This shiitake bacon is smoky and maple-sweet. You can cook it firm and chewy or thin and crispy. Either way, it’s an addictive combination of flavors and textures.
Why Shiitake Bacon?
The idea of using shiitake mushrooms to simulate bacon has been gaining some traction recently. I’ve encountered it at restaurants, including “by CHLOE.” in NYC (a chain I highly recommend). And it makes sense why shiitake mushrooms make a good choice. The potent flavor of the mushrooms stands up to a bit of smoke and sweetness. And the mushrooms can be cut thick so they have a chewy, meaty texture or cut thin for a brittle, crispy one.
What can I do with shiitake bacon?
I developed this recipe to use it with a vegan cheese grits recipe (to be shared soon). The bacon goes well with any creamy dish, including vegan queso, mac and cheese, tonkotsu ramen broth, carbonara pasta, and tofu scramble.
When pairing this shiitake bacon with something creamy, there’s something you can to do take the dish to the next level. Add something fresh and green with a sour (citrus or vinegar) dressing. I came across this three-way flavor harmony when I served the bacon with the cheese grits and some steamed collard greens dressed in white wine vinegar. The contrast was pretty special.
My Version of Shiitake Bacon
My goal with this recipe was to replicate the smokiness and the rich mouthfeel of bacon. The smokiness was easy enough to achieve using liquid smoke. As for the mouthfeel, I wanted it to be a little bit oily, with a hint of sweetness. To get that, I used maple syrup and peanut butter.
Peanut butter? In a bacon recipe?
Yes. It may sound a little strange, but the oily, sticky texture of peanut butter imitates the oiliness of bacon and helps the smoky flavor linger. The peanut butter soaks into the mushrooms to give them a meatier texture. The peanut butter is more of an enhancer. It doesn’t stand out and may not be recognizable against the smoky and mushroomy tones.
So how do you make this?
There are two basic tasks involved in making this bacon: marinating and cooking.
To make the marinade, just blend maple syrup, soy sauce, liquid smoke, and peanut butter together until smooth. Pour that marinade over sliced shiitake mushrooms and let it soak in for up to 30 minutes.
To cook the mushrooms, you saute them in oil gradually, to build up a crust of marinade that is crispy but not burned. This requires a bit of attention and flipping every few minutes, but the result is totally worth it.
A couple cooking notes
I cooked this recipe in both a nonstick skillet and a carbon steel one. I recommend a nonstick if you have it because it makes it much easier to build up a crust of caramelized marinade. If your skillet isn’t nonstick, you’ll need to use more oil and be ready to deglaze the pan as needed.
If you want your shiitake bacon slices to be crispy and brittle, you’ll need to cut them as thin as possible. Cooking them to this crispiness will take a bit more time, as you’ll need to cook the mushrooms until they’re dehydrated and caramelized.
- 6 Tablespoons maple syrup
- 6 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons liquid smoke
- 2 Tablespoons peanut butter smooth
- 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms sliced thinly
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Combine the maple syrup, soy sauce, liquid smoke, and peanut butter in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk vigorously until the mixture is consistent. Use an electric mixer or immersion blender as needed.
- Add the mushrooms into a large bowl and add the mixed sauce. Toss so that the mushrooms are coated with sauce. Let marinate for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, up to 30 minutes.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat until hot. Spread the mushrooms evenly in the skillet. It's OK if they overlap. Drizzle some extra marinade onto the mushrooms.
- Allow the mushrooms to cook undisturbed until well browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Stir the mushrooms around to scrape up any hardening bits of sauce stuck to the skillet. Flip each mushroom slice over to let the other side cook until well-browned, about 5 minutes.
- Taste a mushroom slice at this point. If you like the consistency (it will be firm but not crispy at this point) you may serve the mushrooms.
- Continue to flip the mushrooms every 2-3 minutes to prevent scorching, until they reach the desired crispiness. You can also add marinade as needed, though it will slow the crisping process.
- Serve hot.