Quarantine Cooking: Mushroom Meatballs with Chili-Peanut Sauce

I am, and always have been, a ‘shroom lover. As a kid, mushrooms were my favorite pizza topping, though I obviously didn’t understand or appreciate the complexity of the ingredient as I do now. I love the earthiness mushrooms bring to a dish and the way they effortlessly soak up the flavors of a sauce, yet still maintain their identity. I love the chewiness of a cooked mushroom – what ‘shroom haters would describe with disdain as its “texture.” And I love the versatility of the mushroom, how you can throw it into really any dish without worrying about altering the overall quality of the meal.

So when I started studying the science of food, I was thrilled to learn that mushrooms are actually pretty nutritious. At a whopping 15 calories per cup, mushrooms contain folate, vitamin B5 (or pantothenic acid, which is important for nutrient metabolism) and potassium (200-300 mg per cup). Shititake mushrooms in particular also contain a small amount of vitamin D. So while the fungi aren’t as vitamin-rich as, say, the leafy greens, they do provide some nutritional benefit along with their flavor.

Mushrooms have gained some popularity as a healthy, plant-based alternative to meat. The mushroom burger from Shake Shack, for example, is supposed to be incredible (I can’t personally attest to this.) As a dietitian, I love the fact that plant-based eating and meatless menu items are becoming more mainstream. But as a ‘shroom lover, I think that to classify the mushroom as a “meat substitute” really downplays its value as an ingredient. This recipe for mushroom meatballs was created with the mushroom in mind – it is the star of the show. Feel free to use any kind of mushroom you like or have available.

Mushroom Meatballs with Chili-Peanut Sauce

For the meatballs (makes 18):

– 1/2 cup brown rice
– 1 cup vegetable stock
– 1 egg
– 1/2 cup mushrooms
– 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs – 1?2 tsp each salt + pepper
– 1 tsp garlic powder
– 1 tsp ground ginger
– Pinch red pepper flakes

For the sauce:

– 4 tbsp soy sauce
– 1 tsp ground ginger
– 1 1/2 tbsp peanut butter
– 2 tsp rice vinegar
– 2 tsp chili oil
– Juice of 1/2 a lime
– 1/2 garlic powder
– 2 tsp honey or molasses

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Cook rice as usual, using vegetable stock in place of water
  3. Add mushrooms and cooked rice to a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  4. To the mixing bowl, add the remaining meatball ingredients.
  5. Scoop mixture into balls and place on lightly oiled foil on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes.
  6. While the balls are baking, make the sauce: simply whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.
  7. When meatballs are cooked, pour sauce over meatballs and serve over rice noodles with sautéed greens.

Photo: Jean Hanks

About Jean Hanks (6 Articles)
Jean Hanks is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, passionate runner and lover of all things food. Jean grew up in Brooklyn, New York and attended Brooklyn Technical High School, where a mandatory health class sparked her interest in nutrition. She went on to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in sociology (with a minor in dance) from Tulane University in New Orleans, and then a Masters of Science in nutrition from Hunter College in New York City. While attending grad school, Jean wrote for the Jewish Daily Forward as the Food Intern, commenting on food news, reviewing cookbooks, and posting original recipes to the publication’s website. Jean is now the head dietitian at Buena Vida Continuing Care and Rehabilitation Center in Brooklyn. She has run eight half marathons and made her marathon debut in Philadelphia in November 2018. You can often find Jean in the kitchen, cooking, with a glass of red wine. Feel free to contact Jean with any nutrition-related questions at jhanks3181@gmail.com.