorous head off.
Eric and I have been friends for years. We were friends back when I was a fake-meat-loving vegetarian (that didn’t last long), was more than supportive when I returned to the realm of meat eating and not at all surprised where I am now, not a meat hater, but much more of a veggie lover. So I’m sure he was a little hesitant the moment I set down a plate in front of him with little unidentifiable brown chunks on the top. “So what is this exactly?” he asked me.
So I explained tempeh. Surprisingly enough, he had heard of it before and was open to trying it. He finished every last bite of that side and proclaimed it to be good, even thinking it was actually made with a cheese sauce. Score!
The recipe I chose was a vegan “Spaghetti Carbonara” from Urban Vegan. It looked like just the kind of thing I wanted to make to impress my omnivorous guest, though I made a few substitutions to the recipe, swapping out soy milk in favor of almond, and of course- making my own “bacon” sub.
I like this “bacon” because it doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard to be bacon. It has that perfectly smoky taste that goes beautifully with the creamy carbonara sauce, but isn’t greasy and doesn’t feel like rubber. It is what it is- a smoky, chewy topping that pairs well with the dish, without attempting to be a sad processed impostor.
I used a dehydrator for this recipe; but you could easily place it in the oven on very low heat with the door open or even pan sear for a similar effect.
Homemade Tempeh “bacon”
[Marinade adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance]
1/2 block tempeh, sliced into long thin slices
2 tbsp tamari or shoyu (soy sauce)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1. Mix all marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Place tempeh in a small shallow dish. Pour over tempeh, turning to coat tempeh fully. Let marinate at least one hour in the fridge.
2. Place marinated tempeh on a teflex-lined dehydrator sheet. Make sure all pieces are separated and not touching (otherwise they’ll stick together!)
3. Dehydrate at 125F for 6-8 hours, turning once or twice throughout, until shrunken and slightly crispy but still pliable.
Use as you would cooked bacon- you can pan fry it lightly if desired to soften (I did for just a couple minutes) but it is not necessary.
Enjoy the vegan smoky goodness!