Everyone has heard that our diets should consist of more vegetables and that eating crazy amounts of meat isn't good for you or the environment. How do we do this when we love meat so much? One answer is in my stealth meat-swapping ingredient, mushrooms. Mushroom swapping doesn't mean giving up meat. It is about rebalancing your diet by adding more vegetables and subtly moving meat to the side of your plate.
FIRST, WHY MUSHROOMS?
Of all vegetables, mushrooms are the most compatible with meat in terms of flavor, texture, and in some cases color. Naturally high in glutamine, a source of umami, their savory quality actually enhances the flavor of meat. And eating more mushrooms means increased vegetable intake and the addition of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, that are essential to our health and happiness. Also, mushrooms are the only produce that contains Vitamin D. Then let's talk about reducing carbon imprint. A study done for the Mushroom Council estimates that mushrooms generate 0.7 pounds of CO2 emissions per pound of mushrooms grown. Compare that to animal protein which ranges from 5.4 pounds of CO2 emissions per pound for farmed salmon up to 12.3 pounds per pound for beef.
Here are some of my favorite tips and recipes for swapping mushrooms with meat:
GO 50/50 WITH YOUR BURGERS
A gentle start for carnivores is to swap up to half of the ground meat in your burger with mushrooms. The result is so juicy and hearty, you might actually prefer it. My favorite burger is 50-50 mushrooms and ground short rib.
PRO TIP: Before adding the mushroom chop or easier yet, pulse them in a food processor until they are roughly the same size as the ground meat. Then, cook the mushrooms until golden to intensify their flavor before mixing them with the meat.
MAKE AN UMAMI-PACKED BROTH
The first lesson of soup making is to start with a flavorful broth. And a great way to build flavor is by pairing umami-rich mushrooms with herbs, spices, and vegetables for a soup base. There are so many ways to do this: Develop a rich, meatless base for a killer French onion soup with richly caramelized onions and mushrooms. Try simmering a nourishing spiced vegetarian pho broth in the fraction of the time it takes to make its meat heavy counterpart. Or create a flavorful backbone for lentil or other bean soups with hearty shiitake mushrooms, tomato paste, and spices.
TRY NEW CLASSICS
'Meat and potatoes' no more! How about 'mushroom and potatoes' instead?! Stuff a baked potato with mushrooms or add them to your favorite gratin. Roast mushrooms and potatoes together and then smother them in cheese.
Make this wholesome potato and mushroom pie for an impressive main.
PUT IT ON TOAST
The next avo toast? Well maybe! As with so many delicious ingredients, put mushrooms on toasted bread and you have a tasty meal. Cook them with onions or shallots and finish them with a bit of cream and herbs. Works with chanterelles. Or make a dip with roasted mushrooms with cheese to slather on thick slices of toasted rustic bread.
BRING OUT THE FORK AND KNIFE
If you need a fork and knife meal, go for large, meaty portobello mushrooms. They can be pan-seared or roasted or grilled whole like steak; fill the caps with cheese and melt or smother them in your favorite steak condiment, try Chimichurri Sauce.
PRO TIP: Sandwich a grilled portobello cap in a bun and add your favorite burger fixings.
Move the meat to the stuffing and the mushroom to the center of the plate with stuffed portobello mushrooms. Just about any stuffing will work deliciously.
Use Shiitakes to Infuse Flavor
Rich in flavor, shiitake mushrooms easily become the star of any entree. Steam them in parchment packets with a fish fillet to infuse the dish with shiitake flavor.
Swap shiitake mushrooms for meat in fried rice for a satisfying vegetarian dish. Or take it a step further and make Quinoa Fried Rice for a nutty protein-packed meal.
Want to learn how mushrooms are grown? Read about our editor's visit to the mushroom farm.