This Vegan Caramelized Onion & Bacon Grilled Cheese is the ULTIMATE vegan sandwich. Ooey gooey cheese, smoky tempeh bacon, sweet onions caramelized to perfection and balanced with the tartness of a green apple.. You're gonna love this fancy grilled cheese!
Truly nothing better than a vegan grilled cheese except for one thing... a vegan caramelized onion and tempeh bacon grilled cheese. Obviously.
This leveled up grilled cheese is perfect for lunch or dinner! Prep the caramelized onions ahead of time (and maybe double it cause yum!) and you'll have a delicious sandwich ready in no time!
No fancy equipment is required to make this vegan bacon grilled cheese.
- Sourdough or Crusty Bread
- Vegan Cheddar Cheese Slices
- Caramelized Onions (and patience)
- Baked Tempeh Bacon
- Green Apple Slices (optional but recommended)
- Vegan Butter
- Caramelized Onions: If you're short on time then you can replace this with sautéed onions. You'll be missing the sweetness and flavor that the caramelization process brings but will still be very delicious. Simply cook the onions on a pan with a touch of oil and a pinch of salt until soft and starting to brown, about 5-7 minutes.
- Tempeh Bacon: I love tempeh bacon in this sandwich but if you want a short cut, use store-bought vegan bacon strips. Sweet Earth and Lightlife both have good vegan bacons.
- Green Apples: I love the tartness that the green apples bring but can be substituted with your favorite variety of apple. Since the caramelized onions are sweet, I lean more towards tart apples for this sandwich.
- Vegan Cheddar Cheese: Cheddar works well here but any type of vegan cheese will work here. I think Gouda or American would be delicious as well. Or maybe bring in a little heat with some vegan pepper jack cheese.
Tips & Tricks
Vegan grilled cheese has come a long way! Vegan cheese has really improved over the last few years. It used to be difficult to find one that melts all gooey but those days are gone! So many brands have perfected the melt.
What vegan cheese should I use when making grilled cheese?
I used Daiya Cheddar slices for this. Their new formula melts really well and tastes great! My personal favorite vegan cheese brands to use when making grilled cheese are Daiya, Violife, and Follow your Heart but you can use any vegan cheese brand you enjoy.
My vegan cheese won't melt!
I feel like this used to be a big problem with most brands but it's not such a big deal anymore since brands really stepped up their cheese game! But putting a lid on the pot to steam for a few minutes really helps get a nice melt on the cheese.
What bread should I use?
I recommend a crusty bread like sourdough but you can use rye, a baguette, ciabatta or regular white or wheat sandwich bread.
How to Make Tempeh Bacon
I break down all you need to know about tempeh bacon in the blog post Easy Baked Tempeh Bacon. This recipe is baked but includes stove top instructions as well. That marinade can be used for tofu, mushrooms and even coconut to create different types of vegan bacon as well. You can also skip the tempeh bacon and use store-bought vegan bacon instead.
How to Make Caramelized Onions
How do you make caramelized onions?
Making caramelized onions is super simple. Thinly slice the onions, add a touch of oil to a pan, add the onions and sprinkle with salt. Let cook slowly. Toss only occasionally. Add a splash of water to the pan to deglaze and turn down heat if needed to prevent the onions from burning.
What's the difference between caramelized onions and sautéed onions?
Caramelized onions are a labor of love and are very sweet in flavor and soft in texture. They bring dishes sweetness and a lot of flavor. Sautéed onions only spend a few minutes on the heat and can be soft and slightly brown but won't be as sweet and will have a more onion-y flavor. Both are delicious.
How long does it take to make caramelized onions?
I'd say about 30 minutes to an hour and sometimes longer. My sweet spot for caramelized onions is 45 minutes but use the onions when they look just right to you and your preference.
How should I use up leftover caramelized onions?
Add them to pasta dishes, on top of grain bowls, make this delicious sandwich again (haha!), or make this Potato and Caramelized Onion Galette.
Do I need to add sugar to caramelized onions?
You definitely can add sugar to speed up the process a bit but sugar is not needed at all. Onions contain natural sugars which is why they caramelize so beautifully already.
How do I know when they are done?
Personal preference, to be honest. I usually go for about 45 minutes but sometimes I think they look just fine at 20 minutes. Caramelize for however long you have patience for. Keep in mind that they store in the fridge for up to a week so if you have the time, make a big batch!
More Recipes You Might Like:
- Vegan Tofu Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- Vegan Potato & Caramelized Onion Galette
- Caramelized Onion Cashew Cheese Dip
- Easy Baked Tempeh Bacon
If You Make This Recipe:
I would greatly appreciate if you share your review in the comments below and leave a star rating. Don’t forget to add if you made any fun substitutions. Thank you!
Vegan Caramelized Onion & Bacon Grilled Cheese
- 1 Batch Easy Baked Tempeh Bacon
- 1 Large Sweet Onion
- 6-8 Slices of Vegan Cheddar Cheese for 3 to 4 sandwiches
- 6-8 Slices of Sourdough Bread for 3 to 4 sandwiches
- 1 Green Apple thinly sliced
- Mixed Greens optional
- Vegan Butter
- Make the Easy Baked Tempeh Bacon. The tempeh is baked but could also be cooked in a pan on medium heat.
- While the tempeh is marinading, start the caramelized onions by thinly slicing the onion.
- Heat a large pan on medium heat with the olive oil. Add in the onions and cook until caramelized. Stir occasionally, add a splash of water to deglaze the pan when needed and turn the heat down if they start to burn. This is a slow process. Cook the onions for 45-60 minutes or until they are caramelized to your preference.
- Spread vegan butter on the outside of the bread or you can add the butter to the pan.
- Assemble the sandwiches by adding the vegan cheddar cheese, caramelized onion, tempeh bacon and apple slices to the sourdough bread.
- Heat a large pan on medium heat and cook the grilled cheese until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasty and golden brown. Cover the pan with a lid to help melt the cheese.
- Remove the sandwich from the pan and add mixed greens if desired. Enjoy!