Bacon was the hottest commodity during the pandemic: Shelves were cleared of bacon products for days, and several companies reported a bacon shortage due to high demand and low supply. Luckily, we have you covered with a vegan bacon recipe that tastes just as good as the real thing, if not better, and is healthier for you. In this recipe, the 'bacon' is made with tofu, liquid smoke, and an array of spices and seasonings that mimics the same flavor and texture.

Tofu is one of the best bacon alternatives because it absorbs flavor like a sponge and in this recipe, you'll crumble up the 'bacon' bits into small pieces, an easy task to do with tofu. Once you make this recipe, tofu bacon becomes a kitchen staple.

This recipe also calls for a dairy-free homemade ranch recipe that you'll want to use on everything beyond salads. Another perfect duo that comes to mind is ranch and vegan pizza, but that's another story. For this recipe, vegan mayo will be your base, and you'll add fresh herbs and spices to season your dressing.

Pasta is the main starch in this recipe so choose your favorite noodle and cook according to the package. You'll mix all your ingredients together and enjoy the delicious tastes of smokey tofu bacon, creamy ranch, fresh chopped veggies, and the textures of al dente pasta all in one bite. If you have leftovers, keep them stored in the fridge for the week and enjoy a healthy plant-based meal for lunch every day until it's gone. Then, make it again.

Recipe Developer: Rene Barker, @thissavoryvegan

Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Vegan Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients

For the tofu bacon

  • 1 15.5 oz pack Nasoya Extra Firm Tofu Twin Pack drained and pressed
  • ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tbsp liquid smoke
  • 1 tbsp agave or maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp sriracha
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • oil for frying

For the croutons

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup ciabatta cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ tsp garlic salt

For the vegan ranch

  • ½ cup vegan mayo
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic peeled
  • 1 tbsp dried chives
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley
  • salt if needed
  • water or non-dairy milk, to thin

For the pasta salad

  • 8 oz fusilli pasta dry
  • 1 head romaine chopped
  • ½ red onion diced
  • 10 oz cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 avocado diced

Ingredients

  1. Add all of the marinade ingredients to a bowl and stir to combine. Crumble the pressed tofu into a bowl and pour the marinade over it. Cover and place in the fridge for 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, prep the croutons, dressing and pasta. Heat some olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the bread & garlic salt and toss to coat. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the bread is toasted on all sides. Set aside.
  3. Add all of the dressing ingredients to a food processor or blender. Pulse until combined, adding water as needed to thin. Set aside.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  5. Heat some oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu pieces to the pan. Allow the tofu to sit untouched for 3-5 minutes. Toss and continue to cook until the marinade is absorbed and the tofu is crispy.* Set aside and allow to cool.
  6. To assemble, add the pasta, croutons, tofu bacon and the rest of the salad ingredients to a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Notes: *The cook time will depend on how much liquid you press from the tofu before marinating. The more moisture, the longer it will take to get crispy. Just be patient and let all of the liquid get absorbed in the pan.

FOR BAKING THE TOFU BACON: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray a baking sheet with oil. Transfer the tofu to the baking sheet and spray with oil. Bake for 10 minutes, flip and cook for 5-10 more minutes (or until the tofu is crispy and the marinade is completely absorbed).