Making your own bacon bits in your air fryer is so easy and they taste so much better than store-bought bacon bits! You may be thinking, I can simply cook bacon and crumble it up, but that isn't going to give you the same texture and flavor as these bacon bits will.
Homemade bacon crumbles (cooked and crumbled bacon) will work in most recipes, but if you want to experience the BEST BACON BITS ever, follow this cooking technique!
Bacon bits are perfect for tossed salads, pasta salads, baked potato toppings, adding to egg salad, and so much more!
Cooking Methods For Homemade Bacon Bits
Recommended Cooking Method: Air Frying
Alternative Cooking Methods: Pan Fry or Oven Bake
I like to use my air fryer when making homemade bacon bits, but you can make them in the oven or on the stove. The great thing about using an air fryer is the bacon goes in the basket and the bacon grease drips through the holes. When you are done, you can easily remove the basket and strain the grease to use for cooking or making warm bacon dressing!
Ingredients & Substitutions
There is only one simple ingredient in this recipe: bacon! While I am a huge fan of thick-cut bacon, I use thinner and less-expensive bacon in this recipe. The yield may be slightly more if you use thick-cut, but I like the texture better when I use thin bacon. It doesn't matter what kind of bacon you use, but I recommend using a brand that you like to eat as regular strips of bacon.
It's important to use raw bacon in this recipe and not the prepackaged bacon that is fully cooked. I use a whole pack of bacon which is 1 pound and can cook all of it at one time in my air fryer. It does not have to be in a single layer, but unless you have a very large air fryer I would only do 1 pound at a time.
As far as substitutes go, I have not tried using turkey bacon, but I'm sure you could make it work as long as you lowered the heat quite a bit and purchased a style of turkey bacon that actually becomes crispy when cooked.
How to Make Homemade Bacon Bits
Preparing the Bacon
It is much easier to cut cold bacon, so leave it in the refrigerator until just before you want to cut it. You can also freeze it for 30 minutes if you want to.
Using a sharp knife or scissors, cut the bacon into thin strips about 1 inch thick. Remember they will reduce in size quite a bit as they cook so cut them about twice as big as you want the final bacon bits to be. If you are air frying them, make sure they are cut big enough that they don't all fall through the holes in the basket or the tray.
While you could line the basket with parchment paper, it will prevent the grease from falling down into the inner pot or pan of the air fryer and the bacon crisps up better when the bacon pieces are sitting in the basket.
Once the bacon is cut into strips, separate any that are stuck together. I usually cut several pieces at once and separate them, but you could cut each piece separately and not worry about having to separate them.
Depending on your cooking method of choice, either place the bacon strips into the basket (or crisping plate) of your air fryer, or place them on a baking sheet pan for baking, or into a hot pan for stovetop cooking.
Air Fryer Instructions
Air frying is my preferred method for making homemade bacon bits because I don't have to worry about grease splattering or moving a tray of grease from the oven.
Different air fryers will cook slightly differently so you may have to adjust your temperature and timing depending on the model of air fryer you have.
I have tested the recipe in both the Ninja Speedi and the Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker & Air Crisper and didn't have to make any changes. In the Ninja Foodi, I used the air fryer basket and in the Speedi I positioned the crisping plate in the low position.
You do not need to preheat the air fryer.
Place the pieces of bacon into the air fryer and air fry on 400°F for 20-25 minutes, tossing the bacon pieces around every 5 minutes for even cooking. The bacon pieces do not need to be in a single layer, they will cook evenly because you toss them around every 5 minutes or so.
They are done when the fat has rendered and the bacon meat is golden brown. Bacon bits should be mostly the meat with almost all of the fat rendered out, but if you want to stop cooking them before all the fat renders that is perfectly fine.
Since all the grease has drained off the bacon you can simply let the cooked bacon cool right in the basket.
Once cooled, remove the basket or crisping plate and transfer the bacon bits to a container.
You may find that some of the bacon became small enough to fall through the holes of the basket, no worries! Simply strain the grease into a separate container and place the extra bacon bits onto a paper towel to drain.
Reserve the bacon grease for cooking or make a delicious warm bacon dressing!
If you see any particles of bacon in the bacon grease, strain it again and line the strainer with cheesecloth or a flour sack or coffee filter. Store the bacon grease in a covered container (mason jars work great) in the refrigerator for 6 months or you can freeze it!
When making homemade bacon bits on the stove, temperature control is very important. You can use a stainless steel frying pan or a nonstick pan as long as it is big enough to fit all the bacon pieces PLUS about ¾ cup of bacon grease.
You could also use a Dutch Oven or a large pot, but I find a 2-3" deep frying pan to be the easiest.
Heat the Pan
Before adding the sliced bacon, heat the pan over medium-high heat for about 3-5 minutes.
Fry the Bacon
Add the bacon strips to the pan and let them cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.
Different stoves and pans will conduct heat differently, so you may find that you need to lower the heat to medium or even medium low. You want the bacon to cook slow enough that the fat renders out before the meat browns too much.
If you smell anything burning, turn the heat down. If the bacon doesn't seem to be rendering fat, turn the heat up.
Stir every 3-5 minutes and cook until all the fat has rendered out of the bacon and the bacon bits are nicely browned. This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes depending on your stove and the type of pan you are using.
Strain the Grease
There are several ways you can strain the bacon bits from the bacon grease, but the easiest way is to use a fine mesh strainer that is big enough to hold all the bacon and put it over a large bowl so the grease can go into the bowl.
Once strained, place the bacon bits onto a paper towel to cool and drain a bit more.
Once cooled, they are ready to use in your favorite dishes!
