Coconut Bacon BLT Recipe
A coconut bacon BLT sandwich made with a wildcard ingredient. A perfect summer sandwich for all your vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based eaters.
A few times a year, usually in summer, I come across a photo of what looks like the perfect BLT sandwich. Hearty, vibrant heirloom tomatoes, succulent lettuce, crisped bacon, and a ribbon of mayo peeking out from perfectly toasted bread. It looks incredible. The trouble is, I don't eat bacon. So, I typically craft a sandwich that attempts to tick many of the same boxes, something along the lines of this sandwich (9 years ago!). Recipes evolve, and I thought I'd share the updated version I've been making lately - very similar concept adding a blend of coconut "bacon", and crumbled tempeh seasoned and baked alongside the coconut. You can make a large batch of this, and keep it in the freezer, for quick use. All in all, it's a legit alternative sandwich for your vegetarian and vegan friends, or just anyone interested in plant-based meals.
For a long time vegetarians and vegans tended to use tempeh in place of bacon, turning their BLTs (bacon-lettuce-tomato) into TLTs (tempeh-lettuce-tomato). But the shift in recent years tends to be toward coconut "bacon" - it crisps up better than tempeh slabs, is high in fat (so it really takes in any smoke flavors whether topically applied or actually smoked), and coconut is easy to source. Everyone loves coconut, while lots of people are still confused and generally apprehensive about tempeh. But I love tempeh, as a stand-alone ingredient for its flavor and texture, and also for its nutritional profile. So I make my coconut "bacon" and add a good amount of crumbled tempeh - a 50/50-ish mix. In my head the tempeh acts as bacon-y bits. The tempeh adds substance to the sandwich, and keeps you full longer.
For any of you weary about tempeh, it's worth giving a try. It's a ancient cultured, minimally processed, fermented soybean product with as much protein as beef. Joe Yonan wrote this article about it a couple of years back (with shoutouts to Amy Chaplin & James Oseland), a couple other favorite tempeh recipes: Vegan Tempeh Taco Salad, Orange Pan-glazed Tempeh, Maple-Grilled Tempeh.
Last little note - no one complains when you slather this with some good guacamole.
Coconut Bacon BLT
The way most incorporate the deep umami flavor into the coconut is by adding some liquid smoke. Liquid smoke isn't my favorite ingredient, and I've found that you can get outstanding results here without it - less "bacon-y" but still delicious, simply leave it out. Other ways to get that smoked flavor? You can use a stovetop smoker, or other smoker - which always seems like too much of a hassle. That said, I love smoking all sorts of things in my smoker donabe (Ibushi Gin), and you can smoke the coconut and tempeh in one like that. If you take one of these approaches, simply leave out any liquid smoke in the recipe.*
This recipe can be gluten-free if you use gluten-free bread. It can be vegan if you use vegan-mayo.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup or coconut nectar
1 tablespoon tamari, soy sauce, or coconut aminos
1 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
scant 1/2 teaspoon smoked salt
a few drops of liquid smoke, optional*, to taste
2 cups unsweetened large-flake coconut
8 ounces tempeh, crumbled
tomatoes or roasted tomatoes
your favorite mayo
1 small head of lettuce
1-2 ripe avocados
slices of hearty whole grain bread, well toasted & rubbed with a clove of garlic
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Combine the olive oil, maple syrup, tamari, smoked paprika, smoked salt, and liquid smoke in a large bowl. Add the coconut and tempeh and toss gently for a full minute. If you don't want to use tempeh, substitute it with another cup of coconut flakes. Transfer in a single layer onto two baking sheets. Bake, stirring once or twice for 15-25 minutes, or until deeply golden and toasted. Keep an eye on it as the baking time increases.
To assemble each sandwich, slather the bread with some mayo. Top with tomatoes, lettuce, a generous handful of the coconut bacon, and thin slices of avocado. Enjoy open-faced or top with another slice of toasted bread.
This recipe makes enough coconut bacon for about four sandwiches.
Prep time: 5 minutes
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Looks absolutely delicious! Definitely going to try and make this in the next few days! Isaac Thomas, Peace & Love
I suggest putting the lettuce in first - lettuce between the moisture from ripe juicy tomatoes and bread prevents soggy bread. And if you were using real (meat) bacon, it tastes great with tomato, so you'd want them next to each other. Maybe with the bacon here, too.
:( I had really bad luck with this one. About half of it was burned at the 7 minute mark. My oven has hot spots, so I know it's that and not the recipe, but if others have dodgy ovens I suggest being extra careful. I think I'll be able to salvage at least two sandwiches - I was so looking forward to the tempeh/coco combo.
Instead of tempeh can we maybe do some indian cottage cheese like a slice of paneer or chikpea flour small pancakes in the middle or halloumi as well?
Looks amazing! I've been dreaming of the perfect veg BLT sandwich myself, though I prefer shiitake "bacon" to the coconut variety for it's chewier texture. Kudos to you for advocating for tempeh, such an underappreciated ingredient! I love it in bahn mi sandwiches or as the base for vegetarian Bolognese sauce: http://thenewbaguette.com/2017/02/27/hygge-vegan-bolognese/
I have been following your site for several years and am constantly amazed at your originality and creativity for us vegetarians. TX
always love your photos, and enjoy your meanderings. i too crave that smoky salty quality, and don't eat bacon. i have pared thickish slices of meat from cracked brown coconuts, and when i don't just feel like eating it all right away, you give me a good idea :: to maybe put some in the fridge, and leave them marinating away... take them out as required. might even one day try to dehydrate a mass of younger coconut meat and tempeh crumbles and slice it up later.
Heidi, I've made several of your tofu and tempeh recipes over the years. I think ingredients like tempeh, tofu and to some extent coconut are made delicious by building layers of flavor. Which is what you always do. Thank you!
Looks so delicious!!! Could you possibly do something with the smoky flavor of Lapsang Suchong tea? I wonder if the coconut can be infused with it somehow...
HS: Brilliant idea - I wonder if you could do an XX strong, concentrated tablespoon of brewed tea, and use it in place of liquid smoke? Def. worth a try! Love this comment/idea.