Portobello mushrooms have a succulent, earthy taste and a thick, coarse texture that lends them well to use as a meat substitute. They’re easy enough to throw in tacos or burritos, to marinate or coat with a bit of oil and grill as you would a burger, to slice thinly and toss into pasta, or to mince finely to create a “mushroom meat”.
I had two outstanding Portobello mushrooms in the fridge, including a large 7-inch cap that was intimidating the cremini mushrooms on the shelf beside it. With it still cool and dreary outside, we were not quite in the mood for a burger, but also not quite in the mood for chili or stew – so we went for that wonderful in-between, the sloppy joe.
This version was inspired after perusing my copy of Vegan For Her (an excellent nutrition and health resource for vegan women) and stumbling across this recipe by co-author JL Fields. I didn’t quite have all the ingredients on hand, so I decided to incorporate the main selling points (the portobello, the quinoa, the smokiness of chipotles) and go my own way. The results were a rich, sweet, and mildly smoky sauce with strong umami undertones – the quinoa and chopped Portobellos give it the trademark sloppy-joe texture. We served it on warm vegan sesame seed buns with some leftover Daiya Mac ‘n’ Cheese on the side. Even my picky 11 year old (and my not-quite-as-picky 15 year old) gave it high praise.
Portobello Sloppy Joes
Serves: 6. Prep Time: ~30-35 minutes.
Accessibility notes: Requires fine chopping; use of a food chopper or processor is recommended. Requires managing two pots at a time (sauce is cooked while quinoa is still simmering).
- 1/2 cup quinoa (uncooked)
- 2 large Portobello mushroom caps, buttons removed
- 1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1/3 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup tomato sauce (preferably no salt added)
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/8 tsp chipotle chili flakes
1. In a small pot, bring 1 1/4 cups of water to a boil. Rinse the uncooked quinoa in a fine strainer (this removes the bitterness of the saponin that coats the grain). When the water is boiling, carefully add the rinsed quinoa and lower the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and set your timer for 25 minutes.
2. While the quinoa cooks, begin chopping the mushrooms, onion, and bell pepper. Independently pulse each vegetable briefly in a food chopper or processor to reduce it to a fine dice. (Note: you can chop away with a knife on any or all of the veggies for this, but the chopper helps to get the Portobello to a meaty consistency.)
3. Heat a separate large pot over medium heat or flame, adding the oil and letting it warm. Add the minced garlic and saute, stirring quickly, for about a minute. Add the chopped mushrooms, onions, and bell pepper and stir until well-mixed.
4. Add the tomato sauce and continue to stir, coating the vegetables. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, smoked paprika, pepper, and chipotle chili flakes. Reduce the heat/flame to low and stir intermittently, allowing the flavors to blend for 4-5 minutes. Your quinoa timer should be sounding any minute!
5. When the quinoa is cooked, fluff with a fork to reduce the steam, then carefully add 1 cup to the prepared sauce, or until desired sloppy joe thickness is achieved. Cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, adjusting spices as needed.
6. Scoop over a warm bun and enjoy! You can add shredded vegan cheese or steamed greens to make it fancier, if you like.