Let’s start out like this—we have no beef (hah) with jackfruit. It’s great.

When properly prepared, it’s a superb replacement for things like pulled pork when looking to eschew the animal from your diet but wanting that texture—the fact that it doesn’t have much taste by itself is a boon as, when rinsed and drained well, brined jackfruit soaks up most any flavor you pair with it. We’ve even lauded the tree-born tropical fruit (the largest in the world) on these very pages as far back as 2012; twice that year, actually (big year for jackfruit).

But that’s part of the problem—we’ve been eating jackfruit for a long time and we’re honestly a little sick of it; it doesn’t have much nutritional content, it comes canned in brine, which means a lot of sodium even after heavy rinsing, and if you do want to deal with a fresh jackfruit, you’re in for a daylong affair and a lot of hard work (and reportedly a possible kitchen remodel—they evidently often ooze latex-like sticky white goop when cut up).

But the other morning we were visiting the local mushroom vendor at our excellent neighborhood farmers market and noticed a sign next to the kind oyster mushrooms touting their versatility in animal meat replacement, specifically calling out that the fungi make for a great vegan pulled pork. And after some experimenting with recipes, we have to wholeheartedly agree—a single (roughly $6) giant mushroom stem hand-peels into excellent pork-like shreds and holds up much better than a lot of its mushroom friends, giving a nice, meaty texture, even after cooking for hours. Best yet, the inherent umami taste of the fresh mushroom plays well with savory, smokey flavors, giving you superb sandwich fixings and taco fillings with a pretty easy prep. And giving us native southerners a cruelty-free and much healthier way to enjoy some childhood classics.

Here’s what you need:
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced thinly
6 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, and cut into chunks
2 cups vegetable broth (we make our own, which sounds like a heavy lift, but once you’re in the habit, really isn’t and is highly recommended; if you’re not up for it though, go with low-sodium store-bought)
1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated cinnamon
1 large fresh king oyster mushroom stem, hand-peeled into long shreds
1 cup barbecue sauce (optional; homemade or store-bought)
olive oil

So, this is really easy. First off, we hear tell this works great in a slow cooker, but we don’t have one, so we do everything in a large, heavily lidded cast iron Dutch oven on medium-low heat in the oven (around 200°F) for four to six hours.

First, shred the mushroom—after washing, pat dry and then, by hand, start pinching ends and pulling up strands, peeling them back and off into shreds, kinda like those old mozzarella-like cheese sticks adults used to (maybe still do?) stick in kids’ lunches. Set aside in a dish and coat the shreds with a mix of the paprika, sugar, salt,cumin, and cinnamon. Now heat about two tablespoons of oil in the Dutch oven stove stop over high heat and the sliced onion and chucked up garlic in a fairly even layer; allow the onions and garlic to come to simmer and then top them with the mushroom, carefully following that up by pouring in your broth. Add the lid and bring to a boil (you’ll see steam forcing it’s way out); turn off the stovetop heat and place the Dutch oven in the non-Dutch, regular oven. Keep at around 200°F and cook until the mixture’s mostly absorbed by the mushroom, leaving it a little saucy and checking regularly to make sure it hasn’t dried out altogether (if it has, just add some water and cook a little longer).

That’s it. Now find some nice, soft hamburger buns or fresh tortillas and get to enjoying, animal-free.