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Why Mushroom Jerky Tastes So Good

It's a plant-based alternative that gets a lot of things right.

The mushroom industry is booming right now. The fungus has infiltrated virtually every aisle of the grocery store: shroom chips like Popadelics are on the rise, mushroom elixir is a thing, and mushroom blended beef is available in the meat section. You're going to be seeing even more products like this in the future, and while not all of them are winners, some mushroom replacement snacks actually make a ton of sense—none more so than mushroom jerky.

I've been crushing on mushroom jerky for the past year, and I actually think it has a bright future as a snack. No, I don't work for these people; I'm just a fan. That's why I avoid words like "eco-friendly" and "sustainable," because I imagine that you, like me, are tired of having those words jammed down your throat. Instead, I want to sell you on mushroom jerky by speaking to its ingredients and flavors—you know, the things that matter when you're eating something.

Mushroom jerky is high in fat

Especially when you compare it to beef jerky, mushroom jerky is high in fat, and that's a good thing. A 60-gram serving of Pan's Mushroom Jerky contains 15 grams of fat and 2 grams of saturated fat. Compare that to Country Archer beef jerky, which has zero grams of saturated fat and roughly 1 gram of fat per 60-gram serving. You get a more robust and luscious taste with mushroom jerky, because more fat means more flavor.

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In short, mushroom jerky feels like a luxury, not something I'm mindlessly eating for protein.

Mushroom jerky doesn’t need soy

One of the things I've noticed about some of the more notable brands of beef jerky like Country Archer is that they contain tamari soy sauce. That sauce is a powerful flavor enhancer, and it's how certain brands of beef jerky manage to taste so deeply meaty.

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By contrast, a lot of mushroom jerky brands note "soy free" on their packaging. While I'm sure this is to align the product with a wide range of dietary needs, the mushroom sauce just doesn't need the soy sauce in the first place. Dried shiitake mushrooms in particular have such a dense, concentrated umami flavor that adding soy sauce would just be overkill. In this way, mushroom jerky is arguably more "natural" than the beef king. We aren't living in the Old West anymore; beef jerky isn't a necessity, and it's worth testing out alternatives to see what affords the best flavor.

Mushroom jerky has better texture

The texture of a good shiitake mushroom jerky is like nothing else—in fact, that luxurious texture is one of the top reasons I buy it. Pan's, my go-to brand, is soft and tender, not to mention an umami bomb, accomplishing what dry, brittle beef jerky just can't.

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Typically, I buy beef jerky for the quick burst of protein, but I rarely find it wholly enjoyable to eat. The word "gnawing" comes to mind. When I buy mushroom jerky, I'm actually savoring it.

Mushroom jerky holds flavors well

Mushroom jerky is soft and saturated with oil (usually avocado), which means it holds onto flavors really well. Pan's Zesty Thai jerky contains coriander, cayenne, lemon peel, sea salt, garlic, onion, white pepper, cilantro, basil, and black pepper. That's a lot of fucking seasoning. And you know what? You can taste all of it. Beef jerky is too dry to compound flavor in this way.

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In the end, it's all about flavor, and mushroom jerky is an excellent vessel with a ton of possibilities. As we head toward the peak of the mushroom craze, this is one product that should be embraced by everyone.

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