The Real Reason Bacon Bits Are Often Vegan

Whether you use bacon bits as a topping for salads, baked potatoes, or pasta, they add great flavor and texture. You get that satisfying crunch, the wonderful taste of bacon, and a bit of smokiness — savory little sprinkles. Bacon bits also boast an impressive shelf life compared to fresh bacon, making them a perfect kitchen staple.

However, despite having bacon in the name, most bacon bits are actually vegan-friendly. According to Women's Health magazine, a lot of popular food items are "accidentally vegan." Among the items on the list are Lay's potato chips, Sour Patch Kids, and Pillsbury crescent rolls. Even our beloved Oreos are vegan-friendly. These are all inarguably less mind-boggling than vegan bacon bits, though.

So how on earth can bacon bits be vegan-friendly? If they don't actually contain bacon, what are they made of? Does the lack of bacon make them any healthier? Are all bacon bits bacon-free? Why are we being misled?

Bacon bits' vegan-friendly ingredients

You've probably already guessed it, but most bacon bits do not actually contain bacon. As Obsev notes, the name is just super misleading. As with some other alternative-meat products, bacon bits get their familiar flavoring from a combination of spices and, well, chemicals. This isn't surprising, given that bacon bits can sit on the shelf for years and still taste fine. (Make of that what you will, as far as nutrition goes.) 

The signature smokiness bacon bits offer comes from liquid smoke, not the process of cooking. McCormick's bacon bits are primarily made from textured soy flour, so they still feel and taste like bacon.

At the end of the day, this new bit of information might be a relief. If you've embraced veganism but miss bacon, you can still use bacon bits — just double-check the ingredients to be sure. If you love bacon but want something that lasts longer in the pantry, bacon bits are a great option. And if you're extremely disappointed about your bacon bits lacking real bacon, just go out and buy a pack of bacon.