Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Portobello Barbacoa and Smokey Queso Spread

Turning something inherently carnivorous into a vegan masterpiece is one of my favorite things about cooking. Though I’ve had some success with roasts and loaves, mimicking popular meat dishes has its obvious challenges. Texture, flavor from fat and drippings, cook time, etc. At this point I’ve learned that it’s not about creating an exact replica, but creating an incredible, flavorful, delicious dish in and of its own. The real challenge? Appealing to the skeptics. They don’t always buy the fact that it doesn’t have to taste the same as the fleshy version to taste meatlessly delicious. So you have to set some realistic expectations.

The expectation I set when serving these Barbacoa bites: “Yo peeps! These are friggin’ awesome! No it’s not going to taste like the shredded beef that is typically used in Barbacoa. It’s not supposed to. No the Queso is not going to feel like gelatinous ball park cheez because it’s way better!” These are the real pictures that must be painted for non-believers. And I did. And it worked. I made this recipe as individual “bites” for work, and also made them as roll-ups for a pool party. Both versions were inhaled.

Who could blame these hungry hippos? This Barbacoa recipe is madness. Barbacoa is a style of slow cooking meat in Mexico and relates to the origination of “barbecue.” It’s really all about the sauce. And consistent with any barbecue master, I couldn’t help myself picking at the stringy Portobellos as they slow cooked for hours in a spicy marinade. You may have probably picked up on my obsession with vegan cheesy things as well, so needless to say the food processor and spatula did not have one speck of Queso dip after I was through with it. Finger lickin’ good!

Recommended toppings/accompaniments:
  • slivered spinach or romaine
  • salsa and/or fresh tomatoes
  • vegan sour cream or Veganaise
  • roasted green chili peppers
  • fresh cilantro
 Recommended serving styles:
  • tacos
  • layered Dip
  • burritos
  • tortilla roll ups
Suggestion for Portobello preparation: slice the bellos into thin strings to cook in this recipe. Afterward you can pulse in a food processor to use as a spread if doing layered dip or roll ups.

Portobello Barbacoa
Makes: 6-8 Servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours


For the Marinade
1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
3 T. lime juice
5 cloves garlic
3-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 T. ground cumin
2 tsp. Mexican oregano
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. ground cloves¼ tsp. allspice

For the Shrooms
2 T. canola oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
4-6 Portobello mushrooms, sliced 1/8 inch thin (optional to remove gills)
Pinch of salt
3/4 - 1 c. vegetable broth (from bouillon)
3 bay leaves


Place all marinade ingredients in a blender and puree until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Set aside while you prepare the mushrooms.

In a large stock pot, heat canola oil over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add cumin seeds and cook until they start to pop. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Stir to coat in cumin and cook 3-5 minutes. Add marinade, broth and bay leaves. Turn heat to low and simmer for 2-4 hours. If too spice or acidic, add a pinch of sugar.

Smokey Queso Spread
Makes: 1 ½ cups
Prep time: 5 minutes


1 can white cannellini beans
½ c. tomatoes
1/3 c. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. Miso paste
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8-1/4 tsp. liquid smoke
Salt to taste


Puree all ingredients in a food processor until completely smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more salt or cayenne for spice. Add more mustard or Miso for a sharper cheesy taste.


  1. This looks amazing, every bit of it. I'm thinking that this is going to show up at my table very soon. Thanks for sending this over to House Favorites.

    One question: do you simmer the mushrooms covered or uncovered?

  2. Hi Kelly, the August wrap up is finally up. Come take a look, and thanks again for your entry!

  3. Thanks Claire! So sorry I for the longest time was having issues commenting on my own blog...fixed now (phew!) - Thanks so much for posting on the August round up! I simmered them uncovered to help the liquid thicken a bit.

  4. Tried this tonight. It was fantastic. Thansk for the great recipe!