Cooking on Acid

How on earth did I end up with so much vinegar?

Surveying the state of my pantry, you’d think I was in the pickling business. Rice vinegar, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, coconut vinegar, champagne vinegar, all in attendance, front and center on the shelves, to say nothing of the reductions, infusions, and blends lurking in back.

Tart, tangy liquids made through the fermentation of ethanol alcohol are the secret ingredients in the earliest recorded attempts at home cooking. The evidence is there, literally written in stone, all cross this tiny blue marble known as planet earth.

Vinegar, or more broadly acid of any variety is the real secret ingredient to any successfully balanced dish. Instantly heightening flavors much the way that salt and sugar can, without spiking blood pressure or tempting hyperglycemia, just a splash goes a long way in everything from marinara sauce to ice cream. Weaving seamlessly into the grander flavor tapestry, you’d never know this humble player was the one knitting everything together behind the scenes. That is, unless you chose to fully embrace such a sour superstar.

Adobo is the acidic perfect example. Leaning heavily into a pungent brew of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, and black peppercorns, it’s punchy and bold, tart and tangy, unapologetically, fiercely flavorful. Adobo is not the kind of dish you serve with delicate white wine on your finest plates; adobo is a brash party-starter, promising a raucous good time.

Every Filipino family has their own recipe, claiming theirs to be the best of the batch, and I certainly cannot compete with such fervent claims. I can, however, approximate something wholly delicious inspired by the art form, making it quicker, easier, and of course, much more vegan than traditional renditions.

Meaty mushrooms and chunks of seitan take the place of long-simmered beef, automatically adding a rich, deeply umami taste. Speaking to the versatility of vinegar itself, even while prominently highlighted in this Filipino staple, any range of options, or even a blend will kick things up just as brilliantly. This is a good opportunity to clear out the pantry of any odd drips and drabs leftover, should you obsessively hold on to those little bottles, too.

Adobo is possibly even better the day after cooking, so I’d implore you to double the recipe for a generous second helping later down the road. It will be tough to keep around in any great quantity no matter what.

Yield: Makes 3 - 4 Servings

Mushroom Adobo

Mushroom Adobo

Veganizing this essential Filipino dish, meaty mushrooms and chunks of seitan stand in for long-simmered beef, while automatically adding a rich, deeply umami taste. Adobo is possibly even better the day after cooking, so you'd be wise to double the recipe.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes


Mushroom Adobo:

  • 1 Teaspoon Olive Oil
  • 8 Ounces Whole Button or Cremini Mushrooms
  • 8 Dried Shiitake Mushrooms, Rehydrated
  • 8 Ounces Seitan Chunks
  • 6 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 Cup Palm Vinegar, Coconut Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar, or White Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon Coconut Sugar or Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Ground black pepper
  • 3 Whole Dried Bay Leaves

To Serve (Optional):

  • 2 Scallions, Thinly Sliced
  • Cooked White Rice


  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil until shimmering before adding the mushrooms and seitan. Saute for about 5 - 6 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the garlic and continue to cook for 3 - 4 minutes until golden and aromatic.
  2. Quickly deglaze by pouring in the vinegars, followed by the sugar, pepper, and bay leaves. Scrape the bottom of the pan with the spatula to make sure nothing is sticking.
  3. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring periodically. The liquid should be mostly absorbed and greatly reduced.
  4. Serve with hot over steamed white rice, topped with fresh scallions.


Tempeh can be used instead of seitan for a gluten-free alternative.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 301Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 953mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 4gSugar: 12gProtein: 20g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.

10 thoughts on “Cooking on Acid

    1. So funny you should say that! I initially conceived of the dish as a mushroom-only entree, but my fussy tasters (family, what can you do with them) felt it needed protein to be a more substantial meal. I think, to each their own…

    1. Chocolate balsamic is such a treat!! I adore it drizzled over vanilla ice cream, with a little pinch of salt and maybe sliced strawberries if we’re going all out.

  1. The title made me giggle so had to make it and so happy I did. Awesome combination of flavors and textures with a lovely and unusual kick from the acid. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Whatever it takes to get you into the kitchen, right? I’m so glad you gave it a try and enjoyed it, too! :)

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