Meatless with Macaroon: Coconut Bacon

I have a feeling, dear reader, you are having a hard time deciding what to focus on in this picture. There is me, exhibiting impressive flair in my canine tie and blue steel face. Yet, there is also an absurdly large pile of COCONUT BACON. May this be the biggest dilemma you face all day.  Though I am not usually one to divert attention away from myself, focus on the bacon. It’s all about bacon.

Coconut bacon is one of the reasons I endeavored to start writing a Meatless Monday column for Thrive Animal Rescue. Stay with me on this one, because I’m going to have to rewind it back. First, if you’re not familiar with Meatless Monday, it is a global movement encouraging people everywhere to eschew meat one day a week. Giving up meat all days a week, for many, would be a way-too-radical change. Meatless Monday is bite-size radical, doable radical, nonetheless-will-have-an-impact radical.  The health of the planet and of your mind, body, and soul are all positioned to benefit. But, also your tastebuds. Sacrificing meat does not mean sacrificing flavor. I bet it becomes your favorite day of the week. 

Meatless Monday is a delicious revolution. It is a battle cry to chefs and foodies everywhere to prepare vegan and vegetarian food with gusto, and share their ideas broadly. Eating is one of the primary pleasures of life, along with tennis balls and covering every inch of yourself in as much sand as possible. I approach each meal like it is a new Beyonce album about to drop. In order to make Meatless Monday successful, the movement must never lose sight of the joy of eating something indescribably wonderful. Which brings us back to bacon—that salty, crispy, smoky manna that elevates everything. I started this column so I could share how to enjoy something like bacon without a pig involved. 

By marinating thick, pearly coconut shards in a flavor-rich combination of ingredients, then roasting it low and slow, the result is something quite akin to actual bacon, but I’d argue even better. You can stack coconut bacon in a deep pile on top of your avocado toast and go at it guilt-free. You can sandwich it in-between pancakes, or bananas and peanut butter Elvis-style. Anoint a salad with it. Eat it with your hands. Toss it across roasted vegetables like it was confetti. Dip it in chocolate because you are a wild, wild thing and I would if I could. Coconut Bacon for President. 

Coconut Bacon

(makes one impressive pile that will keep for several weeks in an airtight container)

5 cups dried coconut flakes
1/4 cup tamari sauce, soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 T liquid smoke (see note)
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika (optional)
1/2 tsp. garlic power
Salt & freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 250. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the tamari, maple syrup, liquid smoke, smoked paprika, garlic powder and a fat pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper. Toss the coconut in the bowl and gently coat the flakes with the liquid mixture. Let marinate for 10 minutes.

Spread the coconut mixture evenly across the prepared sheet pan. Roast for 45 minutes - 75 minutes (a lot depends on the size of the coconut flakes), stirring at 15 minute intervals, until the coconut bacon is deep golden and smells delicious. Let it cool as it will crisp up as it cools. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 weeks.

Notes: This recipe is adapted from Sara Britton of the My New Roots blog. There are many options for liquid smoke—look for a natural version without added preservatives and coloring. 

Lauren Wilkinson