Gretchen's Table: B in This Vegetarian BLT Is Rice Paper 'Bacon'

Gretchen's Table: B in This Vegetarian BLT Is Rice Paper 'Bacon'
Strips of rice paper are soaked in a soy sauce-based marinade and then baked to "create" bacon for a BLT. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)
Tribune News Service

By Gretchen McKay From Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When it comes to favorite sandwiches, one meat-and-veggie combination stands head and shoulders above the rest: bacon, lettuce and tomato.

A BLT is easy to prepare, uses humble ingredients and each bite provides an intoxicating mix of salty, crunchy, cool and tangy-sweet.

But what if you don't eat meat?

I discovered a pretty tasty substitute for bacon while strolling through my Instagram feed: rice paper.

Made from a mixture of white rice and tapioca flours, salt, and water, rice paper is the paper-thin building block for spring rolls. It's sold dried in thin, crisp, round sheet form, and has to be rehydrated briefly in water before it can be molded into shape and wrapped around ingredients.

To make bacon with it, you cut the paper into thin strips with a pair of kitchen shears, soak it in a salty/smoky/sweet marinade crafted from soy sauce, honey, liquid smoke and maple syrup, and bake it in a hot oven for around 8 minutes.

Not only does it smell like the real thing as it crisps on the pan, but it also sizzles like bacon as it cooks. Besides being vegetarian, it's also lower in saturated fat, cholesterol and calories than real bacon.

We're still many weeks away from the juicy, sun-kissed, homegrown tomatoes that make summer eating such a pleasure, but you can still make a fairly decent sandwich using vine or hothouse tomatoes. I made my BLT with toasted slices of country white bread, Boston lettuce leaves and a generous slather of Duke's mayo.

Vegetarian BLT

For Bacon

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 sheets spring roll rice paper wrappers
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
 Rice paper "bacon" for a vegetarian BLT. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)
Rice paper "bacon" for a vegetarian BLT. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

For Sandwich

  • 8 thick slices of large, ripe tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 small head Boston lettuce, divided into leaves
  • 8 slices Pullman loaf or country white bread
  • Mayonnaise


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.

Whisk together oil, soy sauce, maple syrup, Liquid Smoke, smoked paprika, garlic and onion powders and black pepper in a shallow baking dish until well incorporated.

With kitchen shears or a very sharp knife, cut rice paper wrappers into long, 1-inch-wide strips. Don't worry if some of your sheets crack or you end up with some half-pieces.

Fill a large bowl with slightly warm water. Hold together 2 rice-paper strips of roughly the same shape and size. Dip briefly in the water, which will cause them to lightly stick together. Squeegee the excess water off with your fingers.

Dip the doubled strip in the marinade, gently, coating front and back. Let the excess drip off, then place on a baking sheet. Repeat until all strips have been dipped (using a brush as needed as you get to the end of the marinade). Line them up on baking sheets as close as possible without overlapping.

Roast (middle rack) strips until they bubble and curl in spots and start to feel crisp on the edges, 7-9 minutes. Be careful: They can quickly go from crispy to burnt. (If you want them a little chewier, take them out a minute earlier.)

Compose sandwich: Season tomatoes with salt and pepper. Toast bread in the toaster.

Spread one side of toasted bread with mayonnaise. Add 2 slices of tomato to half the bread slices. Top with 1 or 2 lettuce leaves, then add 3-4 strips of bacon.

Top with remaining slices of bread. Press down slightly, cut in half and eat right away.

Makes 4 sandwiches.

— Adapted from

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