Introduction: Crispy Meatless BEAN BACON

Bacon is entirely off limits in our pork-free household, granted we are still meat eaters. I’m a former bacon-eater and for over 6 years now have relied on turkey bacon to satisfy cravings. What I have here today is a mind-blowing meatless recipe to satisfy the hunger of former bacon-eaters like me.

This recipe is absolutely protein-packed, made entirely of small red beans and garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) with just some water and lots of flavorful seasoning. Who knew that you could get such crispy, meatlessly meaty, and oh-so-bacony strips from red beans and chickpeas? It's quite simple, you will want to make it all the time in as many meals as possible. Try not to hog it all.

I have entered this into the Meatless Meal Contest and I would appreciate your votes! Thank you so much!

Step 1: Bean Flours

I automatically reached for canned beans in my first attempt, but don't do that! They are too hydrated and yield soft, mushy bacon that just won't crisp up (think refried beans).

You need bean flours. You can purchase bean flours, but it's much easier and far cheaper to make them at home. Dried beans are sold everywhere.

For this bean bacon recipe, I used dried small red beans and chickpeas. I whirred a batch of each in my blender (a small quantity of about half a cup at a time to be gentle on the motor), put it through a sieve to sift away grainy chunks, and I got myself some bean flours! Easy chickpeasy!

UPDATE and WARNING: It has been brought to my attention that red kidney beans contain toxins when unsoaked and eaten raw. This recipe uses small red beans that are soaked for a few minutes in the batter and cooked in very hot oil. However, given I'm not a food scientist or have much knowledge of the ramifications of eating beans in this manner (only soaked for a few minutes, and only cooked in oil i.e. not boiled), I would suggest go ahead and be safe -- buy the commercial bean flours! And do not use red kidney beans at all costs!

Step 2: Savor the Flavor

To make some flavor-packed, crispy, meatless bean bacon, you'll need:

Red bean flour

Garbanzo bean/chickpea flour

Liquid smoke - hickory (at least), but I also used applewood

Maple syrup

Tapioca starch - this gooey starch is key in giving the bacon some chew, which you can't get on beans alone (and no, corn starch is just not the same)

Garlic powder

Onion powder


Smoked sweet paprika

Brown sugar


Canola oil for pan-frying

Amounts specified in the next step...

Step 3: Bean Bacon Batters

You will need two separate bowls, one each for the red bean batter and chickpea batter in order to get the quintessential pink and white striping. I slightly varied the seasoning in each, to get a different taste combination in each bite. If you're in a rush and don't need to have convincing bacon stripes, then go ahead and combine everything together.

For the red bean batter, you will need: 1/4 cup red bean flour; 1 tbsp tapioca starch; 1/4 tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, smoked sweet paprika, and salt*; 1/8 tsp cumin; 2 tsp maple syrup; 1/2 tsp hickory liquid smoke; and about 1/2 cup water.

For the chickpea batter, you will need: 1/4 cup chickpea flour; 1 tbsp tapioca starch; 1/4 tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, and salt*; 1/8 tsp cumin; 2 tsp brown sugar; 1/2 tsp applewood liquid smoke; and about 1/3 cup water.
*NOTE: You can go heavier on the salt, as you wish. Bacon is very salty afterall. What I like to do is grind some smoked salt on it after it cooks for more punch of salt.

1. For each batter, combine the dry ingredients first.

2. Whisk in the liquid ingredients. NOTE: the above water amounts may be variable depending on how finely your flour was ground as the texture will dictate how much water is absorbed.

3. You want to have a thin, runny consistency as shown. RUNNY batter = THIN and CRISPY bean bacon.

4. Place each batter in a piping bag or ziplock bag and let sit for 5 minutes to allow bean flours to absorb the water.

This batter yields about 16 large bacon strips.

Step 4: Pan-fried Bean Bacon

The key to delicious bean bacon is pan-frying to a crisp.

1. Heat a non-stick skillet at around medium heat. Cover the pan in about 1/8" of oil. Make sure the oil is sufficiently heated.

2. Cut about 1/4" off of each piping bag tip. The batter is very runny, so in between uses, lean the piping bags inside the walls of a bowl to ensure batter doesn't leak out.

3. Using both hands, one piping bag in each and tips touching, simultaneously pipe together stripes of batter to form strips, making sure the batter is laid thin so the strips crisp up. I like making 2 quick passes side by side so that I have 4 alternating stripes in a single strip. Do not overcrowd as the batter spreads and they may connect together.

When the batter hits the pan, the edges should sizzle, but not become lacy with lots of holes.. If the edges become lacy, turn down your heat a notch for the next batch.

4. Fry until edges are crisp and the underside is brown, about 2 minutes.

5. Flip and fry another minute or two until your desired crispness and color are reached.

6. Remove from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towel. You want to make sure the extra grease is drained as the strips absorb a lot of oil. I didn't go heavy on the salt in the batter as I prefer to finish the cooked strips with some smoked salt.

7. Repeat until all batter is used and make a giant meatless bacon pile!

Step 5: "Bacon Mix" for Future Meals

You can prepare some very convenient bean bacon mix for future use. Then all you need to do is add water, liquid smoke, and maple syrup.

Now you can eat bacon for breakfast, lunch, and dinner without actually eating bacon. Here are some traditional meals you can have bacon-free using this tasty alternative and taking with you a meal rich in protein, fiber, iron, and nutrients that beans offer.

For breakfast -- serve your bean bacon with eggs and diced hash browns.

For lunch -- prepare your bean bacon with slices of bread, lettuce, and tomatoes for a nutrient-dense BLT sandwich.

For dinner -- enjoy a bean bacon-forward caesar salad. It is exceptionally convincing in a caesar! I will try a pasta carbonara soon. I think it is where bacon finishes off a dish that this can fool tastebuds.

Any cooked strips can be reheated to a crisp in an air fryer or toaster/convection oven.

Savor all the ways you can have crispy, meatless, bacon-free bean bacon!

Meat Free Meal Challenge

First Prize in the
Meat Free Meal Challenge