Umami, the “fifth taste” as defined by Japanese cuisine (along with sour, sweet, bitter, and salty), is loosely defined as savory, and literally as the essence of deliciousness. Here you can explore umami-rich recipes for using dried shiitake mushrooms, which, when reconstituted and used in creative ways, are the epitome of that seductive fifth taste.
There are still plenty of reasons to start with dried shiitake mushrooms, even though the fresh variety is now more widely available than ever. The flavor of the dried is more concentrated, the texture is juicier, they’ll keep at room temperature for a long time, and they’re usually more economical.
Shiitakes are a favorite mushroom variety in several Asian cuisines, and as you’ll see in the recipes ahead, they’re equally welcome in other types of preparations, like vegan burgers and tacos, where their meaty texture is put to good use.
All the recipes in this roundup, with the exception of Dried Shiitake Mushroom Broth and Winter Vegetable Miso Soup, were developed by Hannah Kaminsky, and all the beautiful photos are hers. Links to Hannah’s recipes on BittersweetBlog and the use of her photos are by permission.
The better the quality of the dried shiitakes, the better your chances of achieving that much-sought quality of umami. Hannah has long been a fan of Sugimoto dried shiitake mushrooms, and lately, I’ve become one, too.
Hannah also notes that there are two categories of dried shiitake mushrooms, based on size; the smaller of them are the more delicate Koshin, while Donko are the thicker of the pair. You can learn lots more about dried shiitake mushrooms by linking through to the post for the first recipe below, Umami Shiitake Burgers.
Umami Shiitake Burgers with Shiitake Aioli: Chickpeas and mushrooms join forces to create supple yet sturdy patties that are sure to satisfy the heartiest of appetites. Crisp on the outside, the initial crunchy bite yields easily to a tender interior, bursting with an intense depth of savory flavor. Quick, garlicky aioli further amplifies the bold flavor with shiitake powder. Spread it on thick for a luscious, juicy burger that can’t be beat.
Dried Shiitake Mushroom Broth: This easy shiitake-flavored broth results in a richly flavor booster for Asian-style vegetable and noodle soups. In addition to being a soup starter, this Japanese-inspired vegan broth is also pleasing to eat embellished simply, as suggested in the recipe.
Winter Vegetable Miso Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms: Surprisingly substantial, this vegetable miso soup features roots, cabbage, tofu, and shiitake mushrooms. This flavorful, naturally vegan soup is quite warming, and more filling than the more traditional broth-y style miso soups.
Shojin Minestrone Soup: Reimagining the Italian staple with the Japanese principles of shojin riyori in mind, this brothy soup is light and refreshing, yet wholly satisfying thanks to a rich palate of deep flavors, varied textures, vibrant colors, and ample umami.
Instant Cream of Mushroom Soup Mix: Whip up your own instant cream of mushroom soup mix to make a comforting starter in seconds, or use it for greater culinary creations. It’s an indispensable pantry staple that you’ll want on hand at all times.
Shiitake Stroganoff: Garlicky cream sauce bathes the cascading noodles in a tidal wave of luscious mushroom goodness, infusing every element of the dish with incredible amounts of umami. This post has lots of information on soaking shiitakes as you make your way to the recipe.
Shiitake Tacos: Minced tempeh and shiitake mushroom stems simmer with nuanced spice in this effortless, almost instant entree. With a smoky, subtly charred edge from the kiss of a cast iron skillet, no one would ever miss the meat here.
Vegan Shiitake Meatballs: Coming together in a matter of minutes, this shortcut seitan formula is easy to master. The mixture is first steamed to become plump and juicy, then quickly seared for a crisp, golden brown exterior. They’re incredibly hearty, substantial, and won’t fall apart under pressure.
Forager’s Pie: In the spirit of shepherd’s pie, this Forager’s Pie replaces ground beef with umami-rich shiitake mushrooms and tempeh. Incredibly meaty and satisfying, this is the next level of plant-based comfort food.
Browned Vegan Butter Mushroom Stuffing: Tangy sourdough and umami mushrooms are the foundation of this hearty, comforting stuffing. Infused with autumnal herbs and nutty browned butter, it’s the best side dish you could invite over for Thanksgiving dinner.
Nut Cheese-Stuffed Shiitake Mushrooms: Juicy, meaty shiitake mushrooms are the umami base for rich herbed nut cheese with a luscious creamy texture that seems to defy its dairy-free components. Vegan yogurt adds a slightly tangy, funky note, like earthy yet mild goat cheese, perfectly paired with the rich umami mushrooms underneath.
Shiitake Pâté en Croûte: Take rich shiitake pate and wrap it in buttery puff pastry for the ultimate meatless holiday feast. This festive entree is a showstopper that everyone will love.
Mushroom fans, you might also enjoy this site’s Guide to 9 Common & Offbeat Culinary Mushroom Varieties.