Eggplant Bacon (Raw and Vegan)

by Gena on September 27, 2011

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I was recently doing some online browsing on Herbivore and stumbled across this t-shirt:

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Which got me thinking about bacon, and how much everyone loves it. I can’t say that I ever shared that enthusiasm, which is probably why I’ve never given much thought to bacon substitution. I have methods, of course, for creating smoky flavors in my food (check out my up in smoke hummus), and I love adding a salty kick to my meals (dulse is my vehicle of choice). But bacon, per se? It’s not often that I re-create it, unless I happen to be making tempeh bacon as garnish for this dish or that.

Last week, I had a plump, end-of-summer eggplant sitting around the kitchen. I didn’t feel like roasting it, and I didn’t even really feel like eating it: for whatever reason, it wasn’t inspiring me, in spite of the fact that I really love eggplant. Suddenly, it hit me: I’d try eggplant bacon.

If you’re wondering why I say “eggplant bacon” as though it’s a commonplace dish, it’s because it is a commonplace dish, at least among raw foodists. Most raw eaters have tried some version of eggplant bacon, which is really just marinated and dehydrated eggplant slices, at some point in the raw odyssey. Except, that is, for me. Until a few days ago, I’d never tried making the stuff for myself. Now that I have, I think it’s safe to say that things will never be the same again.

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Whether you like bacon or not, these slices are sure to brighten your cooking. You can use them in sandwiches, soups, or even as raw “breads,” if you don’t mind bread that’s very salty. You can mince them and throw them into salads, or you can even snack on them as they are: I think they’d make a great option for camping and travel. I like them because they don’t demand any fancy prep: simply marinade, dehydrate, and go.

A small NB: eggplant skin contains solanine, a plant poison. It’s unlikely that the small amount found in this recipe will cause GI symptoms or other upset, but in any case, I recommend peeling the eggplant first.

Raw Eggplant Bacon (raw, vegan, gluten free)

Makes about 20 thin slices, or sized according to your eggplant

1 large eggplant, peeled and then sliced lengthwise into thin (1/4 inch thick or less) slices
2 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chili powder
1/2-3/4 tsp smoked paprika (adjust to taste)
Black pepper to taste

Optional add-ins: garlic, tomato sauce, cumin, cayenne pepper, mesquite powder

1) Mix all marinade ingredients (tamari through pepper) together. Submerge eggplant slices well, and let marinade for at least an hour.

2) Place slices in a dehydrator and dehydrate at 115 degrees till totally dry: this should take about 12 hours. For crispier bacon, dehydrate longer.

If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can bake these at 350 for about 18 minutes or until golden, occasionally basting them with marinade.

Garlic and cayenne will add a nice kick to these; so will spices of your choosing. Cumin is a common addition to eggplant bacon, though it’s a very distinctive taste, and I like these on the simpler side. No matter what, they are sweet and salty slices of raw, vegan heaven:

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Thinner cut strips are great when you’re trying to visually recreate the look of bacon—I just liked my slices thick!

This recipe is demonstrative of how raw foods can replace the essence of a mainstream dish without really having much to do with the original at all. These slices are as far from meat as can be, but they do manage to convey the salty, smoky, and earthy flavors that people associate with bacon. All without the attendant cruelty, saturated fat, and environmental toll. As with all raw vegan versions of animal food, they aren’t a perfect imitation, but I think they’re better: an inspired interpretation.

And that, my friends, is what uncooking is all about.

Have you guys ever tried eggplant bacon? Other vegan bacon substitutes you love? Lemme know!

xo

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{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

Mama Pea September 27, 2011 at 10:59 pm

I have that shirt! I love it. And I can’t wait to try this recipe too!

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Ela September 28, 2011 at 12:06 am

Great t-shirt!

I love bacon, but I’ve never really been tempted to make eggplant bacon. I fix ‘real’ bacon for my husband on occasion and have always thought it smells disgusting.

But remove the ‘bacon’ association and I love eggplant, so I may have to try it after all. Do you salt and rinse the eggplant before marinading it?
love
Ela

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crookedmoonmama September 28, 2011 at 12:09 am

Yum! We make this too. My little girls love it. We call it Eggplant Jerky though…because…well, you know!
xoxo

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Sarah September 28, 2011 at 1:03 am

I love eggplant bacon…mainly because it’s just got all of the flavours of bacon that I actually like (salty with a touch of sweet, peppery, smoky), without, you know….having a mom! I hadn’t tried it until I heard someone reference eggplant bacon in Appetite for Reduction, but I found the recipe online and fell in love. I love eggplant.

