This gluten-free vegan coconut bacon gets its salty/sweet/smoky flavor from just a few ingredients. It tastes just like crispy bacon bits but it's vegetarian!
The first time I tried coconut bacon was at a vegan restaurant in Sebastopol over a year ago. Sarah, Gerry, Carla and I had finished setting up our food styling and photography workshop and ordered gluten free pizza and vegan caesar salad from a nearby restaurant. I was skeptical about the coconut bacon on the salad and I had questions. What is coconut bacon? How is it made? How could coconut possibly taste anything like bacon? How??
But then I took a bite, and all my questions (and many prayers I didn't realize I had) were answered. Fat flakes of coconut were infused with the flavor of wood smoke, sweetness, and a deep umami. It tasted just like super crispy bits of bacon. I was hooked.
I turned to vegetarian guru Katherine of Cookie + Kate for a recipe. I now make coconut bacon on the regular and have tweaked the method and ratios to my taste and oven over time, so I wanted to share it here.
4 Ingredients to Vegan Coconut Bacon Bliss
Coconut bacon starts with large flakes of coconut. I like Let's Do Organic brand, which has a good mix of large, curvaceous flakes and smaller bacon bit-sized pieces. Next I use gluten-free tamari, which adds salt, umami, and a bit of golden color. Maple syrup adds sweetness.
Liquid Smoke = bacon flavor without the meat!
The key to that earthy bacon flavor is liquid smoke. I found a bottle at my co-op near Worcestershire and BBQ sauces, and it can also be ordered here. I'm guessing liquid smoke varies in strength from brand to brand – mine is super strong – so start with less than recipes call for and add more accordingly. If you don't have any liquid smoke on hand, try Laura's recipe from The First Mess which relies on smoked paprika and smoked salt. You could also try smoked maple syrup or smoked soy sauce as substitutes for liquid smoke if you don't have any available.
Now that you have a bottle of liquid smoke, you may find yourself doing like my friend Emma and splashing it into baked beans, chili, baba ganouj, soups, stews, mac and cheese, or anywhere else you crave fire-roasted flavor.
Is vegan coconut bacon healthy?
Flaked coconut is full of healthy fats and fiber. Coconut bacon is gluten-free (as long as you make it with tamari) and vegan to boot. I like adding it to salads or breakfasts to give me a dose of satiating fat. But mostly I love the salty/sweet taste and crispy crunch that it adds to dishes. That's healthy in my book. It does contain saturated fat and sodium, so of course don't eat it if you're avoiding those things! Otherwise it doesn't take much to add a big burst of flavor.
How to use coconut bacon?
Coconut bacon is heaven anywhere you'd use regular bacon: on salads, soups, baked potatoes, roasted vegetables, grain bowls, veggie breakfast bowls, polenta, pasta, pizza, or avocado toast, among others.
Here are a few favorites:
- Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowls with Coconut Bacon
- Green Goddess Salad
- Vegetarian Cobb Salad with Grilled Tofu
- Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Bread
- Creamy Turnip Potato Soup
- Pasta Carbonara
- Creamy Grits and Mushrooms
- Green Goddess Potato Salad
- Cucumber Quinoa Salad
- Spring Greens Salad with Buttermilk Miso Dressing & Jammy Eggs
- Gluten-Free Pizza with Brussels Sprouts
Do you make or eat coconut bacon? How do you like to use it?
*Bojon appétit! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow along on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, purchase my gluten-free cookbook Alternative Baker, or subscribe to receive new posts via email. And if you make this coconut bacon, I’d love to see. Tag your Instagram snaps @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #bojongourmet.*
4-Ingredient Coconut BaconPrint Recipe Pin Recipe
- 7 ounces (200 g) large, unsweetened coconut flakes (generous 3 cups)
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) gluten-free tamari (or try coconut aminos for paleo-friendly)
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) hickory liquid smoke
- Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 300ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, toss together the coconut flakes, tamari, maple syrup, and liquid smoke until the coconut is evenly coated.
- Spread the coconut bacon on the baking sheet in an even layer and place in the oven. Bake until deep golden brown, 14-20 minutes, tossing the bacon gently once or twice during the baking process. This helps it cook evenly and keeps it from sticking, but take care not to crush up the coconut as you toss.
- The coconut bacon will be soft at first but will firm up when cool. To test whether it’s done, place a few pieces on the counter to cool quickly. If it’s still soft after cooling, return to the oven for a few minutes and test it again.
- Let cool completely, then store airtight at room temperature for up to 1 month. If the coconut bacon becomes soft, return it to the oven to crisp it up again.