Oh bacon, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. There's Beer-Candied Bacon, Candied Pepper Bacon, and Bacon-Wrapped Beer Can Burgers. The bacon flavor is welcome in so many dishes. Let's be honest, your baked potatoes wouldn't feel complete without sour cream, cheddar cheese, and a topping of crispy bacon bits, right? Bacon bits serve their purpose well, perfect as a salad topping or added to veggie chowders.
Even so, you don't always have time or patience to fry up some bacon and let it cool before pulverizing it to make a little topping for a meal. That's where pre-packaged bacon bits come in.
What Are Bacon Bits Made Of?
As you can see, not all bacon bits are created equal. Some, like the vegan-friendly McCormick Bac'n Pieces, are actually made from soy and canola oil, with the meaty-flavor built from various additives. However, many others, like the first two on our list, are made from pork cured with sugar, salt, and nitrates.
As a general rule of thumb, if the word "bacon" is actually written out on the container, you can be sure there's pork in it. But, if you're confused or concerned, always check the ingredient list first.
While these get a bad wrap, they can make for a tasty addition to any meal in a pinch—if you know the right brands to buy.
So what do we reach for at the grocery store?
1. Oscar Mayer Real Bacon Bits
Oscar Mayer's Real Bacon Bits are widely regarded as the best version of pre-packaged bacon bits. (Oscar Mayer whole bacon also ranks highly!) In Oscar Mayer's crunchy version, the fully-cooked meat is 100% real bacon cured with water, sugar, and various nitrites, flavored with both hickory and maple. That makes these both salty and sweet, creating a well-balanced crumble.
2. Epic Uncured Hickory Bacon Bits
Free of both nitrates and nitrites, this brand is probably the healthiest—and tastiest—bacon bit today on the market. With a deep smoky flavor, they're the closest to tasting like something you cooked at home. However, with a limited grocery run and steep price tag ($7.39 for 3 ounces at Whole Foods), they're not the most accessible. On top of that, they're cut a little too large, and could use further crumbling.
3. McCormick Bac'N Pieces Applewood Smoked
Although McCormick can't legally call this product "bacon," (hence, the bac'n!), they are perfect for adding a little umami-crunch for vegans and vegetarians. With a crumbly texture and sweeter flavor, these won't be mistaken as real bacon anytime soon, but they bring their own flavor that we're particularly fond of.
This post was originally published on May 12, 2020.