This Plant-Based Bacon Tastes Eerily Like Real Bacon

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If you’ve recently given up meat, you either miss bacon or you’re lying. Bacon is a nearly universally beloved food, but those who opt for a vegan or vegetarian diet have had few decent options to satisfy a craving for this breakfast great. There are a handful of plant-based bacon brands, but I’d never had one that tasted much like the real thing. That is until I got my tongs on a package of Hooray Foods’ Awesomer Plant-Based Bacon — the best vegan bacon to hit my skillet yet.

Much like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, both of which have produced spot-on imitations of beef, Awesomer gets about as close to real bacon, both in taste and texture, as anything I’ve tried. So what exactly is this fake bacon made of and is it healthier? How much does it cost? And where can you find it?

Here’s everything you need to know about this surprisingly realistic-tasting vegan bacon. 

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package of hooray bacon

Hooray Foods’ plant-based bacon has less sodium and fat than real bacon but tastes a whole lot like the real stuff.

David Watsky/CNET

What is Awesomer plant-based bacon made of?

The ingredients listed on Hooray’s packaging were mostly natural: water, coconut oil, white rice flour, pea starch, tapioca starch, natural flavors, curdlan gum, salt, natural smoke flavoring, maple syrup, gum acacia, apple extract, beet juice concentrate, purple sweet potato extract, yeast extract, inactive dried yeast and lemon juice concentrate.

Gum acacia (one of two ingredients unfamiliar to me) turns out to be a safe and commonly used food emulsifier and source of fiber. The other, curdlan gum, is a seemingly innocuous and Food and Drug Administration-approved gelling agent often used in modern plant-based meat substitutes. 

Read moreBest Veggie Burgers and Plant-Based Meats to Grill

Is Awesomer bacon healthy? Or healthier, at least?

This is the million-dollar question for anyone looking to swap out meat-based bacon for health reasons. As far as nutrition and health benefits go, the stats aren’t stellar: a whopping 40 calories per slice and zero grams of protein. That said, Awesomer Bacon has about 30% less salt than real bacon and about 1 less gram of fat per slice, too.

It turns out that neither real nor fake bacon is going to do much in the way of improving your health. But that’s never a claim bacon has made, is it?

Awesomer Bacon Back of Package

The No. 1 ingredient in Hooray Bacon is coconut oil and there are no scary additives or ingredients. 

David Watsky/CNET

A fake bacon that cooks up just like the real deal, only faster

I followed the instruction on the package which directed me to let the bacon come to room temperature so it would separate easier. Upon opening the package, I was struck by the waxy texture. The strips had a faintly bacon-y smell and were all stuck on top of one another much like typical pork bacon. With some careful peeling, the Awesomer Bacon came apart and I laid five slices down in an ungreased nonstick skillet on medium heat.

uncooked vegan bacon on cutting board

A heap of uncooked vegan bacon with a waxy crust of congealed coconut oil around each slice.

David Watsky/CNET

Almost immediately it began to sizzle and become translucent with oil and fat. Once again, the fake stuff was behaving much as real bacon would. One difference I noticed was whenever two pieces came in contact they would become immediately stuck and it took careful prying to separate them again. If you’re making some, be sure to give each strip plenty of space. 

The Awesomer Bacon seemed to firm and crisp up within a few minutes and in about half the time it takes real bacon to cook. I lifted a piece gently and saw it was beginning to brown on the bottom so I gave them all a flip.

vegan bacon cooking in pan

Be honest. Could you tell the difference between this and the real thing?

David Watsky/CNET

After another couple of minutes on the other side and I had myself a panful of very crispy bacon that looked eerily similar to the real stuff I was used to.

Nothing tastes like the real thing, but Awesomer Bacon is darn close

vegan bacon cooked in pan

Cooked and crispy Awesomer vegan bacon just before I pulled it from the pan. It was a big hit at brunch.

David Watsky/CNET

While the texture was almost exactly like real bacon, the taste was slightly less dead-on but still very similar and about the best fake bacon substitute I’ve yet tried. There were sweet and smoky notes from natural smoke flavoring and maple syrup. There was also a good balance of salt and fat. The fatty pork flavor was just slightly muted compared to the real thing. 

How much does Awesomer Bacon cost and where can you buy it?

Unfortunately, this fake bacon ain’t cheap. A small 5-ounce package retails for about $9.50 in my local stores. By comparison, a 12-ounce package of name-brand bacon is typically less than that. 

Awesomer Bacon is carried by a string of national grocery chains including Wegman’s and Foodland. You can use the bacon locator to find a retailer near you or try Instacart to find local delivery.

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