Smoky and salty with a hint of sweetness, bacon is beloved around the globe for packing a big punch when it comes to flavor. According to North American Meat Institute, our fascination with bacon can be traced back thousands of years ago to China, where chunks of pork belly were salted and preserved. Today, the pork is infused with brine and goes through a carefully calculated curing process. Afterward, the pork belly is smoked and trimmed to create the consistently shaped slices that we see at the market.
While it’s common to see bacon paired with breakfast, salads, and sandwiches, the reality is that its complex flavor profile allows it to function in many other surprisingly delicious ways. From being paired with particular fruits to getting dusted with a popular pantry staple, there are tons of ways that you can amp up your bacon to light up your taste buds. The stars have aligned to bring you to this moment and deliver a message: It’s time to step out of your bacon box and change it up. Here are some unexpected ingredients you never thought to use with bacon.
Salted caramel. Chocolate and peanut butter. The infamous indulgence of a donut burger. Sweet and salty is a classic combination, proving that polar-opposite flavor profiles can work together in harmony to achieve extraordinary results. According to the Monell Center, there’s some science behind the reason this combo works so well, and it all comes down to our taste sensors.
At first blush, the notion of adding bacon to ice cream may sound strangely overkill, but the truth is that we already add all kinds of salty toppings to enhance the flavor of ice cream. If crushed peanuts and salted pretzels can be added to ice cream, then why not crumbled bits of bacon?
Even though it may seem overly decadent, sometimes it’s best to just give in to the devil on your shoulder and embrace temptation. In this case, it’s totally worth it: The salty smokiness of the bacon plays off of ice cream’s sweet creaminess to produce a truly mouth-watering experience. You don’t even need to add all that much — just putting a pinch on top can make all the difference. Pro-tip: If you dig bacon in your ice cream, then you’ll love the idea of a little bacon in your milkshake.
Bananas are often considered one of nature’s perfect foods. Convenient to eat and loaded with nutrients, antioxidants, and a wide range of health benefits, bananas are healthy and easy on the wallet (via Healthline). Most of the time, our instinct is to just give them a quick peel and eat them the good old-fashioned way. But bananas are versatile in their own right, with their soft and fruity sweetness being ideal for everything from pancakes to homemade ice cream. One of the last things you’d probably think to pair with a banana is cured, smoked pork — but the truth is that this union is a match made in heaven.
Bacon’s signature crispiness provides some rewarding textural contrasts when it’s paired with the creaminess of bananas. The next time you make banana bread, try adding some cooked, crumbled bacon to the mix. Those little bursts of salty, smoky bacon bits in the mix help bring out the sweetness of the banana. This same approach can be applied to other banana-based baked goods like muffins or cookies. On the surface, bacon and banana may seem like an absurd combination, but the reality is that their flavors and textures play off of each other in a way that’s deliciously delightful.
As one of the most popular beverages in the world, most of us are well-acquainted with the delicious power of the coffee bean (via Pew Research Center). With a sophisticated flavor profile that revolves between roasted, bitter, and sweet, some coffees can also be somewhat floral and fruity. The drink’s wild popularity and eclectic flavors make it an ideal choice for endless culinary experiments. From coffee-soaked pot roasts to gelato, coffee can enhance the taste of a wide range of dishes. And while there’s a good chance that you may often pair a cup of your morning coffee with some bacon for breakfast, the real magic happens when you cook them together.
By whisking up some liquid coffee with a touch of maple syrup to taste, you can capture all of your favorite flavors from breakfast in bacon form. Simply cook the bacon as you normally would, and then give it a quick baste with your coffee maple glaze the last few minutes of cooking. The richness of the coffee soaks into the bacon, complementing its inherent smokiness. At the same time, the taste of maple syrup balances out the bitterness from the coffee and the saltiness of the bacon. If you’re looking for a tasty way to kick your bacon game up a notch, the answer’s right there in your morning cup of joe.
With a uniquely soft and luxurious texture, fudge is a richly decadent and massively popular sweet treat. Typically made with a mix of butter, sugar, milk, and chocolate, fudge is often cut into square chunks or made into an icing for cakes and other baked goods (via Britannica). Because it comes in so many different flavors, like butter pecan and chocolate chip cookie dough, it’s an ideal vehicle for some fun experimentation in the kitchen.
