Food

Meatier than Meat? Mushroom Recipes That Can Fool Anyone

The science behind these versatile fungi, plus three recipes!

Have you ever noticed how the veg option is usually something featuring mushrooms? Turns out, it’s more than flavor—it’s, quite honestly, science. There’s serious chemistry behind the “meaty” reputation of the mighty mushroom. According to chemist and New York Times columnist Harold McGee, who writes about the science behind cooking, mushrooms contain large concentrations of free amino acids including glutamatic acid. Glutamic acid, the natural source of monosodium glutamate, is aided in its mission to taste great by another chemical, guanosine monophosphate. What does this mean? It means that mushrooms are a plant-based source of the same kind of mouthfeel that animal foods deliver. The phenomenon is called umami, a Japanese word for meatiness, and is more intense when mushrooms are dried. This too, has science behind it: according to McGee, shiitake mushrooms get their appealing aroma from a chemical called lenthionine, which is created and maximized by enzymes as the mushrooms dry.

That same lenthionine will be created by slow cooking, which explains the difference between deeply brown, shrunken sautéed mushrooms that my mom always served over steak. Understanding the chemistry in mushrooms is really all about one thing, and that is getting the most flavor out of them. So, take a tip from the Japanese, and start using more dried mushrooms. You may not be as enamored with eating dried mushrooms in a stir-fry, but you can always infuse a stock, sauce, or soup with them. Grinding dried mushrooms to a fine powder gives great flavor to any dish. When cooking with fresh mushrooms, slowly sauté them over low heat. They may not be pretty, but they will taste amazing, especially with a shot of tamari or wine. Bon appetit!

Cook up some mushroom magic of your own:
Instant Mushroom Powder
Ultra Mushroom Pâté
Mushroom Miso Soup

Robin Asbell's newest cookbook, Sweet & Easy Vegan, is now available nationwide. 

 Comments

More Food

The Ultimate Vegan Halloween Party Tips & Menu

Party guests will shriek with delight at this vegan boo-ffet.
Read More »

5 Mouthwatering Vegan Pumpkin Recipes

VegNews gives you the lowdown on the fall pumpkin craze, including five seasonal recipes you’ll be dying to dig into.
Read More »

The 2014 VegNews Guide to Vegan Halloween Candy

Craving candy? Our ultimate, up-to-date guides to vegan products give you everything you need to know.
Read More »

How to Make Tofu: A Step-by-Step Photo Guide

Chipotle Mexican Grill’s tofu supplier, Hodo Soy, gives VegNews a behind-the-scenes tour of how to make this classic plant-based staple.
Read More »

How to Date a Meat-Eater

Fallen head over heels with someone who eats meat? Relationship and food experts Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg tell us how to make it work.
Read More »

This Week on VegNews TV: The secret to these delightful sweet treats is white beans! Aylin Erman shows you how to make these simple blondies.

More Videos »