Sometimes when I see a fresh ingredient for the first time I must buy it. Passing it by is not an option in my life. When I bring it home, I research the ingredient forrrrrrrevvvver and then throw out the rotten (and usually pricey) ingredient.
In this recipe that expensive ingredient is Lion’s Mane mushrooms. They deserve your immediate attention, so in this case, don’t be like me.
These mushroom crab cakes are whole food plant-based and vegan. This recipe works best as an appetizer.
Eat Mushrooms: Try All the Edible Kinds
Mushrooms: you ever love them or hate them. On a plant-based diet, they stand in with meaty texture and plenty of umami. Plus, hellllloooooo, delicious! Now I know some of you abhor the texture of mushrooms. And some can’t get past their fungal beginnings.
My goal here is not to get the haters to love all the ‘shrooms. My goal here is to get all the mushroom lovers to try them in this recipe, aaaaannnnnnd to get all the haters to think of the possibilities of using mushrooms as a stand-in for meat.
Now, if you’re anything like my mushroom-hating teenagers, you’l be whining right about now.
Remember, pets, you have to try something ten times before you can stand to let it cross your lips and actually swallow. Ahem.
Now here are some damn good reasons mushrooms should be your next grown-up experiment:
- Mushrooms create umami — that hard-to-capture flavor that makes you groan when you taste something wonderfully savory.
- Mushrooms contain B vitamins, phosphorous, selenium, copper and potassium. These nutrients are needed for many of our cellular shenanigans. You don’t need a lot of these little buggers, but the tiny doses you get in mushrooms are super essential.
- For reasons not yet fully understood, mushrooms can stimulate the activity of cells that fight cancer.
- Mushrooms are a natural source of anti-inflammatory agents in our bodies. And they help us churn out more antibodies — especially important during a global pandemic!
- Mushrooms are good for gut health because of the polysaccharides they contain.
- Mushrooms create both bulk and flavor in meatless dishes. Oftentimes they can fool your brain into thinking it’s had a hamburger. I exaggerate, but you get my point.
So Many Mushrooms
Here in the Midwest, we have no trouble getting white button mushrooms. Most stores even carry giant portobello caps and tiny baby portobellos, also known as porcini. I am incredibly lucky to have a gourmet mushroom provider, Crystal Lake Mushrooms, very nearby. Their mushrooms are harvested and sold within a day and they are super fresh and I typically use what I purchase within a day. On the occasions that I can’t use them right away, they’ve hung out in my fridge for a week, and were still fresh and delicious! If you live in Chicago or the suburbs, Crystal Lake Mushrooms is worth the drive!
If you don’t live in Chicago, why don’t you? 🙂 If you’re able, seek out a local mushroom grower! You can often find them at farmer’s markets, and they are good people to know.
I know not everyone is as lucky as I am, and these varieties are not quite as available. The good news is that mushroom varieties can easily be substituted. And while the texture might be a little different, and the nuances of taste can vary a little bit, mushrooms are happy to fill in for one another.
In this recipe, I used Lion’s Mane mushrooms because their texture and taste mimic crab meat. Allegedly. Sometimes I think we tell ourselves these little white lies so we fell better about eating plants instead of animals.
So what sayest me? These lion’s mane mushrooms did seem very much like crabmeat in texture in these cakes. They are shredable, and the shreds hold their shape in the saute pan. I didn’t discern any semblance of sea flavor in these cakes. But mixed with traditional crab cake seasonings, these were pretty damn good.
And, bonus, no picking out crab shells. Ain’t no man likes that job.
Don’t Skip The Garlic Cashew Aioli!
Honestly, any seafood sauce will work with these mushroom crab cakes. If you have a favorite shrimp cocktail sauce or tartar sauce, they will pair wonderfully with these.
But the garlic aioli takes these mushroom crab cakes over the top. Try not to eat it this aoili with a spoon before you get it to the table! I highly recommend giving it a try, especially if you are serving these to company. Your guests will be very impressed and will likely leave you millions in their wills.
This aioli is made with cashews and without eggs or oil. It is whole food plant-based, vegan, and gluten-free. If you have leftovers, it’s great as a shmear on toasty grainy bread.
This Recipe’s Tricky Bits
Unlike canned crab meat, the mushrooms in this recipe have to be sauteed before mixing with the additional ingredients. Mushrooms cook down significantly, and your heart may hurt as you watch your $10 mushrooms transform into half their once bulked-up selves. Don’t cry — it’s part of the circle of lifee.