Similar to how bacon plays off of the sweetness of ice cream, fudge is another dessert that can benefit from a little bacon treatment. The bacon can be folded into the dish so that every bite contains a touch of that smoky flavor we all love while amplifying the sweetness of the fudge and providing some textural diversity. Another idea is to simply crumble the bacon onto the surface of the fudge as a topping — which will help maintain the bacon’s crispy texture. To really knock it out of the park, try the previous coffee bacon idea above and apply it in this context to some chocolate fudge. If you love big flavors, you’re bound to love coffee bacon chocolate fudge, and the interplay between each ingredient makes it a wild ride worth taking.
From a cold glass of orange juice to the bright flavor of its zest, there are a number of refreshing ways to enjoy oranges. Beyond their deliciousness, oranges also carry a wide range of health benefits and their consumption has been linked to lower rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer (via Healthline). And even though you may have never thought to pair this beloved king of citrus with some bacon, the reality is that their flavors play off of each other in a way that’s highly enjoyable.
By brushing bacon with a little orange juice and honey towards the end of cooking, the flavor of the bacon pops with sweet citrus. The sugar in the honey and orange juice balance out the assertive smokiness and saltiness of the bacon. For the same reason, adding diced oranges to salads with bacon bits is another way to brighten up every bite. These bacon-wrapped shrimp kebabs are yet another great way to appreciate how the taste of oranges can elevate bacon.
According to Le Cordon Bleu, balancing different flavors is the key to mastering the art of cooking. Combining the flavors of bacon and oranges is a simple and tasty way to experience a unique dance of flavors. The sweet tartness of oranges and the salty richness of fatty bacon work together in a way that’s truly mouth-watering.
As crucial and thirst-quenching as it is, water still probably doesn’t strike you as the most exciting ingredient imaginable — much less something you would ever dream of mixing with bacon. In all likelihood, the idea of adding water to bacon may even sound understandably dangerous, considering it’s common knowledge that water and oil don’t mix — especially when that oil is piping hot (via Gizmodo). But the truth is that with the proper technique, cooking bacon in a little water will render some surprisingly delicious results. In fact, adding some water at the beginning of the cooking process can actually reduce the volatile pops and splatters that we typically associate with the act of cooking up a batch of bacon. Aside from mitigating erratic bursts of bacon fat (which is a feat in itself), adding water produces a few other desirable effects.
After you lay some strips of raw bacon down in a skillet, pour in a little water — just enough to barely submerge the bacon. Turn the burner on to reach a simmer. As the bacon cooks in shallow water, the fat in the bacon will render — and by the time the water completely dissolves, your strips of bacon will already be frying in the pan. The end result is nothing short of glorious and you’ll be rewarded with succulent, tender bacon that melts in your mouth.
As one of America’s most popular fruits, there’s a good chance that you enjoy a juicy apple from time to time (via Buffalo Market). Loaded with antioxidants, grown in all 50 states, and available in thousands of different varieties, apples are renowned for their signature mix of sweet and tart flavor profile. Although the fruit often gets relegated to the dessert section thanks to its inherent sweetness, it’s actually that very same quality that makes them great to balance out more savory dishes, too.
The combination of apples and bacon works beautifully: The sweet fruitiness of the apples is counteracted by the smoky taste of bacon, hitting polar opposite flavors simultaneously in a way that’s deeply satisfying. One easy application with delicious results can be experienced by simply adding a few thin slices of apple to your next BLT sandwich. The slivers of apple provide some acidic sweetness that cuts through the heaviness of the bacon and uplifts the sandwich in a way that’s truly delightful. Similarly, adding slices to a grilled cheese with bacon is a great way to add a sweet and fruity twist that can pop through the saltiness in a way that’s harmoniously mouthwatering.
In a way, alcohol and bacon are already kindred spirits: Both of them are ingredients for a good time, but best enjoyed in moderation. While bacon and alcohol don’t typically cross paths on a regular basis, their union is not entirely unheard of: Many of us tend to enjoy the flavor of bacon in a bloody mary or perhaps an old-fashioned made with a bacon-infused whiskey. The bite of alcohol and the assertive smoky richness of bacon work together in a way that brings out the flavors of both ingredients to a delicious effect.
