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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey

Vegan Shellfish Alternatives

Jul 29, 2022 09:30AM ● By April Thompson
King oyster mushrooms

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Vegans or people with shellfish allergies can still enjoy the rich umami flavor of an oyster or clam with a little creativity. Here are a few suggested alternatives.

King oyster mushrooms: This mushroom is a misnomer perhaps, as its meaty stem, sliced in one-inch sections and sautéed or broiled, looks and tastes more like a scallop than an oyster. In general, mushrooms have a similar mouthfeel to shellfish: The chitin found in the shells of crustaceans are also a key compound in fungi. They can be added to many dishes as a satisfying substitute for seafood and other animal proteins. However, shellfish and mushroom allergies can overlap as a result of chitin sensitivities, so allergy sufferers should proceed with caution.

Seaweed salad

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Seaweed: Kelp, dulse and other edible algae can also add a touch of that salty, sea-kissed flavor of shellfish, as well as important trace minerals and antioxidants, to dishes like chowders and stews without adding empty calories.

Sliced heart of palm on cutting board with knife

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Heart of palm: The tender chewy texture of hearts of palm, flavored well, can serve as a surprising proxy for shellfish and seafood, particularly for rich dishes like fried calamari, lobster rolls or crab salad.

For those seeking a plant-based diet for ethical or other reasons, it’s worth noting that a subset of vegans believe that consuming oysters and mussels does not contradict their commitment to a compassionate diet, given that bivalves lack a central nervous system. This somewhat controversial offshoot of veganism even has its own name—ostroveganism, from the Latin word ostrea, meaning oyster.


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