The Best Way To Season Eggplant Bacon For Maximum Flavor In Every Bite

strips of eggplant bacon on plate
strips of eggplant bacon on plate - Minimalist Baker / YouTube

The plant-based food industry is full of faux meat products for a smoother transition to a vegan or vegetarian diet. However, you can skip the processed meat replacements and use natural ingredients as vegan meat substitutes. If you need a bacon fix, eggplant is the perfect candidate.

While it's easy to slice eggplants into strips the same size as a strip of bacon, eggplant is also a solid option because there are practically no overlaps in flavor between the two ingredients. Therefore, the secret to eggplant bacon lies in the seasoning. The seasoning's components are as important as how you apply them.

To simulate those rich smoky, umami-rich flavors characteristic of bacon, you'll need to create a blend of wet and dry ingredients. For an umami flavor, tamari, soy sauce, or vegan Worcestershire sauce are all wonderful options. Liquid smoke is invaluable to mimic bacon's smokiness as is paprika. A dash of maple syrup and a hearty portion of fresh cracked pepper and garlic salt will round out the profile with a sweet and spicy complement. You can blend wet and dry ingredients with a neutral canola or avocado oil for a marinade that will stick to the eggplant.

The best way to apply the marinade to strips of eggplant is by brushing both sides of each strip individually before cooking in the oven or air fryer. Brushing the strips fully ensures an even application of the seasoning that the eggplant will easily absorb as it crisps.

Read more: The 20 Best Olive Oils For Cooking

Best Cooking Methods For Eggplant Bacon

fried japanese eggplant
fried japanese eggplant - Aldarinho/Getty Images

While you want to mimic bacon's tantalizing flavors, achieving its delightfully crunchy texture is also key. The best devices to infuse eggplant bacon with the tasty marinade while also transforming it into crispy strips are a convection oven or air fryer. Regardless of the device, the key to crispy strips is low-and-slow.

Tasting Table's recipe for vegan eggplant BLT has you cooking the strips on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet for an hour and a half at 225 degrees Fahrenheit. This method will slowly dehydrate the eggplant while also creating a shatteringly crispy crust out of the marinade. Of course, an air fryer is the fastest and most efficient appliance, made to instill any ingredient with a crispiness akin to deep frying. If you use an air fryer, you can place the strips directly into the fryer basket to cook for 10 to 15 minutes at 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the best results, slice your eggplant into super thin strips. A mandolin is the ideal tool to achieve paper-thin strips, but a sharp knife, patience, and perseverance will suffice. You also want to make sure to rid the strips of as much moisture as you can before applying the marinade to maximize absorption. You can salt eggplant strips to draw out their moisture, then use a paper towel to remove the moisture and any residual salt. A diet free of animal flesh does not mean that you have to give up the bacon-y experience.

Read the original article on Tasting Table