If you’re finding yourself intrigued by the fusion of bacon and alcohol, there are plenty of bacon-inspired cocktails out there to try. From candied bacon bourbon to a bacon and eggnog cocktail for the holidays, there’s no shortage of tasty options to try out. When you want to truly embrace your inner party animal, the convergence of the two ingredients is a surefire way to kick off some majorly fun flavors. For something more meal-based but equally glorious, this beer and bacon macaroni and cheese is another clever way to enjoy this combo. The bottom line: If you haven’t experienced the magic that happens when these two flavors combine, it’s about time to change that.
Circular and crunchy, onion rings can work as a tasty appetizer, topping, or side dish. Typically served with handheld fare like burgers and melts, part of the joy of eating onion rings is tasting the contrast between their crispy, seasoned skin and the tender slice of onion underneath. In its own right, the onion ring is an example of a delicate flavor balance, thanks to its salty, fried exterior and the subtle intrinsic sweetness of the onion itself. And while there’s a good chance that you’ve probably enjoyed the taste of bacon beside onion rings many times (most likely in the form of a bacon cheeseburger) — it may have never occurred to you to directly fuse the two together. But the truth is that adding some bacon is a great way to put a tasty twist on this classic fried snack.
Including crumbled bacon bits directly in the batter is an easy way to make sure that you get bacon’s signature smokiness throughout the onion ring. Each bite of bacon-infused shell around the onion ring has multiple layers of crunch thanks to its textural variation. Flavorwise, the saltiness of the bacon acts as the perfect counterbalance to the soft, sweet onion. One thing’s for sure: This might be the most delicious way to enjoy this crispy, elliptic treat.
Made from fermented cabbage, sauerkraut is a pungent, flavorful side dish or topping that also happens to be exceptionally nutritious (via Medicine Net). Loaded with probiotics, sauerkraut translates to "sour cabbage" — an apt title, considering the assertive sourness that pervades the dish. Because sauerkraut is already such a bold ingredient, it’s often left alone and served as-is. But adding a little chopped bacon to the mix brings some deliciously wild results.
Think about it: What do we normally add sauerkraut to? Hot dogs are definitely at the top of the list — and bacon is always an excellent addition to a hot dog. So why not kill two birds with one stone and combine them? Mixing some bacon bits into sauerkraut allows the savory flavor of bacon to permeate the cabbage, imparting its trademark smokiness. The acidic bite of the sauerkraut is tempered by the smoky taste of bacon, elevating its flavor to new, delicious heights.
Creamy, flavorful, and easily spreadable, aioli is a versatile condiment and dipping sauce that can be found paired with everything from deli sandwiches to roasted vegetables. Essentially a more dressed-up version of mayonnaise, some common flavors associated with aioli include garlic, chili peppers, lime, and smoked paprika. And while bacon isn’t something you typically see in aioli on a regular basis, it’s a clever addition that works with a wide range of applications.
Blending bacon into aioli lends some big flavors and also brings some tangible variation to its otherwise smooth consistency. Imagine the possibilities: bacon aioli on your turkey sandwich, drizzled on your cheeseburger, or used as a dipping sauce for your french fries. It can also work as an exciting topping for tacos, grilled salmon, or as a dipping sauce for roasted potatoes. The flavors here can work on multiple levels in various culinary contexts, making this combination not only delicious but also highly useful.
Commonly used in countless baked goods, pizza dough, tortillas, and roux, there’s no doubt that flour is an essential ingredient that every kitchen should have on hand. While most of us tend to reach for this ground grain when we’re making a fresh batch of cookies or muffins, it’s not something that’s typically reached for when bacon is on the menu. But the secret’s out, and we’re happy to let you in on it: Flour works wonders on bacon.
Lightly dredging your bacon in flour before frying it accomplishes a few different things. For one, it helps soak up some of the extra fat that’s bound to pool in the bottom of the pan, which also helps minimize those potentially painful bursts of grease that pop off during the cooking process. But aside from that, like with any other ingredient you dredge in flour, it forms a light crust on the bacon, lending it an extra layer of crispness that’s highly satisfying.