Many people who convert from an omnivorous diet to veganism miss certain foods and up towards the top of that list for many is bacon. For many meat products, from burgers to sausages, there are some excellent vegan alternatives and these certainly allow plenty of options for vegan barbecues. Even vegan cheeses have come a long way in recent years with many artisan options that make some exceptionally good vegan alternatives to dairy cheese. But when it comes to bacon, the vegan-friendly products that have been developed have not always hit the mark with consumers.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the most popular vegan bacon (or facon or vacon, as it is sometimes called) available in the UK and assess whether any of them really can satisfy the bacon cravings of those following a plant-based diet. We’ll focus on what it’s made from and how it compares to pork bacon from a health and nutrition perspective. Note that we’ll focus on plant-based versions of bacon rashers rather than alternatives to lardons, bacon chops or any other similar products. Let’s take a look at our Top 5 Vegan Bacon options in the UK, before explaining what vegan bacon actually is.
Top 5 Vegan Bacon Products
- THIS – Isn’t Bacon Plant-Based Rashers
- VBites Cheatin’ Meat Maple Flavoured Rashers
- Sgaia Mheat – Streaky Rashers
- Vegan Cartel Vegan Bacon
- Plant Pioneers Smoky Vacon Rashers
What Is Vegan Bacon Made From?
Most of the best vegan bacon products are made from some protein-rich ingredient, such as wheat gluten or soy. The main ingredients found in the most popular vegan bacon products in the UK are as follows:
- Wheat Gluten
- Soya Protein
- Potato Starch
- Pea Protein
- Yeast Extract
The main ingredients act as the bulk of the rasher in question, typically providing a good source of vegan protein, with various other ingredients added to enhance texture, flavour, colour and so on. Many vegan bacons follow similar recipes, i.e. wheat gluten and/or soy protein, with additional ingredients to create a nuanced product.
But there are plenty of outliers who try to do things in a completely different manner. For instance, the vegan bacon that is made from seaweed – it didn’t quite make our Top 5, but it is worth trying!
Does Vegan Bacon Taste Like Real Bacon?
Though many vegans may feel revulsion at the thought of eating animal flesh, there are many who still admit that they miss the taste of real bacon that comes from pigs. How do the various vegan bacon products compare to the real thing? Obviously, they hit the mark from the point of view of anyone who doesn’t want animals to die to feed humans. And – as we’ll see later – vegan bacon is invariably much healthier than true, meaty bacon. But can it ever really compete on the taste front?
The answer is: it depends. If you are something of a bacon gourmet who only ever settled for the best quality dry-cured, smoked back bacon that money could buy, some of the vegan alternatives are, frankly, not going to cut the mustard (mustard is usually vegan, by the way!).
On the other hand, if you were happy enough with the kind of bacon served up in Premier Inn breakfast buffets, Wetherspoons pubs and greasy spoon cafes up and down the country, we would argue that many of the vegan bacons we feature below compare very favourably. The comparisons are more in line with real bacon that is on the crispy side rather than only lightly cooked bacon – something that has proved hard to replicate with plant-based alternatives in our experience.
Another factor is how long it has been since you last ate “normal” bacon (or if you ever have). If you are new to the vegan juggernaut, then you may struggle with some of these foods. On the other hand, all of our top five are perfectly decent in their own right, so if you have never tried pig-based bacon, or not eaten it for a long time, you may well be pleasantly surprised.
Of course, it is a purely subjective thing and you’ll have to make up your own mind about which – if any – of our top vegan bacon picks satisfy your bacon cravings. Let’s take a look at some of the best vegan alternatives to bacon and separate the scintillating sizzlers of the vegan bacon world from those that are rather less impressive.
Top Vegan-Friendly Bacon Products in the UK
Here we’ll run through some of the best vegan-friendly bacon options in the UK at present. Note that at the time of writing, Quorn Vegetarian Bacon is not vegan as it contains egg white and milk. It also looks pretty grim compared to some of the other options we’ve sampled, so it’s probably no great loss.
