is turkey bacon vegan

Is Turkey Bacon Vegan? What You Need to Know

Turkey bacon has become an increasingly popular alternative to regular pork bacon. Some people choose turkey bacon because they think it is a healthier option, while others opt for turkey bacon because they don’t eat pork for religious reasons. But is turkey bacon actually vegan? As a vegan myself, this was an important question I needed to have answered before chowing down on a turkey bacon BLT.

Theshort answer is no, turkey bacon is not vegan While it doesn’t contain pork, turkey bacon still contains animal products and is not considered a vegan food However, the reasons behind this get a little more complicated. In this article, I’ll breakdown exactly what turkey bacon is, how it’s made, and why it doesn’t fit into a vegan lifestyle.

What is Turkey Bacon?

Turkey bacon is bacon made from turkey rather than pork. It is made from sliced and cured turkey, typically the breast meat. Turkey bacon resembles pork bacon in appearance when cooked but the meat itself is lighter in color. Popular brands like Oscar Mayer and Hormel sell ready-to-eat turkey bacon that can be prepared by simply heating in a microwave or pan.

Turkey bacon emerged as a product in the 1970s and grew in popularity over the following decades as a “healthier” alternative to pork bacon. The main appeal of turkey bacon to consumers was its lower fat and sodium content compared to pork bacon.

Turkey bacon provides roughly 40-60 calories, 1-3 grams of fat, and 350-450 milligrams of sodium per slice. Pork bacon contains about 40-50 calories per slice but has 5-6 grams of fat and upwards of 600 milligrams of sodium. So in those regards, turkey bacon does have some advantages over regular bacon nutrition-wise.

How Turkey Bacon is Made

The production process is what makes turkey bacon off-limits for vegans. Turkey bacon undergoes a similar curing, smoking, and cooking process as pork bacon. First, turkey breasts are injected with a saltwater solution containing ingredients like salt, sugar, and sodium nitrite. The nitrite serves as a preservative and gives the bacon its characteristic pink color.

After curing, the turkey meat is smoked to add flavor. Smoke can come from real wood or liquid smoke flavoring. It is then cooked until fully done. Finally, the cooked turkey bacon is quickly chilled to prevent bacterial growth before being packaged and shipped to stores.

So while the meat itself is turkey rather than pork, turkey bacon is still very much a highly processed meat product. The ingredients used and cooking methods make it incompatible with a vegan diet.

Why Turkey Bacon Isn’t Vegan

When determining whether a food is vegan or not, there are a few factors to consider:

  1. Contains animal flesh

Vegans do not consume the flesh or meat of any animal. Turkeys are still considered animals, so turkey meat is not vegan even though it comes from birds rather than mammals like pigs. All meat and poultry products including beef, pork, turkey, chicken, fish are avoided on a vegan diet.

  1. Derived from animal slaughter

In order for turkey meat to be harvested, turkeys are raised on farms and ultimately slaughtered. Vegans are ethically opposed to commercial farming operations and do not support these industries. So any meat product that requires animal slaughter is off the menu.

  1. Contains animal byproducts

Some ingredients used to make turkey bacon are animal byproducts. For example, turkey bacon often contains honey or milk derivatives used for flavoring. Honey and dairy are no-no’s for vegans. Any ingredient derived from an animal like milk, eggs, or honey makes a product non-vegan.

  1. Tested on animals

Since turkey bacon contains nitrites, the finished product is sometimes tested on animals for safety. A vegan diet excludes foods that are tested on animals during any part of production.

  1. Processed using animal fat

The cooking process for turkey bacon traditionally relies on pork fat or lard for frying. Some brands may cook their turkey bacon in vegetable oil instead, but it depends. Vegans avoid all use of animal fats and products cooked with lard.

As we can see, turkey bacon fails the vegan criteria on multiple fronts. Simply put, it’s impossible to create real turkey bacon that would align with a 100% plant-based vegan diet. The meat source itself combined with the manufacturing process make turkey bacon incompatible with veganism.

