Let’s Taco ‘Bout It

Imagine taking a bite into a crisp, juicy apple at the peak of the season, as sweet and fragrant as it can possibly get. Downright decadent, the experience goes well beyond simple sustenance. However, after that single bite, you toss the rest of the apple straight into the trash. Who could be so wasteful, so thoughtless, so downright heartless? Though the typical experience is less dramatic, perfectly good food is squandered like this every single day.

Despite best intentions, we often ignore leftovers and forget about perishables until they’ve withered in the vegetable bin, barely even fit to compost. Adding insult to injury, perfectly good ingredients are too frequently tossed for a lack of understanding. Dried shiitake mushrooms are a common victim of this crime, accused of having inedible stalks that must simply be removed and discarded. It’s high time we debunked this myth and restored the stem to a place of honor on our plates.

Make no mistake, shiitake mushroom stems are much more fibrous and tough compared to their tender, meaty caps, but they are entirely edible and packed with all the same rich umami flavor. As always, quality counts, so you can expect the best results from Sugimoto shiitakes, selectively grown for their incomparable culinary potential. In fact, the chewy quality that many write off as their downfall can actually be an asset in the right recipe.

When crafting a dish with only the caps, don’t think for a minute that the detached stems are dumped in the garbage. Since they’re small, I tend to keep a baggie of them in the freezer, filling it slowly until I’ve collected enough to cook with. That way, they won’t spoil before I have a good quantity to work with. Even if the dish isn’t focused on shiitake mushrooms, they add incredible depth to all sorts of soups, stews, curries, vegetable pat├ęs, stuffings, and beyond. Anywhere that a melange of vegetables can be added, finely minced shiitake stems are your new secret ingredient for even more savory, satisfying results.

Finely chopped, the hearty, toothsome texture enhances plant-based proteins with an extra meaty mouthfeel and incredibly rich, beefy taste. Easily surpassing more processed alternatives in both flavor and nutrition, it’s a wonder that such misinformation about this vital ingredient persists. Clearly, the people perpetuating the defamatory rumors about shiitake stems have never tried cooking them into hot, spicy taco filling. One bite of this quick fix meal would win over any cynics.

Bolstered by minced tempeh, this instant entree simmers with nuanced seasonings, easily adjusted to personal preferences. With a smoky, subtly charred edge from the kiss of a cast iron skillet, no one would ever miss the meat here. Especially when piled high on soft corn tortillas with a barrage of fresh salsa, herbs, and buttery avocado, it’s unthinkable that the key ingredient might have otherwise been destined for the landfill.

Don’t wait until taco Tuesday to whip up a batch. Beyond classic taco fodder, this meatless marvel makes an excellent pizza topper, superlative spaghetti sauce addition, and brilliant breakfast side. Waste not, want not, especially when it comes to prime Sugimoto shiitake mushrooms.

Yield: Makes 8 Tacos (4 Servings)

Shiitake Tacos

Shiitake Tacos

Minced tempeh and shiitake mushroom stems simmer with nuanced spice in this effortless, almost instant entree. With a smoky, subtly charred edge from the kiss of a cast iron skillet, no one would ever miss the meat here.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


Shiitake Taco Meat:

  • 1 (8-Ounce) Package Tempeh, Roughly Chopped
  • 1 Cup Rehydrated Shiitake Mushroom Stems
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Tomato Paste
  • 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 Teaspoons Chili Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 - 1 Teaspoon Hot Sauce, to Taste

To Assemble:

  • 8 Corn Tortillas
  • Cilantro
  • Avocado
  • Fresh Salsa
  • Shredded Cabbage or Lettuce


  1. Place the tempeh, shiitake mushroom stems, and garlic in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse until the mixture is finely minced, roughly approximating the consistency of ground beef. Be careful not to overdo it, as you don’t want to end up with a puree.
  2. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once shimmering, add the minced tempeh mixture and saute until lightly browned, stirring occasionally, for 8 - 10 minutes.
  3. In a separate dish, mix together the tomato paste, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, chili powder, paprika, oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce until smooth. Add the seasoning paste into the skillet and stir well to incorporate. Continue to cook until the mixture begins to darken, stirring frequently, for 5 - 8 minutes longer.
  4. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning to taste, adding more hot sauce if desired.
  5. To serve, top each tortilla with 1/8th of the shiitake taco meat and cilantro, avocado, salsa, and lettuce or cabbage to taste. Enjoy right away, while still hot!


Stored in an airtight container in the fridge, leftover shiitake taco meat can last up to 1 week.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 153Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 292mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 5gSugar: 3gProtein: 4g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com 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.

This post was made possible as a collaboration with SUGIMOTO Co. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

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