We like making our own bacon bits because, like many of the food items we make ourselves, we can control what is goes in them. While many bacon bits on the market are actually “vegan by accident,” they are still full of chemicals we cannot even identify half of the time. We know, at the very least, that red dye is in most of them. By making your own, you can add or subtract ingredients according to your taste. A few notes about this recipe:
Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP) – for those of you who are not familiar with TVP, it is a soy-based, gluten-free product that is often used to make imitation meat. You can buy it in flakes and it makes for an excellent bacon bit substitute. We like Bob’s Red Mill brand; it is vegan and gluten-free.
The seasoning bag – a seasoning bag is kind of like a tea bag for cooking bases. They are typically little muslin bags that have a tie at the top and you can find them at most cooking stores. You can put all kinds of spices and seasonings in them to impart a delicious flavor on soups, sauces or other bases, without all of the twig and leaf-like bits floating around. You could easily substitute a seasoning bag with a heat-resistant tea strainer or a small piece of cheesecloth that is tied off at the top. Also, if you have a fine-mesh strainer, you could always just boil the seasonings right in the base, and then pour it through the strainer.
Vegan, Gluten-Free Bacon Bits
- 2 cups texturized vegetable protein
- 4 tablespoon liquid smoke
- 4 tablespoons tamari
- 4 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 1/3 cup boiling water
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed with flat-side of chopping knife
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 springs of thyme
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
In a small saucepan, combine the liquid smoke, tamari, maple syrup and water. Add the seasoning bag full of seasonings to this mixture and simmer until the mixture is boiling. Turn off the burner and remove the spice bag (or if you are straining it instead, go ahead and strain the mixture into a heat-safe bowl). Add the texturized vegetable protein and stir until the liquid has been fully absorbed by the TVP. Spread the mixture on a non-stick baking sheet, in a thin layer, and stick in the oven. Bake the bits for 15-20 minutes, until dry and crispy, stirring every so often to keep them from sticking and burning. If you are partial to burnt bacon bits, you may leave them in for just a tad longer, until they are baked to your taste. Pull them out of the oven and let them cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
These vegan, gluten free bacon bits are fantastic on top of salads, baked potatoes, your favorite gluten-free pasta dish, or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, on chocolate desserts like truffles.