Looking for a vegan carnitas alternative? Try this enoki mushroom carnitas recipe for a surprisingly spot-on, delicious dupe.
These enoki mushroom “carnitas” tacos are one of those magical cooking accidents that are almost too good to be true. You see, I had some enoki mushrooms – destined for noodle soup – hanging out in my fridge for a day too long, looking like they’re starting to cross over to the dark side.
Lo and behold, I didn’t actually have any noodles and had to think fast. So I sliced up the mushrooms, sautéed them with spices, and piled them into tortillas. The mushrooms turned out savory, chewy with crispy edges, pleasantly greasy, and ridiculously delicious. Turns out, they were the closest thing to plant-based carnitas I’d ever tasted and I could not wait to share the good news with you.
Between the creamy guacamole and zingy cilantro-onion relish, these enoki mushroom carnitas are one of the most delicious, meatiest-tasting plant-based tacos I’ve ever had.
Carnitas (translation: “little meats”) is a traditional Mexican pork recipe. It refers to slow-cooking meat with lard and spices; then shredding the meat and lightly browning it. The result is rich, tender bits of pork with caramelized edges – used to fill tacos, burritos, and tamales.
Plant-based cooks often turn to jackfruit for a carnitas alternative, but I personally don’t love jackfruit as a meat substitute. Although it has the right look and texture, it’s almost always overpoweringly sweet and just… not right. Enoki mushrooms are exponentially better and tastier for this application.
What’s In This Enoki Mushroom Recipe
These vegan carnitas tacos are filled with enoki mushrooms that are cooked in a skillet until crispy, then seasoned with cumin, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. The tacos are completed by guacamole and cilantro-onion relish.
What Are Enoki Mushrooms?
Enoki are thin, almost noodle-like, mild white mushrooms that grow in bunches, common in Chinese and Japanese cuisines. They can be found in most Asian markets, speciality food stores, and increasingly more in standard supermarkets.
They have a tendency to get slimy quickly. (In fact, give them a good look at the store before tossing them into your cart. They should be dry and not mushy.) Part of the problem is that they’re mostly sold in plastic packaging, which traps moisture and exacerbates their sliminess potential. Unwrap them as soon as you bring them home and store in a paper bag in the fridge.
How to Make These Vegan Mushroom Carnitas
Making enoki mushroom carnitas is actually nothing like making traditional carnitas. But like I said, for a plant-based alternative, the results are surprisingly satisfying…
- Trim the mushrooms, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces, and separate the strands.
- Sauté until they’re crispy and dark brown, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Stir in the spices and voilà, vegan carnitas!
Tips for Cooking Enoki Mushroom Carnitas
- Don’t wash enoki mushrooms under running water – it’ll prevent them from browning. Wipe them with a damp paper towel instead (or cook straight from the package like I do).
- Cut into bite-size bits. Enoki have a stringy texture, so it’s important to cut them into small pieces before sautéing. Otherwise, they can be hard to chew.
- Give them space… It’s important not to overcrowd your skillet when cooking these [or any other] mushrooms. If they’re too crowded, they will steam and become mushy instead of browning. (That’s why I instruct to sauté these in two batches.)
- …and time. Allow the mushrooms to make prolonged contact with the hot pan, resisting the urge to stir too often. Your patience will reward you with delicious, brown crispy bits.
About the Cilantro-Onion Taco Relish
The combo of chopped raw onion and cilantro, marinated in lime juice, is a classic garnish often served with tacos. Combined, these three basic ingredients create the absolute greatest, spicy-sour-bright embellishment for these vegan carnitas. Don’t even think about skipping it!
More Latin-inspired recipes…
- Mexican-Inspired Rice and Beans Casserole
- Black Bean and Plantain Bowls
- Spicy Tomato Chickpea Soup
- Plantain Nachos
Let me know if you try this recipe! Give it a rating below and leave a comment, and don’t forget to tag me on Instagram @thenewbaguette with your creation.Print
Looking for a vegan carnitas alternative? Try sautéed enoki mushrooms for a surprisingly spot-on, delicious dupe.
For the Relish
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro (about 1/2 bunch)
- 1/2 cup minced sweet white onion (about 1/4 large onion)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the Tacos
- 1 1/4 pounds enoki mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 12 corn tortillas, warmed
For the Guacamole
- 2 ripe avocados, pitted and peeled
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon minced cilantro
- Fine sea salt, to taste
- Start the relish. Combine all relish ingredients in a bowl and set aside to marinate (at least 30 minutes).
- Start the tacos. Trim the root ends of the mushroom bunches and discard. Cut the mushrooms into 1 1/2-inch pieces and separate into individual strands.
- In a small bowl, combine the cumin, garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
- Cook the mushrooms. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the mushrooms (see note below) and cook until every single piece is brown and crispy, stirring once or twice, 10 to 12 minutes total. In the last 2 minutes of cooking, stir in half of the spice mixture. Transfer cooked mushrooms to a bowl and cook the remaining mushrooms the same way.
- Make the guacamole. In a shallow bowl, mash the avocados with a fork. Stir in the lime juice and cilantro. Season to taste with salt.
- Assemble. Divide the guacamole among the tortillas, and top with the mushrooms and relish.
It’s important to cook the mushrooms in 2 batches because you don’t want to over-crowd the skillet. If you cook too many mushrooms at once, they will steam instead of browning and take on a slimy texture.
- Serving Size: 1/4 of the recipe (3 tacos)
- Calories: 550