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I Tried Making the Viral TikTok Carrot Bacon — Here Are My Honest Thoughts

December 18, 2023

Ask anyone who’s recently converted to vegetarianism or veganism that food they miss most, and many will say bacon. Is it any surprise? Even just a modest sprinkle can elevate an omelet, soup, salad, or sandwich — and you can smell it cooking from a mile away. While I’ve long been on a quest for a plant-based alternative, I never managed to find one that hit the spot. When “carrot bacon” began trending on TikTok, I was just as intrigued as I was skeptical. But I decided to try actress and vegan recipe creator Tabitha Brown’s TikTok recipe (which has racked up nearly 4 million likes) to find out whether this humble vegetable could actually be turned into a tasty substitute.

As tasty as bacon may be, it’s also high in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol, which is why most RDs recommend eating it very sparingly. Using carrots instead of pork presents a far more heart-healthy alternative.

Here’s how to make carrot bacon — plus my honest thoughts on how it turned out, and some pro tips I learned from experience.

Read next: I Tried TikTok’s Viral Blended Baked Oats and I’m Never Making Oatmeal Any Other Way

How to make carrot bacon

thin slices of carrots to make carrot bacon

Rebecca Strong / Clean Plates

While following Brown’s recipe, I noticed she didn’t share exact measurements for the marinade — so I supplemented it with this Sparkles to Sprinkles food blog recipe.

Conveniently, I already had most of the ingredients Brown’s recipe called for, with the exception of liquid smoke (which I ordered on Amazon).

Here are the step-by-step instructions I used:

With a vegetable peeler, peel the outer skin off of the carrot. Then use the peeler to shave semi-thin, flat ribbons of carrot.

Now it’s time to make the marinade. Combine 2 tablespoons liquid smoke, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon onion powder, ¼ teaspoon paprika, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Stir the ingredients well.

Drop the carrot ribbons into the marinade and let them sit for a few minutes. You can use a brush or spatula to make sure the carrots are coated evenly in the sauce.

Preheat the air fryer to 380 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it’s preheated, lay the carrot strips onto the tray, rack, or basket, and air fry them for 5-6 minutes depending on how crispy you like your bacon.

thin slices of carrot in a bowl to make carrot bacon

Rebecca Strong / Clean Plates

My honest review

Real talk: Carrot bacon can’t compete with the real stuff. That said, I did go into this experiment with very low expectations and was pleasantly surprised at the results.

While carrot bacon isn’t quite the same as real bacon, it’s still tasty. It even got my (meat-loving) husband’s seal of approval. Next time we make a recipe with bacon, we plan to try swapping out half of it for carrot bacon. This seems like a good compromise to cut down on the saturated fat content of the meal.

I’d definitely make this recipe again when I’m craving a crunchy snack. I’m also interested in trying using carrot bacon in a vegan BLT sandwich or wrap, or crumbling it onto salads and grain bowls.

Note: The first time I made this recipe, I followed the blog’s instructions to use 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, and I found that the carrot bacon came out way too sweet. I decided to use half that amount the second time around, which resulted in a more salty and savory flavor. You could probably even get away with 1/2 tablespoon of maple syrup, too — while it is a key ingredient, less is more here because it can easily overwhelm the flavor profile.

holding finished carrot bacon

Rebecca Strong / Clean Plates

Pro tips for making carrot bacon on your own

  • Make sure to cut the carrot lengthwise before you use the peeler. This creates a flat surface, which will ensure your carrot ribbons are wide enough.
  • As impatient as you may be to pop your carrot bacon in the air fryer so you can taste test it, don’t rush the marinating process. The longer the carrots sit in the sauce, the more flavor they’ll soak up.
  • Try to make sure your carrot slices are an even length and thickness. This is something I failed to do and they didn’t cook as consistently — some ended up more burnt on the ends than others.
  • A few online recipes I looked at used soy sauce in the marinade. While I didn’t try this myself, I can imagine it adds a nice bacon-esque salty-savory flavor. You can use tamari, liquid aminos, or coconut aminos, too.
  • If you don’t have an air fryer or just want to try a different cooking method, some bloggers recommend pan-frying the carrot bacon instead. To go this route, simply heat a tablespoon of olive oil or avocado oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat, and then cook the carrot ribbons for about 3 minutes on each side.
  • By far the most important tip to keep in mind when making carrot bacon is not to overcrowd them in the air fryer tray or basket. The carrot slices should lay in a single layer without overlapping — this ensures that the hot air can circulate around all sides of the carrots evenly, yielding more crispy and more evenly looked results.

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