Crispy, savory eggplant bacon brings this fresh and crunchy vegan cobb salad to another level. There’s no need to sacrifice the crunch and saltiness of bacon in your vegan cobb! Alongside fresh corn, juicy tomatoes, creamy avocado and drizzled with tangy homemade vegan ranch, this cobb salad is an ideal summer lunch.
How to make crispy vegan eggplant bacon
In our book, eggplant is one of the best vegetables to replace animal proteins. It has a satisfying meaty consistency that works just as well on the grill as it does in a creamy dip for crudites. Eggplant is porous and spongy, two characteristics that make it an all-star at absorbing flavors. At the end of the day, eggplant is the perfect vegetable to be transformed into savory, salty plant-based bacon to top this vegan cobb salad.
The first step to making flavor-packed eggplant bacon is to draw out some of the moisture in the veggies. Like other squash, eggplant has a high water content and benefits from sitting in a heavy sprinkling of salt for a few minutes before cooking. The salt brings some of the eggplants’ moisture to the surface. After resting in salt for up to 30 minutes, you can simply press the eggplant slices with a clean dish towel to absorb as much water as possible. The drier your ‘plants, the crispier your vegan bacon will get.
The next important factor for crispy eggplant bacon to top your vegan cobb salad, or to eat straight out of the pan, is a hot hot hot pan. We love our Lodge cast iron skillet for this job, because it gets hot enough. For the same reason, we also recommend a high-heat oil for this recipe. Olive oil is our go-to, but corn or peanut would also work. Just avoid coconut oil, which could set off your smoke detector!
The eggplant bacon glaze: savory, mapley and perfectly smokey
To get those smokey, salty, umami flavors that make regular bacon so popular in this vegan eggplant bacon, you’ll need a few important ingredients. First, liquid smoke is the key to, you guessed it, the smokey flavor. It’s also the best way to achieve a smoked taste without actually setting off the smoke detector 🙂 Liquid smoke, which is made by collecting the infused liquid vapor from burning wood, packs a seriously intense flavor. Our advice: a little goes a long way!
Next, you’ll add some umami goodness to your vegan bacon with the combination of soy sauce (or tamari if you’re avoiding gluten) and garlic. A hit of spice, with a side of bonus smokiness, comes from Sriracha and smoked paprika. And we couldn’t forget the signature maple taste of that oh-so-popular breakfast meat. Maple syrup matches the eggplant bacon’s heat with some sweet. We’ve said it before, and we’ll gladly say it again, go for the real maple syrup. You’ll only need a small bottle for this plant-based bacon (but we recommend a full gallon, especially if you’re a pancake person). Whatever you do, just say no to “pancake syrup”!
Bring it all together: build your crunchy vegan cobb salad
Now that you’ve perfected the crispy eggplant bacon to bring the sweet-savory crunch factor to this vegan cobb salad, let’s address the rest of this recipe. Because the eggplant bacon packs so much flavor, we keep the other ingredients in our vegan cobb fresh and simple. Crunchy chopped romaine, fresh sweet corn, juicy red tomatoes and creamy avocado provide perfect foils to the intensity of the eggplant bacon.
We couldn’t forget the protein, of course, which rounds this fresh cobb salad into a healthy and satisfying vegan lunch. We subbed the typical chicken breast (so boring!) with chickpeas to add staying power to this vegan cobb salad with eggplant bacon. And the final step? A hearty drizzle of homemade vegan ranch dressing, of course! This dressing brings the tang without any of the preservatives of bottled ranch dressings. Win-win!
Other favorite eggplant recipes
Now that you’re a pro at salting and prepping eggplant, which is fully in season these days, try some of these other great recipes for our favorite meaty veggie:
- Lentil Stuffed Eggplants with Tahini Dressing
- Vegan Eggplant Gyros from Delish Knowledge
- Indian Eggplant Curry from the Roasted Root
- Mediterranean Eggplant Chickpea Salad from a Cedar Spoon
This post contains affiliate links, which means that Crowded Kitchen may be compensated for purchases.Print
Crispy, savory eggplant bacon brings this fresh vegan cobb salad to another level. No need to sacrifice the crunch and saltiness of bacon in your vegan cobb!
For the eggplant bacon:
- 1/2 of a medium eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch thick planks
- 1 tbsp olive oil, plus more to cook in batches
- 2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
- 1 tsp liquid smoke
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp Sriracha
- 1 garlic clove, grated, minced or pressed
For the cobb salad:
- 1 head romaine lettuce
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 ears corn (about 1 cup cooked)
- 1 avocado
- 1 15oz can chickpeas
- Optional: vegan feta
- 1 cup plain cashew (or other non-dairy) yogurt
- 3 tbsp almond milk
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp fresh chives
- 1 1/2 tbsp fresh parsley
- 1 tbsp fresh dill
For the eggplant bacon:
- Lay the eggplant planks out on a cutting board and sprinkle with salt. Allow to rest for up to 30 minutes to draw out some of the moisture. After resting, press eggplant with a clean dish towel to remove as much water as possible.
- Heat the olive oil in a large cast iron or nonstick skillet.
- While the pan heats (you want it really hot!), whisk together the tamari, liquid smoke, maple syrup, smoked paprika, Sriracha and garlic in a small bowl.
- When the pan is hot, lay in a few eggplant planks, being sure not to crowd the pan. Use a pastry brush to brush the eggplant with the glaze, and let brown for 1-2 minutes. Flip, glaze the other side, and cook until browned on both sides, about 3-4 minutes.
- Transfer eggplant bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and continue making the bacon in batches.
To make the cobb salad:
- Wash and pat romaine dry, Slice or tear into bite-sized pieces.
- Cook corn by boiling for about 3 minutes. Let cool and slice kernels from cob.
- Prepare all salad ingredients and add to a large bowl.
- To make vegan ranch dressing, whisk or blend all ingredients until well incorporated. Toss salad in dressing and serve right away.
Keep a VERY close eye on your eggplant bacon – it can burn quickly if you walk away for too long!
Keywords: vegan cobb salad