Mushroom Jerky Is Like Beef Jerky but With One Major Difference

·4 min read

Like a puppy with the zoomies after being stuck inside all day, I decided this summer to get out of Dodge. The vision: Drive around the U.S. with my boyfriend, chowin’ down on jerky with my feet on the dash. “Just the Slim Jims,” I imagined myself saying to every gas station attendant, ushering an armful of meat twigs across the counter. I mean, what’s not to love? They’re sweet-salty, chewy, filling, and arguably better for me than my other road trip kryptonite: Pringles. But then one night my boyfriend sent me an Instagram reel of a fluffy calf trotting happily about a farm, which triggered an hours-long baby cow video spiral, and a hysterical declaration that “You can’t love something *and* want to eat it!!!” So now I’m all stocked up on mushroom jerky instead.

So, how does mushroom jerky compare to the meat stuff?

First, allow me to state the obvious: mushroom jerky tastes like mushrooms—not beef. So if you don’t like fungi’s earthy flavors, this probably isn’t the product for you. But! If, like me, you’re trying to eat less meat and you’re down with ’shrooms, mushroom jerky is a great alternative. It’s immensely satisfying—fleshy, umami-packed, and filling—and fibrous mushrooms seem to soak up flavors and seasonings like nature’s little sponges. As chef, writer, and Emmy Award–nominated TV host Sophia Roe says, mushroom jerky “makes you think, ‘Wow, this is definitely made of meat,’” without, well, being made of meat.

Another perk of going full fungi: not only is mushroom jerky delicious and seriously nutritious, but I also feel better knowing it’s gentler on the earth than beef. And mushrooms are a sustainable alternative to more than just fake meat. Thanks to their unique structure and chemical properties, they provide the ideal building blocks for everything from housing insulation to faux leather.

I’m sold. Can I make it myself?

Yes! However, I am but a mere mushroom stan, so I asked Roe for advice. Here’s how she makes mushroom jerky:

Toss 8 oz. mushrooms (Roe usually goes for shiitakes, but choose your faves. Know this: Your jerky will only be as good as the mushrooms you buy, so opt for something “meaty” and flavorful) and coat them in about ¼ cup coconut aminos, 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp. paprika, a splash of liquid smoke (optional), and a few cracks black pepper. (For extra flavor oomph, store marinated mushrooms in a resealable bag and refrigerate overnight before dehydrating.)

Preheat your oven to its lowest temperature (usually around 250℉). Line a sheet pan with a Silpat, spread out your mushrooms, and bake for an hour.

If your mushrooms are large or still wet-looking, flip them with tongs and bake for another 30–45 minutes. The finished product should look wrinkly and shrunken, like dried fruit. Let cool and store in an airtight container.

I’m not that guy. Can I buy mushroom jerky instead?

Great news: There are plenty of store-bought jerkies that are just as delicious as the homemade stuff AND easier to acquire for lazy people and people on road trips (me and me!). The ones below are some of the best I’ve sampled, but the world is really your oyster (mushroom).

Moku Hawaiian Teriyaki Mushroom Jerky

$21.00, Amazon (3-Pack)

VEGKY Pepper Shiitake Mushroom Jerky

$7.00, Amazon

Pan’s Applewood BBQ Mushroom Jerky

$7.00, Thrive Market

Eat the Change Habanero BBQ Mushroom Jerky

$6.00, Thrive Market

Savory Wild Sesame, Ginger & Korean Chili Portabella Mushroom Jerky

$7.00, Amazon

I bought...a lot of mushroom jerky. What can I do besides eat it right out of the bag?

Here’s what I’ve realized on my road trip thus far: Because it’s already “cooked” and seasoned, mushroom jerky is a superfast route to flavorful and substantial meals and snacks. I’ve tossed many a packet in salads for some textural heft. I’ve stir-fried those little hunks with broccoli and rice as a shortcut to various Airbnb dinners. I’ve snuck a few slices into sandwiches for a little fleshy kick. And I’ve sliced them into a sort of savory trail mix with nuts and seeds. But don’t let me limit your magical mushroom jerky journey. Go wild! Try it all! And know that Mother Earth and her sweet baby moo-moos will be grateful you did.

Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit