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Loaded Baked Potato with Shiitake Bacon

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Loaded Baked Potato with Shiitake Bacon

Shiitake bacon is not bacon, let’s get that straightened out from the top. Shiitake bacon is not pork. It is not meat. It is not fatty, salty, and smoked. (So much for telling the reader what it is, not what it is not.)  It is however crispy, chewy, intensely flavored, and can be smoky-flavored! Making shiitake bacon is truly one of my favorite plant-based culinary techniques. Read on for How to Make Shiitake Bacon — and a darn good Baked Potato.

Loaded Baked Potato with Shiitake Bacon

Potato Head

Wait, what? A baked potato? Didn’t they go the way of shoulder pads, high-waisted jeans, and spandex? Hmm. Well, those are back, too. Recently, a Baked Potato Bar offering up over-the-top hip-hop garnishes including lobster tail and vegan ground beef opened in my neighborhood. I did a double-take. Baked Potato Bar? It seemed like some relic from the 80s, in a time long long ago before Low Carb and Keto took over the land.

Baked Potatoes never left my kitchen! You might be surprised at a Baked Potato on a WW-friendly eating plan. The first thing to consider is that Russet Potatoes, the signature spud used in Baked Potatoes Potatoes are loaded with important vitamins and nutrients, like Vitamin B6, Potassium, and Vitamin C.  They are also fat-free, cholesterol-free, and a good source of dietary fiber. It’s not actually the potato that’s problematic, it’s the toppings, but we’ll get there…..

Idaho Potato

What’s the Best Potato for Baked Potatoes?

According to the Idaho Potato Commission, the Burbank is the most common variety of Russet potatoes. They have relatively thin and light-brown skin, are oval with a slightly flattened shape and have a few shallow eyes. The interior is off-white to ivory and moderately dense. They have a distinctive, earthy potato flavor with a grainy texture and slightly chewy skin. Russets bake up dry and fluffy, perfect for a Baked Potato. In fact, the branding campaign has been so successful that Idaho potato is synonymous with Russet potatoes. (However, to clarify, there are many different types of potatoes grown in Idaho. It just so happens that the Russet is one of the more famous.)

A medium-sized baked potato is 5 points. Add a tablespoon of light sour cream (1 pt), a couple of tablespoons of shredded Cheddar (2 pts), chopped green onions or chives (0 pts), and shiitake bacon (0 pts) and you have a super satisfying, indulgent (but still good for you) dinner that will ring all the comfort food bells.

shiitake bacon


Mushroom Madness

Fresh shiitake mushrooms have rich, meaty flavor even more intense than other flavors of other mushroom varieties. Partially, this has to do with the shiitake’s texture. Fresh shiitake are approximately 75% water, a considerably lower water content than that of many of its cousins. Less water accounts for shiitakes firm-even chewy-texture and intense flavor. This makes them perfect for shiitake bacon!

Shiitake Bacon

Shiitakes have been cultivated in Asia for thousands of years. In Japanese, shii means “from a hardwood tree,” and take means “mushroom.” They are grown on logs or in sawdust, so the only cleaning necessary is a wipe with a damp cloth or a paper towel. Use a paring knife to remove the stems where they meet the cap. The stems are too fibrous to eat on their own, but they make an excellent addition to the vegetable bag destined for the stockpot.

Shiitake Bacon

Once again, shiitake bacon is not bacon. This is not meant to be bacon, it’s meant to be evocative of bacon.  The key is taking advantage of the umami-packed meaty flavor. The process is super simple. High heat plus a judicious spritz of oil and some smoky seasoning is all there is to making shiitake bacon. It’s great to make a batch and use for salads, vegetable seasoning, crostini, and yes, to serve atop a Baked Potato!

Shiitake Bacon

Cookbooks with Virginia

Some of you are familiar with Cookbooks with Virginia, my multi-platform program all about cookbooks! Join me each week at 11:30 am EST for my LIVE stream featuring your favorite cookbook authors on my Facebook Page and YouTube Channel. (You can also catch it later on IGTV.) And, if you miss them live, you can catch it after the fact, too!

Make sure to follow along and enter to win a FREE copy of the cookbook of the week every Friday morning on Instagram

You’ll get to ask questions, learn a new recipe from the featured cookbook, — and enter to win the cookbook of the week! Please join us for tips, techniques, and excellent recipes.

Thanks so much for reading. I hope you give this plant-forward shiitake bacon a try! Let me know what you think.

Bon Appétit, Y’all

Virginia Willis

Loaded Baked Potato with Shiitake Bacon

Loaded Baked Potato with Shiitake Bacon

Makes 2 cups "bacon" and 2 potatoes
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 45 minutes
Course: Appetizer, dinner, lunch, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Southern, Vegetarian
Keyword: plant-based, shiitake, vegetarian bacon
Author: Virginia Willis


  • 16 ounces shiitake mushrooms stems removed and thinly sliced
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 medium Russet potatoes
  • Light sour cream for serving
  • Chopped green onions for serving
  • Grated Cheddar cheese for serving
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a nonstick silicone baking sheet. Scatter the mushrooms on the prepared sheet. Spritz with nonstick spray then season with smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Transfer to the oven and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 40 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • When ready to load up the potato, heat the oven to 425°F. Rinse the potato under cold running water and wipe dry with a clean towel. Spritz with nonstick spray and season the outside with salt. Place in the oven and cook until tender to the point of a knife, 45 to 60 minutes.
  • To serve, split the potato in half lengthwise. Load up with sour cream, green onions, cheese, and reserved shiitake bacon. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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