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What Is Tempeh Bacon?

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  • Written By: Angela Farrer
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 22 August 2016
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Tempeh bacon is a vegan alternative to pork bacon made from an Indonesian soybean cake known as tempeh. Many dedicated vegetarians consider this soy product a quality meat substitute in various recipes because it is rich in protein. Cooking with tempeh is also an option for some who may not like the taste or texture of other vegetarian staples, such as tofu. Making tempeh bacon generally involves slicing this main ingredient into thin strips that are close to the size and shape of bacon slices before browning them with the cook's choice of smoky seasonings.

Vegetarian cooks have found that tempeh is the best choice for a meatless bacon recipe largely due to its texture. Tempeh is made from soybeans similar to those used for tofu, but its process of fermentation differs. Partially cooked beans are often mixed first with vinegar and then with a fermentation starter liquid before being left to ferment for up to three days. The resulting tempeh often has a thick texture that allows it to be cut thinly without falling apart. Various tempeh recipes are considered heartier vegetarian fare that can be more filling than some other meatless dishes.

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Flavorings that give tempeh bacon its unique taste can vary according to cooks' preferences. Liquid smoke is a common ingredient in various recipes because its gives the tempeh slices a taste resembling that of meat just cooked on a grill. Other popular flavorings can include hot sauce, chili powder, soy sauce, paprika, apple cider vinegar, or brown sugar.

Techniques for cooking tempeh bacon can also vary according to which one each vegetarian cook deems the healthiest and most flavorful. Slices of tempeh bacon can be browned in a stove-top skillet with cooking oil. They can alternately be placed in a baking dish and cooked in an oven. Some cooks who like to prepare meals on a small counter-top grill can also use it for making one of these tempeh recipes.

Some recipes can have varying instructions for adding the flavoring ingredients to the freshly-sliced tempeh. The raw tempeh slices can first be marinated in a mixture of all the liquid flavorings, such as soy sauce and liquid smoke, for about two minutes prior to cooking. Other cooks prefer to brown the tempeh bacon slices first before brushing them with the liquid ingredients and allowing them to cool. Either method is usually effective due to the naturally porous texture of the tempeh.

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