Mushroom BBQ Sandwiches Are the Wild, Unexpected Star of the Summer
As a vegetarian at summer cookouts, I’ve found myself in a variety of somewhat complicated positions over the years. Sometimes I bring my own bean burgers or pack of soy dogs and angle for a meatless corner of the grill. Other times, I load up my paper plate with potato and three-bean salads. Not to knock potato and three-bean salads (or, hey, even soy dogs), but in the 10 years that I’ve been a vegetarian, I’ve missed out on a lot of barbecue.
It’s not the meat I miss, really — it’s the spicy, sweet-tangy barbecue sauce, which tastes like 3 p.m. on an August afternoon and makes anything fun to eat. Why not make a veg version of a BBQ pulled pork sandwich — something joyfully, gloriously messy and drippy on a squishy bun?
Super-savory, flavor-absorbing mushrooms take the place of meat in this sandwich, as they so often do when meat is a no-go. To any vegetarian who has shuddered against a flabby portobello “burger,” this is not that. Here you take a mountain of creminis, thinly slice them, then toast them in butter until deeply golden. Add to that a soft and sweet tangle of onions to help bind the mixture and give it a “pulled” texture.
How to Make “Pulled” Mushrooms
With so many mushrooms (two whole pounds of them, which looks like and is a lot, but they cook down dramatically), you’ll need to sauté them in batches — for their best, most caramelized edges, the mushrooms need lots of space in the pan. Just before you take each batch off the heat, hit it with smoked paprika and apple cider vinegar — a preview of barbecue sauce to come. The whole process shouldn’t take much more than 20 minutes (a lot faster than it takes to cook a pork shoulder).
Finishing the mixture couldn’t be easier: Send everyone, mushrooms and onions, back to the pan, then plump them with zesty, vinegary barbecue sauce and a bit of water. This is a sandwich for piling: Start with warm brioche buns, then heap on a big scoop of mushrooms followed by another of creamy slaw. And as with any good barbecue sandwich, serve with a stack of napkins.
Pulled Mushroom BBQ Sandwiches
- 7 tablespoons
unsalted butter, divided
medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 2 pounds
cremini, button, or mixed mushrooms, trimmed of woody ends and thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons
apple cider vinegar, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons
smoked paprika, divided
- 3/4 cup
barbecue sauce, such as Stubb’s
- 1/2 cup
water or low-sodium vegetable broth
Freshly ground black pepper
brioche buns, split
Creamy slaw, for serving
Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until very tender and slightly golden. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the same pan over medium-high heat. Add a third of the mushrooms, stirring to coat in the butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and golden, 5 to 7 minutes. (They may look dry at first—don’t worry!) Add 1/2 teaspoon each vinegar and smoked paprika, stirring well to combine, then transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the onions. Repeat with the remaining butter, mushrooms, vinegar, and paprika in two more batches.
Return the mushroom and onion mixture to the pan over medium-low heat. Add the barbecue sauce and water or broth, stir to combine, and cook until slightly thickened. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
To serve, toast or warm the brioche buns. Divide the filling between the buns and top with creamy slaw.
Make ahead: You can slice the mushrooms up to 3 days in advance and keep in an airtight container, or make the full barbecued mushroom mixture up to 3 days in advance.
Storage: You can store the barbecued mushroom mixture in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
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