I'm so excited to share this Vegan Lion's Mane Recipe since it's one of my favorite dishes to make. This tasty mushroom can be cooked in many ways, but this method is easy and results in an amazing meaty texture. This post will teach you how to take this spongy white mushroom and turn it into vegan nuggets!
Adding the crunchy exterior and pan-frying to a golden crisp mimics an elevated version of an American icon, the nugget.
What does this mushroom look like?
There are different visual textures as you pull the fungi's white mane apart, making them feel delicate and soft. But once you've soaked and squeezed the water out, they puff back to form, showing how resilient they are.
Lion's mane has a few distinct characteristics: it's white with a shaggy hair-like texture that resembles its name. They typically grow in a single clump about 5 inches wide. Since there is no cap or stem, this is a unique-looking fungus! It goes by the other name, hedgehog mushroom, again a name play on its appearance.
Where to find it?
This mushroom is commonly found growing wild in North America, Europe, and Asia. Like most wild species, it loves hardwood and decaying trees but can be spotted on living American beech trees.
Since you probably are unlikely to find some in your backyard, the best places to find them are: the produce section of your local grocery store, farmer's markets, Asian food markets, or your neighborhood mushroom supplier. This is someone who grows varieties of mushrooms and commonly sells them to restaurants. The best place to search is google 'mushroom supplier in (your city)' or talk to locals at the farmer's market.
Grow your own mushrooms
If none of the above fancy your needs, I'd highly recommend growing your own! I long for a sprawling garden, but it's not possible with my current address being an apartment. Finding ways to invite new growth into my space is easy with a change of perspective. Windowsill herbs, a patio tomato plant, and a bucket of growing mushroom spores give me so much joy!
When doing a google search for mushroom kits, you'll find there are plenty of options. You'll get a couple of flushes with one bucket, making DIY the most cost-effective method.
Are there health benefits?
YES! The internet is splattered with information on Hericium Erinaceus mushrooms and why they should be consumed daily. If you have an aging adult in your life, I'd implore you to research the benefits this mushroom has on our brains; it's phenomenal.
This fungus has been medicinally used for thousands of years since the Buddist mountain monks found it helped their mental focus during meditation.
Clinically it's shown to help promote neurogenesis and neurite growth, a major benefit for Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and other neurological disorders.
Besides its impact on cognitive functioning, it also assists our immune system, cholesterol levels, anxiety, and depression.
If you'd like to learn more, my go-to mycologist is Paul Stamets. You can find him at https://paulstamets.com. He has TED talks on youtube, and if you search his name on any podcast platform, you'll find great conversations. He has a wealth of fungi knowledge. I'd also recommend the documentary Fantastic Fungi.
What does it taste like?
This mushroom is believed to have a seafood-like flavor similar to lobster, but that's not how I would describe it... There are definite similarities to lobster regarding the texture, but to say it tastes like seafood doesn't fit the bill.
There isn't much flavor on its own; maybe a slightly earthy undertone would be the best description. But since it mimics the texture of a sponge, it's amazing at soaking in whatever it's seasoning it with.
Learning to cook mushrooms may be new to you, especially if you are not familiar with the various tastes.
For this Lion's Mane mushroom recipe, the flavors come from the breadcrumbs and spices, and the mushroom brings the texture.
How to clean and store them
Once you have your lion's mane mushrooms, quickly rinse to remove any dirt (not soak) and pat dry.
You can store them in the package they came in or transfer them to a paper bag for longer freshness. Keep them in the main part of the refrigerator (not the produce drawers), so they get good airflow.
From my experience, you'll want to plan to cook these mushrooms within 3-5 days of buying them.
Making this dish felt like a unique experience, similar to enjoying a special glass of wine or an exclusive seasonal vegetable.
I chose this method of boiling and then pan-frying per Paul Stamets's recommendation. I was also aiming for golden brown crunchy bites. These nuggets pair perfectly with sauteed veggies and rice or simply dipped into ketchup!
My top tips
Don't over-boil: this step is critical to the result. You don't want mushy mushrooms!
Spices: adding spices to the breadcrumbs will bring in flavor. I used cumin, garlic, paprika, salt, and black pepper. Pro tip: buy breadcrumbs that are already spiced to make it easier. Ensure you have gluten-free breadcrumbs if necessary.
Add more oil while cooking: if you notice the nuggets are sticking, make sure the surface is slick. Buying a quality nonstick, non-Teflon frying pan has been life-changing!
If you create this recipe, leave a comment below letting me know how it went. I'd be giddy if you left this recipe a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ star rating!
Vegan Lion's Mane Recipe
- 16 oz fresh Lion's Mane mushrooms
- Cooking Oil
- 2 tablespoons flour I used all-purpose GF flour
- 3 tablespoons filtered water
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs gluten-free if necessary
- Optional spices: (you can purchase breadcrumbs that are already spiced if not, this is my spice combo): 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon black pepper, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon paprika.
- First, you'll run water lightly over the mane to clean it and remove the stem, if any.
- Next, using your fingers tear the mushroom into large bite-sized pieces.
- Fill a pan with water and bring to a boil. Transfer the mushrooms into the water for 3 minutes until tender.
- Drain the water and transfer the mushrooms into a bowl to cool. Once cooled, take each mushroom in your hand and squeeze out any remaining liquid.
- Prepare the batter by mixing both flour and water until you reach a thin paste set aside.
- Add spices, if using, to breadcrumbs in a separate bowl.
- Take each mushroom piece and dunk it in the thin batter, coating fully, then transfer to breadcrumb bowl, ensuring crumbs cover the entire nugget.
- Heat a large skillet, nonstick, or frypan on high with cooking oil (I used avocado oil but olive oil works too). Once hot lower heat to medium-low and carefully transfer each nugget to the oiled pan allowing enough space to flip with tongs. Fry each nugget until all sides are golden and crispy, turning occasionally.
- Once done, immediately serve with your favorite dipping sauce, or I prefer to make it a meal with sauteed veggies and rice.