Bacon has a flavor and texture that many people miss when they transition to a plant-based diet. Over the years I have published several bacun recipes but I feel this recipe excels above the rest. It is prepared with a blend of wheat protein from gluten, soy protein from tofu and my own special blend of seasonings. This yields a finished product that is remarkably similar to real bacon in flavor, appearance and texture with a nice balance of salty, smoky and sweet. There are several steps to this recipe; however, don’t be intimated because it’s relatively easy to prepare when following the step-by-step directions and the results are well worth the effort.
For this recipe, two batches of dough will be mixed to create the bacun. Dough 1 is for the light marble layer and Dough 2 is for the dark marble layer. You will need a blender for processing the liquid ingredients and either a food processor with a dough blade or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment for kneading the dough (manual kneading will not be sufficient for developing the gluten strands in the dough). This recipe yields a large slab of bacun, about 1 and ½ lbs.
Dry Ingredients for Dough 1
• ½ cup (75 g) vital wheat gluten
• 2 tsp garlic powder
Blender Ingredients for Dough 1
• ½ cup (120 ml) water
• 5 oz (140 g) pressed extra-firm tofu (not silken tofu)
• 1 T olive oil
• 1 tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
Dry Ingredients for Dough 2
• 1 cup (150 g) vital wheat gluten
• 4 tsp onion powder
• 1 T smoked paprika
• ¼ tsp ground white pepper
Blender Ingredients for Dough 2
• ½ cup (120 ml) water
• 5 oz pressed (140 g) extra-firm tofu (not silken tofu)
• 6 T tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
• 1 T liquid hickory smoke
• 1 T light brown sugar
• 1 T vegan Worcestershire Sauce
• 1 T olive oil
Optional Rub Ingredients
• 1 tsp smoked black pepper or coarse ground black pepper
Additional Items Needed
• food processor with dough blade or stand mixer with paddle attachment
• 18-inch wide heavy-duty aluminum foil
Warning! It is very important to use only heavy-duty aluminum foil for this recipe. Regular foil is not sturdy enough and can easily rupture from steam pressure which builds up inside the sealed package.
Mise en Place
Press and blot the tofu until it is not releasing any more water. The tofu should be crumbly and only slightly moist. Weigh the recommended amounts after pressing and set aside. Gather, measure and set aside the remaining ingredients.
Preparing Dough 1
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°F.
Combine the dry ingredients for Dough 1 in a small mixing bowl.
Crumble the tofu into a blender and add the remaining blender ingredients for Dough 1. Begin processing on low speed and gradually increase to high (this will discourage an airlock from forming). Process until completely liquefied, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender as necessary. The mixture will be very thick and creamy.
Scoop the blender ingredients into the dry ingredients for Dough 1 and mix well to incorporate. Transfer the dough to a food processor or stand mixer and process on high speed for 2 full minutes to develop the gluten. The properly kneaded dough should have a sticky, stretchy, taffy-like texture. Divide the dough into 2 pieces and set aside.
Rinse the blender jar and set aside for the next step.
Preparing Dough 2
Combine the dry ingredients for Dough 2 in a large mixing bowl.
Crumble the tofu into the blender and add the remaining blender ingredients for Dough 2. Process until completely liquefied, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender as necessary.
Pour the blender ingredients into the dry ingredients for Dough 2 and mix well to incorporate. Transfer the dough to a food processor or stand mixer and process on high speed for 2 full minutes to develop the gluten. The properly kneaded dough should have a sticky, stretchy, taffy-like texture. Divide the dough into 3 pieces and set aside.
Layering, Wrapping and Baking the Dough
Tear off a large sheet of foil (about 18-inches) and place on your work surface. Take a piece of Dough 2 and flatten into a disc. Place the flattened dough onto the foil.
Next, repeat with a piece of Dough 1 and place on top of the first disc. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough, alternating as you stack. Firmly press down on the stack until it is about 1-inch thick. Now, use your fingers to press and shape the dough into a compact, square slab. Don’t worry about being too precise; the dough will expand during baking to conform to the shape of the foil package.
If desired, season the surface of the dough with ½ teaspoon of the optional black pepper. Flip the slab over and repeat with the remaining pepper.
Fold the slab of bacun over in the foil several times (don’t roll) to create a flat package. Fold in the sides of the foil, crimping to seal the foil as you fold but leave about 1-inch of space on each side to allow for expansion of the dough as it bakes. Rewrap in a second sheet of foil in the same manner. Place the package directly on the middle oven rack and bake for 2 hours.
Let the bacun cool in the foil until it reaches near room temperature. It’s helpful (but not essential) to place a heavy object, such as a cast iron skillet, on the foil package to compress it as it cools and keep the slab of bacun flat.
Refrigerate the foil package for a minimum of 8 hours. Chilling will firm and enhance the texture and make slicing easier – this is important. The bacun can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week before slicing and finishing or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
For the best finished texture, use an electric slicer or very sharp knife and slice the bacun as thinly as possible. Of course, if you prefer a thicker cut, that’s entirely up to you. The bacun will have a soft, moist texture which is quite reminiscent of raw bacon. When sliced thin, the bacun may tatter a bit but this only adds to the authentic finished texture and appearance when fried.
Finishing the Bacun
Finishing the bacun in the oven is my preferred method since heating is controlled. To do this, preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper and lay the slices in a single layer on top. Generously mist or brush the slices on both sides with cooking oil. Bake for 20 minutes.
Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to blot any excess oil. As the bacun cools it will crisp up a bit while still retaining a nice chewy texture. Serve warm; chop, dice or crumble in recipes; or layer on your favorite sandwich.
Optionally, the bacun slices can be fried in a skillet with a generous layer of cooking oil over medium heat. Avoid frying at a high temperature to prevent burning. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to blot any excess oil. Serve warm; chop, dice or crumble in recipes; or layer on your favorite sandwich.