Gooey, cheesy, and really easy, these Vegan Bacon Grilled Cheese Sandwiches are absolutely STUFFED with melty vegan cheese and homemade vegan bacon bits inside grilled crispy yet tender bread for an epic vegan sandwich experience. Modeled after Panera’s retired “Big Kid Grilled Cheese,” this is a sandwich both adults and kids will love, plus it comes together in under 10 minutes!
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Hey Internet, I don’t know about you, but grilled cheeses are one of my favorite sandwiches. They’re a classic--they’re easy to make, they’re delicious, and they’re pretty much no-fuss.
I’m already a pretty big sandwich fan. Some of my favorites include: Vegan Philly Cheesesteak, Vegan Tuna Melt, Vegan Chicken Salad, Vegan Lobster Roll, and my portobello bacon on a BLAT (“bacon”, lettuce, avocado, tomato).
I kind already sorta have a recipe for vegan grilled cheese sandwiches, as part of my Instant Pot Tomato Soup recipe (stovetop instructions included). But I think these are better.
These vegan bacon grilled cheese sandwiches are stuffed with two different kinds of vegan cheese and, you guessed it, vegan bacon.
I have a lot of recipes for bacon on my site, but my favorite for this is vegan bacon bits.
The taste and texture are so close to that sandwich I used to buy from Panera back when they had it, which was before I went vegan. The dairy did make me sick but at the time it was worth it.
Well, I’m here to tell you that while I can’t replicate those cheeses perfectly, I did find some that come pretty close in terms of flavor, meltability, and even pretty close in stretch which is something that vegan cheese struggles with.
AND if you’ve prepared the vegan bacon bits in advance (they only take about 20 minutes to make anyway)--which is easy since they keep in the fridge for about 5 days--this recipe takes only 5-10 minutes to make.
Why This Recipe Works
This vegan bacon grilled cheese could not really be any easier but let me tell you how it comes together.
All you need to do is butter your bread with vegan butter (vegan mayo or full fat coconut milk also work!) on one side of each slice. Then lay them butter side down in the pan or on the grill press.
Then, you add a thick layer of vegan cheese--you can use any, but I’ll give you my favorite brands below. Sliced or shredded works, but sliced is less messy. I've made these with both and they always turn out delicious.
After that you can add the vegan bacon bits or you can use store-bought. Then add ANOTHER layer of cheese, potentially a different flavor.
Then just put on the other slice of bread, again butter side facing AWAY from the inside of the sandwich.
I’ll share my tips and tricks for melting vegan cheese below, but it depends partially on the brand. One trick that helps is covering the skillet with a lid. The lid traps the heat and helps melt the vegan cheese.
The other way that works very well for me is a sandwich or panini press of sorts. I love my Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler for this purpose especially. It cooks it faster, and I don’t have to pay much attention to it. I just set a timer and clean up my kitchen a little bit while it does its job.
Recipe Ingredients and Notes
- Bread: You can use any bread you like! I like to slice a battard or large loaf of fresh store-baked bread for my vegan bacon grilled cheese, but it works with store-bought bread just the same. Want things a little healthier? Try an ancient grain or seeded bread, like Ezekiel or Squirrel Hill. If you can’t have gluten, use your favorite gluten-free bread.
- Vegan butter: Any vegan butter or margarine will work. We like Miyoko’s Cultured Vegan Butter or Earth Balance Buttery Spread the best but anything is fine. If you’re one of those people who prefers to use mayo, by all means spread on some vegan mayo. If you’d like to reduce the amount of oil, I’ve found that liberally brushing one side of each slice of bread with unsweetened canned full fat coconut milk also works. And no, it doesn’t have a strong coconut flavor in my opinion.
- Vegan cheese: There are so many different brands and kinds of vegan cheese out there, we’re much luckier than we were 10+ years ago in that way. I’ll recommend some brands, but keep in mind I’m in the US and I know brands and availability differ a lot inside and outside of the country I’m in. My two favorite brands for flavor and meltability are Field Roast Chao Cheese Slices and 365 Vegan Cheese Slices (the Whole Foods generic brand). That’s what I used in these sandwiches and they’re my go-to cheeses. Other brands we really like include Violife, Follow Your Heart, Daiya, and Tofutti. We also want to mention that we often make vegan grilled cheese with vegan cheese shreds. It’s a little messier but they melt a little faster and they can be easier to find. The best melting shredded vegan cheese is Follow Your Heart Finely Shredded variety. Experiment with your local available vegan cheeses. Or try making your own! Our 5-minute vegan mozzarella and vegan cheddar are easy to make, spread onto the bread, and grill. They’re oil-free too, which might be helpful for those of you who are watching their oil and fat intake.
