12 Mushrooms and How to Eat Them

12 Mushrooms and How To Eat Them

OK, so you love mushrooms. But which ones do you use when? And what's the best recipe for that "chef's assortment" you impulsively picked up at the market? Here's what you need to know to make the most of the 12 most popular mushrooms.

As with the wide world of cheese, one of the joys of eating mushrooms is experiencing the unique flavors of the different varieties. From meaty portabellos and shiitakes to mild oyster mushrooms and chanterelles, you'll just have to taste the rainbow of mushrooms to decide which one is your favorite. With their unique flavor profiles, mushrooms can be happily paired for different effect with steak, cream, pasta, wine, onions, in breakfast dishes with eggs, and (of course) cheese.

Here, we take a look at the defining characteristics and preparations for the most popular dozen mushrooms; read on and celebrate the glories of fungus!

Common Button/White Mushrooms

Button Mushrooms

Button mushrooms have the honor of being both the most common and least expensive mushroom in the United States. These versatile, everyday mushrooms have a mild flavor that gets stronger when cooked and blends well with other ingredients. Sturdy enough to hold up in sauces, stir-fries, and stews, sliced and sautéed button mushrooms are also what come to mind as classic toppings for pizza and mushroom-smothered cheeseburgers.

garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, white button mushrooms, kosher salt and 5 more
Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, crushed garlic, butter, sliced mushrooms and 1 more
yellow onion, salt, nutmeg, button mushrooms, heavy cream, unsalted butter and 4 more
vegetable oil, fresh rosemary, soy sauce, salt, button mushrooms and 5 more
sesame seeds, spaghetti, all purpose flour, salt, garlic, black pepper and 9 more
garlic, brie cheese, white button mushrooms, flat leaf parsley and 2 more

Cremini Mushrooms, aka "Baby Bellas"

Cremini Mushrooms

Cremini, or brown mushrooms, are almost identical biologically to white mushrooms. You can use them interchangeably in recipes that call for white mushrooms to add a slightly earthier, more full-bodied mushroom flavor. Like white mushrooms, the hardy cremini stand up well to slow cooking soups and stews. Oh, and that name, "baby bella"? It's exactly what it sounds like: cremini mushrooms are indeed immature, or baby, portabella mushrooms. More on that after these recipes.

kosher salt, cremini mushrooms, extra virgin olive oil, unsalted butter and 6 more
fresh parsley, salt, vegetable broth, garlic cloves, dried thyme and 8 more
fresh parsley, white wine, dried parsley, butter, cream of mushroom soup and 2 more
Ritz Crackers, shredded Italian cheese, salt, onion powder, egg whites and 5 more
white onion, fresh thyme, white button mushrooms, bay leaf, salt and 7 more
sunflower seeds, balsamic vinegar, crimini mushrooms, garlic cloves and 16 more

Portabella Mushrooms

Portabello Mushrooms

Large, substantial portabella (also called portobello) mushroom caps are the meatiest of the mushrooms, good for grilling and used as a healthy substitute in traditional meat dishes. The portabella is simply a cremini mushroom that's been allowed to grow to maturity, producing a wide, flat cap about the size of your palm. On the underside, you'll see dark gills, which should be removed before cooking. Freshness tip: look for portabellas whose gills still have pink undertones.

The stems can be quite woody and are typically composted or used to flavor soup broth. The taste of a grilled portabella mushroom cap is best described as meaty and earthy — but the real meat-like quality comes from the chewy texture, which provides a sensation similar to biting into a medium-rare steak.

olive oil, portobello mushroom, tarragon, rosemary, balsamic vinegar and 3 more
portobello mushroom caps, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, olive oil and 1 more
portobello mushrooms, fresh parsley, salt, freshly ground pepper and 3 more
avocado, fine sea salt, olive oil, red onion, red bell pepper and 16 more
ground coriander, worcestershire sauce, kosher salt, hoagie buns and 14 more
juice, lemon, portobello mushrooms, avocado oil, kosher salt and 2 more

Morels

Morel Mushrooms

Hard-to-find morels are a springtime treat with a distinctive deep and earthy flavor and sponge-like appearance. If you see them fresh, buy them while you can! The short season for morels means they'll be gone in a flash. Fortunately, many recipes call for dried morels, which can easily be found online, bringing us the pleasure of morel's nutty flavor year round. Remember: morels should ALWAYS be cooked — they can make you sick if eaten raw.

avocado, honey, grated lemon zest, whole wheat bread, morels and 9 more
fleur de sel, eggs, morels, basil leaves, olive oil, shallot and 6 more
frozen peas, lemon, morels, heavy cream, marsala wine, garlic clove and 7 more
dressing, olive oil, asparagus, kosher salt, morel mushrooms and 1 more
salt, rigatoni, morel mushrooms, Parmesan, pepper, peas, extra-virgin olive oil and 2 more
eggs, ramps, unsalted butter, Fontina, freshly ground black pepper and 2 more

Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms get their name from the shell-like shape of the caps, which grow on the side of trees in clustered stacks reminiscent of stadium seating. While they do have a distinctive shape, be careful when shopping not to confuse them with the long, thick-stemmed king oyster mushroom. Despite its name, the king oyster is a quite different species altogether.