As for other bacon-like dishes, I love tempeh bacon. I agree that they are not supposed to be imitations of the original. This is why I love Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. She’s always talking about the FLAVOURS that we like in animal products, and how you can get those in vegan food, if the comfort of familiarity is what you crave. Sometimes, it’s just as simple as salty food tastes good :-)

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Tamar September 28, 2011 at 1:50 am

I made eggplant bacon for my boyfriend’s birthday dinner. He wanted a BLT – he is pescatarian though and I am vegan, so eggplant bacon it was! It turned out yummy, albeit a little burned and crispy in parts.

I also enjoy coconut bacon. Haven’t made my own version yet, but Cafe Gratitude (here in CA) has a BLT with coconut bacon. And of course, tempeh bacon either from scratch or packaged is a yummy treat on occasion. I have used tempeh bacon in a shredded brussel sprouts and pine nut dish.

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Mimi (Gingersnaps) September 28, 2011 at 2:28 am

I’ve had that! It’s so yummy! It goes great in collard wraps for a raw BLT, or even wrapped in nori. I wonder how it would do subbed in for bacon in bacon pancakes? For vegetarians and vegans, I also think it’s a great alternative to all the funky meat substitutes out there. Thanks for showing us how easy it is to make!

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Hannah September 28, 2011 at 3:11 am

Nope, not me! I’ve hated bacon long before I considered giving up meat, due to working in a cafe where I’d make bacon and egg rolls for hours every Sunday. The smell infest me skin, my hair, my clothes… ugh.

But I do love all the condiments you’ve used here, so I’m in!

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Wendy September 28, 2011 at 5:25 am

I have never been a fan of bacon or anything from a pig. Probably why not eating animals is just not very challenging for me (I’ve got other food issues, believe me! Don’t get me near birthday cake.). Tried Isa’s recipe and wasn’t won over. If I ever need it again, you know where I’m going for the recipe!

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JL goes Vegan September 28, 2011 at 5:49 am

I picked up that t-shirt at Herbivore Clothing while in PDX. One of my favorites (my other fave is “Eat Kale not Cow,” which you turned me on too, from Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary)

I’ve had tempeh bacon and the processed Smart Bacon (which, can’t lie, I like!) but I have not tried raw. I have a gorgeous eggplant that’s almost ready to be picked in my garden — now I have a plan for it! :)

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Nada (One Arab Vegan) September 28, 2011 at 6:24 am

JL – I love your “KALE” shirt in the collegiate type font :)

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JL goes Vegan September 28, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Thanks! I got it from Candle Cafe in NYC!

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veganlisa September 28, 2011 at 5:51 am

We made eggplant bacon a lot at Matthew Kenney’s Academy. They served up on the appetizer dish with a creamy macadamia nut hummus.

I have a ton of zucchini at the moment from my CSA. I’m going to make some thin and crispy zucchini bacon this week. I’ll let you know if it works.

xo

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Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga September 28, 2011 at 6:18 am

I actually have never made eggplant bacon because….I loathe bacon! It’s one of those foods that the smell, texture, the taste, just seeing it…nope, not for me.

So that’s why I’ve never made the eggplant variety because if it’s at all close to the real thing, I don’t think I’d like it. And it would be a shame to waste all those precious hours dehydrating something only to end up with something that tastes like…bacon. As the name would imply.

You’ll have to lmk where on the “authenticity of real bacon scale” it falls. I have seen Matthew, Sarma, Ani, and others’ recipes for it and have always wondered.

You did an amazing job on this, Gena! You did raw vegan “bacon” very proud!

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Nada (One Arab Vegan) September 28, 2011 at 6:29 am

I’ve never tried bacon – I don’t eat pork because of religious reasons, and to be honest even if I was a carnivore I don’t think I’d touch the stuff. Completely agree with Averie – the smell alone is enough to put me off eating. That being said, I LOVE eggplant and salty-sweet combos so I think I would enjoy this.

On my list of to-try recipes!

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Victoria (District Chocoholic) September 28, 2011 at 7:31 am

Wow, Gena, you’re so creative…I also love eggplant but never do anything with it besides roasting and salting it.