1. THIS – Isn’t Bacon Plant-Based Rashers
This might not be bacon, but it’s flipping tasty! Almost 25% protein (mainly made up of soya protein, with some pea protein thrown in for good measure), these Isn’t Bacon Plant-Based Rashers are arguably the best and most bacon-like of the products we’ve encountered.
Not only that, but Isn’t Bacon Rasher have the lowest fat content of all those featured here at just 1.2g of fat per 100g. That’s about a tenth of the amount of fat contained in back bacon and about a twentieth of that found in conventional streaky bacon! That said, just as with the real thing, they are rather high in salt, although the added iron and vitamin B12 are certainly positives.
THIS – Isn’t Bacon Plant-Based Rashers – Nutritional Values & Ingredients
|Typical Values (per 100g)||THIS – Isn’t Bacon Plant-Based Rashers|
|Energy||638kJ / 152kcal|
Ingredients – Water, Soya Protein Concentrate (22%), Soya Protein Isolate (7%), Flavouring, Pea Protein Isolate (4%), Vegetable Extracts (Radish, Carrot, Paprika), Potato Starch, Salt, Rapeseed Oil, Maltodextrin, Iron, Vitamin B12
Available From – Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, TheVeganKind Supermarket
2. VBites Cheatin’ Meat Maple Flavoured Rashers
We opted for the maple flavoured version of VBites Cheatin’ Meat Rashers for our Top 5 as they just had a little more to them in terms of flavour. They were really easy to cook and crisped up nicely to give a good – if very slightly tough – texture. Salty enough without being over the top, these rashers did not quite hit the spot with the non-vegans who tried them, but for someone who hadn’t had real bacon for years, they certainly got the thumbs up. Thumbs down for the use of palm oil though, even if they do say it is sustainable.
VBites Cheatin’ Meat Maple Flavoured Rashers – Nutritional Values & Ingredients
|Typical Values (per 100g)||VBites Cheatin’ Meat Maple Flavoured Rashers|
|Energy||820kJ / 196kcal|
Ingredients – Water, wheat gluten, soya protein, non-hydrogenated vegetable fat (sustainable palm), textured wheat protein, potato starch, salt, dried yeast, sugar, natural flavourings, thickener: carrageenan, preservative: potassium sorbate, onion powder, colour: iron oxide
Available From – TheVeganKind Supermarket, GreenBay Supermarket, Morrisons
3. Sgaia Mheat – Streaky Rashers
Plant-based food company, Sgaia, have created a number of very good meat alternatives, including their Streaky Mheat Rashers. They are similar to most of the other vegan bacon options in that they most resemble streaky bacon rather than back bacon. They are also similar in that they contain significantly less fat than meat bacon – just 1.4g per 100g – and are lower in salt than many of the alternatives too.
Taste-wise, these rashers do pack quite a flavour punch, helped no doubt by the “beech wood liquid smoke” (whatever that is!) and maple syrup. The texture is slightly tougher than meat bacon, but many people will be fine with that. Overall, these are impressive rashers, although they are more calorific than most vegan and non-vegan bacon.
Sgaia Mheat – Streaky Rashers – Nutritional Values & Ingredients
|Typical Values (per 100g)||Sgaia Mheat – Streaky Rashers|
|Energy||775kJ / 185kcal|
*Value given for sodium rather than salt
Ingredients – Wheat GLUTEN, Water, Balsamic Vinegar, Yeast Extract, SOYA Protein, Beech Wood Liquid Smoke, Sea Salt, Molasses, Maple Syrup, Onion, Garlic, Beetroot, Smoked Paprika
Available From – TheVeganKind Supermarket, GreenBay Supermarket
4. Vegan Cartel Vegan Bacon
Here we have a very impressive offering from Vegan Cartel. It has a nice colour to it, fries up well to produce a decent texture and the flavours it possesses are more earthy and distinctive than most of the others we’ve featured here. Containing vegan Worcestershire sauce, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and cardamom among the ingredients, the flavours jostle for attention but combine to produce a very satisfying rasher.
