Central Market adds trendy new item to San Antonio roster: mushroom bacon
A buzzy slice of bacon has arrived in San Antonio, and it's being sold at Central Market: It's a plant-based bacon from Meat the Mushroom, a Baltimore startup making waves with this innovative creation.
Packages of the bacon, previously available to Texans via online purchase only, are now featured in Central Market stores across Texas, in the meat department, in the same place they keep regular bacon and sausage. Each package has 11 servings and is $9.99.
Meat The Mushroom was launched by husband-and-wife Marvin and Aleah Montague in 2021. Bacon is their first product. Dubbed "shroomacon," it's made from the King Oyster, aka King Trumpet mushroom, one of the largest mushrooms and hailed for their meaty texture and umami flavor.
Trumpets have been a staple in Asian cuisines but, with the recent rise in veganism, trumpets — and really, mushrooms of all kinds — have become a favorite stand-in for steak and seafood items like scallops.
Launching the company was a pivot, Aleah says.
"Marvin initially wanted to open a restaurant in Baltimore to make vegan food accessible to areas that are a food desert, with corner chicken shacks and McDonald's as the only options," she says. "As he dabbled with menu items, he realized he could help the neighborhood with one restaurant — or he could help lots of people by offering this kind of product."
The vegan bacon category has seen great innovation in recent years, since pioneering Lightlife Smart Bacon introduced its veggie bacon strips in 1979. All Vegetarian brand vegan bacon was a serious contender when it was introduced in 2006 (and updated in 2019), and a number of artisan butchers have created bacon fakes.
But one thing that makes Meat the Mushroom's rendition stand out is its short list of five ingredients — mushrooms, canola oil, smoke flavoring, salt, and pepper — versus the mix of wheat gluten and soy that most competitors use.
Marvin worked on perfecting the recipe for nearly a year.
"It was important to us to have something that was simple and made of whole foods," Aleah says.
That probably helped get them into Central Market, which has not jumped onto the vegan bandwagon as quickly as chains like Sprouts and Whole Foods. Central Market staff gave it a rigorous tryout, cooking it and testing it in recipes.
"They call themselves the food lover's grocery store, and it is all about the taste and the recipe for them," she says. "I believe it was because they were impressed by how good it was."
The bacon consists of nearly paper-thin mushroom slices, marinated, with foolproof instructions: Cook them for 6 minutes, 3 minutes on each side.
The result is a crackly strip with some chewy parts and a smoky flavor. No one would mistake it for actual bacon. It lacks bacon's greasy, fatty, rubbery parts — sorry, about to gag here — as well as its nitrates and nitrites. But it more than fills the bill for breakfast combos and BLTs.
The Montagues are developing other products but bacon, with all its pop-culture lore, was the logical starter.
"Our audience is not just vegans or vegetarians — there are entire cultures who don’t eat pork as well as doctors who are saying to lay off bacon, we feel like this can help so many different populations," she says.
Including Central Market, they're currently in 65 stores across the U.S., and are working with a chain in the Midwest that will bring them to 100 stores.
"A lot of vegan things, you have to be vegan to appreciate it, and that's part of our mission statement, to raise the bar," she says. "Most people aren't going to change their diet if it doesn't taste good."