The Ultimate Vegan Tip For A Masterful Meat Substitute? Shredded Mushrooms

It's no secret that plant-based meat brands like Impossible and Beyond Meat are becoming more and more popular on restaurant menus and grocery shelves. But although these artificial alternatives are hailed as being more environmentally friendly and sustainable than animal-sourced proteins, many vegetarians (and even flexitarians) will agree that the flavor and mouthfeel of imitation meat isn't for everyone. Since the food products also tend to be ultra-processed, they may also not be a desirable option for those who choose to consume a clean, plant-based diet for health reasons.

If you're looking for a more straightforward, vegetable-based meat substitute for your meal, you can skip the imitation meat altogether and opt for a classic vegan-approved ingredient like mushrooms. These versatile fungi make an excellent replacement in meat-based recipes, thanks to their hearty texture and savory flavoring. And though mushrooms are a common component of veggie burger patties — in which they're usually found mixed with legumes like lentils or chickpeas to bulk up the dish — you can also enjoy mushrooms as a meat substitute all on their own, especially if you give them a good shredding.

With some smart preparation and flavorful seasoning, shredded mushrooms can easily mimic the taste and texture of tender pulled meat, as health coach and Tasting Table recipe developer Miriam Hahn proves in her Tangy BBQ Pulled Mushroom Sandwich recipe.

How to prepare shredded mushrooms as a meat substitute

Whether you're a full-time vegan or vegetarian or simply seeking a lighter meat alternative for dinner, using mushrooms instead of beef or pork in a dish will "give you that same meaty taste and texture everyone knows and loves, but you don't get that full feeling that can make you nap-ready," according to Miriam Hahn.

Choosing the best type of mushroom is essential to elevating your dish, so you should stick to varieties like lion's mane, king trumpet mushrooms, or king oyster mushrooms, which shred particularly well. Hahn explains that preparing them is easy: You can simply pull down the stem on these mushrooms like you would pull apart pieces of string cheese, and then you're ready to cook and season. If your recipe calls for some sort of sauce or marinade, that's all the better. Thanks to their spongy composition, mushrooms effortlessly soak up flavor, making them a great choice to pair with zesty sauces, spices, and seasonings, which can amp up their taste even more.

You'll first want to saute your shredded mushrooms in some oil before adding in your seasonings. But to achieve the signature texture of shredded meat, Hahn advises transferring your mushrooms to a baking pan and cooking them even further in the oven. "This double cook method is the optimal way to make pulled mushrooms so that the edges get crispy," she says. The result? A flavorful, fungi-based alternative to shredded meat that even carnivores can enjoy.