The other tricky part of this recipe is getting the ratio of panko to wet ingredients just right. After you mix all the other ingredients together then add the panko just until the crab cakes hold together. The easy way to figure that out is to add a tablespoon or two and then squish a bit together. If it holds together well, that’s enough panko. If it’s a wet mess, add more. If it won’t hold together, you can add a bit more lemon juice.
Lion’s mane mushrooms are crazy expensive and hard to find. If you can’t find them, or don’t want to spend the money, I’d go with baby portobellos, also known as porcinis. If you substitute, finely chop the mushrooms before you saute. Or give them a whirl in the food processor.
Have no fear! Learning requires experimentation. Cooking is the same — sometimes you have to use your instincts to get it right.Print
These mushroom “crab” cakes are delicious and perfect for a special occasion dinner or any night that you want to make special.
Roasted Garlic Cashew Aioli
1 cup cashews (soaked for 15 minutes if not using power blender)
1/2 cup water
8-10 cloves of roasted garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Mushroom “Crab” Cakes
8 ounces of lion’s mane mushrooms, shredded and torn or chopped fine
1 tablespoon finely diced sweet onion
1 tablespoon finely diced red bell pepper
1 small clove grated garlic
1 tablespoon of Old Bay seasoning
1 flax egg (1 tablespoon flax meal mixed with 2 tablespoons water)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 to 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
2 teaspoons finely chopped dill
Roasted Garlic Cashew Aioli
- Roast the garlic: If you want leftovers, roast an entire head of garlic by peeling off the papery bit and cutting about a 1/4 off the top of the entire bulb. Brush the top with a small amount of olive oil, wrap in foil, and roast directly on the oven rack at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes. If you can spare the time, let it roast for an hour. Once cool, unwrap the bulb and squeeze the softened garlic into a small storage container. You’ll only need about 8 cloves worth for this recipe, but roasted garlic can be mixed into sauces, salad dressing, or shmeared on toasted grainy bread.
- Soften the cashews: If you have Vitamix or another power blender, you don’t need to soak the cashews. If you have a regular blender, soak the cashews in hot water for 15 minutes — the longer the better if you have the time.
- Drain the cashews of their soaking water. Add them to your blender along with the roasted garlic, 1/2 cup of fresh water (not the soaking water), and the rest of the ingredients. Blend the mixture until it’s smooth, adding additional water if you need it to get the desired consistency. I like it the consistency of mayonnaise. If you like your dipping sauce a little thinner, feel free to add more water.
- Before removing the blended mixture taste it for seasoning. Add salt, pepper or additional lemon juice as desired. Set aside, letting the flavors mingle, while you make the crab cakes.
- Mix up your flax egg. Add one tablespoon of flax meal and 2 tablespoons of water together in a small bowl and whisk it together. Set it aside for now.
- Heat a medium-sized non-stick saute pan over medium heat. If using oil, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. The oil is optional here but I don’t mind a little oil. If you’d prefer you can water saute — keep a cup of water nearby and as you saute and food starts to stick, at a little water a tablespoon at a time.
- Add the mushrooms, onion, and pepper to the medium-hot pan. Let the veggies settle for a couple of minutes and then give them a stir. You don’t want much color here — just sweat them down. After a couple of minutes, add the garlic and keep the veggies moving at this point. After a minute or two, turn off the heat and add the Old Bay Seasoning and onion powder. Mix it in while all the veggies are warm to allow them to bloom a bit.
- Move the veggie mixture to a medium-sized bowl and let it cool so it’s comfortable to handle.
- Once the veggies are cool, add the flax egg, dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, parsley and dill. Mix well.
- Add the bread crumbs one tablespoon at a time and mix after each addition. Add until the mixture holds together well. If you are deciding whether to add more and aren’t sure if you should, just stop!
- Divide thee mixture into 8 equal portions and flatten into a cake. I brush one side with a tiny bit of olive oil, but this is optional.
- Wipe out the same saute pan you used for the veggies. Reheat the pan or medium high and add the tiny cakes to the pan, oil side down if you choose to brush. You want the cake to get to golden brown and then carefully flip it over to brown the other side.
- Carefully remove the cakes to a serving platter and garnish with a bit of parsley or dill and a squeeze of lemon.
- Category: Appetizers
If you love mushrooms you need to try this recipe, too! Whole Food Plant-Based Mixed Mushroom Stew is perfect on. a chilly day and it’s another beautiful way to get more plants in your belly.