As plant-based diets become more popular and prevalent, home chefs seem to always be looking for new ways to get creative with fruits and vegetables in the kitchen. In a new trend, discarded banana peels are being prepared, marinated and cooked up to imitate crispy bacon or tender pulled pork.
First and foremost: yes, banana peels are edible. In fact, they are common in cuisines around the world in places like India, and provide important nutrients, including potassium, fiber and polyunsaturated fats.
Evan Miner in Westbrook said that he and his partner, Alex Harriman, first saw the banana peel “bacon” trend on Instagram.
“We’re both pescatarians who eat a lot of vegan meals,” Miner said. “I really like to cook, especially getting creative and using up what’s in the house to put meals together, and we eat bananas everyday anyways, so although a little skeptical, we were pretty psyched to try it.”
If you want to try banana peel bacon, the best banana peels for bacon are super-ripe, to the point where they are almost all brown with no remaining yellow.
Then, they need to be properly prepared.
“I typically wash the outside of the banana before I peel it, then cut off the ends and peel it in two to four strips,” Miner said. “Then you’re supposed to take a spoon and remove some of the insides from the peel. You wanna leave some ‘meat,’ but [leave] too much and it will be mushy.”
Miner said he will usually save a couple days’ worth of prepared peels in the refrigerator so he can have a stockpile for when he is ready to cook them up. The peels also need to be marinated for at least a couple hours. There are a variety of recipes online for banana peel bacon marinade, but Miner said that base tends to include soy sauce, liquid smoke, maple syrup and a mix of spices, including garlic powder, smoked paprika and pepper.
Then, simply fry the marinated peels until crispy. The cooking process will be quicker than conventional bacon, about a couple minutes. Watch the peels carefully, as they burn easily.
“You want the peel side to bubble up a little, and pull it off when it’s starting to firm up,” Miner said. “It can be pretty smoky depending [on] what’s in your marinade too.”
Banana peel “bacon” is tricky to master. Even seconds too long in the pan yields a fairly inedible charcoal crisp. Too little time on the pan, though, and the sweet, flaccid skin makes you all too aware that you’re eating something you would normally toss in the compost. Sometimes, though, that perfect timing will yield a balance of flavor and texture that will make you say, “Huh. Almost tastes like a vague approximation of bacon.”
Miner said that he also makes banana peels into imitation pulled “pork” for tacos.
“If we’re doing [pulled] pork, we cut them into shorter thin strips and sauté [them] with BBQ sauce,” Miner said. “You just want to cut them into smaller shreds instead of longer strips. The marinade can be about the same, and then you sauté it all together, stirring occasionally instead of flipping sides. Then stir in a little BBQ sauce, and you’re done! They’re good on buns, in tacos, or served on top of nachos.”
If you’re seeking other experimental vegan “bacon” ideas, they’re out there. Avery Yale Kamila, a vegan food columnist and activist based in Portland, said that while she has never made banana peel bacon, she has seen a number of creative bacon alternatives popping up in vegan food circles.
“I’m intrigued by all the new vegan bacon recipes that have emerged in recent years, such as shiitake bacon, rice paper bacon, coconut bacon, eggplant bacon and banana peel bacon,” Kamila said. “The proliferation of these recipes speaks to the upwelling of interest in eating plant-based foods and reducing meat consumption.”