Kari’s uber-umami shiitake mushroom meat sauce

This is my go-to batch-cooking recipe for ground meat (beef, pork, bison). It’s easy, tasty, and super quick. It freezes well and accompanies anything — from vegetables to rice to noodles to tofu.

Overhead view of Kari's Welcome Home Meat Sauce with a side of steamed vegetables in the Aromatic Ground Pork with Shiitake Mushrooms recipe

Kari rented a room in our New Zealand brick house when I was 4 years old. I’ve known her almost all my life, which is why I enjoy cooking her recipes. They remind me of home. She is a busy working mum to 2 sons, which means her cooking philosophy centers around pragmatic weeknight cooking that is quick to make and tastes amazing.

Kari taught me this meat-sauce recipe packed with umami thanks to the soy sauce and shiitake mushrooms. It’s like a Chinese-style Bolognese sauce except it uses shiitake mushrooms instead of tomatoes. It takes less than 30 minutes to cook compared to Bolognese’s 4 hours.

Because Kari’s shiitake mushroom meat sauce holds up well to freezing, we enjoy batch cooking it before going on vacation or during stressful periods when I crave comfort foods and don’t have time to cook.


Why make Kari’s Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce?

This is a versatile dish. You can use any ground meat you like or whatever is in your fridge.

Kari’s Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce accompanies anything — from noodles to steamed vegetables to rice to a bed of salad greens. I bet it would work in Sloppy Joes or as taco meat substitute over nachos.

This is my go-to recipe for batch cooking.

Who will love Kari’s Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce?

Thanks to the minced fresh garlic and green onions as well as the copious amounts of soy sauce, this dish tastes “very Chinese”, as my housemate Emma once said.

You’ll love this dish if you enjoy strong aromas, such as garlic. The meat sauce gets its superpowers from all the ingredients packed with umami flavors, such as the ground meat, soy sauce, and shiitake mushrooms.

Side-by-side comparison of frozen dish with tofu and without tofu in the Kari's Welcome Home Meat Sauce recipe
Kari’s Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce freezes well, which makes it an excellent choice for batch cooking. You won’t notice it’s was cooked a month ago after defrosting it.

What ingredients do you need to make Kari’s Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce?

Close up look of ingredients required for Kari's Welcome Home Meat Sauce recipe

Ground meat

The classic version of this dish is made with ground pork. We’ve made it with beef and bison, which tastes just as good. Our current preference is to make it with ground bison from Costco, because we’ve struggled to find pasture-raised pork in Boulder, Colorado.

You can switch up the flavor by using different ground meats. I’ve never tried ground chicken, turkey, or lamb (yet), but I imagine they would taste just as good.

Garlic

You’ll need fresh garlic and green onion. You can substitute with pre-peeled garlic or even minced garlic in a jar if you’re strapped for time.

Green Onion

For green onions, you’ll want to use fresh green onions. If you don’t have any, you can substitute with chives or shallots. Or if you don’t have green onions or chives, you can substitute with a conventional onions — red, white, yellow. Onions will produce a sweeter dish that should be equally good.

Shiitake mushrooms

You can use fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms. We bought fresh shiitake mushrooms at Safeway in Boulder. Luckily, grocery chains in the SF Bay Area are not the only places that stock fresh shiitakes.

You could use dried shiitake mushrooms. These are convenient because you can buy them in bulk, and they last indefinitely. Re-hydrate the mushrooms overnight in a bowl of cold tap water. Or if you’re preparing the mushrooms just before cooking, you’ll want to re-hydrate them in a bowl of boiling water.

Side-by-side comparison of fresh shiitake mushrooms and dried shiitake mushrooms on top of wood background

Soy sauce

We like to use both dark soy sauce and light soy sauce. Dark soy sauce brings a rich caramel flavor and light soy sauce puts a refreshing, salty finish to the dish. If you find the dish is not salty enough based on the amounts of soy sauce in the recipe, add more salt to taste.

RELATED: Learn more about the difference between dark vs. light soy sauce and when to use both.

What should you do if you’ve only got one type of soy sauce?

Not everybody has the luxury of dark and light soy sauce. Use whatever soy sauce you can find, even if your only option is Kikkoman or Safeway’s Signature Range soy sauce.

Side-by-side comparison of dark soy sauce and light soy sauce in small white bowls

Optional tofu

After cooking, you can mix in crumbled block tofu. This stretches the dish by adding extra protein while being wallet friendly and environmentally friendly by reducing your meat consumption.

Close up look of ingredients required, including a brick of tofu, for Kari's Welcome Home Meat Sauce recipe

I almost always add tofu to bulk up the dish. You should use a brick tofu that is at least medium firm, if not firm or extra firm. You want as little water as possible so drain the tofu and squeeze without breaking it.

Crumble the tofu directly into the dish after adding the mushrooms.