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Tiina September 28, 2011 at 7:52 am

Gena when you come to Montreal, and I really hope you do one day, there are vegan restaurants that I think you’d love love love. Au Vivres (French for “at food” but vivre also means “to live”) and Crudessence (everything is raw- cru is the french word for raw). Au Vivres makes an amazing coconut bacon, which has the texture of bacon with a light coconut sweetness to it- they make a vegan BLT on chapati with vegan mayo and it is soooooo yum.
They make a vegetarian lox with cream cheese (no lox or cheese in it of course) that is to die, I have actually wished you, Gena, to taste this so that you could recreate it because it’s so good.
Montreal is a 5-6 hour drive straight north of New York… totally doable for a romantic weekend getaway with M in the springtime- please consider!!

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Catherine September 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I was vacationing in Montreal recently and went to Aux Vivres. It was fantastic! I had a sample platter of spreads like hummus and olive tapenade, and the lox was included. The whole platter was awesome. My meal was great, too – the potato chickpea curry dish.

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Lauren September 28, 2011 at 9:00 am

Great tshirt! I loooooove eggplant bacon, I must try out your recipe! Miss you, lady! Xo

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Skye September 28, 2011 at 9:07 am

For some reason bacon is one of those foods that people tend to ask vegetarians/vegans how on earth they can live without. I’ve always found that strange since I never really liked bacon, though I did sometimes eat it when my family served it. That’s one of the things that’s awesome about going vegetarian/vegan- you no longer just eat stuff because it’s there, you start consciously thinking about what foods you are putting into your body! I’ve tried processed veg bacon and thought it tasted too much like the real thing. As Mimi said above, I love that you offer natural, whole food alternatives to processed fake animal products- thank you!

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Laura Agar Wilson (@keephealthstyle) September 28, 2011 at 9:11 am

Funnily enough I made some for the first time this weekend too, I’m definitely hooked, I ate mine with a big salad and lots of creamy avocado dressing then again in a raw cracker sandwich with more avocado. I did like bacon before I became vegan but when I made mine I wasn’t going for that flavour – I prefer a cheesy salty flavour to mine, although I would love to try liquid smoke sometime if it wasn’t so hard to come by in the UK! I definitely think its going to be a staple for me now!

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Kate (Peacocks & Moonshine) September 28, 2011 at 9:47 am

I’m so inspired!
I love tempeh bacon and have used dulse as a BLT substitute, but I’ve never had eggplant bacon
Will try soon
Thanks for the recipe and hope you all have a great day-

Kate

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Kaitlyn@TheTieDyeFiles September 28, 2011 at 9:56 am

How creative! I picture this next to a tofu scramble for breakfast. Do you still salt and dry the eggplant before marinating?

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GetSkinnyGoVegan September 28, 2011 at 10:06 am

Oh I keep hearing about this! I have made similar “eggplant pizza”, etc…and it turns out okay if it is really thinly sliced. Winter time means time to turn on the dehydrator. Gosh that sounds funny!!! LOVE the Bacon had a Mom shirts.
If only I could wear those shirts at work.

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Heather September 28, 2011 at 10:50 am

I’m in the same boat as you Gena – I never really cared for bacon so, therefore, never gave much thought to substituting a former adoration for it in my vegan lifestyle. Your recipe, however, looks fantastic! I can’t wait to try it. :-)

As far as substitutes go, I’m going to contradict myself completely and say I just tried tempeh bacon for the first time last week! It was maple-flavored and I jumped at the chance because of its name. It’s pretty fantastic.

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Willie September 28, 2011 at 1:58 pm

I’ve never tried eggplant bacon, though this post makes me want to give it a shot! I have, however, used marinated eggplant slices as a replacement for eel in my vegan version of the classic Japanese dish known as Unadon ( http://goo.gl/cfNVL ). It is fantastic.

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tweal September 28, 2011 at 2:40 pm

I thought eggplant bacon was just the coolest sounding thing when I first heard of it, and I was so excited to try it. Unfortunately I must have misread the recipe I was using, because it was too salty and I had to throw it all away. I haven’t tried making it again since……. but I may try now, as you have just re-planted that seed in my brain. Thanks :)

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trisaratopss September 28, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I’ve had eggplant bacon on my mind for weeks now and just haven’t gotten around to making it happen. Thank you for posting this inspiration Gena!