Nutritionally this product scores very well on the salt and protein fronts. However, there is more sugar than is ideal and they contain around 50% more calories than some vegan bacons we have tasted.
Vegan Cartel Vegan Bacon – Nutritional Values & Ingredients
|Typical Values (per 100g)||Vegan Cartel Vegan Bacon|
|Energy||996kJ / 238kcal|
Ingredients – Water, vital wheat gluten, soy sauce (Water, Soya beans, Salt, Wheat flour, Potassium Sorbate), smoke flavour, sunflower oil, vegan Worcestershire sauce (Water, vinegar, raw cane sugar, molasses, balsamic vinegar, tamarinds, tamari (soya beans, sea salt), onions, sea salt, blackcurrant syrup, garlic, oranges, chilli, red pepper, ginger, cardamom, coriander leaves, cinnamon, basil, parsley, coriander, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, pimento), miso paste (soya beans), brown sugar, onion powder, nutritional yeast, chickpea flour, smoked paprika, garlic powder, spices
Available From – TheVeganKind Supermarket, GreenBay Supermarket
5. Plant Pioneers Smoky Vacon Rashers
Produced and sold under Sainsbury’s own plant-based brand, Plant Pioneers, these Smoky Vacon (see what they did there?!) Rashers have one big downside: they are really not very healthy compared to the other vegan bacons in our Top 5. With 21.2g of fat per 100g (6.1g of which is saturated fat), they actually contain more fat than standard back bacon, and they are not far off the fat content of streaky bacon. This is mainly due to the amount of coconut milk (14%), rapeseed oil and palm oil contained. All of this makes them very calorific too.
Those people who have not chosen veganism for health reasons and are not interested in vegan weight-loss might not care too much of course. When it comes to taste and texture, however, this plant-based bacon competes well with any in our Top 5. If they found a way to reduce the fat content a little, it would be right up there with the best vegan bacon products on the market in our view.
Plant Pioneers Smoky Vacon Rashers – Nutritional Values & Ingredients
|Typical Values (per 100g)||Plant Pioneers Smoky Vacon Rashers|
|Energy||1447kJ / 347kcal|
Ingredients – Water, Wheat Gluten (19%), Coconut Milk (14%) (Coconut Milk, Water), Rapeseed Oil, vegetable suet (Palm Oil, Rice Flour), Fortified Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Calcium Carbonate, Iron, Niacin, Thiamin), Pea Protein, Natural Flavouring, Smoke Flavouring, Stabiliser:Methyl Cellulose, Sugar, Yeast Extract, Smoked Paprika, Dried Onion, Colour :Iron Oxide, Vitamin
Available From – Sainsbury’s
Vegan Bacon That Doesn’t Quite Make the Cut
Our five favourites are detailed above, but let’s now take a look at some of the other options that didn’t quite float our vegan breakfast boat.
- VBites – All Day Bcn Vdeli Bacon Rashers – Lacking in flavour and the appearance is not exactly appealing compared to some others.
- Tofurky – Treehouse Tempeh, Smoky Maple Bacon – Doesn’t really look or taste much like bacon and in fact is lacking in flavour in general.
- Meatless – Meatless Bacon – Not appalling on the flavour front, but room for improvement in how these rasher cook as they tend to lack the bacon-like crispiness that many people crave.
- Wheaty – Vegan Bacon – One to avoid in our opinion: alas these rashers are rather flavourless and limp.
- Better Nature – Organic Tempeh Bacon Rashers – Another option that is lacking either the flavour or the texture of real bacon.
- Upton’s Naturals – Bacon Seitan – Only narrowly missed out on a Top 5 spot, but just fell short as it didn’t tantalise the taste buds as much as the others we featured. The seitan is a good call texture-wise though.
- Love Seitan – Facon Bacon – A good option for those seeking a soy-free bacon alternative, and one of the closest to back bacon we found, but again, needs to up its games in terms of flavour to make our Top 5.
What Makes Standard Bacon Non-Vegan?
