Chubby Vegetarian Shares Mushroom Meat Recipe

Mushroom meat, made with roasted eggplant, mushrooms and onions, is a versatile and healthy ingredient for tacos, tamales, and sauce.

Justin Fox Burkes

By the end of January, most of us need a little help sticking with our New Year’s resolutions to eat more vegetables. Happily, Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence, the duo behind the Chubby Vegetarian, will be at Whole Foods Market Saturday to help us out.

From 1 to 3 p.m., the pair will be demonstrating and sampling recipes from their cookbook “The Southern Vegetarian: 100 Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Table.” Just follow your nose to the store’s bulk bin section, where they will be cooking “Mushroom Meat” and signing copies of their cookbook released last year.

“Our mission in the kitchen is to make vegetables accessible and delicious,” Burks said, explaining how the versatile meat substitute is made with Portobello mushrooms, Italian eggplant, and sweet onions that have been ground and oven roasted.

“The result is something low-fat, heart-healthy, unprocessed, and delicious to use in place of ground beef in things like taco salads, tamales, spaghetti sauce, or wherever you'd normally use ground beef,” Burks said.

Burks, who shares the recipe below, also said he is excited about visiting with friends and customers at the new Whole Foods store in East Memphis, which opened last week in the space formerly used by Office Depot. “It's a real pleasure for us to get to talk to our friends in Memphis and the people who love to cook from our book,” he said. “We are as inspired by them as they seem to be by our stories and recipes.”  

Mushroom Meat

(From “The Southern Vegetarian” cookbook)

We used to rely on heavy-handed meat substitutes to give our meals that old, familiar texture and flavor that we grew up on as the center of our 1980s meat-and-three dinners. As we began to shy away from more and more processed foods, we were looking for a way to get that same familiar result from our own kitchen. The solution was to take two things we already love, mushrooms and eggplant, and turn them into a multi-purpose "meat." It's so simple and requires little hands-on time. Make this in large batches, freeze what you don't use, and defrost it to add to tacos or burritos, to fill ravioli, or to cobble together a homemade veggie burger.


3 cups finely chopped Portobello mushroom (about 3 medium)

3 cups finely chopped eggplant (peeled, about 1 medium)

2 cups finely chopped white onion (about 1 medium)

2 bouillon cubes (like Not-Beef)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add roughly-chopped mushrooms, stems and all, to your food processor and pulse 3 times or until finely chopped. You do not want to turn the vegetables into a fine paste. The pieces should be about the size of a black-eyed pea. Place processed mushrooms onto a large, parchment-lined, 17 x 12 inch rimmed baking sheet. Pulse the roughly chopped eggplant in the food processor in the same manner. Place eggplant onto the sheet pan beside the mushrooms. Repeat this process with the onion. 

Crumble the bouillon cubes into the pile of processed vegetables. Drizzle the mound of mushrooms, eggplant, and onion with the olive oil and vinegar. Using your hands, toss it all together. Spread the mixture evenly over the sheet pan. Sprinkle the mixture with garlic powder and pepper. Bake it for a total of 20 minutes. Remove the mixture and allow it to cool in the pan. 

(Some eggplants will contain more water than others. If there is excess moisture in the bottom of the pan drain it off using a colander. Reserve the liquid to add to soups or stews since it’s very flavorful.)

For an Italian variation, add fresh herbs from the garden. To make a Mexican version, add cumin to the mix along with a palm full of ancho chili powder and chipotle pepper. The possibilities are endless. Sub this Mushroom Meat into any recipe that calls for ground beef.

Makes 4 cups. 

(Demonstration, sampling, and booksigning at Whole Foods Market, Jan. 25, 1-3 p.m.)

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