I love a good vegan BLT. That combination of smoky strips, juicy tomato, crisp lettuce, and creamy mayo sandwiched between two toasty slices of bread, is total perfection. For many years, when I had a hankering for a BLT, I would buy some sort of pre-made packaged “faux” bacon vegan strips. There are some really tasty ones out there, but what are they exactly? While they’re great for those who are transitioning to a vegetarian or vegan diet, these meat alternatives are certainly not a whole food. Thankfully you can find oodles of recipes these days for vegan “bacon” alternatives, made from all sorts of veggies, and even coconut.
I’ve tried my hand at several different versions of plant-based bacony strips, including eggplant bacon, shitake bacon, and coconut bacon. It occurred to me one day while staring at a package of mushrooms at the supermarket, that I had never attempted portobello bacon. Because of their size and texture, portobello mushrooms make a great medium for creating the perfect smoky, peppery slice. While most recipes for plant-based smoky “bacon” strips use oil, I decided to skip the oil and instead give the sliced portobellos a quick soak in flavorful marinade, and bake them for a nice crispy-edged, healthy bacon alternative.
The results were perfect! Just what I was looking for. It took a few tries to get the marinade just right. I wanted the flavor to be smoky, peppery, and just a tiny bit sweet. A simple blend of tamari, maple syrup, smoked paprika, and fresh cracked pepper gave it just the right amount of flavor. Portobello mushrooms are not only a tasty alternative to vegan bacon strips, they are also loaded with nutrition and health benefits. Here are ten reasons to eat more portobello (aka cremini) mushrooms:
- Mushrooms can help boost your immune system. Eating more mushrooms just may help keep you strong and well during the upcoming cold and flu season .
- Eating more mushrooms is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. Eating just 15 mushrooms a month can lower your risk by over 60% .
- Mushroom consumption can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Certain properties in mushrooms have been found to keep the lining of the aorta healthy and may reduce the risk of blood flow problems .
- Mushrooms are a surprising source of powerful antioxidants, which reduce oxidative damage to our DNA, reducing the risk of many diseases, as well as keeping us looking and feeling our best.
- Mushrooms are an excellent source of several minerals, including copper, selenium, zinc, and phosphorous – great for your bones, and your hair and skin as well.
- In addition, mushrooms are a good source of B vitamins (including B1, B2, and pantothenic acid) and potassium.
- Mushrooms are a low calorie food that can help you feel full, thanks to two types of fiber . Some studies have shown that consuming more mushrooms may help people lose weight and reduce appetite.
- Mushrooms are one of the few plant based sources of vitamin D, although you shouldn’t rely on it as your only source if you live in the Northern hemisphere. Instead, consider it as a little boost.
- Along with vitamin D, mushrooms have been found to contain a moderate amount of B-12, but once again, it isn’t a reliable source, since some mushrooms will have more vitamin B12 than others (even of the same variety). However, it isn’t insignificant, and can still give you a food-based vitamin boost in addition to a good quality supplement.
- Mushrooms contain even contain a modest amount of protein, about 3 grams per cup.
The biggest reason to eat more portobella mushrooms? They’re delicious, and so versatile! (Try my Grilled Portobello burgers with Asian Slaw) I buy about 2-3 containers of mushrooms every week and put them in everything! Stir fries, lentil-mushroom taco filling, buddha bowls, pasta… you name it! These portobello BLTs are shaping up to be a new lunch time favorite on our weekly menu, and are another tasty way to get more healthy mushrooms in our diet.
Be sure to let me know if you give them a try!
Vegan BLTs with Oil-Free Smoky Portobello Mushroom Strips
makes 1 – 2 sandwiches
For the portobello strips:
- 1 portobello mushroom, stump and gills removed, and sliced into 1/8 inch thin slices
- 2 tbsp tamari
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 – 3 tsp maple syrup or coconut nectar
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- a few pinches of cracked black pepper
For the sandwiches:
- 2 – 4 slices of sprouted whole grain or gluten free bread, toasted
- 1 tomato, sliced
- leaf lettuce
- vegan mayo, mashed avocado, or my homemade Oil-Free Vegan Mayo
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Place mushroom strips in a shallow dish. Add the marinade ingredients to a jar with a lid and shake to combine. Pour over the sliced mushrooms and tilt the dish to distribute the marinade over all the strips. Marinate for 15 minutes or up to a few hours if you have time.
Place the strip on the prepared pan, leaving a little room between each one. I sprinkled on a little extra pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, flip carefully and continue baking for about 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and let sit on pan while you prepare the sandwiches.
Spread a little mayo over each slice of bread and add a tomato slice and a handful of leaf lettuce, then top with a layer of smoky strips. Top with second slice of bread and enjoy!
Slice the mushrooms thin, but not too thin. You want them to be able to get a little crisp but not burn easily. Try to cut them all the same thickness so that they will cook evenly.
- Health Benefits of Mushrooms http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=97