Recipe Update: Even Better Vegan Mushroom 'Bacon'

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Extra-crispy vegan mushroom "bacon." [Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

This is not bacon, but it sure is tasty.

My vegan mushroom "bacon" is one of my favorite vegan recipes ever. It has a ridiculously satisfying crisp-chewy texture that bursts with sweet and savory flavor. It's one of the greatest food transformations I've ever done, converting soft, spongy mushrooms through slow roasting, marinating, and stovetop smoking (with real live wood, really!) into new worlds of texture and flavor. It's downright delicious. Oh, and it happens to be vegan.

I like to think of these things not as a vegan substitute for bacon (though they work remarkably well in that regard, whether in a vegan version of a B.L.A.T. sandwich or crumbled into your salads or soups), but as an awesome condiment or topping all on their own. The only real downside to them is that they're small. Made with cremini mushrooms that are cooked until crisp, they end up less than an inch long, which means that you can't pick them up with two fingers and bite off the end with that satisfying CRUNCH the way you can with a standard bacon strip.

Last year, when I was developing the recipe, I tried a half dozen varieties of mushroom and found that while portobellos were nice and large, they lacked the concentrated flavor of smaller cremini. Since that time, a reader suggested I try king oyster mushrooms, a variety that at one point was mostly relegated to the restaurant kitchen, but is now widely cultivated (I found them at Whole Foods).

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It was a wise suggestion. King Oysters are large—a few inches long apiece—which means that with some halfway decent knife skills, you can slice off planks of mushroom that are about the same size as a half-strip of bacon. Perfect for topping that sandwich and eating with your fingers! They also have a much more bacon-y appearance, if looks are important to you. Finally, they're less fiddly, which means less slicing, less flipping, less tedium in general, and all that means FASTER BACON.

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I've also made a minor update regarding the flavor and texture. In addition to the paprika, garlic, black pepper, sugar, and salt in the original recipe, I've taken recently to adding a little bit of maple syrup, which gives it a deeper sweetness than plain sugar. To help drive off the excess moisture it introduces, I also drop the mushrooms back into the oven for a few minutes after tossing them with flavorings—just long enough to re-crisp it for your sandwich.

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