Make Mushrooms Taste Like Bacon With Smoked Salt And A Touch Of Maple Syrup

Umami is the newest yet most complex of our five tastes. Discovered in the early 1900s by Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda, umami's flavor can be attributed to three main chemical components: glutamate, inosinate, and guanylate. Mushrooms are a rare food containing two components, making them the ultimate umami ingredients.

While mushrooms add a burst of earthy and meaty flavors to any dish, seasoning them with smoked salt and a touch of maple syrup will transform them into vegan bacon. Umami flavors run the savory gamut, including earthy, funky, fishy, meaty, herbal, and aromatic. Smokiness also falls under the umami umbrella. As a type of meat, bacon is already packed full of umami savoriness. Furthermore, the majority of packaged bacon is smoked.

Luckily, you don't have to spend hours smoking, grilling, or charring mushrooms to achieve that rich smoky flavor; smoked salt manages to harness and concentrate it into a convenient seasoning. A sprinkle of smoked salt will complement the mushroom's meatiness and add that smoky umami layer all bacon lovers know so well.

Not only is bacon smoked, but many of the latest gourmet strips served at restaurants have a maple flavor to complement the smokiness. Maple has an almost caramelized flavor with a distinct depth that stands up to the robustness of smoked bacon. The touch of maple syrup brings the same complex and sweet complement to the smoked salt you use to season your mushrooms.

Tips for making mushroom bacon

While all mushrooms have an earthy savoriness and meaty bite, oyster mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms are ideal for mushroom bacon. They both have a distinct chewiness that crisps up in the pan just like bacon. Plus, they're well-known in the vegan world for making the perfect chicken and bacon substitutes.

Smoked salt and maple syrup are products you can find at the grocery store or specialty store. If you can't find smoked salt, you can swap it for a few dashes of liquid smoke. The easiest way to incorporate both ingredients into your mushroom dish is to make a glaze to brush onto each mushroom before either pan-frying them or roasting them in the oven. A blend of olive oil, maple syrup, smoked salt, pepper, and garlic powder would make a well-balanced umami glaze.

For the crispiest edges, slice your mushrooms thinly and lightly brush each piece with glaze as opposed to soaking the mushrooms. Oversaturating mushrooms with liquid hinders the desired crispy texture. Another tip for cooking mushroom bacon, and mushrooms in general, is to space them out in the frying pan or on the baking tray. By giving them space, you'll allow their natural juices to evaporate as they cook, preventing mushy or waterlogged mushrooms.

Maple-smoked mushroom bacon makes a tasty addition to vegan pasta carbonara. You can also wrap them around cream cheese-stuffed jalapeños for a vegetarian twist on jalapeño poppers or serve them alongside a tofu scramble for an all-American vegan breakfast. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.