Sometimes I do not have morel mushrooms to eat, and this perturbing situation makes me a little cranky. In these moments, I scramble to find a savory, umami-rich mushroom recipe that will soothe my aching heart until spring comes and morel hunting begins. This vegan bacon recipe, which uses mushrooms in place of pig-bits, has done much to ease the pangs of my morel-less kitchen these past few weeks.
Vegan Cookery – A Gateway to Experimentation
I am not vegan, but the more I get busy in my kitchen, the more it becomes evident that many of the dishes I really like are vegan. This vegan bacon recipe that uses mushrooms, basic spices, and oven-roasting is a perfect example: it’s terrifically simple to make vegan bacon with button mushrooms and a couple of items that are always lying around my kitchen, but I would venture a guess that few chefs would bother to create said vegan bacon recipe without deciding to forgo, you know, regular bacon.
There is a certain thoughtfulness about vegan cooking that I think lends itself to creative, innovative food preparation. As with all art forms, innovation grows from a willingness to embrace limitations. Now that I’ve gotten this pseudo-cerebral celebration of vegan cookery out of my system, onto the good part: the vegan bacon recipe!
Vegan Bacon Recipe – Mushrooms+Spices+Olive Oil+Oven = Deeeelightful Bacon Bits!
This recipe for vegan bacon is a simplified version of Kenji Alt-Lopez’s “Crispy Vegan Smoked Mushroom Bacon,” to which a friend recently pointed me. Although Kenji’s version is not difficult, I decided not to try smoking the vegan bacon in my kitchen, if only because I have a tendency to burn things even when I’m not trying to burn things, and Kenji’s vegan bacon recipe looked like an opportunity for me to create a disaster area. As a consequence, I decided to add more spices than the original vegan bacon recipe, and I was quite pleased with the results.
The third time I made this mushroom bacon, I decided to try one of my all-time favorite edible fungi, Pleurotus eryngii, the king oyster mushroom (also known as the king trumpet oyster or the French horn mushroom). It took a good bit longer to prepare the mushroom bacon because king oyster mushrooms do not lose as much mass in the oven on account of their lower moisture content. I ended up doing a total of 40 minutes baking at 350 degrees, and an additional 60 minutes on dehydrate at 140 degrees. Although the king oyster mushroom bacon took longer, the results were pretty amazing!
8 oz. of baby bella mushrooms, portobello mushrooms, crimini mushrooms, or white button mushrooms
3 Tablespoons of light olive oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and arrange oven rack(s) to close to the center of the oven. Brush a foil-lined or parchment-lined cookie sheet or pizza screen with the olive oil.
Wash the mushrooms and slice them thin. Not paper-thin, but pizza-thin. Place the sliced mushrooms on the cookie sheet or pizza screen and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place mushrooms in the oven for 20 minutes, keeping a close eye on them so that they do not burn. After approximately 20 minutes, flip the mushrooms carefully. This is where using parchment really comes in handy; the mushrooms do not stick to parchment but have the tendency to adhere to foil, making it more difficult to flip them. Cook for an additional 20 minutes, again paying close attention to them and removing the mushrooms if they start to burn or carbonize around the edges.
Toss mushroom vegan bacon in a bowl with the spices. If the vegan bacon is not yet totally crispy and dry, you can place them back in the oven on dehydrate (140 degrees convection) for an additional 20-30 minutes.
Store at room temperature in an air-tight container.
Put this vegan mushroom bacon on anything that you like with bacon; I am particularly fond of using them with saucy dishes because that allows the mushroom bacon to soak up some of the sauce and become sort of chewy, just like traditional bacon!
Notes on Vegan Bacon Recipe
The main thing with this recipe is to be careful not to burn the mushrooms; if the burn, the vegan bacon will have a charred flavor that is very unappealing. It is also helpful to select mushrooms that have a large amount of cap and stem flesh relative to the gills; because the gills of mushrooms are wavy, delicate, and rather chalky compared to the rest of the flesh, the gills burn more quickly and easily than the remainder of the ‘shroom. For this reason, portobello is actually not the best choice for making vegan bacon, in my opinion.
Baby bellas (or criminis) that still have the gills protected by a partial veil worked admirably, especially ones with big, fat caps.
I also tried this recipe with king oyster mushrooms.
One alternate method I tried with this vegan bacon recipe is to only bake the mushrooms for 30 minutes (15 minutes on each side) and then turn the dehydrator on for 30 minutes. This ended up being great, because I prefer my bacon a little chewy and soft, and so the bit of drying kept the mushrooms from truly crisping, and instead gave them the texture I was looking for!