Can vegan bacon really mimic the taste of the real thing? We put six of the best to the test

Vegan bacons
Can the nation's favourite sandwich filler survive a vegan makeover? 

Ask a recently converted vegan what they miss most about their meat-eating days and the answer is often a bacon sandwich. Indeed, little can replicate the fatty delight that is a rasher sizzling in a frying pan – but as more of us take stock of the amount of animal products we eat, so the demand to create a passable veggie version of this and other meat products grows.

This year, Waitrose announced that sales of its vegan ready meals have overtaken its vegetarian counterparts. One sixth of all food products released by supermarkets last year were vegan, including, inevitably, an impressive array of vegan bacon, or “facon”, as it is being nicknamed.

So popular are these meat-free alternatives that the supermarkets are beginning to release own-
brand versions, the latest being Waitrose’s vegan “smoky streaky slices”.

But will any of these successfully imitate our beloved bacon? We put six of the big names to the test.

VegiDeli’s Cheatin’ Vegan Streaky Bacon

£2.49 for 115g, Ocado

Approximately the shape of a shoe horn, coloured an unappetising shade of rust, and with an attempt at a white vein of fat, this looks altogether alien. Made of gluten, soya protein and vegetable fat, it transforms very little in the pan and a tentative bite reveals absolutely no flavour and a texture of warm leather. Very odd. 3/10

I sea bacon organic seaweed ‘bacon’

£5.99 for 30g, thefoodmarket.com

Instinct tells us that it’s hard for a plant in its pure form to imitate meat, and in this case, instinct is correct. This is unmistakably a piece of fried seaweed and in no way resembles a rasher of bacon. However, it’s actually very pleasant – intensely salty, crispy, with an oceanic tang. Try with scallops, but it’s no morning fry-up. 6/10

Plant Pioneers smoky vacon rashers

£2 for 88g, Sainsbury’s

These imitation strips of streaky are more successful in appearance than most, and the smell is subtly smoky. The taste and texture together achieve something more similar to smoked cheese than bacon, though – rubbery and relatively bland, but not objectionable. Maybe one needs to eat all the slices at once for full impact? 7/10

Vivera veggie
 bacon pieces

£3 for 175g, Sainsbury’s

Although these bitty pink nuggets don’t brown or crisp over heat, the texture is passably close to bacon lardons. They taste of little more than smoke and salt, but in small quantities added to, say, a risotto or stew, they would fulfil a carnal craving for those avoiding meat. 7/10

Waitrose vegan smoky streaky slices

£1.99 for 110g, Waitrose

A good attempt at mimicking the veins of fat found in cubes of pancetta, and the smell is promisingly sweet and smoky. The pieces brown nicely and don’t fall apart, they taste really rather nice. A second later, though, a strange, rather unwelcome sweetness dominates the flavour. Throw into Brussels sprouts or butternut squash. 8/10

This Isn’t Bacon Plant-Based Rashers

£3.19 for 120g, Ocado 

The thickest slabs of the selection, with a dark brown colour more similarly resembling sliced roast beef. However, they smell appetisingly smoky, and fry to a very pleasing crisp. The taste is probably more akin to pastrami than bacon, though this is no bad thing. A very competent imitation. 9/10