This simple yet flavorful recipe is the best version of vegan carnitas that I’ve ever had. My tried and true method for that perfect texture works like a charm!
Easy school night dinners are key
The big success of my latest school night dinner perfection, the BBQ Cauliflower Bites Bowl, was awesome. I heard you all loud and clear, WE WANT EASY. Roger that friends, preaching to the choir over here. So this mama did what she does best, delivered more.
This time, more comes in the form of vegan carnitas. Yep, you heard that right. But aren’t carnitas all meat? Yes, but this has never stopped me before. Enter mushrooms (because jackfruit isn’t really my fave). Using mushrooms as a meaty sub isn’t new, especially with carnitas. But you know what is new? My method on how you exactly prep these mushroom carnitas.
The prepping process is KEY here. You simply cannot just slice, season and cook a mushroom and think you’re getting away with a great carnitas recipe. Texture is really important here, and so I put my creative cap on and BOOM.
Key #1, use a fork to shred the mushrooms. I tried making this vegan carnitas recipe with a few different types of mushrooms so that I could deliver something that was spot on. Oyster, Crimini and Portobello were my main choices because they are all pretty available. The result was that Oyster was too “wet”, Crimini was good but the pieces were a little too small, and Portobello was perfect.
I loved the consistency that the final recipe had due to the amazing shreds that the portobello stem gave, mixed with the mini crumble like shreds that the cap gave.
Key #2, remove the water. Mushrooms have a ton of water in them. Which is why you will not get a great texture with the slice and cook method. So what do you do? You put the shredded mushrooms in a colander, salt them, mix, and allow to sit. After about 5 minutes or so (about the time it takes you to clean up the mess so far and get out the rest of the ingredients you need), you will see a good amount of water coming out.
Simply squeeze the shredded mushrooms to extract even more water, then put it all into a bowl. You will be left with about half the amount of mushrooms (so 2 cups shredded mushrooms leaves you with about 1 cup after you salt, sit and squeeze).
Making vegan carnitas with the perfect texture and flavor
So now that you know my little secret, it’s time to show you how easy it is to make these babies.
Step 1: Shred and extract the water from the mushrooms.
Step 2: Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
Step 3: Bake.
Boom. Now while it’s baking you can prep the rest of your bowl ingredients, or you can do homework with the kiddos and prep the rest later. The important thing to note, is that dinner is on its way to done! The best thing about bowls, is everyone can build their own, with what they want, and there is NO whining.
If you want to kick these up a notch, try them with this sauce…drool will appear.
This simple yet flavorful recipe is the best version of vegan carnitas that I've ever had. My tried and true method for that perfect texture works like a charm!
- 4 Portobello mushrooms , gills removed if preferred
- 1 cup chopped sweet onion
- 4 cloves garlic , finely chopped
- ¼ cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 4 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons chopped serrano chili or 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper , optional for added spice (see note)
- 1 cup cooked corn
- 4 cups shredded cabbage , can use a mix of red and green or a prepackaged mix too
- ¾ - 1 cup avocado , about 1 average sized avocado
- ½ cup your favorite green tomatillo salsa
- Preheat oven to 400 F/ 205 C
- Remove the stems of the mushrooms. Using a fork, scrape the stems until you have shredded them into thin pieces. Follow by doing the same with the mushroom caps, the caps will both shred and crumble but continue to use the fork to make the pieces. It works well if you face the caps gill side down, hold the top with your hand and scrape downwards with the fork. Same for the stems.
- Put the shredded mushrooms into a colander. Add the sea salt and mix around well. Allow to sit while you clean up and get out the rest of the ingredients, about 5 minutes.
- Squeeze out any excess water from the shredded mushrooms, and put it in a large bowl. You will have a little over 2 cups.
- Add the rest of the carnitas ingredients and mix well.
- Spread on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. The edges will begin to crisp a bit and it will not be watery.
- While they are cooking, you can prep the rice by combining all ingredients in a bowl and mixing well.
- You can prep the cabbage salad by putting all ingredients into a bowl and mixing well.
- Once the carnitas are done, divide into 4 bowls, add some rice, cabbage salad and corn, top with more tomatillo salsa if preferred, and devour!
- To remove the gills of the mushrooms, simply use a spoon and scrape them away. You don’t have to do this, but I think it leads to a better result.
- I tried these with and without the serrano pepper and crushed red pepper, and I loved the added flavor with it. The serrano pepper version isn’t too spicy if you remove the seeds. You can also use less to add a touch of flavor but remove most of the spice.
- I use the frozen cooked brown rice from Trader Joe’s to make the rice portion. It is super quick and easy.
- You can adjust the amount of cabbage salad and rice to get the perfect carb amount you want, or go no rice for a super low carb meal!
Tips to prep ahead: Make rice.
Baby/kid food idea: Do not use the spice in either the carnitas or the rice. Slice cabbage extra thin and massage with hands when mixing salad to soften. Serve each separately as finger like foods if preferred.