Mushroom “Carnitas” Tacos

published Jul 20, 2021
summer
Mushroom “Carnitas” Tacos

These vegan "carnitas" are meaty, savory, and pleasantly greasy.

Serves4

Makes10 to 12 tacos

Prep10 minutes

Cook25 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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enoki mushroom carnitas tacos on a plattter
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Like many great dishes, these carnitas are the result of a happy accident. You see, I bought enoki mushrooms on a whim but failed to use them in their prime. Before I knew it, they were starting to cross over to the sad, mushy side, so I did what any tired cook would do: Sauté them. The stringy ‘shrooms turned out crispy, golden-brown, and pleasantly greasy. I piled them into charred corn tortillas with guacamole, fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime, and after the first surprisingly delicious bite I thought, “Did I just make vegan carnitas?”

Traditional carnitas are a Mexican dish of juicy braised pork with crispy browned edges. Although the pork is typically cooked low and slow, this plant-based version cooks quickly on the stovetop, meaning you can sit down to savory, “meaty” tacos in just about 30 minutes. Here’s how to make this low-effort vegan summer dinner.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

What Are Enoki Mushrooms?

Enoki mushrooms are thin, almost noodle-like mild white mushrooms that grow in bunches. They’re popular in East Asian cuisine and are often used in soups and stir-fries (there’s a good chance you’ve had them in ramen). They can be found in most Asian markets, specialty food stores, and increasingly more in standard supermarkets, too. Their size, shape, and stringy texture makes them a natural dupe for pulled pork.

Look for mushrooms that are firm and white (not discolored or slimy), and store them in a paper bag. When you’re ready to cook them, pick off what you need and trim off the woody parts of the stems.

4 Tips for Making Enoki Mushroom “Carnitas”

  1. Don’t wash the mushrooms. Dry mushrooms make the the crispiest “carnitas.” Gently brush off any dirt with a pastry brush or folded paper towel.
  2. Cut the mushrooms into pieces. Enoki have a stringy texture, so it’s important to cut them into 1 1/2-inch pieces before sautéing. Otherwise, they can be a struggle to chew.
  3. Cook in two batches. If the mushrooms are crowded, they’ll steam and become mushy instead of browning and crisping. Working in two batches allows you to cook every single piece until it’s brown and crispy.
  4. Resist the urge to stir. Prolonged contact with the hot pan results in maximum crispiness. In fact, for the first five minutes, cook them completely undisturbed.

Serving Enoki Carnitas

For the ultimate vegan tacos, top the “carnitas” with smoky chipotle mayo, zingy quick-pickled red onions, and sliced avocado. If you’re feeling lazy, just guacamole will do. You can enjoy the crispy ‘shrooms in a burrito, or on a burrito bowl.

Mushroom “Carnitas” Tacos

These vegan "carnitas" are meaty, savory, and pleasantly greasy.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes

Makes 10 to 12 tacos

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the tacos:

  • 1

    small red onion

  • 1/2 cup

    seasoned rice vinegar

  • 1/3 cup

    water

  • 1/3 cup

    regular or vegan mayonnaise

  • 1 to 4 tablespoons

    canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, such as La Morena or La Costena

  • 12

    (about 5-inch) corn tortillas

  • 2

    medium avocados

For the "carnitas:"

  • 1 1/4 pounds

    enoki mushrooms

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 4 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided

Instructions

  1. Halve, peel, and thinly slice 1 small red onion (about 3/4 cup). Place in a medium bowl or jar, add 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar and 1/3 cup water, and stir to combine. Make sure the onions are fully submerged and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 10 days.

  2. Make the “carnitas:” Trim the root ends from 1 1/4 pounds enoki mushrooms. Cut the mushrooms crosswise into 1 1/2-inch pieces and separate the strands.

  3. Place 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl and stir to combine.

  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half of the mushrooms and cook until the edges are browned and crisp, stirring once or twice, 8 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle with half of the spice mixture and stir to combine. Cook until the mushrooms are browned and crisp, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, mushrooms, and spice mixture. Meanwhile, make the chipotle mayo.

  5. Place 1/3 cup mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in a small bowl and stir to combine. Taste and add more adobo sauce 1 tablespoon at a time until desired heat level.

  6. Warm 12 corn tortillas: For a gas stove, warm them one at a time directly on the grates over medium-low heat until warmed through and charred in spots, 30 to 60 seconds per side. For an electric stove, warm one at a time in a heavy-bottomed skillet (like cast iron) over medium-high heat.

  7. Peel and thinly slice 2 avocados. Remove the onions from the pickling liquid. To assemble the tacos, spread some of the chipotle mayo on the tortillas and top with the “carnitas,” onions, and avocado.

Recipe Notes

Gluten-free: To make this recipe gluten-free, make sure the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are wheat-free. Both brands listed above are gluten-free.

Make ahead: The onions can be pickled and refrigerated up to 10 days ahead.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.