Bacon is amazingly delicious and it can be that missing ingredient that makes a recipe that much better. Or it can be something as plain as breakfast. And it’s especially delicious when crispy ! But you may have noticed an interesting food item appearing on the ingredient list of your favorite bacon: sugar.
Does bacon have sugar ? If it does, why does it list 0 grams of sugar on the nutritional info table ? And what other alternatives are there to bacon if you were ever inclined to try something different ? Let’s take a look.
Does bacon have sugar ?
Some companies add sugar to their brining liquid when making bacon, some do not. There is no FDA requirement for bacon to contain sugar in its recipe. When sugar is added, it’s in a very small does, small enough that the total sugar per serving ends up lower than 0.5 gr. Which is why bacon manufacturers can legally claim their product has no sugar on the nutritional label, while displaying sugar on the ingredient list.
It really depends on the company, as no two companies have the exact same manufacturing process. This means that some may add more sugar, some may add no sugar at all. In the end you will have to look at the ingredient list and not the nutritional table when looking at sugar content.
Some bacon recipes add maple, honey, or sugar
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Or, some recipes for cooking bacon at home call for adding a sweetener to bacon to round out the flavor. In these cases yes, bacon does contain some form of sugar, definitely more that you would imagine for a piece of meat.
Sweet and savory are commonly mixed in America
The whole reason this exists is because, at least in America, the combination between sweet and savory is something that many people love. It’s not as common in other countries, but since America has a large population and a lot of influence, their tastes are often adopted in other countries as well.
For example in Europe sweetened bacon is not common, but may be found in some specialty shops and there are people who regularly buy it. To be fair, bacon is very much an American staple.
No-sugar alternatives to bacon
Alright, so what if you love bacon but don’t want an ounce of sugar in it ? What can you do ? Well there are a few options, and they’re really not that bad. What we’re looking for in a bacon substitute is fat marbling or strips, strips of meat, and a smoky flavor. Salt can be adjusted during cooking, and to be fair liquid smoke can also be added during cooking, if need be.
Plain pork belly
Your first option is to simply buy the true, uncured bacon: the plain pork belly. This is the cut of meat that most bacon is made out of, and it means you get the uncured, unsalted, unsmoked, and definitely not sweetened cut of meat.
Here you have two options. Either you cure it at home, and make your very own bacon, or you simply cook it with the proper spices and flavorings.
If you want to make your own bacon there are plenty of online recipes that include how long to age the bacon and how to cure it. If you want to cut it into thin strips and fry it in a pan, you can do that as well. It won’t have the same flavor as actual cured bacon, but it’s definitely 0 sugar (unless you add some).
To get a flavor reminiscent of bacon simply through spices and flavorings during cooking, you need an assortment of the following:
- smoky flavor – smoked paprika, liquid smoke, or powdered smoke flavoring
- salt for that salty note typical of bacon
- a bit of garlic, be it fresh or powdered (don’t overdo it)
And that’s pretty much it. The fat and meat is there, all you need to do is adjust with seasoning.
Pancetta is an Italian rolled pork belly, and it’s salt-cured. It ends up tasting similar to bacon. Actually most of the meats on this list taste similar to bacon, since they’re cured (aside from the plain pork belly above).
You can easily find pancetta in Italian shops, or even in major supermarkets. You can identify it by the rolled appearance of the pork belly, with the rind on the outer part of the roll.
Prosciutto is less fatty than pancetta, it’s take from the leg of the pig. You can get prosciutto crudo or cotto. One starts out raw and is cured with salt and aged, while the other is first cooked and then cured. Both are perfectly fine on their own.
Prosciutto, especially prosciutto crudo, is cut very, very thinly. You have no chance of frying it, so it’s best to wrap it around a meat, vegetable, or simply cut it into small strips and mix it into the food.
Coppa, capicolo, capocollo. In the end it is the same Italian deli meat, made from the back of the pig’s neck, a bit towards the shoulder. It’s not usually smoked, but it is cured and dry-aged.
Like prosciutto it’s very thinly sliced and has large swaths of fat connecting the muscle/meaty parts. It does not fry well since it will simply dry out. Unless that’s what you’re looking for, then go ahead.
Another option is to try beef bacon. This one is a little different, since the fat is marbled within the meat, as opposed to obvious patches of fat like in other meats. Beef bacon is taken from the belly and lower rib of the cow. In the end, it’s not pork so it’s leaner. This means cooking should be on a low heat, to render the fat. Otherwise the whole thing will simply burn.
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Smoked salmon strips
We know salmon is not bacon. But smoked salmon strips still offer a nice smoky, meaty flavor that may actually be a nice change from the usual bacony flavor. These will taste fishy, yes, and they are very soft and flexible, so have patience when you try to unstick them from their package.
Do not fry smoked salmon ! It’s already cured and does not require cooking. It’d only disintegrate in you put it in a hot skillet.
In short, there are plenty of alternatives to bacon, be it for breakfast or as something sneaky to add to your salad. Bacon doesn’t usually have sugar, and when it does it’s not all that much.
Always look at the ingredient list, never mind the calories per serving label. Those things are often shown prominently on the packaging to fool you into thinking there really are no carbs in those bacon strips. Until you look at the ingredients.
If you’ve got any other food curiosities be sure to check the related articles below, we’re always adding more food facts to make your life that much easier.