You may wonder why mushrooms make a great meat-free alternative, and what actually is 'umami'? Whether you’re taking part in Veganuary, or just looking to switch things up in the kitchen, going meat-free has many benefits. Going vegan can help to cut out potentially harmful processed foods from our diets, not only that, but by swapping meat for veg, you’ll be getting more nutrients, minerals and fibre. Research shows us that 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture, so as well as the health benefits, reducing or replacing the meat you eat is great for the environment too!Going vegan or even just reducing your meat intake has its advantages, but it can be difficult to get that ‘meaty’ taste from other plant-based food, that’s where mushrooms come in.
Mushrooms have what is known as ‘umami’ or savoury taste that is characteristic of many meats. This ‘umami’ has recently been recognised as the fifth taste (along with sweet, salt, sour and bitter) and it’s been found that humans have specific receptors for this taste, which is why mushrooms are such a great meat-replacement.
Mushrooms also surpass meat in many health aspects and are packed full of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins (which are important for energy) and zinc (which helps the immune system and plays a role in our sense of taste and smell); they’re also full of antioxidants and don’t contain any fat!
Particularly ‘meaty’ mushrooms that are great to start you on your vegan adventure are the King Oyster, also known as Eryngii mushrooms. King oyster mushrooms are the largest of the oyster variety and boast a meaty flavor with a lot of texture, meaning they’re great for replacing ingredients such as pulled pork, squid, and scallops. These versatile ‘shrooms can prepared whole, or in smaller pieces and are great in stir frys, in pasta sauces or even just grilled with some garlic and pepper.
Other great meat-free options include the regular Oyster mushroom, Portobello and Shiitake. One of our favourite mushroom-centred dishes is the Spezzatino Oyster Mushrooms & Pasta dish from Wicked Healthy. This hearty dish is vegan friendly and super easy to make; find the recipe here.
Find more meat-free inspiration below: