These vegan bbq mushroom tacos are savory, tangy, and oh-so-satisfying. Portobellos and shiitakes are coated in a smoky mixture of spices and then simmered in your favorite barbecue sauce until tender. Then, they’re tucked into warm corn tortillas and topped with quick pickled cucumbers, scallions, sesame seeds, and a final drizzle of bbq sauce.
Every year around this time, I go through a transition of sorts.
Unlike a caterpillar transforming itself into a butterfly, this annual shift of mine isn’t a transition of beauty. Rather, it’s one of resistance, self-doubt, and fear.
It’s unclear to me if the routine timing is entirely coincidental or if there’s something more to it.
I used to think it was the result of releasing the breeziness of summer and confronting a fresh school year (whether from the perspective of a student or psychologist), but this is now my second year without the confines of a school calendar (I’m taking another year of leave to write, create, and welcome our soon-to-be little girl into the world), and I’m still grappling with the same old feelings.
For the last few weeks, I felt uneasy. An edginess and uncertainty wriggled its way into my days. It left me unsure about the value of the work I do, the words I put out into the world, and my overall path.
In a way, these feelings echoed many of the fears I shared with you back in December.
I found myself paralyzed by fear. Afraid and also unwilling to step outside the bounds of what I know—what’s comfortable—to try new things.
The frustrating part is that my well-being and liveliness don’t thrive when fear becomes my m.o. My well-being and liveliness thrive when there is a balance between predictable, routine happenings (e.g., my miracle morning routine, writing to my intuition, etc.) and healthy, comfort-zone-crushing endeavors.
But recently, every time I so much as thought about something outside my comfort zone (e.g., the lab I’m planning for Chicago Ideas Week), my ego stomped on my heart.
You might as well not even try. Who do you think you are? You don’t have anything valuable to say or contribute, so just stay right where you are and play it safe, okay?
No, not okay, you asshole ego of mine.
Over the years, I’ve learned that the one good thing about having these summertime bouts of self-doubt is that ultimately (read: eventually), I grow so uncomfortable that my only option is to turn and face it all head on.
And that’s what happened last week.
After resisting mounting feelings of unworthiness and self-doubt, I spent time simply sitting with the ickiness. Feeling my feelings. Observing the pain and discomfort they elicited. And letting it all wash over me.
And through that process of allowing myself to feel all the scary feels, somehow, someway, they lost their power over me.
This isn’t to say that all is perfectly fine and dandy now and that I’m ready to conquer all of my greatest fears. BUT I’m actively (and self-compassionately) taking baby steps along the less predictable path and courageously moving towards new and challenging things.
And it feels good (and just a little bit scary, too).
Now, I know none of this has any clear ties to vegan BBQ mushroom tacos, and for that I apologize.
But there is a reason all that ↑ came out here and now, and it’s because the culmination of my summertime meltdown occurred while photographing these damn mushroom tacos.
I don’t know what it was about the saucy little things, but the process of getting them photo-ready sent me into a spiral of doubt and uncertainty that ended with flying scallions and stomped out cilantro.
But it was once I regained my composure that all that aforementioned acceptance and “feeling the scary feels” happened.
And so thank you, BBQ mushroom tacos, for being both delicious and the catalyst for self-reflection and change.
Vegan BBQ Mushroom Tacos
- 1 large cucumber, trimmed, seeded, and julienned
- 1/2 cup filtered water
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided, plus more to taste
- 4 medium portobello mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned (i.e., gills removed), and thinly sliced
- 1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/3 cup favorite barbecue sauce, plus more for serving
- 3 tablespoons filtered water
- 12 small corn tortillas
- 3 scallions, very thinly sliced
- Cilantro leaves (optional)
- Sesame seeds (optional)
Start by preparing the pickled cucumbers. In a large glass jar, stir together the julienned cucumber, filtered water, vinegar, maple syrup, and 1/4 teaspoon of the sea salt. Secure the lid, and shake for 10 to 15 seconds to mix. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until ready to assemble.
In a large resealable bag, whisk together the smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and the coconut sugar. Add the sliced mushrooms, seal the bag, and toss to coat.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, or until just beginning to soften. Add the seasoned mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the barbecue sauce and water. Pour over the mushrooms, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until firm-tender, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, or until most of the liquid has absorbed and the mushrooms lose most of their glossy sheen, stirring occasionally. Season with more sea salt to taste.
Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium-high heat and warm the tortillas, one at a time, for 10–20 seconds on each side, or until softened. Wrap in foil to keep warm until ready to serve.
Spoon a bit of the BBQ portobellos into each warm tortilla. Drizzle with more barbecue sauce, to taste. Top with the pickled cucumbers, scallions, cilantro (if using), and sesame seeds (if using).