MUNDANE MYSTERIES: What Are Bacon Bits Really Made Of?

One of the most delicious-yet-mysterious parts of any salad or baked potato is the bacon bits. You can use them anywhere you might otherwise use real cooked & crumbled-up bacon. But, while they may look & taste a lot like bacon, what are bacon bits really?

While ingredients in bacon bits vary from company to company, a lot of so-called “bacon” pieces don’t even contain actual meat. One of the most popular brands, McCormick’s “Bac’n Pieces”, are actually 100% vegan. Instead of cured pork, their bacon bits are made up of textured soy flour & canola oil, then mixed with caramel coloring, red 40 dye, maltodextrin, lactic acid, yeast extract, and flavor boosters disodium inosinate & disodium guanylate (to give them their meaty look & taste).

But there are several other bacon bits on store shelves that aren’t as vegan-friendly. Hormel’s “Real Bacon Pieces” are actually made from real cured & salted pork, along with other preservatives that are also used to cure the genuine strip bacon. Some other flavors and preservatives are also added, including smoke flavoring, sugar, and more. It’s pretty much the same story for Oscar Mayer’s “Real Bacon Bits”, which are another pork-based product.

All that stuff can be confusing to the average consumer, so here’s a rule of thumb to follow when you want bacon bits that aren’t meat (or even when you want ones that are). Containers that say “real bacon” actually contain real bacon; meanwhile, labels that spell bacon differently (such as McCormick’s “Bac’n Pieces”) are usually made with meat alternatives. Always double-check the ingredients, though, to make sure there aren’t any animal products involved (if that’s a sticking point for you). And, if artificial additives are your primary concern, go with nitrate-free bacon & then make your own crumbled bacon at home.

One thing to know for sure, though: the true ingredients of a product aren’t always evident from the products name. So always check the label.

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me a message via Twitter (@AndyWebbRadio), or shoot me an email at [email protected].

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