Select the Baking Pan
When making homemade bacon bits in an oven you want to make sure you are using a rimmed baking sheet pan so the grease is contained.
You can line the baking tray with aluminum foil if you like.
Bake the Bacon Strips
Preheating the oven isn't necessary, but you can if you like.
Place the bacon strips onto the tray and spread them out into a single layer.
Place the baking tray on the middle oven rack. Set the temperature to 375℉/190℃.
Cook the bacon for about 15 minutes and take a look at it. The fat should be rendering out and the bacon pieces darkening up. If you aren't seeing that, increase the temperature to 400℉/205℃. If the bacon is getting too dark and the fat isn't rendering out fast enough, lower the temperature to 350℉/176℃.
The bacon bits are going to take about 30 minutes in the oven and when it is done, carefully remove the tray and set it on a cooling rack.
Strain & Cool the Bacon Bits
Use a metal slotted spoon to scoop the bacon bits out of the grease and let them drain and cool on paper towels.
Strain the remainder of bacon grease through a fine sieve strainer.
Once cooled, the crispy bacon bits are ready to use on top of salads, garnish for your favorite soup, or add as pizza toppings. They make a great addition to so many different dishes.
Flavor Variations of Bacon Bits
Candied Bacon Bits
If you are a bacon lover like me and my husband, then you have probably tried candied bacon, and guess what?... candied bacon makes delicious bacon bits!
Simply marinate the bacon slices and then slice into strips to make homemade candied bacon bits. Because there is a higher sugar content, lower the cooking temperature about 50 degrees.
Sweet & Smokey Bacon Bits
Marinate bacon slices in maple syrup, water, and about 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke. Liquid smoke is very concentrated so less is more!
Marinate overnight and then slice the bacon into strips and air fry!
Honey Ginger Soy Bacon Bits
Combine honey, water, and soy sauce with freshly grated ginger and marinate the bacon slices in the fridge overnight.
Cut the bacon into strips and air fry!
How to Store Bacon Bits
Make sure the bacon bits have cooled and then transfer them into an airtight container or plastic bag. I like to put a paper towel in with them to absorb any excess grease which helps keep them crispy longer!
You can store them in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Before freezing, I recommend putting the bacon bits in the refrigerator overnight so they are completely cold.
The slightest amount of steam from them being warm and going into a freezer can cause ice crystals to form.
Put the bacon bits into a freezer bag, vacuum sealer bag (and vacuum seal) or a freezer container that is airtight.
Freeze for up to 6 months for best quality.
Frequently Asked Questions
Homemade bacon bits should always be stored in the refrigerator or frozen for longer storage.
Bacon bits will last 4-5 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container or up to 6 months in the freezer.
You can make as much or as little as you want by increasing or decreasing the bacon used.
For the best results, I don't recommend cooking any more than 1 pound of bacon cut into strips at a time.
The cooking times will stay the same no matter how little or how much bacon you cook.
1 pound of bacon strips will make about 1 cup of bacon bits.
You can store strained and cooled bacon grease in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 6 months and in the freezer for a year or more as long as it is packaged properly.
Use your Homemade Bacon Bits in these Recipes!
Even if recipes don't call for homemade bacon bits, they can always be added as an added flavor and texture.
Here are some recipes where bacon bits would be a delicious addition!
Homemade Bacon Bits Recipe
- 1 pound thin cut bacon
- Keep the bacon cold or freeze for 20-30 minutes before slicing to make it easier.
- Using a sharp knife or scissors, slice the bacon into about 1" strips. I do this by removing the entire pound of bacon from the wrapper and cut all the bacon slices at once.1 pound thin cut bacon
Air Fryer Instructions
- Separate the bacon strips and place them into the basket or crisping plate of the air fryer. They do not need to be in a single layer.
- Select the air fry (air crisp) function and set the temperature to 400℉/200℃ and the time for 25 minutes.
- Air Fryer for 20-25 minutes, stirring and tossing around the bacon strips every 5 minutes. They are done when the fat has rendered and the bacon bits are golden brown.
- Allow the bacon bits to cool in the basket or on the crisping plate. Strain the bacon grease and place any extra bacon bits that fell into the grease onto a paper towel to drain. Strain the grease if you want to save it for later.
Stove Top Instructions
- Place a 10" skillet on the stove and heat it over medium-high heat for about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the bacon strips and let them cook for about 5-10 minutes. Stir and toss them around. Adjust the burner temperature as needed so the bacon cooks slow enough to render the fat and not burn the bacon meat. The cooking process can take 20-30 minutes, depending on your stove and the type of pan used.
- Fry the bacon strips until the grease has rendered and the bacon is golden brown. Remove the bacon bits from the grease using a slotted metal spoon and drain on paper towels. Strain the grease if you want to save it for later.
- Place the bacon strips onto a baking sheet that is rimmed to hold in the grease.
- Place on the middle rack of the oven and set the temperature to 375℉/190℃ and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the grease is rendered and the bacon is golden brown.
- Carefully remove the tray from the oven and set on a cooling rack. Remove the bacon bits using a metal slotted spoon and put them on a paper towel to drain and cool. Strain the grease on the tray if you want to save it for alter.
- The bacon will shrink quite a bit when cooking so make the strips about twice the size as you want the bacon bits.
- 1 pound of bacon will yield about 1 cup of bacon bits.
- If using thick cut bacon, lower the temperature by 25 degrees and plan on cooking about 5 extra minutes.
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
She published her first cookbook in the Fall of 2018 and is very interested in writing several more.
Louise is also the creator of an online Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooking Course with over 100 instructional step-by-step videos. People absolutely rave about the course and all the value they have received from it.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can. Get more Information about Louise & contact information
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