When Michael first tried this tofu bacon, he said, “I wouldn’t be embarrassed to bring this to work.”
I need to back up. See, one time he brought coconut bacon to work and his coworkers were all, what is THIS stuff? You may be saying the same thing to yourself right now, if the idea of making bacon out of coconut seems weird. Or making bacon out of tofu, for that matter. But just stay with me here. It’s going to be ok.
Even though we don’t eat real bacon at home, that hasn’t eliminated our taste for something smoky, crispy, and dare I say it, meaty. This tofu bacon delivers. Really, really, it does. If you’re still reading, keep going. You’ve come this far, don’t turn back now.
Let’s make easy tofu bacon! Seriously, it’s going to be ok.
To make the best tofu bacon, you need extra firm tofu. You might be able to get away with firm, but it will likely fall apart on you as you are trying to slice it. So go for the extra firm (or super firm, it’s the same thing). Can we talk for a minute about the tofu packaging? None of the tofu people seem to have gotten together to agree on a standard size. In the photo above, you can see why I am frustrated – each package ranges from 12 ounces to 16 ounces to 20 ounces. HUH? If I think about it too long, I start to feel like Steve Martin in the hot dog bun scene from Father of the Bride. Ok, maybe I won’t be going to jail over it, but the point is, get it together, tofu makers!
Ok, now comes the part that is a little bit tricky, but it’s TOTALLY doable. The slicing. The key to perfect tofu bacon is super thin slices. Although, sometimes it’s nice to have a few slices that are a little bit thicker for a chewy quality. But if you want that crispy factor, you gotta go thin. So you need a really good sharp knife and some patience. If you mess up, no biggie, make tofu bacon bits! (they are GOOD)
If you want, you can lay the slices out on a clean kitchen towel to absorb some moisture, but I’ve found with most extra firm tofu varieties, you don’t really need to do that. But it certainly can’t hurt anything. 🙂
Once you have your tofu all sliced up, it’s time to get them marinated. So I guess I need to tell you about the marinade! First things first, Beth.
The ingredients for the marinade are super simple and very easy to find, with one exception. My guess is you’ll be able to easily pick out the hard-to-find ingredient from this list:
Vegan Worcestershire Sauce
VEGAN WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE, BETH? I can’t even pronounce it, let alone find it! Woar-chester. Wurs-ter-shay-er. I give up.
I know, I know, it’s not the most common ingredient in the world. And technically, you could leave it out. BUT. It’s become one my very favorite and useful ingredients in my cooking, and I consider it a pantry staple now. But as discussed, where the heck do you find it? Ordinarily, I would suggest Amazon, but the prices on the regular sized bottles there are ridiculous (although, I am seriously considering this enormous size meant for restaurants). But for you regular (read: non-crazy) people, you can usually find vegan worcestershire sauce at natural food stores. I really like The Wizard’s brand, but Annie’s makes one as well. And, if you are of the DIY persuasion, Miyoko Schinner has a recipe in her WONDERFUL cookbook The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples. I haven’t made it yet, but I want to try it soon.
Ok, now I’m going to save you from a Steve Martin moment of your own. You know how tomato paste comes in cans, but most recipes only use a few tablespoons at a time? Yes, you can buy it in a tube so that you only use what you need, but whenever I do that it invariably ends up hidden behind the mustard in the fridge and I forget that I have it. So, here’s my solution. Whenever you have to use tomato paste, portion the rest of the can out by tablespoons into an ice cube tray and freeze them. Once they’re frozen, you can put each tablespoon into a freezer bag and have perfectly portioned tomato paste at the ready! Also, no risk of a breakdown in the tomato paste aisle.
So, now that I’ve bored you to tears with in-depth discussion of pantry items, it’s time to get this tofu bacon party started. Mix the marinade ingredients together along with some water, and pour them over the tofu slices. The ideal way I’ve found to do this is to use a container that is taller than it is wide. This helps to ensure that all of the marinade gets around each slice.
At this point, you need to decide if you want tofu bacon now, or if you can wait until later. If you want it later, stash it in the fridge for a few hours, or overnight if you’re really patient. If you want it now, you need to heat up the marinade a bit to expedite the soaking-in process. It’s easiest do this in the microwave (10 minutes on medium power should do it), or if you’re not a microwave person you can bring the marinade and tofu to a boil in a saucepan, and reduce the heat to a simmer for 10 minutes or so. When you’re ready to cook, strain the slices out of the marinade (but don’t toss it! More on that soon), and the cook the tofu bacon in a skillet or griddle set to medium-high heat. If I am only cooking a few pieces at a time, I use my favorite 12″ cast iron skillet, and if I’m cooking the whole batch at once, I use an electric stovetop griddle like this one. If using the griddle, I usually have to set the temp all the way to 400, but you’ll want to play around with the temperature depending on what model you have. Basically you’re looking to cook the tofu bacon until it’s well done/crispy on the edges without burning it. Speaking from experience, burnt tofu bacon is, well, bad. But when it’s good, it’s GOOD.
Fat Wallet Tip! The marinade can be reused multiple times. As in, after marinating one block of tofu and cooking it, you could immediately reuse it to marinate another batch. Hint: Cut that batch into teeny tiny pieces before marinating, and after cooking you’ll get tofu bacon bits. The marinade doesn’t have to be used for tofu bacon either. For instance, you could use it to soak dried chickpeas before roasting them in the oven. Crispy Bacon Chickpeas? I think YES! And if you were wondering if there will be a post on this idea soon, you would be correct. 🙂
So what should you do with all this tofu bacon?
– Toss it in a breakfast hash with veggies and potatoes (YUM)
– Add it to a wrap for lunch
– Make it into bacon bits and add it to a salad
– Chop it up and mix into this pasta bake
But in my opinion, there is one ultimate use – the one, the only, TBLAT. Just try to say it, I dare you. Oh, you are too busy eating. I understand.
However you use this tofu bacon, I hope you’ll let me know about it! Getting your comments makes me giddier than a schoolgirl (just how giddy is a schoolgirl, anyway?). Or, tag #passtheplants on Instagram! I will accept any method of communication with gratitude. 🙂
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go soak some chickpeas.
Easy Tofu Bacon
- 1 block extra firm tofu (drained and patted dry)
For the Marinade
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons Vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons Maple Syrup
- 2 tablespoons Liquid Smoke
- 2 cups water
- Slice the tofu as thinly as possible.
- Mix marinade ingredients together in a tall resealable container.
- Add sliced tofu to the marinade and set aside for 4 hours or overnight. (see note for a quick marinade option)
- Strain tofu slices out of the marinade (reserve marinade for another use if desired).
- Cook tofu bacon slices in a skillet or griddle over medium heat until browned and crispy.
- Serve as desired, but I must recommend a TBLAT (Tofu Bacon Lettuce Avocado Tomato sandwich, of course!)