Oyster mushrooms are known for their mild yet complex flavor and come in a range of colors from blue-gray to salmon to golden-brown, with slight variations in taste. Orange-hued oyster mushrooms, for example, will tend to have a light nutty flavor. All varieties taste best paired with other mild flavors — or even better, served alone, sautéed in butter. While oyster mushrooms are on the fragile side, you'll still want to remove the tougher stem before cooking and be sure to eat them while young and somewhat firm. Because of their delicate nature, they're often used in Asian soups, stir-fries, and other quick-cooking preparations.

salt, breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley leaves and 4 more
garlic cloves, oyster mushrooms, water, oyster mushrooms, hoisin sauce and 11 more
toasted sesame seeds, peanut oil, king oyster mushrooms, sugar and 4 more
freshly ground pepper, ricotta cheese, rustic bread, ramps, kosher salt and 3 more
ground black pepper, oyster mushrooms, chicken broth, dried sage and 8 more
red wine, pepper, olive oil, oyster mushrooms, heavy cream, salt

Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitakes are meaty mushrooms similar to portabellas, if without their signature massive girth. These mushrooms have an intense and woodsy flavor, with smaller shiitakes offering a tender texture and larger ones providing more robust flavor. A chewier mushroom, shiitakes are a good choice to add both texture and umami to flavor-rich dishes.

If using fresh, the woody stem should be removed and saved to add to stocks. Like morels, shiitakes should never be eaten raw, so keep these off your salads unless you've sautéed them first. If fresh shiitakes aren't available, there are many recipes that call for dried shiitakes for an even more intense mushroom flavor. In fact, dried shiitakes have been noted as an excellent substitute for the much pricier wild porcini — with a deeper flavor to boot.

black pepper, black pepper, apple cider vinegar, tamari, maple syrup and 9 more
avocados, mirin, bean sprouts, sesame oil, scallions, sesame seeds and 4 more
dried shiitake mushrooms, fresh ginger, soy sauce, sherry vinegar and 1 more
cornstarch, garlic, green onion, sesame seeds, ginger, boiling water and 8 more
chili flakes, grated cheese, garlic, red onion, eggs, fat free greek yogurt and 2 more
shallots, white wine, water, salt, all purpose flour, olive oil and 4 more

Hen of the Woods, aka Maitake Mushrooms

Maitake Mushrooms

One of the most delicate mushrooms, the Hen of the Woods mushroom sports a tattered head held together by a sturdier core at the base. Also known as maitake or sheepshead (but not to be confused with chicken of the woods), this shaggy clump of mushroom is most often prepared simply by breaking and tearing the mushroom into bits and pieces by hand. These mushrooms have an earthy, woodsy, and somewhat spicy flavor that helps makes dishes taste richer. Hen of the Woods are excellent when roasted or sautéed in butter, allowing the delicate edges to curl up and crisp.

walnut pieces, extra virgin olive oil, fine sea salt, ground black pepper and 5 more
fresh gnocchi, shallot, ear of corn, maitake mushrooms, thyme and 2 more
crushed red pepper, whole black peppercorns, leaves, fresh parsley and 8 more
mushrooms, fresh flat leaf parsley, extra virgin olive oil, porcini and 10 more
wild mushrooms, black pepper, chopped hazelnuts, unsalted butter and 4 more
onions, oil, salt, pumpkin, cumin, lemon juice, rolls, sage leaves and 6 more

Enoki Mushrooms

Enoki Mushrooms

The enoki mushroom, sometimes labeled as enokitake, is a very mild, crunchy Asian favorite that is quickly gaining popularity in the United States. Pale, long, and skinny little mushrooms, these are often eaten quick fried in little bundles or scattered atop a hot dish as a garnish after cooking.

To prepare, cut off the connected stem end and separate the mushrooms with your fingers into smaller clumps. Enoki mushrooms are quite good for soup, where they can be put in raw to just barely cook themselves in the hot broth while adding a textural crunch to the dish. Other preparations involve a quick stir fry where the mushrooms jump in and out of the pan in a flash.

light soy sauce, sugar, oil, enoki mushrooms, scallion, garlic and 6 more
mushrooms, sesame oil, kimchi, eggs, fish sauce, gochujang, sesame seeds and 4 more
mirin, enoki mushroom, soy sauce
mushrooms, garlic, gochugaru, maple syrup, Sriracha hot sauce and 13 more
ground black pepper, salt, ground black pepper, enokitake, soy sauce and 8 more
taro root, enoki mushrooms, ramen noodles, green onion, roasted sesame seeds and 4 more

