The crispy, crumbly pieces of cooked pork product that people (i.e. me) love/loved to pour on top of everything from wedge salads to creamy soups. Maybe even ice cream. And beyond big bursts of bacon flavor, these savory sprinkles add texture to “softer” foods, giving you something to crunch. But as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, they also tend to add a lot of sodium; about 200mg per 7g serving (or a few teaspoons). And that’s because bacon bits are (surprise!) super processed and mostly made from cured, salted bacon.
Of course, I’ve found a few low-so (and meat-free) alternatives, like bacon bit-flavored coconut flakes. But even though these substitutes are tasty, they are lacking in the umami department — one of the five tastes often associated with soy sauce and parmesan cheese. The one that makes you lick your lips and demand seconds.
The good news is that you don’t need bacon or pork to get that umami flavor. It actually occurs naturally in foods like seaweed, green tea, tomatoes, and mushrooms (particularly the shiitake kind). And recently, I’ve discovered that, with the help of sliced shiitake mushrooms, some oil, and time in the oven, you can make a better bacon bit, with no sodium and tons of that good umami flavor.
Most of the time, these little crispy slices of mushroom never make it to my plate. They are ridiculously addictive. And I eat them all before I can use them. But if you can be patient, try adding them to salads, soups, and frittata focaccia toasts. They’ll become your new favorite textural and taste makers. And you’ll probably never crave processed bacon bits again. Or if you do, this will be totally satisfying.
So the next time you have guests over, treat them to these umami filled, vegan, gluten-free, paleo, kidney-friendly, low-so good (phew!) crispy mushroom bits. And then blow their minds and tastebuds away.
CRISPY MUSHROOM BITS
Makes 1 Cup Mushroom Bits
- 2 cups sliced shiitake mushroom
- 2 to 3 teaspoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 425dg F.
Place mushrooms and oil in a large, oven-safe saute pan or on a baking sheet. Using your hands or a spatula, make sure all the sliced shiitakes are even coated in oil. Then, spread out the mushrooms in a single layer in the pan or sheet, so that they aren’t crowded. Place in the oven and bake until the mushrooms bacon crispy, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Add the mushrooms directly to your dish or place in an airtight-container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. Reheating in a 425dg F oven for 5 to 8 minutes, until re-crisped.