When luscious maitake mushrooms (can sub oyster mushrooms) are slathered in a homemade harissa BBQ sauce, grilled, topped with a simple slaw and some extra sauce, the result is sublime. Move over carnivores, this vegan pulled pork recipe has come for its bun!


vegan pulled pork sandwich with bowl of slaw in the background.

Mushrooms may be really good for you, (especially maitake!) but maitake (a.k.a. hen-of-the-wood) and oyster mushrooms are quite flavorful as well as having a pleasantly chewy texture (helpful when trying to replace “pulled pork”). And both come from a class of mushrooms that have a fan shape, in many layers, held together at the base of a clump of the fan structures. With so many layers, I naturally thought it would be a great choice to smear with lots of my harisssa bbq sauce and call it a Vegan Pulled Pork Sandwich!

open faced vegan pulled pork mushroom sandwich with extra bbq sauce on top.

Why this recipe works as a vegan pulled pork sandwich

  • Fan shape- Mushrooms such as oyster and maitake (a.k.a. hen-of-the-wood) have multiple layers of fan shapes that come apart in shreds easily, mimicking the shape.
  • Flavor- Maitake and oyster mushrooms, especially, have more flavor, nutty/fruity, than the average mushroom. The BBQ sauce is an absolute flavor bomb with its combo of spices, sun-dried tomatoes (so underutilized!), roasted peppers, onion, and garlic.
  • Texture- These mushrooms also have a chewy texture and pull apart in longer sections, much like pork does, giving it lots of surface area for the BBQ sauce, unlike, say, portobello mushrooms, which remain in slabs that don’t break down into thinner sections.
  • Simple prep- There is only a BBQ sauce to measure, mix and sauté for 20 minutes. After that you coat the mushrooms and grill them for not much more than 5 minutes.
  • BBQ Smokiness- the BBQ sauce contains smoky flavors from chili, smoked paprika and liquid smoke (optional), and the grilling further enhances that flavor by the resultant charring of the mushrooms.

Ingredient notes

  • Mushrooms- I’m using maitake mushrooms, also known as hen-of-the-wood mushrooms, which have a fan-like shape, and easily break down into shreds after cooking. Oyster mushrooms may be more readily available and less expensive. They also have the same fan-shape structure and work well in this recipe.
  • Bun- I recommend a light and airy hamburger style bun, since the mushrooms are nice and light.
  • Harissa Dry Spices- Five spices make up the harissa flavors, and two more are optional (caraway and sumac). Alternatively, you can make a full batch of my Harissa Spice Blend to have on hand for other recipes. I have several harissa spice based recipes that you can make with the blend, such as Mushroom Bacon, Harissa Popcorn, Sticky Chicken Wings and Carrots, Mini Veggie Tostadas, and my Whole Cauliflower Sheet Pan Dinner. Yes, I am obsessed with harissa!
  • Harissa BBQ Sauce- I can’t tell you how delicious this sauce is. I’ve packed it with traditional harissa spices and ingredients and enhanced it with BBQ related flavors, for a total flavor bomb of a sauce. It’s very versatile beyond this recipe, and you can access the full recipe for Harissa BBQ Sauce as well as using this recipe card.
  • Simple slaw- green cabbage and green onions (or small spring onions) are sliced up into a slaw. I’m also using chopped carrot tops but you can use parsley or cilantro if you want or cannot get carrots with tops. I find carrot tops very similar in flavor to parsley with a hint of carrot flavor!

Step-by-step instructions

The first step is to mix and cook the harissa bbq sauce, following the instructions below in the recipe card.

harissa bbq sauce ingredients all measured out and sitting in cast iron pan together.

Once you’ve cooked the sauce for 20 minutes, it is ready to coat the mushrooms in the sauce. Smear it all over and in between the fan shaped sections of the maitake mushroom(s) using your hands.

It is fine that the mushroom will break apart some. However, try not to break the mushroom up too much. You want large enough sections so that it can sit on the grill without falling down in between the grates.

You will use about 1/3 to 1/2 of the bbq sauce to smear on the mushroom(s), and the rest is served on top of the grilled mushrooms to make the sandwich.

While the sauce is cooking (before you grill the mushrooms), you can take a few minutes to make the simple slaw.