- Vegan bacon: I used my homemade vegan bacon bits for this recipe. They take about 20 minutes to make and you can make a batch a few days ahead of time--it lasts about 5 days in the fridge. You could alternatively try my soy curl bacon if you want bigger chunks or my portobello bacon if you want a more “whole food” option. Or store-bought vegan bacon will also work!
How to Make Vegan Bacon Grilled Cheese
- If using a skillet: Preheat a medium or large nonstick skillet over medium low heat. The name of the game is low and slow so you don’t burn the bread before the cheese even melts.
- If using a sandwich press: Heat on medium - high (depends on the brand) for a few minutes or until any light indicators turn green, depending on the brand.
- Butter one side of each slice of bread using softened vegan butter or vegan mayo.
- Lay them butter/mayo side down in the pan. I like to put them both in at the same time to get the bread heated up.
- Put one thick layer of vegan cheese down on the bottom. I like to do 2-3 slices to cover my bread, depending on the size. I do that Field Roast Chao first, but use whatever you have. My point with telling you that is to remind you to use two different cheeses, one for each layer, if you like. Then add a thick layer of the vegan bacon bits or whatever you’re using. Next add the other layer of cheese - for this one I used the 365 vegan american cheese slices. Finally, add the other piece of bread, butter side facing up or AWAY from the sandwich.
- If cooking in a skillet, I recommend placing a lid on the pan and cooking for 3-5 minutes each side. Use a large nonstick spatula to gently check the underside of the bread. If it’s ready to be flipped, do so and put the lid back on, cooking for another 2-4 minutes. It’s done when the bread is crispy and browned to your liking, and the cheese should be mostly if not fully melted.
- If cooking in the panini press, gently push down the top of the press and cook 4-6 minutes. Check and see if it needs more time, but 5 minutes is the sweet spot for my machine. Your vegan bacon grilled cheese is done when the bread is crispy and browned to your liking, and the cheese should be mostly if not fully melted.
- Cut your sandwich in half if you like and serve immediately. Enjoy! Maybe with some vegan Instant Pot Tomato Soup?
- Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days, but you may want to reheat in a pan to get the crisp factor back.
Frequently Asked Questions
Some vegan cheeses may have trouble melting, it really depends on the brand. As mentioned, a lid over the pot can help, as can a low and slow approach; low heat, longer time in the pan. Another thing that can help is to brush a little oil onto the vegan cheese to help it melt. If it really won’t melt, my quick fix is to put the sandwich in a microwave. It can melt the cheese faster. Then stick it back in the pan to crisp up the bread.
At the risk of sounding cliche, these vegan bacon grilled cheese sandwiches are SO GOOD dunked in vegan tomato soup. It’s a classic combination for a reason! They’re good with any other soup, really, or just a little side salad like my Vegan Italian Salad.
The sandwiches will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I recommend reheating the sandwiches in a nonstick pan to get the crispiness back.
Pro Tips for Success
- If you slice your own bread, don’t slice it too thick or it will take even longer to cook. Also, if using the panini press, it’ll flatten one end of your sandwich in a weird way if the sandwich is too thick (at least, this is the case with my Cuisinart 5-in-1 griddler).
- You may need to experiment with vegan cheeses until you find the one you love the taste of AND how it melts.
- To make the sandwich fuse together, I recommend putting the vegan bacon in between the layers of cheese, so that both pieces of bread have some vegan cheese to fuse to.
- If using a skillet, be aware of hot spots in your pan. For me, the hottest part of my preferred burner is the lower left. So if my sandwich is in the lower left of my pan, there’s a good chance it’s going to cook (and possibly burn) faster. So pay attention to your sandwich!
- If you want to use homemade vegan cheese, you can definitely try that. I’ve tried this with both my homemade stretchy vegan mozzarella sauce and my homemade stretchy vegan cheddar sauce with great success.
- You can substitute the vegan bacon for other things, like a slice of tomato, a handful of spinach, some vegan deli meat, some vegan pepperoni, or whatever else you want.
More Recipes Like This
I love sandwiches, wraps, subs, etc. These are my favorite handheld meals.
- Vegan Fish Tacos
- Vegan Philly Cheesesteak
- Soy Curl Bacon BLT
- Vegan Lobster Roll
- Vegan Tuna Melt
- Portobello Mushroom Bacon BLAT
- Vegan Sheet Pan Quesadilla
- Vegan Honey Mustard Chicken Wraps
- BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich
- Vegan Carne Asada + Tacos
- Vegan Gyros
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