Taste test: What’s the best plant-based ‘bacon’?
PUBLISHED: 12:00 10 November 2020 | UPDATED: 12:18 10 November 2020
Our supermarkets are filled with vegan and vegetarian meat replacements - but are they any good? Our food and drink editor puts some of them to the test.
Viv Era Plant Bacon Pieces, 175g, RRP £3 (available at major supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons
The lurid colour is that of the ‘cheap’ bacon you might find at a discount store. And rather than rashers, Viv Era has gone for little chunks. The immediate impression was of those soya-based crunchy bacon bits you find in tubs in supermarkets next to the (also crunchy) fried onions, split peas and lentils. The texture felt leathery. And you needed to use a good dash of oil to get them sizzling and crisp. I didn’t have high hopes for this product but I was pleasantly surprised. Aside from being a tad chewy, the chemical smell didn’t translate into the eating of the pieces, which were really smoky and savoury – more like oak smoked salmon. I found myself nibbling on the bits I cooked throughout the afternoon. I wouldn’t want these in a sandwich, but they’re ideal for a pie or quiche where you need a zap of flavour.
Quorn Vegetarian Bacon, 120g, RRP £1.75 (available at most major supermarkets), not suitable for vegans
Floppy and insipid are the first two things I noted. These rashers, made from the brand’s mycoprotein, look like luncheon meat or spam and have an odd, buttery/oily smell that I personally found really unpleasant. On cooking they didn’t crisp up as much as the other brands but did taste marginally better than they smelled, with a touch of Frazzles about them (only a touch mind). On the whole they were disappointingly bland.
V Bites All Day V Bcn, 115g, RRP Vdeli Bacon Rashers, RRP £2.49 (available at independent health stores, Tesco, Morrisons)
Attention had been paid to the ‘design’ of this facon, with a neat ridge of ‘fat’ leading up the edge of each slice. They felt quite delicate to handle and I thought they’d break in the pan, but actually they stood up to quite a bashing from the spatula – largely thanks to the wheat protein in the mix, which forms a strong, flexible bond. The smell was a bit chemical, but the rashers really did sizzle like bacon, taking on colour easily and ending up nice and golden at the sides while staying tender in the middle. The flavour was gently smoky and could have done with a bit more of a pop, but these really would lend themselves to that bacon sandwich with a smidge of tommy K.
THIS Isn’t Bacon, 120g, RRP £2.95 (from independent health stores and supermarkets including Tesco and Waitrose)
And this doesn’t ‘look’ like bacon. In fact, when I opened the packet I thought the slices looked like cured tuna or herring – the texture like the firm flesh of a giant salted anchovy. The makers, who previously worked in the fish and meat worlds, have managed to create a facon that is woven together a bit like the fibres of meat. There is a mild chemical smell at first, leading into a touch of smoke, and the slices actually did sizzle like bacon. The texture was satisfyingly meaty, with a bit of bite. I could have done with more salt and smoke but overall I was quite impressed by these. Another good one for a bacon sarnie.
Applewood Acres Vegan Smokey Rashers, 6 per pack (at farmers markets in East Anglia and Hadleigh Market in Suffolk every Friday morning)
These rashers are made on a no-dig organic farm just outside of Ipswich in Suffolk, where the couple in charge make vegan honey, curds and more. A lot of research and trial and error apparently went into making the vegan bacon, with every slice crafted by hand. The base, like many of the others, is vital wheat protein, bulked up with mushrooms, chickpeas, soy sauce, apple, maple, tarragon and lots of other flavours and seasonings. My first thought when I opened the pack was ‘this actually feels like bacon’. The product wasn’t unlike the dry-cured back bacon from my local butcher. Like the V Bites rashers, these sizzled beautifully, curling and crisping at the edges. The mouth-feel was excellent, while the flavour, I’d say, was more akin to a decent nut roast than bacon. There was a hit of smoke, but the overall taste was earthy and gently sweet with a touch of spice. Very nice for a sandwich...with a bit of chilli or tomato relish.
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