Once you’ve pre-heated the grill on high for 5-10 minutes, use tongs to place the bbq sauce coated mushrooms on the grill and close the cover for a few minutes. Take care to lay them across the grill so that smaller pieces won’t fall in between.

grilling the bbq sauce coated mushrooms.

Flip the mushrooms after a few minutes, once they have a bit of char or golden color. Close the lid for another few minutes after flipping them, for their final cook.

Now’s the time to gather the mushrooms, slaw, buns and leftover harissa bbq sauce and assemble that vegan pulled pork sandwich!

Tips for making and serving this recipe

  • Harissa BBQ sauce- you might consider doubling the recipe so you have another cup or so on hand to use as a condiment on any sandwich or your eggs, or to stir into a chickpea stew or any recipe that could use more flavor. Just saying!
  • Harissa spices- consider making a full batch of these spices (see notes in recipe card) so you have more on hand for all the other recipes on my site that use harissa, and then some!
  • Make the sauce and slaw ahead of time- this makes it super fast (10 minutes) to pull this recipe together at meal time.
  • Shop Asian markets- if you find maitake or oyster mushrooms pricy (they can run $1.25 per ounce where I live), and have access to an Asian grocery store, these mushrooms are usually less expensive there.
  • Serve as mini sliders- you can make 8 mini sliders (or double recipe for 16) and serve a crowd as appetizers or finger food.
  • Spear the buns to keep sandwiches tidy- use wooden skewers to spear the cut sandwiches which keeps them tidy when serving.
halved sandwiches are speared with wooden skewers to stay tidy while serving.

FAQ’s

What can I use instead of pork for pulled pork?

You can use any fan shaped edible mushroom such as oyster or maitake (a.k.a. hen-of-the-wood). If you don’t like mushrooms you can also use jackfruit which shreds nicely, or soy curls, which are chewy. You can also use shredded, extra firm tofu.

What is vegan pulled pork made of?

In this recipe I use a fan shaped mushroom called maitake (a.k.a. hen-of-the-wood), but you could also use oyster mushrooms, soy curls, jackfruit or shredded extra firm tofu. You could also mimic the flavors of pulled pork in BBQ sauce with lentils, but the texture will not be the same.

How do you pronounce maitake?

Maitake mushroom is pronounced “my-tock-ee”

What can I serve vegan pulled pork with instead of bread?

If you don’t want to make a sandwich you can serve this vegan pulled pork with the simple slaw, the harissa BBQ sauce, and my Feta and Creme Fraîche Potato Salad.

How long does vegan pulled pork last?

Because there are no animal or dairy products in this vegan pulled pork, it will last up to a week in the refrigerator.

How do you reheat vegan pulled pork?

The mushrooms in this vegan pulled pork are essentially marinating in the BBQ sauce. They taste delicious as leftovers and you can reheat them in a hot skillet for a few minutes.

What can I serve with vegan pulled pork?

You can serve my Feta and Creme Fraîche Potato Salad or my Carrot Cucumber Daikon Salad for something nice and crunchy to eat with the vegan pulled pork.

fully loaded harissa bbq mushroom pulled pork sandwich.

Above: Fully loaded vegan pulled pork sandwith with mushrooms, BBQ sauce, slaw and harissa BBQ sauce.

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vegan pulled pork sandwich with bowl of slaw in the background.

Vegan Pulled Pork Sandwich (with mushrooms and Harissa BBQ Sauce)

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Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Make a batch of Harissa Spice Blend (optional): 15 minutes
Servings4
Calories270
When luscious maitake mushrooms (can sub oyster mushrooms) are slathered in a homemade harissa BBQ sauce, grilled, topped with a simple slaw and some extra BBQ sauce, the result is sublime. Move over carnivores, this vegan pulled pork recipe has come for its bun!
Kitchen Tools
  • 1 saute pan, I love cast iron
  • 1 outdoor grill, can cook in cast iron pan inside as well

