We love bacon, but not the nitrates and nitrates*, salts commonly used to cure meat. So we tried vegan bacon, which doesn’t include either.
We’ve enjoyed some tasty vegan bacon like Hooray Bacon, which is based on shiitake mushrooms.
But our colleague Hannah Kaminsky created her own recipe for shiitake-based bacon and has shared it with us.
“Crispy, caramelized shiitake caps retain a hearty, chewy bite after slowly roasting the oven,” she says. “Infused with richly savory, smoky flavors, shiitake mushrooms make even better bacon than meat.”
“Unlike conventional options, there’s no cholesterol, very little fat, plenty of fiber, and zero cruelty.”
The first Saturday in September is International Bacon Day, and we spent just 10 minutes prepping the ingredients.
Then comes the soak: The dehydrated shiitakes soak in the broth for 8 hours to 24 hours or longer (the longer the soak, the better the flavor).
So if you want shiitake bacon and eggs or a lunch of SBLT (shiitake bacon, lettuce, and tomato) or a “bacon cheeseburger,” start the night before.
> The history of mushrooms.
Hannah prefers the Sugimoto brand of dried shiitake mushrooms, which are naturally grown in Japan’s forests (you can see a video on the website). You can find the brand in Asian markets or online.
1. WHISK together the water, soy sauce, olive oil, liquid smoke, maple syrup, paprika, instant coffee, and black pepper in a medium bowl. Add the dried shiitakes and stir thoroughly to combine.
2. TAMP down a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface, to cover and keep all the mushrooms submerged in the liquid. Refrigerate and let them soak for at least 8 hours. Longer is better; 24 hours would be ideal.
3. REMOVE the plastic and transfer the contents—mushrooms and liquid together—to a small saucepan (photo #3). Warm over medium heat until just boiling. Let rest until cool. Once the mushrooms are fully hydrated and cool enough to handle…
4. PREHEAT the oven to 300°F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Remove the shiitakes from the brine, remove the stems and save them for another recipe. You can also save the brine as a poaching liquid. Or heat it as hot broth.
5. SLICE the caps into 1-cm wide strips. Spread them into as even a layer as possible on the baking sheet, without any pieces overlapping. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, carefully flipping the strips every 15 minutes or so to keep the entire batch cooking evenly.
6. COOK until the mushrooms are dry to the touch and highly aromatic. Straight out of the oven, the mushrooms will still be slightly soft to the touch but will crisp up nicely once cool. Let cool completely.
7. STORE at room temperature in an airtight container, for up to two weeks.
You can keep them in short strips, roughly chop them into bacon bits, or grind them into a fine powder to use as a savory sprinkle. Just a few of Hannah’s favorite ways to use shiitake bacon include:
*While nitrates and nitrites are not themselves carcinogenic, they have the potential to react with other compounds to form carcinogens, during the processing of food [source].
†This particular shiitake mushroom is called “koshin” and is picked after the cap of the mushroom blooms into the umbrella.