I’ve been holding out on you guys. It’s about time we talked coconut bacon. I don’t remember where I first encountered coconut bacon, but I do recall being struck by how much it tastes like real bacon. (You know I have a major weakness for bacon, right?) The savory, smoky-sweet flavor of maple syrup, tamari soy sauce and Liquid Smoke tossed with toothsome coconut flakes turns into vegan “bacon” once baked. It’s really the only “meat substitute” that I support. I’ve been perfecting my coconut bacon for a year now, batch by batch, and I think I’ve finally got it down.
Late last summer, after making a test batch of coconut bacon, I threw together a kale salad with tahini dressing (like this one), added some beautiful slices of ripe tomato, and tossed in a handful of coconut bacon. Holy moly, it was good. So good that I added it to my list of recipe ideas as, “holy moly raw kale BLT salad with garlicky lemon tahini, coconut bacon, heirloom tomato…”
Then last week, my friend Alissa sent me home with a few drop-dead gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, fresh from her backyard garden. I went home and happened to reach for some spices in my pantry while wondering what to make for this week’s recipe. That’s when a bag of coconut bacon fell on my head and plopped onto the counter. Things are always falling out of the cabinets or refrigerator in my teeny tiny kitchen. This time, however, it was a fateful fall, and here we are with a holy moly raw kale BLT salad.
I know that some of the ingredients in this salad are on the unusual side and may require a trip to the health food store, but I am confident the recipe is worth your while. Liquid Smoke may seem like a noxious component, but its ingredients are: water, natural hickory smoke flavor, vinegar, molasses, caramel color and salt. Not too bad.
Tahini is sesame seed paste, generally found in the peanut butter aisle or in Middle Eastern grocery stores. Tamari is a readily available variety of Japanese soy sauce. It’s gluten free and I love the flavor. Miso is optional, but it adds a depth of flavor to the dressing that is difficult to describe. You should be able to find coconut flakes in the baking aisle at health food stores or well-stocked grocery stores. Be sure to get the big unsweetened coconut flakes, not the tiny shredded kind used in baked goods.
This crispy coconut bacon is good on pretty much anything that bacon goes well with: pan-fried breakfast potatoes, omelets, anything cheesy, salads, maybe even pasta. I’ll have to try that. Let me know how you like it!
- 1 bunch kale
- 2 or more large heirloom tomatoes, cored and sliced into wedges
- 2 cups worth of whole grain bread, sliced or torn into bite-sized pieces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- sea salt
- 3 cups large, unsweetened coconut flakes (not regular shredded coconut!)
- 3 tablespoons reduced sodium tamari soy sauce
- 2½ tablespoons Liquid Smoke
- 1½ tablespoons maple syrup
- ¼ cup tahini
- 1 small lemon, juiced
- 1 tablespoon white miso (optional)
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
- 1½ teaspoons maple syrup
- Dash of salt
- ⅓ cup water
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with racks in the top and middle positions. Make the coconut bacon: line a half sheet pan or large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Drizzle the coconut flakes with tamari, Liquid Smoke and maple syrup and mix well. Spread the flakes into an even layer on the parchment paper. Bake on the middle rack for 12 to 14 minutes, flipping halfway, until flakes are mostly dry. They will continue to crisp up as they cool.
- Make the croutons: toss the bread pieces with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Spread in a single layer on a lined baking baking sheet and bake on the top rack for up to 15 minutes, tossing halfway, until the croutons are crisp and turning golden on the edges.
- Make the dressing: whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, miso, garlic, maple syrup and a dash of sea salt. Then whisk in ⅓ cup water.
- Prepare the kale: use a chef's knife to remove the tough ribs from the kale, then discard them. Chop the kale leaves into small, bite-sized pieces and transfer them to a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the kale with a dash of sea salt and use your hands to massage the kale by scrunching up the leaves in your hands and releasing until the kale is a darker green and fragrant.
- Drizzle the kale with enough dressing to lightly coat the greens and toss well. Add the sliced tomatoes, croutons, and a couple handfuls of coconut bacon. Toss and serve.
- Coconut bacon recipe adapted from VegWeb.
- Yields 2 large salads or 4 side salads.
- Leftover salad components are best stored separately, as the croutons will get soggy under the dressing and the tomatoes will get mealy in the refrigerator.
- Store leftover coconut bacon in a freezer-safe bag in the freezer. It should keep for several months!