Swap Bacon With Beef Jerky For Protein-Packed Brussels Sprouts Without The Grease

Like peanut butter and jelly or hot dogs and mustard, the duo of Brussels sprouts and bacon has earned its spot among the most iconic food pairings that simply work every time. But while you may love the smoky, meaty flavor that comes with the fried-up strips of pork, you (or your digestive system) may not be a fan of the slick coating of grease they never fail to leave behind on your vegetables. 

So, if you're looking to take a break from the bacon but can't resist a protein-packed bite of meat with your Brussels, why not try swapping in some good old-fashioned beef jerky? Aside from air-frying your Brussels sprouts or roasting them with a sweet and sour balsamic glaze, incorporating the dried meat ingredient into your next serving of Brussels sprouts is a surefire way to add extra flavor and bulk to your dish, sans the puddle of grease at the bottom.

When you think about it, beef jerky actually makes for the ideal bacon substitute in more ways than one. To start, the dehydrated meat product provides the same salty, smoky, and savory punch of flavor that pairs particularly well with the earthy, nutty profile of Brussels sprouts. And though it may not have the same crunchy mouthfeel as a crisp crumble of bacon, its tender chewiness simply amps up its succulence. The best part, of course, is that it's lean, filling, and nutritious, and, as opposed to bacon, doesn't require any extra cooking (or oily frying).

How to pair beef jerky with Brussels sprouts

Beef jerky can really be swapped into any dish that typically calls for bacon, including Tasting Table's own maple bacon Brussels sprouts recipe, which sees the sweet and the savory brought together by the amber warmth of maple syrup. As it happens, you might also compare beef jerky's taste and texture to another fan-favorite bedfellow of Brussels sprouts: pancetta, the Italian cured pork belly. So, if you're looking for more ways to incorporate jerky into your plate of Brussels, try our roasted Brussels sprouts with carrots and pancetta recipe, and simply swap out the pork belly for your go-to jerky.

There is a caveat to this substitute, however. Because beef jerky is already fully cooked and, comparatively, much leaner than the other meats, you won't want to cook it with your Brussels for as long as you would with bacon (or pancetta). A good rule of thumb? If you're going the roasting route, chop up your jerky and sprinkle in the pieces about halfway through the sprouts' total cook time. That way, you'll have warm, tender bits of meat to go with your leafy spheres, but they won't be burnt or overcooked.

Since you can find beef jerky available in a whole range of pre-seasoned packages, you can also experiment with different jerky flavors in your cruciferous creations; add some kick to your vegetables with a hot and spicy variety, or play up the rich, woody taste of a hickory-smoked selection. Trust us, you won't even miss the bacon.