Ingredients
 

  • 1 lb maitake mushrooms (a.k.a. hen-of-the-wood) (can sub any type of oyster mushroom (including king oyster))
  • 4 buns or 8 slices bread for the sandwiches
Harissa BBQ Sauce (includes harissa spices grouped below)
  • 1 jar roasted red peppers (12 oz)
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste (I use no salt added)
  • 1 tsp Aleppo chili flakes (sub red pepper flakes see notes)
  • 6 halves sun dried tomatoes packed in oil (chopped/blended, can sub rehydrated dry ones see notes)
  • 1 cup onion (chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves large (minced)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard (i.e. brown not yellow)
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano (chopped)
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme (chopped)
Harissa Spices (see notes)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder (I use chipotle chile powder for smokiness but use whatever blend you like)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
Additional Optional spices (harder to get for some)
  • 1/2 tsp sumac
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds (ground-I use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle)
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke (I like Colgin's see notes)
Simple Slaw
  • 2 cups green cabbage (sliced)
  • 1 cup green onions (sliced)
  • 1 cup carrot tops roughly chopped (or parsley/cilantro) (see notes)
  • 1 lime (juiced)
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Method:
 

Make the Harissa BBQ Sauce (makes about 1.5 cups)
  • Chop the onion and saute in the 2 tsps of oil on medium heat for 5 min. As they soften, add in the minced garlic and saute for another 5 minutes until they begin to brown.
  • Rinse and puree the roasted red peppers and chop the sun-dried tomatoes. If you cannot puree the roasted red peppers, you can mince them up and smoosh them as they cook.
  • Add all the ingredients into the pan (including the optional spices if you are using them) with the sautéed onion and garlic, and begin to stir and cook on medium-low for 10 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.
  • The liquid will evaporate. Add 2 tablespoons of water, stir and cook another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, keeping the heat low enough to just keep it cooking. Add another tablespoon or two of water if the mixture dries out too much.
  • After a full 20 min of cooking, taste and adjust for any flavors. At this point the mixture is nice and jammy.
Make simple slaw
  • Prep the cabbage, green onions and carrot tops or herbs and toss with lime juice and salt. Set aside.
Make the pulled pork mushrooms
  • Make sure the mushrooms are clean (wipe any dirt particles off but ideally don't rinse the mushrooms with water). Trim the base nub off of the clump(s) of maitake or oyster mushrooms. This is the only prep needed.
  • Preheat your outside gas grill on high for 5-10 minutes, making sure it is brushed clean and wiped with some oil (since you are grilling mushrooms that are not fatty and could stick otherwise). Quickly prep the mushrooms as the grill heats.
  • Coat the mushrooms with 1/2 the harissa BBQ sauce. Dollap it over the clump(s) of mushrooms and then use your hands to grab the mushrooms and smear the sauce all over them, making sure to get in between all the fan shapes of the mushrooms. This process will break down the clump(s) to some degree and start the creation of the "pulled pork". See notes.
  • Place the coated mushrooms on the hot grill with tongs, close lid and grill for about 5 minutes. Turn and close lid for another 5 minutes to finish grilling.
Make sandwiches
  • Top each bun with some slaw, pulled pork bbq mushrooms and a large spoonful of the leftover harissa bbq sauce and enjoy.

Notes

Aleppo chili flakes are smoky and tangy and less harsh than typical red pepper flakes.
 
Sun-dried tomatoes– you can rehydrate dry sun-dried tomatoes versus buying them packed in oil. Either works. I like the flavor in the oil, but the oil is not added in, just what lingers on the tomatoes.
 
Spice blend– If you like harissa flavors, and want to be able to make more of my or your harissa recipes, consider using 2 tbsps of my Easy Homemade Harissa Spice Blend in place of the listed spices here. You’ll have enough on hand for many batches of popcorn if you make it this way!
 
The caraway and sumac are listed as optional since you may be less likely to have them on hand. Caraway lends a nuttiness and is present in most harissa pastes, and sumac lends a tang.
The Colgin’s liquid smoke is totally optional, but I’ve come to like the subtle authentic smoked flavor it brings recipes and it makes the sauce really come alive.
Carrot tops-if your carrots come with the tops attached, I recommend chopping them up for this slaw, as they taste vaguely like carrots and fairly mild, but if you don’t have access to carrot tops, cilantro or parsley work, whichever you like the taste of more.
Coating Mushrooms-as you use your hands to coat the mushrooms with the sauce, the larger clumps will start to break apart some. Don’t press too hard, but it is ok that some break apart (see photo of mushrooms on grill). You don’t want them to break apart into too many small pieces or it will be hard to grill them without them falling in between grill screen. You can break them up more after grilling.
 
 

Nutrition (an estimate)

Calories: 270kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 2.418mg | Potassium: 1.149mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin C: 94mg | Calcium: 197mg | Iron: 7mg | Magnesium: 76mg | Net Carbohydrates: 41g
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