August 22, 2012

Salt-Free Oyster Mushroom Calamari


There’s no greater word in the dictionary. See? I just used it twice.

And before you can say no to that claim, let me explain.

Remember when you were little and your parents told you, “no,” and then you answered, “why not?” to which they replied, yet again, “no” and then the “no” and “why not” rally began, finally ending with you tiring out your parents and eating that strawberry shortcake popsicle instead of a nap?

Remember that? Well that was the beginning of falling in love with “no.”

Because, you see, even from early on you understood that “no” will eventually turn into a “yes,” at least if you want it to (and you don’t plan on doing anything illegal). It is the greatest motivator in the world. And every “no” I have ever heard only makes me work harder to prove otherwise.

“No” ignites the creative light bulb. It pushes the tired climber to the final peak. It turns oyster mushrooms into calamari.

That’s the power of no. And that’s why it’s the greatest word in the dictionary. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

And so, just because real calamari can be high in sodium — due to the amount that gets added with seasoning (around 260 for 3oz cooked and salted) — it doesn’t mean you can’t make a salt-free version at home. And actually, since squid naturally only has 37mg of sodium for 3oz, if it hasn’t been brined or salted, you could even use the real guys if you want! But for the purpose of being whimsical and vegetarian, we’re sticking with mushrooms today.

Taking a cue from creative chefs and vegan cooks alike, you can easily turn mushrooms into this fried snack of the sea, without the salt. Some folks have used their knife skills to actually cut thicker trumpet mushrooms into ring-shapes, mimicking the traditional look of the dish. But for ease and the purpose of my virgin voyage with this recipe, I just used a trusty handful of tangled oyster mushrooms to approximate the leading role.

I mixed flour and cornmeal to give the oyster mushroom calamari a crunchy texture. And due to my aversion to cleaning up hot oil, I baked it instead of frying. Although, you can easily adjust the recipe to give them a hot oil bath.

And you can turn this no into a delicious yes.

Chow on.


inspired by Chow Vegan Baked King Oyster Mushroom Calamari 


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice from 1/2 small lemon
  • 2 cups oyster mushrooms, “tentacles” broken apart
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt-free garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Spray oil


Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, and oyster mushrooms in a small bowl. Leave it to marinate for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a second small bowl, mix the water and the all purpose flour together until it forms a paste-like texture. The, in a third small bowl, combine the cornmeal and remaining spices.

In batches, dip the mushroom “tentacles” into the flour paste and then into the cornmeal, making sure they get fully immersed and covered. Place the breaded “tentacles” on a well-oiled (or parchment-covered) baking sheet in a single layer and continue dipping and breading until all the “tentacles” have been prepped. Give them a good spray of oil.

Place the sheet in the oven for 10 minutes, flip the tentacles over, and bake for another 5 minutes on the other side until crispy. Serve immediately with salt-free tartar sauce and lemon wedges (below).




  • 1/2 cup no-salt-added tomato puree
  • 1/4 teaspoon no-salt-added prepared horseradish
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Mix. Taste. Put into a small bowl. Serve.

+ Sodium Count: Oyster mushrooms: 15mg per cup; Canned tomato puree: 15mg per [1/2] cup, depending on brand; Prepared horseradish: 20mg per 1 teaspoon depending on brand


Kali September 24, 2012 at 6:26 pm

This sounds delicious! I try looking for easy recipes that I can easily cook for just myself since my husband is an anti-veggie kinda guy. You really can make just a few or a whole dish for a nice appetizer or side dish. I wonder about doing this with other types of mushrooms since stores around here don’t always offer oyster mushrooms. You could also try different types of sauces to change it up a bit.

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