Sliced paper-thin to drape delicately over the finest charcuterie board, or directly into one’s mouth, prosciutto is a luxury of the highest order. Italians would throw hands over proper labeling of the stuff, especially those with esteemed pedigrees like Champagne or Parmesan, as products of Denomination of Protected Origin, AKA, DOP (Denominazione d’Origine Protetta.) This may be grounds for a fight, but I’d like to throw all that out the window to make genuine, inauthentic prosciutto that can be made anywhere in the world, not of meat, but of plants.
What Is Vegan Prosciutto?
Vegan prosciutto replicates the gossamer cured ham with a subtly seasoned brine, leaning on Sugimoto shiitake powder for an unmistakable umami flavor. Purely savory and rich, there’s no overt mushroom character to detract from the experience. That’s because through the drying process, the complex proteins are broken down into simpler amino acids, such as glutamate, which is responsible for their inherently meaty taste and aroma. This serves to amplify the other flavors in the same way that a touch of salt would; never so much to seem salty, but enough to boost the overall dish.
Inspired by The Gentle Chef’s innovative approach using rice paper as the base, I knew the opportunity for fine tuning to my own personal tastes was ripe. I couldn’t resist adding my “secret” ingredient of shiitake powder to fully capture the full bouquet of tastes that range from sweet to salty found in conventional cured ham. Pale pink, the fine strips glisten in the sunlight like jewels, piled daintily like the finest silks. Everything about the experience exudes an air of lavishness unlike anything else available for vegan alternative meats. This is a “DIY, don’t buy” situation if there ever was one.
Other Key Ingredients For Making Vegan Prosciutto
Given that it’s such a simple recipe, quality and attention to detail count.
- Square rice paper: More common in Vietnamese cuisine, this angular shape lends itself more readily to making even, consistent strips like thinly shaved prosciutto. Naturally, you can use round rice paper sheets instead if that’s all you can find. You might end up with some more abstract pieces is all.
- Mushroom soaking water: Never toss the water that you’ve used to rehydrate your shiitake mushrooms! It’s full of free glutamate, aka umami, ideal for making meaty soups, stews, and in this case, marinades. If you don’t have any on hand, you can substitute packaged mushroom broth or, in a pinch, plain water.
- Beet juice: Waste not, want not- I get my beet juice from cans of cooked, sliced beets. You could get cold pressed juice in the refrigerated section or make your own if you want to really go all out.
- Nutritional yeast: I’m sure no one is a stranger to the cheesy goodness that is nooch, but it may seem strange to call for it in a recipe for making mock meats. Suspend your disbelief! Just like Parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast is packed with umami flavor that works synergistically with the shiitake mushrooms to create new flavor compounds and amplify those inherently rich flavors.
- Olive oil: Do. Not. Omit. The oil. Genuine prosciutto is quite fatty, so we need to step up our game to match that level of decadence. Moreover, the rice paper will become downright gummy without it.
- Truffle oil: Yes, it’s worth the splurge. There’s room for more than one mushroom in this killer app, and there’s no substitute for the ambrosial fusion that happens when a few drops of this liquid gold enters the mix.
How To Serve Plant-Based Prosciutto
Best served cool or at room temperature, no cooking is needed to enjoy the rich, heady essence of meatless umami. Prosciutto is an ideal topper or accompaniment to many of your favorite dishes.
- Wrapped around melon slices and drizzled with balsamic glaze
- Draped over toasts, such as…
- BLT toast
- Almond ricotta toast
- Cucumber and cream cheese toast
- On top of pizza
- As a breakfast or brunch side with your favorite scramble
- Chopped and mixed into salads, such as…
- Leafy green salads
- Pasta salads
- Potato Salads
- On a charcuterie board or cheese board
My meatless prosciutto may not have an authentic Italian pedigree, but it brings its own unique richness to any table at a fraction of the cost, without any cholesterol, and free of harm. You can’t top that with any DOP seal.