Bacon-wrapped water chestnuts are my family’s go-to appetizer for holidays, parties, and get-togethers of all kinds. However, with cutting down on meat, I was looking for a fun way to upgrade my favorite quick and easy app to be vegetarian. For game day this year, I’m excited to share these Vegan Carrot “Bacon” Wrapped Water Chestnuts with all my friends — meat eating or not.

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The basic concept of these is super easy, and I didn’t want to mess with that. I treated the water chestnuts exactly the same as I would in a bacon version, by shaking them up with some brown sugar. The challenge was in getting carrots to fill the role of bacon.

I bought a big bag of carrots so that I could experiment with some cooking methods and flavors. My goal was not for the carrots to trick anyone, but instead to create a new appetizer with carrots in place of the bacon.

Bacon brings a few different elements to the dish that I wanted to achieve with the carrots: smokiness, fat, and umami. I tried a few different marinades before finding one that I believe really works, playing around ingredients like smoked paprika, soy, miso, liquid smoke, sweeteners, and different oils. I think the one I landed on strikes the balance I was seeking.

I think this veggie version is just as delicious and addicting as the bacon one. But don’t take my word for it. Make up a big batch of these and serve at that big football game that’s coming up! Looking for something to serve for a bigger crowd? Try my vegetarian nacho formula.

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5 from 1 vote

Vegan Carrot "Bacon" Wrapped Water Chestnuts

A plant-based alternative to a fun appetizer, these brown-sugar water chestnuts are wrapped in thinly sliced marinated bacon strips and fried to perfection. It's a lighter and tasty swap to make this game-day or holiday treat a year-round favorite.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine: American, Vegetarian
Servings: 4
Calories: 161kcal


  • 12 Water Chestnuts
  • 1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1-2 Carrots, wide carrots work best here
  • 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp Maple Syrup
  • a few dashes Liquid Smoke
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil, for frying


  • Open the can of water chestnuts and drain the liquid. In a small bowl, place the water chestnuts and brown sugar, and stir to combine. Place in the fridge and let sit while you prepare the other ingredients.
  • Halve the carrots lengthwise, and then cut into long thin strips carefully using a vegetable peeler or mandoline. In a small bowl, stir together the rest of the ingredients (except the oil for frying).
  • Pour half the sauce in a flat dish, and lay the carrot strips in it. Cover the carrots with the remainder of the sauce. Cover and let marinate for 20 minutes to and hour at room temperature, or up to overnight in the fridge.
  • In a large frying pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat until it shimmers or a drop of water sizzles immediately. Meanwhile, wrap each water chestnut in a carrot strip and seal from the side using a toothpick.
  • Once the oil is hot, carefully place the wrapped water chestnuts in the pan, and fry 2-3 minutes per side (use tongs to flip) until the carrots are darkened and crispy.
  • Remove from the pan onto a paper towel lined plate. Let cool 1-2 minutes, and then serve immediately.


  • There are multiple ways to cut the carrots into thin strips. I found it to be easiest to use a vegetable peeler, working slowly, cutting toward myself for better control of the angle. When the peeler would start to catch, I would saw it back and forth gently. You may find a mandoline or a T-peeler a little easier for you.
  • Make ahead tip: You can marinate the carrots and water chestnuts overnight if needed, in the fridge, and then fry just before serving. To travel, you can reheat these in the microwave for about 30 seconds, but they will lose some crispiness. 
  • Make these gluten free: Use a gluten-free soy sauce. 

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11 thoughts on “Vegan Carrot “Bacon” Wrapped Water Chestnuts

  1. This looks sooo good! Saving so that I can try these! I just won’t tell my husband that there’s a bacon-wrapped option, otherwise, he won’t want these.

  2. Well talk about creative! I never would’ve thought to substitute carrots for bacon, so I’d be interested in seeing how this worked, flavor-wise. I think the combination of vegetables must be pretty yummy, and I already like water chestnuts. I’ll have to experiment and try these at some point!

    1. Thank you! I have been really trying to take some family recipes and make them more plant-based, and I was surprised how well this turned out the first time. I am definitely going to try some other uses for carrot bacon.

  3. You had me at “bacon-wrapped” — lol! These sound delicious! I can think of ten upcoming events that these would be the perfect app for!

      1. I’m not sure these would trick anyone, since the carrots will never be as fatty as real bacon, but they are definitely delicious on their own!

    1. Thanks! I bet you could use the carrot bacon around scallops too. It wouldn’t be vegan, but I bet it would be tasty!

  4. I’m so excited to try these, they look delicious! We are moving towards a plant-based diet and recipes like this make it so much easier!

    1. Thank you! I have been trying to convert more of my favorite recipes to plant-based, so keep an eye out for more.

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