In SELF’s franchise, The Meal I Eat When I’m Feeling…, we talk with chefs, celebs, athletes, and people in the culinary space about the specific foods or meals they turn to amid certain emotions—and how eating their favorites plays a vital role in their self-care.
Tabitha Brown is committed to choosing joy: Through hashtags like #spreadlove and #goodvibes, the social media star uses her food-focused platform to exhibit light. This involves sharing a lot of charming content focused on family and tradition—like her sunshine “egg” scramble or electric slide dances—while also encouraging her viewers to think big about important social justice topics.
Brown’s work as a recipe creator, author, and actor constantly keeps her on the road, so she’s frequently tasked with making a temporary home out of many different environments. And because she’s vegan, she often finds that feeling at ease in these spaces can be tricky. When the Emmy-nominated star is filming for Tab Time or The Chi, she’s always hoping to find some options to support her plant-based diet on set, but that doesn’t always happen.
“I’m on the go a whole lot, and so a lot of times, depending on where I’m working, they may not always have an option for me to eat,” Brown tells SELF.
That’s why she often takes meals into her own hands while traveling, and turns to options that serve double duty: When Brown longs for familiarity amid all that voyaging, she focuses on the foods her family made growing up to help her feel homey and satisfied.
One meal she often craves is what she calls an MLT, a plant-based version of the classic BLT that uses mushrooms instead of bacon. Her late mother would prepare BLTs for her as a child, and when Brown became vegan, she decided to make the sandwich her own. So when she’s missing home, this sandwich becomes her “comfort food,” she says.
Brown spoke with SELF to share her tips for making the MLT taste more like a BLT, and how you can savor it too.
1. Season the portobellos to enhance the smoky flavor.
Bacon hits the spot, especially in BLTs, so you’ll need an impressive replacement in this plant-based sandwich. To mirror the highly adored, crunchy texture of bacon, start with hearty portobellos; flimsy mushrooms, like enoki or black trumpets, won’t work for this sandwich. The key to getting mushrooms to taste like bacon also lies in the seasonings, says Brown. In order to get a similar flavor, Brown uses her Like Sweet Like Smoky All Purpose blend, which she recently launched with McCormick.
The seasoning includes ingredients like garlic, paprika, onion, black pepper, hickory smoke, and turbinado sugar. Brown says this gives her portobellos a “meaty flavor and a sweet taste”—a requirement when trying to get portobellos to replicate the sugary, smoky, hickory essence of bacon.
2. Focus on crisping up the mushrooms.
Now it’s time to hone in on your cooking methods. Throwing your mushrooms into an air fryer is a great way to crisp them up, says Brown. But if you’re looking for those lovely barbecue marks, grilling them is another option, she says. You’d just want to avoid your beloved mushrooms falling into the grates. So try cooking them in a grill basket, a metal pan that keeps your veggies safe while helping to absorb all that smoky flavor.
3. Don’t forget the fixings.
To elevate the MLT, honor the final touches. Sometimes those toppings involve “avocado, lettuce, tomato, and a little pickle,” says Brown. But what makes this sandwich so special lies in how effortless it is to customize.
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