Health Concerns with Turkey Bacon

While turkey bacon is often touted as the “healthier” choice over pork bacon, it may not be as healthy as it seems. Here are a few concerns to consider if you are eating turkey bacon regularly:

  • Processed meat – All cured and smoked meats are considered processed. Studies link processed meat intake to increased risk of cancer and heart disease.

  • High sodium – Turkey bacon is very high in sodium, with upwards of 400mg per slice. Too much sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure.

  • Nitrites – The nitrites/nitrates used to preserve turkey bacon can form cancer-causing compounds when cooked at high heats. There are health concerns around frequent nitrite intake.

  • Obesity risk – Regularly eating turkey bacon may contribute to weight gain and obesity according to some research.

Moderation is key with any kind of bacon. Nutrition experts recommend limiting processed meat intake to no more than 1-2 servings per week at most, regardless of it being turkey or pork bacon.

Healthier Vegan Bacon Alternatives

Just because turkey bacon isn’t vegan doesn’t mean you have to miss out on that smoky, salty, crispy bacon taste. There are several store-bought vegan bacon options and easy homemade recipes that mimic bacon perfectly. Here are some of my favorite vegan-friendly bacon alternatives:

  • Coconut bacon – This is made from thin slices of coconut meat that are seasoned and baked until crispy. The texture nails the crunch of real bacon.

  • Tempeh bacon – Thinly sliced strips of tempeh marinated in a smoky marinade and fried up nice and crispy make great tasting vegan bacon.

  • Shiitake mushroom bacon – Sliced shiitake mushrooms mimic the chewy texture and porky flavor of real bacon when marinated and baked.

  • Eggplant bacon – Slices of eggplant oven-roasted with smoked paprika, maple syrup, and soy sauce taste just like crispy pork bacon.

  • Rice paper bacon – Dehydrated rice paper sheets soaked in an umami sauce and baked get beautifully crispy and shrivel up like real bacon bits.

  • Tofu bacon – Marinated and baked tofu can be easily turned into delicious vegan bacon crumbles that work great as a topping.

  • Seitan bacon – Seitan has a very meat-like texture, so when it’s flavored with the right ingredients it makes amazing vegan bacon that looks and tastes like the real thing.

Brands like Sweet Earth, MorningStar Farms, and Tofurky sell ready-made vegan bacon that can simply be pan-fried or microwaved. But I honestly prefer making easy DIY bacon from ingredients like coconut, tempeh, mushrooms, eggplant or tofu. With a little creativity, you can absolutely get your bacon fix on a vegan diet.

The moral of the story is don’t assume that turkey bacon is automatically vegan just because it doesn’t come from pigs. When in doubt, read the ingredients and production details. Turkey bacon relies on animal products and processing techniques that make it squarely non-vegan. But there are still plenty of tasty vegan bacon options out there so no need to miss out! Substituting real bacon with a vegan bacon alternative even just a couple times a week is an easy way to eat more plant-based foods.

is turkey bacon vegan

The best vegan bacon brands

Bacon’s chewy texture and savory, salty flavors make it delicious. Luckily, there are a growing number of options on the market. Some of them have caught some celebrity attention—Natalie Portman backed France-based brand La Vie in 2022. Eventually, the brand plans to expand to the US. But for now, here are some of our favorite vegan bacon brands (listed in no particular order).

1 Lightlife Smart Bacon

The 2024 Veggie Awards readers chose Lightlife’s Smart Bacon as the best bacon. It’s made from wheat gluten and soy protein, which help give it a chewy texture when fried in a skillet. It’s great on sandwiches and bagels with avocado. It’s also one of the easiest-to-find vegan bacons in supermarkets. FIND IT HERE.

Lower in fat and cholesterol than “real” bacon, Yves’ Veggie Bacon is great on sandwiches, breakfast plates, and right out of the package.FIND IT HERE

Is Turkey bacon Healthy?! Is Turkey bacon GOOD for you!? **Updated 2021**

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