Chanterelles

Chanterelle Mushrooms

Chanterelles are the belle of the ball at the wild mushroom dance. Delicate yellow or orange in color, chanterelles look like little golden horns with their inverted bell shape, and may even smell faintly of apricot. The have a gentle nutty flavor with hints of pepper and spice, making chanterelles a good substitute for morels or the even rarer hedgehog mushroom. Although firmer than the maitake or enoki mushrooms, chanterelles are still best prepared by tearing them instead of chopping. Like many of the other mushrooms here, they can have tough stems which can be removed and added to homemade stocks to make the most of this exceptional flavor.

onion, freshly ground pepper, unsalted butter, garlic, chanterelles and 5 more
broth, garlic cloves, arborio rice, grated Parmesan cheese, butter and 7 more
salt, heavy whipping cream, grated Gruyère cheese, butter, leeks and 7 more
garlic, flour, pepper, tomato paste, rosemary, mustard, sweet paprika and 6 more
unsalted butter, chanterelles, freshly ground black pepper, kosher salt and 4 more
fresh lemon juice, kosher salt, shallots, mushrooms, vegetable oil and 9 more

Porcini Mushrooms

Porcini Mushrooms

Porcini mushrooms are some of the most highly prized in the culinary world, known for their bold, nutty flavor. Porcinis impart a deep, pure mushroom flavor to any dish, and are classically used in many Italian recipes. Their hearty flavor and meaty bite work well with pasta and grains, thick soups, and in flavorful gravies.

Porcinis are bulbous, both in cap and stem, with a classic mushroom-brown hue. They may be easier to find dried; if they're cost-prohibitive to buy, you can substitute dried shiitakes easily in the recipes below.

unsalted butter, all purpose flour, dried porcini mushrooms, large eggs and 2 more
olive oil, black pepper, fennel, garlic clove, Parmesan, red wine and 8 more
extra-virgin olive oil, dried porcini mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and 8 more
ground black pepper, large garlic clove, sea salt, lamb loin chops and 3 more
Italian parsley, garlic cloves, porcini mushrooms, salt, extra-virgin olive oil and 1 more
breadcrumbs, soy sauce, butter, olive oil, onion, warm water and 5 more

Truffles and Truffle Oil

Truffles

Only the truffle, one of the most expensive gourmet foods in the world, can give the porcini a run for its money (or yours). This hard, bulbous mushroom grows underground; historically dogs and pigs have been used to help truffle hunters sniff them out in the wild. The two main varieties are the white or "Alba" truffle from the Piedmont region of Italy and the black "Perigord" truffle grown in France, Italy, and Spain.

Despite being so hard that they are typically served shaved, truffles are among the most perishable of mushrooms, with peak flavor lasting only 3-4 days. Truffles have a very strong, almost musky flavor associated with the finest of dining; however, you can more affordably boost your day-to-day cooking by using a small amount of truffle oil as with many of the elegant recipes that follow.

seasoned salt, mayonnaise, mayonnaise, truffle oil, hamburger buns and 10 more
kosher salt, pizza dough, fresh flat leaf parsley, truffle oil and 4 more
pepper, cremini mushrooms, garlic cloves, salt, onions, grated Parmesan and 10 more
butter, extra-virgin olive oil, truffle salt, dry red wine, dried thyme and 8 more
spring onion, truffle, lemon juice, whole milk
diced celery, carrots, pinot noir, beef broth, chicken wings and 6 more

Straw Mushrooms

Straw Mushrooms

Straw mushrooms, sometimes called paddy straw mushrooms, are easily recognizable for their small, pointy shape and dark caps. Most often purchased canned here in the States, these bite-size 'shrooms are frequently seen in stir fry dishes and classic Thai soups such as Tom Yum and Tom Kha Gai. If you do use canned straw mushrooms, remember that they've already been partially cooked during canning, so they're well suited for quick cooking weeknight recipes.

spinach, fish sauce, oil, garlic, straw mushrooms
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cilantro sprigs, fish sauce, straw mushrooms, chili paste in soybean oil and 10 more
kaffir lime leaves, Thai chilies, cilantro leaves, galangal, fish sauce and 7 more
bok choy, dried shiitake mushrooms, firm tofu, spring onions and 12 more
red chili flakes, ginger, diced tomatoes, coconut milk, fish sauce and 16 more
vegetable oil, granulated sugar, steamed white rice, napa cabbage and 18 more

Can't Decide? Mix 'Em Up!

Can't choose just one? Me neither. Here are just a few ideas for when one kind of mushroom just isn't enough!

ricotta, gruyère, shallots, puff pastry, mixed mushrooms, butter and 4 more
green onions, frozen puff pastry, gruyère cheese, crème fraîche and 13 more
chicken cutlets, mixed mushrooms, dry white wine, finely chopped fresh parsley and 1 more

Want to know more about mushrooms? Read Mushrooms 101

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