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Jonathan September 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Love eggplant bacon except for the seeds that I hate for some reason.

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Carissa September 28, 2011 at 3:35 pm

They’re like eggplant chips with a bacon kick. I’ve read mixed reviews on eggplant bacon but I think I’d love it!

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Sylvia September 28, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Gorgeous! The vegan restaurant where I worked this summer made a smoked coconut bacon. Delicious too!!!! If you’re ever in Montreal, check out Aux Vivres.
The bacon was great in a vegan BLT wrap with lots of luscious and crisp lettuce, fresh tomatoes and and a wonderful vegan mayonnaise made in house. Yum so good. And on a freshly baked Chapati wrap.

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Sylvia September 28, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Haha, just realized Tiina and Catherine above also recommended!!

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bitt September 28, 2011 at 8:08 pm

I may have to test this in the oven. my dehydrator is in retirement. i love eggplant bacon!

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Susan September 28, 2011 at 10:14 pm

I’ve tried Coconut bacon. It was just not the same. I wouldn’t eat it straight, but it was doable in a “BLT.” I can’t help but wonder if it would’ve been better (less of a burnt taste) if I had dehydrated them instead of used the oven out of laziness and eagerness to eat them. I’m excited to try the eggplant bacon, though! I usually have much better luck with your recipes than others… THANK YOU for your amazing recipes! (especially my go-to zucchini hummus… MmmMmmm)

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Donna September 28, 2011 at 10:59 pm

My daughter was telling me today I needed to buy a dehydrator. After reading your post tonight, I know she’s right! These look good! My husband and I’ve never eaten eggplant but think it’s time we give it a try and this recipe looks like a good place to start! Thanks, Gena!

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Ali September 29, 2011 at 12:17 am

I usually do this with zucchini instead of egg plant. I will give egg plant a try next time though!

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Lauren September 29, 2011 at 1:28 am

So hungry now… these look amazing. I’ve never found a recipe with good alternative baking instructions – I don’t have a dehydrator – and I’m going to have to test this soon!

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Marisa September 29, 2011 at 5:27 am

Love the t-shirt too! And I was so surprised that I hadn’t heard of eggplant bacon even being around the raw food scene for awhile. Occasionally I’ll have some dried dulse strips as bacon. Will have to try this recipe. Looks yummy!

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Fawn (Me Amoeba) September 29, 2011 at 9:39 am

Congratz Gena for this creative dish! Aside from eggplant, we could also make raw vegan bacon using zucchini, yellow summer squash or young coconut strips. I’ve always wanted to try making raw vegan bacon in different ways. I’ve already added your recipe to my list. Thanks :)

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Hanna September 30, 2011 at 12:04 am

I didn’t have a dehydrator so I did the baked version of these. I added diced garlic and chipotle, upped the liquid smoke to 1/2 teaspoon, cooked them at 400 for about 10 minutes on each side, then broiled them for a bit longer to get them really crispy. I know I probably cooked all the nutrition out of the poor eggplant, but it was AMAZING. My aunt said it was the best eggplant she ever had. Thanks for the recipe!

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Sam (the Quantum Vegan) October 4, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Mmm, I love anything with liquid smoke! One of my favorite “meaty” vegan things is the smoky miso tofu recipe from Vegan Yum Yum. It’s not bacon, per se, but it makes a great sandwich.

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Cat @ Cat's Kitchen January 29, 2012 at 1:29 am

I made this recipe, and used it to make B.L.A.T.’s for breakfast – they were so good!
I’ll admit bacon is one meat I actually did enjoy before being vegetarian (and then vegan), and although you couldn’t mistake this for bacon, it’s so yummy anyway and very versatile. I used the leftovers sliced in salads, to wrap veggies with and so on.
As I think you’ve said before on CR, any ‘meat’ substitutes should aim to fulfil the same role in a dish rather than imitate the original product. This recipe achieves that :)

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Paige Powell May 9, 2012 at 4:47 pm

The fact that there’s an ad for “the Brooklyn Pork Store” with pictures of ground pork right below your eggplant bacon recipe, is a little disturbing.

