I’m excited to share this recipe because it seems to be unique or at least not well-known. I did some web-searching, seeking tips for perfecting my recipe, but all I found were recipes for making vegan bacon from other (more expensive) ingredients or for making stuffed potato skins using store-bought vegan bacon.
We had this idea when we were peeling a lot of potatoes to make cream-of-potato soup. We were talking about how the tastiest potato soups have a little ham or bacon in them, and about how a crisp slice of bacon makes a delicious garnish on top of a bowl of soup, and meanwhile we were looking at all these long curly strips of potato peel . . . and someone, I think it was 12-year-old Nicholas, wondered aloud if maybe we could fry up the potato peels into something kind of like bacon.
Yes, we can! Even our first try was pretty good. After several rounds of experimentation, we’ve decided that we’ll never be able to get anyone to think this actually is bacon, but it’s a yummy, smoky, salty, greasy, crispy food that makes a better substitute for bacon than anything else you can make out of garbage in 5 minutes!
It’s especially practical if you want something bacon-ish to go with your potato-based meal. But if you’re peeling potatoes for something else, and you want the “bacon” for another meal, just stuff those clean peels in a glass jar and refrigerate for a day or two until you’re ready to cook them–or cook them right away, refrigerate, and reheat in a skillet when ready to eat . . . or just eat some out of the jar with your fingers every time you open the fridge, because they really are that good.
What you see here is a 12″ skillet containing the peels of 4 medium-sized potatoes. This produced a little over 1 cup (loosely packed) of finished “bacon.” This recipe is not written with specific quantities because the amount of peel we’ve been working with has been different each time, and the seasoning is really a matter of taste.
To make your own potato-peel bacon, you will need:
- some potatoes. Try to choose organically grown potatoes because of the dangerous pesticides used on conventional potatoes.
- a clean scrub-brush or scouring pad
- a vegetable peeler
- a skillet large enough to spread out your peels in a single layer
- a spatula or large slotted spoon
- olive oil or other cooking oil
- smoked paprika or chipotle chili powder. We’ve tried both and thought the chipotle was the more bacon-ish flavor, but it’s also “hotter”–use with caution!
- garlic powder or granulated garlic
- large plate
- paper towels, or a cloth towel you don’t mind getting very greasy.
Scrub and rinse your potatoes very thoroughly.
Peel the potatoes, making the strips of peel as long as you can and letting them drop onto a clean surface. (When I’m peeling vegetables and planning to throw the peels into the compost, I peel into the sink. Don’t do this when you’re planning to eat the peels–the kitchen sink is one of the dirtiest places in most homes!)
Spread the towels on the plate and put it next to the stove.
Ventilate your kitchen: If you don’t have an exhaust fan over your stove, you may want to open a window to avoid setting off your smoke detector.
Place skillet over high heat and add enough oil to completely cover the bottom–it doesn’t need to be deep, just thoroughly oily. Add the potato peels. Sprinkle with plenty of salt, your estimated appropriate amount of paprika/chili powder, and just a little garlic. Mix thoroughly, stirring and flipping the peels, moving them around to different parts of the pan–typically some parts get hotter than others.
Continue cooking and stirring until peels are beginning to brown. Set one aside and let it cool for tasting. Add more seasonings if desired.
Continue cooking and stirring until peels get significantly smaller and crisper. I took the photo above immediately after turning off the burner and then kept them in the pan for about two more minutes (cast iron stays hot for quite a while), so that’s how they look when they are almost ready. If you like bacon cooked so that it’s actually black on the edges, you may want to blacken your potato peels, too.
Lift peels from the pan with spatula or slotted spoon, let grease run off, and spread them on the towel-covered plate to further drain the grease.
Serve your “bacon” by itself or as a topping for other food. It’s perfect on potato soup!
Hey, wait . . . what kind of vegans also sprinkle cheddar cheese all over their soup? Well, I didn’t say we were vegans, just that this potato-peel bacon is a vegan recipe. We do eat cheese, and we made our soup with milk. We actually eat bacon sometimes in restaurants. Although we generally don’t eat much meat other than fish, we love bacon and can’t resist it once in a while! But bacon is unhealthy. How does potato-peel bacon compare nutritionally?
The recipe analyzer at happyforks.com wasn’t able to tell me about potato peels, so I asked it about 1 whole potato, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1/4 tsp. salt. If you ate one-fourth of that, you’d get 141 calories, 2 g protein, 7 g fat, 24% of the Daily Value of Vitamin C, 21% of Vitamin B-6, 8% of fiber, and at least 5% each of magnesium, potassium, and Vitamins B-3, B-5, and E. You’d also get 151 mg of sodium, 10% of what you should have in a day.
Compare that to pork bacon, fried in a pan; let’s say the amount on my soup here would be 1 ounce. That’s 149 calories, 11 g protein, 11 g fat, 5% of the Daily Value of Vitamin B-6, 16% of B-3, 6% of B-12, 4% of B-5, 3% of magnesium, 5% of potassium, and no Vitamin C, Vitamin E, or fiber. It’s also got 680 mg of sodium (28% of the Daily Value), and unlike any plant-based food, it contains cholesterol (11%).
So, potato-peel bacon has less protein than pork bacon and is similar in calories, but it is lower in sodium and fat, is free of cholesterol, and contains Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and fiber! (And both foods contain some B vitamins and minerals.)