This vegan cassoulet is made with a savory slow cooked stew of garlicky white beans and smoky portobello mushrooms, sprinkled with panko breadcrumbs and baked to bubbly perfection.
Most traditional casseroles are made with cheese, which is kind of a bummer if you don't eat cheese. It's also tough to veganize cheesy casseroles if you don't use store bought vegan cheese, which I generally don't.
Cassoulet is an exception. No cheese! This is pretty exciting, especially when you consider that it's also French, because French food can be pretty cheese-heavy.
What traditional cassoulet does have is gobs and gobs of super slow cooked garlicky white beans and herbs, all topped with a crispy breadcrumb crust. So it kind of makes sense that vegan cassoulet would work out well when you think about it: white beans cook up super creamy and luscious, so who needs cheese?
The other thing traditional cassoulet has is meat. Lots of it. I perused a number of cassoulet recipes, and even though there are lots of variations on the dish, they generally seem to involve multiple types of meat and animal fat, and all kinds of involved ways of cooking the meat in the animal fat. So it can be a pretty complicated dish. The great thing about making a vegan cassoulet it is that you can just throw all that stuff out the window, and the recipe ends up being a lot simpler.
In place of all the eight hundred varieties of meat one might include in a dish like this, I went with just substitution: smoky sautéed portobello mushrooms. They were everything I needed, and so delicious.
I'm not going to kid you and say this dish is quick and easy...but it is at least relatively easy. Most of the long cook time is hands off — simmering stew on the stove or baking up the casserole in the oven. I did go the extra mile and make this from dried beans, as opposed to canned, which means soaking, and that's something I'm normally too lazy to do. I feel like canned beans would get mushy with the long cook time. Also, if you want to make this during the week (and Valentine's day is on a Tuesday this year, so you should!), just cook the stew in advance. Stick it in the fridge for up to two days. The day of serving, just transfer it to the baking dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, and bake away.
Smoky Portobello Mushroom Vegan Cassoulet
- 6 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 cup diced shallots 2 to 3 shallots
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 2 medium carrots diced
- 2 celery ribs diced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 pound dried great northern beans soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
- 7 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- Pinch ground cloves
- Salt and pepper
- 12 ounces baby portobello mushrooms stemmed, cleaned and sliced
- ½ teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
Coat the bottom of a large pot with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and place over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the shallots, garlic, carrots, and celery. Sauté for about 10 minutes, until the veggies are tender. Add the white wine and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes, until the wine has reduced by about half.
Add the beans, broth, tomato paste, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, and cloves to the pot. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Lower heat and allow to simmer, uncovered, until the beans are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed or cooked off, about 1 ½ hours. You want it to have the consistency of a stew — not too dry, but also not a soup. Remove from heat, discard the bay leaves, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
When the stew is almost finished cooking, preheat the oven to 325°.
Coat the bottom of a large skillet with the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil and place it over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the mushrooms an an even layer. Allow to cook until the mushrooms are browned on the bottoms, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook 5 minutes more. Once the mushrooms are browned on both sides, sprinkle with the liquid smoke and quickly flip a few times to coat the mushrooms. Remove from heat.
In a small bowl, stir the panko breadcrumbs together with ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
Fold the mushrooms into the stew, then transfer everything into a large casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with the panko mixture.
Cover the dish with foil, and bake until the casserole is bubbly and the breadcrumbs are lightly browned, about 1 hour.
Divide into bowls and serve with crusty bread.
I used a 2 quart casserole dish for this, and while everything fit, it was a tight squeeze, so use something a tad larger if you've got it.