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Sioen May 30, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Can’t wait to try this, though I’m still perfecting a substitute for liquid smoke — for those who are avoiding acrylamide in their food, liquid smoke has it, per the FDA’S “Survey Data on Acrylamide in Food”

Thanks for the recipe!

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Gena March 12, 2014 at 8:29 pm

Sioen, I’ve edited it to be more paprika and no smoke. I agree that there are better ways to create flavor!

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Liz June 5, 2012 at 10:01 pm

BEST. EVER. I made this today. I’m not gonna lie, I miss bacon. But this…omg..it’s seriously TO DIE FOR. I can’t stop eating it. All I can think about is my next eggplant “bacon” fix. Aaaaaand it IS better than real bacon. No hormones, no suffering piggies, and I get to have my bacon. And eat it, too!!! Good LAWD it’s good!!

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Brad July 20, 2012 at 9:36 am

How do you store these and how long will they last?

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Gena July 21, 2012 at 9:42 pm

At least one week in the fridge!

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amy August 2, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Great! thank-you. :)

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Wendy August 12, 2012 at 6:57 am

this was just delicious! Wow!! I had a giant eggplant waiting for an idea and this was superb!

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Barbara August 12, 2012 at 11:29 am

The baking temperature of 350 degrees must be a misprint. Unfortunately, I burnt the first batch in 10 minutes. I figured out that that must be a mistake and turned the temperature down to 120. I think I sliced my eggplant to thin. But that aside the taste was great and I will be making it again often. This make a wonderful Bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich.

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Griselda August 18, 2012 at 12:25 am

Hi – thanks for this – should there be salt anywhere in this recipe? you mention it can be a sort of salty bread-susbtitute – but I don’t see it in the list of ingredients… But I will certainly try it.

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Caroline August 24, 2012 at 8:17 am

Do you think that coconut nectar would be a good substitute if I don’t have any maple syrup on hand?

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Gena August 25, 2012 at 8:45 am

Absolutely.

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janet @ the taste space August 29, 2012 at 7:40 am

Hey Gena,

Thank you for such a lovely recipe! The eggplant was great although I found the marinade more flavourful than the bacon itself. Loved the crispy texture of the eggplant!

I added mine to a BLT Corn Pinto Bean salad which you can se here:
http://tastespace.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/blt-corn-pinto-bean-salad-with-raw-eggplant-bacon/

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natalilly October 14, 2012 at 1:28 pm

THANKS for this. I just made it w/ a few adjustments. SO GOOD!!!

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ti October 30, 2012 at 10:18 am

I love eggplant bacon…………coconut bacon from fresh coconuts is great, too!

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Layla January 7, 2013 at 8:53 pm

I echo many of these comments…I want the shirt and cannot WAIT to try this recipe. :-)

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Alex in Leeds January 22, 2013 at 6:32 am

Something to try this weekend I think!

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Mandi January 26, 2013 at 10:23 am

This turned out great! I tried it once without the liquid smoke but finally got my hands on some and that’s really the key to the recipe. Fabulous! I used an extra drop of smoke, an extra tablespoon of maple and I added mesquite since I had it on hand. Whoa, totally delicious!

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Rosie March 12, 2013 at 11:23 am

I made this. It was tasty enough. But soon after I got gastrointestinal symptoms. Then I looked it up online (as that was the only unusual thing I’d eaten) and found that even small amounts of aubergine can contain enough solanine (mostly in the skin) to give you mild poisoning. And dehydrating doesn’t reduce the amounts. So you should probably point out to your readers that some of them may get sick if they don’t peel the aubergines first…

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Gena March 12, 2014 at 8:28 pm

So sorry you had this experience, Rosie! I’ll add the note re: solanine.

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BYOL September 19, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Having lived in Brooklyn and spent a good amount of time in Williamsburg, I can say I am still fully perplexed by the recent crazy for bacon everything that seems to have taken hold- particularly among the hipster crowd- these past few years. Not only is it going to have a toll on these peoples health (although hipsters are not particularly health conscious, despite their refusal to wear deodorant!) but it has a major impact on our environment and the lives of millions of animals each year.

This sub sounds pretty great so I look forward to trying it.

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EduP March 13, 2014 at 3:08 am

Cool recipe. I have a lot of eggplant and just wondered how I can prepare it differently when I found this recipe, thanks. I’ll definitely try it.

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Jendria March 20, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Dulse (sea veggie) is a good bacon substitute.

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