Side-by-side comparison of finished dish with tofu and without tofu in the Kari's Welcome Home Meat Sauce recipe

RELATED: Check out the article How to press tofu without special equipment

What equipment do you need to make Kari’s Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce?

Overhead view of equipment required for Kari's Welcome Home Meat Sauce recipe

A big soup pot with a stiff spoon or a wooden spoon works best. You need a lot of surface area to brown the ground meat. And you’ll want to break up any clumps with your spoon.

Tips For Flavor

  • Fry the aromatics in hot oil for at least 30 seconds to bring all the fragrant flavors into the oil, which will coat the meat and mushrooms later.
  • Pour the soy sauce into the raw ground meat so the meat is adequately salted and can absorb the soy sauce flavors while it cooks.
  • If you like toasted sesame oil, add 1/2 teaspoon after you turn off the heat and mix in before serving.

Kari’s Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce

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This comfort food envelopes you in warm, fuzzy feelings. This recipe can be doubled or tripled for batch cooking to leave extras for freezing. It's versatile — substitute any ground meat and serve with vegetables, noodles, toast, or soup.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: 10 ingredients or less, 5-minute recipe, batch-cooking, comfort, gluten-free, salad, stir-fry
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 296kcal
Author: Anna Rider
Cost: $18

Equipment

  • Soup Pot
  • Silicone Spoon
  • Knife
  • Chopping Board

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. (455 g) Ground Meat, Bison, pork, beef, chicken, turkey, lamb all work
  • 4 cups (150 g) Shiitake Mushrooms, Dried or fresh. If dried, use 2 big handfuls.
  • 1 brick Tofu, Optional

Aromatics

  • 3 sprigs (3 sprigs) Green onion
  • 12 cloves (12 cloves) Garlic
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) Canola oil

Seasonings

Instructions

Prepare ingredients

  • Gather the ingredients.
    Close up look of all the ingredients required for Kari's Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce recipe
  • Slice and chop the green onions.
  • Crush and peel the garlic cloves. Chop the garlic into rough pieces.
  • Wash and roughly chop the shiitake mushrooms.
    3 images of chopped green onions, chopped garlic, and chopped mushrooms

Cook the ground meat

  • Heat the big soup pot over high heat on the stove. Add canola oil into the soup pot.
  • Once the oil starts to shimmer, add the chopped green onion and garlic. Stir fry the aromatics for 30 seconds.
  • Add the ground meat into the soup pot. Break up the ground meat into big chunks.
  • Pour both the dark and light soy sauce into the ground meat.
  • Stir the soy sauce into the meat until evenly blended. Lower the heat to medium-high. Cook the ground meat until there is only a touch of pink left, about 5 minutes.
    4 images showing green onions fried with ground meat and soy sauce

Cook the mushrooms

  • While cooking the meat, use the back of the spoon to squish any chunks of meat to break up each clump of meat. Taste the meat to determine if the dish is salty enough.
  • Add the chopped shiitake mushrooms.
  • If the meat sauce isn't salty enough yet, add the extra salt. Stir in the salt and allow the mushrooms to cook and release their water.
  • Optional: crumble tofu into the dish to stretch the meat and add protein. If you're omitting the tofu, then skip this step. If cooking the tofu, stir the crumbled tofu into the dish until well mixed.
    4 images of cooking ground meat with soy sauce, adding mushrooms, and adding crumbled tofu
  • Cook until the meat is fully cooked. There should be no pink or red left.
  • Enjoy your aromatic meat sauce with shiitake mushroom!
    2 images of the finished mushroom meat sauce in a pan and served next to steamed vegetables

Nutrition

Calories: 296kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 327mg | Potassium: 709mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 60IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 2mg
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What to eat with Kari’s Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce

You can enjoy Kari’s Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce like you would Bolognese sauce. That means serve it over fresh pasta.

Or accompanying steamed vegetables.

Or over a bed of green salad.

Overhead view of Kari's Welcome Home Meat Sauce on top of a bed of salad greens

Or next to rice noodles with steamed vegetables.

Close up look of Kari's Welcome Home Meat Sauce on top of steamed vegetables with a side of rice noodles

What to eat with mushroom meat sauce

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Vegan Ratatouille with Eggplant and Zucchini
This simple, no-bake recipe makes a hearty pot of ratatouille that your vegan friends & family will love. The recipe is designed to feed a group of 6-8 (depending on serving size) or allow a family of 1-2 to have leftovers for 3-4 meals.
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Lentil soup with vegetables and sausages
This delicious lentil soup is flexible and scalable. That means you can substitute the aromatics and add fresh vegetables. The recipe is designed for batch cooking so you can serve a crowd or freeze the leftovers. You can scale up the recipe further if your soup pot is large enough. Enjoy with toppings like crème fraîche or serve with crusty bread.
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About Anna Rider

Hi! I'm Anna, a food writer who documents kitchen experiments on GarlicDelight.com with the help of my physicist and taste-testing husband, Alex. I have an insatiable appetite for noodles 🍜 and believe in "improv cooking".

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