on Dec 06, 2021, Updated Feb 20, 2024
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Smoky and sweet and salty and crispy and chewy...candied bacon is just plain ridiculously delicious.
Just when you think bacon can’t get any better — you discover candied bacon. Crispy, salty, sweet, smoky, spicy. Is it an appetizer? A breakfast food? A side dish? A snack? Yes, to all. It’s just plain delicious, and an indulgent treat no matter how you serve it. You also need to check out the variation for Millionaire’s bacon, a spicier version of Candied Bacon with charms all its own.
The first time I encountered candied bacon was at a New York institution of a restaurant called Peter Luger’s. Peter Luger’s was a steakhouse with a larger-than-life reputation. The huge, aged steaks, the brusque waiters, the famous steak sauce…it was beloved by carnivores lucky enough to score a reservation and flush enough to pay the tab.
My dad was a fan, as was his dad, and often picked it when we were celebrating something good. There were some very classic appetizers to order (sliced tomatoes and onions with their secret sauce, a wedge salad), there was also something utterly perplexing — a single strip of crispy, sweet, thick bacon. I do remember thinking that I had not seen anyone eat anything with as much pleasure as my dad ate that candied bacon.
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How to Make Candied Bacon: Smoky and sweet and salty and crispy and chewy and just plain ridiculously delicious.Tweet This
What Is Candied Bacon?
Candied Bacon, or bacon candy, is simply thick-cut bacon that has been brushed or sprinkled with something sweet, given a touch of heat, and then baked until crispy and caramelized. (Sometimes it’s called pig candy or man candy, but — no, just not a fan of those names.) TikTok and other social media platforms have versions called Millionaire’s Bacon — see the Variation! — and I love that name!
It’s smoky and sweet and salty and crispy and chewy and just plain ridiculous. You can use brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, or even a combo. I also like to add a little heat to mine with a tiny sprinkle of cayenne pepper and/or a bit of freshly ground black pepper (see below for a spicer Millionaire’s Bacon variation). You do NOT need salt! The bacon is plenty salty!
Candied Bacon Ingredients
- Bacon – I prefer thick-cut bacon, which has a more toothsome bite and a nice chew (kind of like jerky), even while the outside gets that burnished, crisp exterior. You can use thin-sliced bacon, but as you would expect, thinner slices will crisp up faster. You should watch to make sure the bacon doesn’t tip over from crisp to burnt (which absolutely has happened to me).
- Light brown sugar – Adds the sweetness. Dark brown sugar has more molasses than light brown, which could cause the bacon to burn, so stick with light brown.
- Black pepper – Contrasts with the sweetness of the brown sugar and adds a touch of heat.
- Cayenne pepper – More heat, but the level is up to you. See the variation for Millionaire’s bacon, which has a bigger kick.
How to Make Candied Bacon
- Prepare the oven: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil (seriously, do this!) and place a wire cooling rack in the baking sheet.
- Season the bacon: Lay the bacon strips on the rack crosswise, making sure they don’t overlap at all; it’s ok if they are just touching. Lightly and evenly sprinkle the brown sugar over the strips of bacon, using about 1 teaspoon per strip. Very lightly dust a bit of black pepper and also some cayenne, if desired, on each strip.
- Bake the bacon: Bake for about 25 minutes, until the sugar is melted and the bacon is a deep mahogany brown and fairly crisp. You may want to check midway through the baking to see if the bacon is cooking evenly; if there are areas that seem to be cooking faster than others, rotate the pan in the oven. Remember that the bacon will continue to crisp up a bit as it cools.
- Cool and serve: Let the bacon cool on the rack for at least 3 minutes; that caramelized sugar is hot, and you could burn your mouth if you can’t resist for a few minutes! You can do it! Also, when the bacon cools, the glaze becomes firm and the bacon chewy.
Storing Bacon Candy
Make sure to cool the bacon completely before eating or storing. You can store candied bacon in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. Place a piece of parchment paper or wax paper between the layers of bacon so they don’t stick together. If the bacon starts to soften, crisp it back up in a 375-degree oven for about 5 minutes, watching it carefully, then let it cool again.
You can also freeze the bacon for up to 2 months. You don’t have to defrost it; just warm it through in a 350-degree oven or the microwave, then let it cool to room temperature before eating.
- Make sure to let the bacon cool completely for the best flavor and texture (and to prevent mouth burning!).
- Don’t overlap the bacon on the baking sheet.
- Line the baking sheet completely with foil to make clean-up super easy.
- Remember that the bacon will continue to crisp up a bit as it cools, so remove it just before it is as crispy as you want.
How to Eat Candied Bacon
One delicious bite at a time! Serve it as an appetizer or a snack or as part of a brunch. It’s a real treat for the holidays, and if you serve it up at a cocktail party, be prepared for it to go and go FAST. I once saw a piece slid into a Bloody Mary, which seemed kind of cool, kind of odd.
You can also think about slicing it crosswise or crumbling it and adding it to salads, like a Cobb Salad, a Waldorf Salad, or a wedge salad. Maybe place a slice or two into a grilled cheese. Add it to a graze board! Or sprinkle it over a soup (try Roasted Butternut Squash Soup or Lentil Tomato Soup).
Variation: Millionaire’s Bacon
The perfect combo of sweet and heat! This is believed to have originated at a restaurant in San Francisco called Sweet Maple. Millionaire’s bacon is the spicier cousin of candied bacon. And apparently, it is also called Snoop Dog bacon, because he’s a fan — who knew? And a version of this bacon has been extremely popular at the fast food chain Twin Peaks. it’s a thing, for sure!
All you need to do is double the suggested amount of cayenne. Or, try another source of heat, like gochujang sauce (a wonderful Korean hot sauce or paste), red pepper flakes, Sriracha sauce,
Apparently, it first became popular in Washington D.C., where politicians munched away on this salty, smoky, sweet treat while they wheeled and sealed. But there is also a high probability that it arrives in D.C. via the Southern states, and apparently, it also has some claim to roots in California. I imagine it has multiple origin stories!
Yes, because it’s made with bacon, it must be stored in the fridge for food safety reasons.
What to Serve With Candied Bacon
More Bacon Recipes
- Bacon-Wrapped Green Beans
- The Ultimate BLT Sandwich
- Straws with Bacon
- Chicken, Bacon, and Avocado Spread Sandwich
- The Best Easy Cheesy Loaded Hasselback Potatoes
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- 8 strips thick cut bacon
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar (light or dark)
- Freshly ground pepper (to taste)
- Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire cooling rack in the baking sheet.
- Lay the bacon strips on the rack crosswise, making sure they don’t overlap at all; it’s ok if they are just touching. Lightly and evenly sprinkle the brown sugar over the strips of bacon, using about 1 teaspoon per strip. Very lightly dust a bit of black pepper and also some cayenne, if desired, on each strip.
- Bake for about 25 minutes, until the sugar is melted and the bacon is a deep mahogany brown and fairly crisp. You may want to check midway through the baking to see if the bacon is cooking evenly; if there are areas that seem to be cooking faster than others, rotate the pan in the oven. Remember that the bacon will continue to crisp up a bit as it cools.
- Let the bacon cool on the rack for at least 3 minutes; that caramelized sugar is hot, and you could burn your mouth if you can’t resist for a few minutes! You can do it!