I have a secret desire to be a hipster. Not really. But if I was a hipster, I’d probably be eating bacon right now.
Anyway, last year on one of my annual visits to Albany, NY, Brett introduced me to the notion of coconut “bacon” – which he once had at Aux Vivres, a vegan restaurant in Montreal. Brett’s method of duplicating said food was a process of microwaving coconut flakes in a marinade for short periods of time, stirring, and repeating until it was done. It was a trial-and-error process, but the results turned out great: Smokey, salty, crispy bacon chips. After my success with the Just Tomatoes Bacon Bits, I wanted to try something similar, but pan-frying in oil instead.
The most important ingredient? Coconut flakes. Most places sell small shreds of coconut – these won’t really work. You need something substantial. I discovered that my local Whole Foods started selling these bags of sliced & dehydrated coconut flakes for a few bucks. Score. Armed with some ideas from the Tempeh Bacon recipe in Vegan Brunch (my favorite cookbook), I was on my way.
- 1 cup of coconut flakes
- 3 tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce – I pretty much only buy tamari these days)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon of liquid smoke
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
I mixed up the ingredients in a bowl, then stirred in the coconut flakes until they were mostly evenly coated. I let this sit to soak for about 15 minutes. I then dumped the bowl into a frying pan over medium-high heat. At this point, there was a decent amount of extra liquid in the pan, so I was aiming to carmalize that up a bit. You’ll need to watch this like a hawk – it can easily burn if you step away for any substantial amount of time. I give the pan a good stir every minute or so to make sure all the flakes were cooking nicely. As the flakes got crispier and darker, I lowered the heat (gradually) to prevent burning. Feel free to sample a bit or two along the way to see how the taste is progressing.
I was left with a nice amount of slightly crispy, bacon-colored, oily goodness. These come closest in texture and taste to what I remember as a bacon-eating kid compared to any other vegan analogues. I paired them with the “Perfect Pancakes” from Vegan Brunch and have enough flakes left over to use as a topping in a seitan sandwich for later on in the day.
Note: It looks like you can snag the coconut flakes I used on Amazon fairly cheaply.