Sweet and Smoky Bacon Jam. Brown sugar, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, coffee, apple cider vinegar, caramelized onions and of course, LOTS of bacon give this spread addictively deep, smoky, spicy, sweet, and salty flavors. You’re going to want to spread it on everything– consider this fair warning.
I don’t know what I love more– the smell of this bacon jam cooking, or actually eating it. (Okay, yes I do. Eating it, for sure. But someone out there should make a Bacon Jam candle and ship a few to my house as a “thank you” for that brilliant idea.)
When I first heard of bacon jam, I was NOT enticed. Bacon in fruit-jam-like form seemed pretty unappealing– I imagined globs of a wet, jello-like texture with bacon dust mixed in, or worse, pureed boiled bacon. But don’t let me turn you off to it, because as I later learned, that’s not what bacon jam is like at all.
Instead, it’s sort of like a chutney, where crisp, finely crumbled bacon and caramelized onions mingle together with brown sugar (for sweetness), coffee (for depth), apple cider vinegar (for tanginess), and spices (for heat and smokiness). When spread on crostini (or in a grilled cheese, or on a burger), it’s basically heaven.
(Wow, I got a little excited with the parentheses there.)
HOW TO USE BACON JAM
There are countless ways to use up your jar full of jam, and I couldn’t even attempt to list them all, though I did begin to get into them above. But here are some of my favorites:
- Bake up some brie and spoon a whole bunch of bacon jam on top.
- Rub and marinate chicken thighs with the bacon jam, then roast.
- Toss brussels sprouts in the bacon jam, then roast.
- Use it as a spread on sandwiches or, my favorite, grilled cheese.
- Mix the bacon jam into baked beans.
- Serve the jam with eggs and toast for breakfast.
- Mix with cream cheese, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and green onions to make a chip dip.
- Spread it on a hamburger or cheeseburger.
- Use it as a base on a pizza or flatbread dough. (I’m eating a flatbread with leftover bacon jam, blue cheese, and balsamic as I type this, actually.)
- Warm the jam and whisk in olive oil to create a warm bacon salad dressing.
- Add the bacon jam to tomato sauce or alfredo sauce and serve over pasta.
- Add the bacon jam to ground meat to make bacony meatloaf.
- Warm the jam and toss with roasted potatoes.
- Spread the bacon jam over avocado toast.
- And most importantly, eat it as-is, spread on crackers or crusty bread.
If you can think of other ways to use Sweet and Smoky Bacon Jam, let me know in the comments!
HOW TO MAKE BACON JAM
There are a lot of bacon jam recipes out there, with all different ingredients and all different ways to make it. Some have you cook up the bacon and onions and then add it all to the slow cooker. Others cook it all in a pot with plenty of sugar and maple syrup. Some turn out super thick, some slightly watery– and some are pretty damn good. But I have to say that I’ve done a lot of testing and this is my absolute favorite way to make it.
This Sweet & Smoky Bacon Jam is cooked entirely in a large skillet, so there’s no need to transfer it to a slow cooker and dirty up another dish, or to wait a long time for it to cook. In fact, it cooks in just 30-35 minutes!
All you have to do is:
Chop up some bacon.
Add it to a skillet and cook until crispy.
Remove the bacon and cook onions in a bit of the rendered bacon fat. Let them begin to caramelize.
Add in seasonings, apple cider vinegar, seasonings, and brown sugar.*
Continue to cook, then crumble add back the bacon.
Cook some more, until deeply browned and jam-like.
And then you’re ready to eat!
A FEW NOTES FOR THE BEST BACON JAM:
You might have noticed the asterisk above when I mentioned the brown sugar. SO MANY RECIPES USE WHAT FEELS LIKE A LITERAL TON OF BROWN SUGAR. And then they add maple syrup on top of that. Resist the urge! While it sounded like a great decision at first, after testing, I found the final product to be cloyingly sweet with so much sugar. Caramelized onions are sweet themselves, so 1/3 cup of brown sugar adds enough without overwhelming all of the rest of the flavors.
And since we’re on the subject, there are other ingredients you should be careful not to add too much of– namely, cayenne pepper and salt. I usually add about 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, but it adds quite a bit of heat, so start off small and add more if you’d like. Similarly, because bacon is already salty, you might not need any at all (I usually don’t). So be sure you taste and adjust the seasonings– and add salt, only if necessary –before you serve.
One last note– and this one doesn’t have to do with ingredients– but if you find that your bacon jam is still a little loose or chunky after cooking it down, just give it a quick pulse in your food processor or blender. It’s not always necessary, but it definitely helps if you’re finding your bacon jam difficult to spread.
Other than that, it’s pretty straight-forward. Don’t believe me? Check out the video below to see!
SWEET AND SMOKY BACON JAM VIDEOPrint
- 1 pound bacon, chopped
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup coffee
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, plus 1 sprig to garnish
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste, optional
- Kosher salt, to taste, optional
- Crostini, assorted cheeses, and crackers, to serve
- Cook bacon in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat until the bacon is crispy and the rendered fat begins to foam, about 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined baking sheet and discard of all but about 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat.
- Return the skillet to medium heat and pour over the onions. Cook until soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.
- Add in the brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, coffee, garlic, thyme, smoked paprika, black pepper, and cayenne pepper– if using. Stir and cook until the mixture is a warm brown and somewhat thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Finely chop the bacon. Then add the bacon back to the onion mixture and continue to cook until the mixture is dark reddish-brown and is jam-like in consistency, about 10 more minutes. If the mixture dries out as it cooks, add a couple of tablespoons of water at a time, as needed. Taste and season with kosher salt and adjust seasonings, as desired.
- Remove from heat. If too chunky or not jam-like, pulse briefly in a food processor or blender. Transfer to a large bowl or jar, garnish with a sprig of thyme, and serve at room temperature with crostini, assorted cheeses, and crackers.