Ditching meat for a plant-based diet is a growing healthy food trend. And science supports the move—the health benefits can be significant. For example, eating more fruits and vegetables could ease digestive problems, reduce your risk of heart disease, and even help you live longer. Whether you’re hoping to cut back on your meat consumption and forgo the beef jerky, or switch to a fully vegetarian diet, easing into your plant-based meal goals is easier with mushrooms. Plus, you don’t have to give up your love of jerky either.
We spoke with two registered dietitians who share the nutritional value of mushrooms and offer their homemade mushroom jerky recipes—no special kitchen gadgets required.
Mushrooms are a nutritional powerhouse
“Mushrooms are rich in phytonutrients—or chemical compounds found in plant foods—that are associated with protection against chronic disease,” says Gena Hamshaw, RD and author of Power Plates: 100 Nutritionally Balanced, One-Dish Vegan Meals. “Some of these compounds may also help to strengthen the immune system.”
A 2014 review published in the Journal of Complementary & Integrative Medicine suggests that eating foods with phytochemicals, aka phytonutrients, can help protect you against common diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders.
Plus, “mushrooms are rich in fiber, which is important for digestive health and helpful in managing cholesterol,” says Hamshaw. A high-fiber diet is incredibly helpful for people with diabetes or for supporting healthy weight loss. According to a 2014 review in Nutrition Today, one cup of portobello mushrooms contains 2.7 grams of fiber—more than a slice of multi-grain bread and nearly the same amount of fiber a potato with intact skin.
“Mushrooms are rich in the B vitamins: riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. The combination helps protect heart health. Riboflavin is good for red blood cells. Niacin is good for the digestive system and for maintaining healthy skin,” says functional nutrition specialist Shelley Gawith, a certified nutritional therapy practitioner.
Mushrooms are a great meat substitute
It’s common for restaurants to offer bean burgers and portobello burgers to vegans and vegetarians. But what makes mushrooms such an easy meat alternative?
“They have a hearty, toothsome texture that makes them a useful substitute for meat in vegan recipes,” says Hamshaw, adding that unlike meat, mushrooms “don’t contain saturated fat.” In a 2019 study, published in Food Science and Nutrition, scientists found that adding mushrooms to beef patties effectively reduced the patties’ sodium content without sacrificing texture or flavor. So, even those who prefer a juicy steak or burger could enjoy the benefits of mushroom jerky or mushroom-based meat substitutes.
What mushroom jerky tastes like
Dried mushrooms have a distinct umami flavor. Joining bitter, sweet, salty, and sour, umami is considered a fifth flavor category, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Umami tends to be a deep, savory taste indicative of broths, roasted meats, and foods seasoned with monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG. Typically, you can find MSG in Chinese food as it’s used as a flavor enhancer.
Mushroom jerky will also deliver flavor from the spices you use in the marinade. Many jerky recipes include something salty (such as soy sauce) and something smoky (such as liquid smoke or smoked paprika).
Tips for making a healthy mushroom jerky
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends heating meat or poultry to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit when making jerky. This is because bacteria present in raw meat, such as salmonella, grow most rapidly between 40° and 140° F. Since mushroom jerky is completely plant-based, there’s no concern for the bacterial contamination of raw meat—though you should still take care to clean the fungi before you prepare it. Thus, mushroom jerky can be dried at lower temperatures than meat-based jerky. (Here are the signs of food poisoning you should know.)
According to the USDA, you can make jerky at home in either an oven or dehydrator. To dehydrate jerky in an oven, you need to regularly rotate the pans and flip the food a few times for even heat distribution and drying.
Easy Portobello Mushroom “Jerky”
This easy, breezy mushroom jerky recipe from Hamshaw doesn’t require any special kitchen gadgets. The portobello jerky has a deliciously complex salty, smoky flavor. It also incorporates apple cider vinegar, which is known to calm upset stomachs, soothe sore throats, and boost energy.
Two snack-sized portions
- 2 portobello mushroom caps, sliced into strips about 3/4-inch thick
- 3 tablespoons tamari (a gluten-free soy sauce alternative)
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 3-5 drops liquid smoke or 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- black pepper to taste
Mix up all ingredients but the mushrooms to make a marinade. Soak the mushrooms in the marinade for at least four hours (overnight is good). Dehydrate in the oven or dehydrator at 114 °F (45.56 °C) for four to six hours, or until mushrooms are dry and chewy (not crunchy). Dehydrating time will vary according to how much liquid the mushrooms absorbed, so them and adjust time accordingly.
Simple Shiitake Mushroom Jerky
This mushroom jerky recipe by Gawith uses small shiitake or button mushrooms instead of portobello caps. Gawith recommends eating more mushrooms in the winter because their nutrients can help boost immunity, being one of the few food sources of Vitamin D.
- 3 tablespoons coconut aminos
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
- 8 ounces of shiitake mushrooms or button mushrooms, stems removed and caps cut into 1/2-inch slices
Mix the marinade ingredients (all but the mushrooms). Marinate the mushrooms in the sauce for eight hours. Then cook them in the oven for two hours at 250 °F (121.11 °C).
The post Need a Healthy Snack? Try These Two Mushroom Jerky Recipes appeared first on The Healthy.