This should really come as a shock to absolutely no-one, but just to be on the safe side: bacon is a type of pork, that is, it comes from pigs, which are animals. Vegans do no consume animal products and so bacon made from animals is clearly off the menu.
Aside from the meat, there are sometimes other non-vegan ingredients that could be added to bacon, for instance if it has a glaze containing honey. But that is by the by given that the main product itself is flesh from the belly or back of a pig that has been cured.
Vegan Bacon Vs Meat Bacon: Health & Nutrition
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – the cancer arm of the World Health Organisation (WHO) – has flagged bacon (and other processed meats) as having potentially severe health implication for people who consume it. They published the results in a Monograph in 2015, which was widely reported at the time in newspapers and on news websites. It suggested that consuming “50g of processed meat a day increased the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18%”. Leading cancer charity, Cancer Research UK, also state that, “processed meat can cause bowel cancer”.
Aside from the cancer risks involved in consuming bacon (i.e. a processed meat), the fact that it is relatively high in fat also has health implications. With fat content ranging from around 12g per 100g up to around 25g per 100g or even more, consuming bacon could contribute to the development of various health problems including obesity, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
For instance, research quoted by the British Heart Foundation found that, “eating two servings a week of processed meat was linked to a 7 per cent higher risk of heart and circulatory diseases, compared to eating none at all”. All of this means that, taste and animal rights aside, there is still a very strong argument for favouring vegan bacon.
Nutritional Values of Bacon (Meat)
|Typical Values (per 100g)||Unsmoked Thick Cut Back Bacon||Smoked Streaky Bacon|
|Energy||748kJ / 180kcal||1103kJ / 267kcal|
Looking at the nutritional data for typical examples of back bacon and streaky bacon, the following is apparent:
- The fat content of streaky bacon is higher than all the plant-based bacon we looked at, and considerably higher than all but one of them.
- The fat content of back bacon is higher than all but one of the plant-based bacons we assessed.
- Perhaps surprisingly, the protein content of both streaky and back bacon is LOWER than that of the vegan bacon products we looked at.
- The salt content of streaky bacon and back bacon is higher than all the plant-based bacon we looked at, and considerably higher than all but one of them.
- Some vegan bacons contain more calories than meat bacon, and some contain fewer.
- Plant-based bacon contains more carbohydrates than meat bacon.
Vegan Bacon Vs Meat Bacon: Environment
One of the plant-based bacon makers we feature above – THIS – have a handy couple of graphs on their website which show the difference in water consumption and carbon dioxide emissions of various meats and their products.
For instance, pork – from which standard bacon is made – uses 1,782 litres of water and produces 13.3kg of carbon dioxide to produce 1kg of meat. In contrast, THIS “meat” requires just 121 litres of water and produces only 1.2kg of carbon dioxide to make a kilo if its products. Okay, these are stats listed on the site of a company selling plant-based meat, but there is plenty of independent research to back the general gist of those figures up and which offers more specific environmental data.
In short, animals are inefficient creators of calories. They need to consume more energy and water, and create more CO2, in order to turn base plant calories into edible meat. Humans eating the plants directly (or indirectly in as much as they are processed into vegan bacon!) is a far more efficient way of obtaining calories and, in general, far better for the environment.
Conclusions: Vegan Bacon
There are a growing number of vegan bacon products on the market, from supermarket own-brand options to fake bacons, that are aimed at a more gourmet-minded consumer. Some non-vegans would perhaps view most of the vegan bacon products as not up to scratch, as none, in their opinion, could be seen as a perfect replica of bacon from pigs. But for vegans who just miss the general flavour and texture of bacon but are not too hung up on getting an exact copy, we would say there are plenty of options that tick the boxes.
The likes of vegan burgers and sausages have long been a match for their meat counterparts. And now, we believe, at least some of the vegan bacon products we feature above are starting to challenge meat bacon. Given that it is generally a lot healthier than real bacon, there is every chance that bacon lovers – both vegan and non-vegan – will reach for vegan bacon in ever-growing numbers in the coming years.