What Your Average Grocery Store Bacon Bits Are Made Of

Bacon bits sure come in handy when it comes to elevating a variety of already awesome salad recipes. They add an irresistible burst of flavor and a satisfying crunch to every bite. From the best mac and cheese and rich omelets to soups and, of course, loaded baked potatoes, you can sprinkle them on just about anything for a deliciously crispy texture that's sure to keep you coming back for more.

Sure, you could fry up a few pieces of bacon on the stove and crumble them up into tiny pieces, but grocery store bacon bits make for a faster — and grease-splattering-free — option. Of the many brands to choose from, McCormick is, perhaps, one of the more well-known store-bought options. The company's Bac'n Pieces, which are available as bits or in the form of chunkier chips, certainly pack plenty of bacony flavors. However, they actually don't contain any real bacon at all. Turns out, they're basically just flavored bits of textured soy — and they're not the only ones.

Many store-bought bacon bits are made with soy

So, if McCormick's Bac'n Pieces aren't real bacon, what are they? The Bacon Flavored Bits are made with texturized soy flour, a type of protein-rich powder that's derived from either whole soybeans or defatted soybean flakes. They also feature other ingredients, such as canola oil, salt, caramel color, yeast extract, natural and artificial flavors, as well as other flavor enhancers to give them their great bacon-tasting flavor. Similarly, the brand's bacon chips are made with textured soy protein, which is typically made from the defatted soy flour and then shaped into whatever meat-like protein it's supposed to replicate — in this case, bacon-like chunks that sizzle in flavor and crunchable texture just the same. 

The pork-free chips appear to be safe to be enjoyed by vegans and vegetarians alike, or just anyone who's looking to reduce their animal protein intake. However, McCormick's Bac'n Pieces aren't the only meat-free option on the market. Walmart's Great Value Bacon Flavored Bits, Badia Bacon Bits, Kroger's Bac'n Buds, and It's Delish Imitation Bacon Bits are also free of any real bacon and are made with soy flour instead. It's important to note that not every brand will be safe to consume for vegans or vegetarians, so always be sure to carefully read the ingredients label before purchasing.

Not all bacon bits are pork-free

Many brands probably opt for soy instead of cured bacon because it has a longer shelf life and is most likely cheaper to produce. However, not all brands of bacon bits are created equally — or meat-free, for that matter. For the pork lovers out there, you can still get your hands on bacon pieces that feature, well, actual chunks of bacon. And, it's usually easy to distinguish them apart from their imitation counterparts. Brands like Hormel, Whole Foods, and Oscar Mayer carry varieties of bacon bits that clearly display "real bacon" on the packaging. 

Even Great Value and Kroger carry packages of Real Bacon Pieces, which contain little nuggets of fully cooked, bona fide bacon. If, after glancing at the front of the bottle or package, you're still unsure of whether or not a product is actually made with real bacon, just take a quick look at the ingredients list, which should display cured bacon as the first ingredient.