Bacon Grease Is The Easiest Way To Upgrade Canned Vegetables

Top-down view of various canned vegetables
Top-down view of various canned vegetables - Fotografiabasica/Getty Images

Canned vegetables make for an easy and nutritious side dish, and there are countless types to choose from. But the convenience aspect often sacrifices flavor and texture, so hacks are employed to add complexity to canned vegetables, such as incorporating them into casseroles or blanching them to revive their taste, color, and consistency. However, bacon grease is the single ingredient you need to elevate your canned veggies into ultra-savory, stand-alone sides.

Just as lard transforms a can of refried beans into a rich and flavorful dish and bits of bacon or ham are routinely added to collard greens, bacon grease imparts a burst of umami and smokiness to canned veggies. While you can buy a tub of bacon grease, frying bacon to obtain your own grease renders two useful ingredients for the price of one. Plus, you could also add chopped bacon to your canned vegetables for a chewy and crunchy textural contrast. The simplest and quickest way to cook canned veggies in bacon grease is to sear them in a cast iron pan.

Since canned vegetables are already cooked, the sear serves to infuse them with savory flavor while also creating a crispy, charred exterior. The trick is to get the bacon grease super hot before adding your drained canned veggies and then searing for just 30 seconds to a minute. Another stove-top method is to sauté your veggies in a saucepan over medium heat with bacon grease and a bit of the veggies' salty canning liquid. The liquid will evaporate, effectively seasoning the veggies with equal parts salt and savory.

Read more: 16 Worst Canned Foods You Can Buy

The Best Canned Veggies For The Bacon Grease Treatment

Close-up of green beans with bacon bits in a bowl
Close-up of green beans with bacon bits in a bowl - 4kodiak/Getty Images

if you need inspiration, we've recommended 16 canned vegetables you should consider stocking in your pantry, and the majority of them will benefit from the bacon grease treatment. Of course, the most obvious candidates are veggies that are commonly cooked with bacon, such as green beans, white potatoes, and dark leafy greens like spinach and collards, both of which come canned.

For leafy vegetables, peas, and canned tomatoes, the sauté method will keep them soft and juicy, while searing green beans or potatoes in bacon grease provides the ultimate flavor and texture upgrade. Canned sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets are all sweet and earthy veggies that will pair wonderfully with the savoriness of bacon grease as well as the charred flavor and texture of a sear. You can also sear canned corn in bacon grease for an elevated Mexican street corn salad, which you can then garnish with Parmesan cheese, chili powder, and a squeeze of lime juice.

Canned olives or canned artichoke hearts can also be seared in bacon grease to create smoky, umami-rich appetizers that you can sprinkle with red pepper flakes and oregano, or serve with a creamy horseradish remoulade sauce. Of course, it's possible to cook more than one canned vegetable at a time, too. For example, you can make a rich pasta sauce by sautéing canned tomatoes, peas, and artichoke hearts in bacon grease.

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