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.

white button mushrooms, ground black pepper, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil and 5 more
onion, pepper, butter, crushed garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt and 1 more
all purpose flour, Dijon mustard, salt, button mushrooms, white pepper and 5 more
soy sauce, yellow onion, vegetable oil, pot roast, butter, fresh rosemary and 4 more
red onion, coriander powder, black pepper, pepper, tomato paste and 10 more
garlic, green onions, white wine, brie cheese, white button mushrooms and 1 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.

spaghetti, extra virgin olive oil, fresh parsley leaves, cremini mushrooms and 6 more
vegetable broth, dried thyme, black pepper, salt, baby portobello mushrooms and 8 more
cremini mushrooms, cream of mushroom soup, chicken breasts, white wine and 3 more
unsalted butter, dried parsley, garlic powder, salt, cremini mushrooms and 5 more
tapioca flour, baby portobello mushrooms, non-dairy milk, salt and 8 more
whole wheat panko breadcrumbs, garlic cloves, brown lentils, crimini mushrooms 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.

rosemary, tarragon, portobello mushroom, thyme, sea salt, olive oil and 2 more
portobello mushroom caps, fresh basil, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and 1 more
freshly ground pepper, salt, fresh parsley, plain dry breadcrumbs and 3 more
portabella mushrooms, quinoa, cayenne pepper, lime, low sodium vegetable broth and 16 more
balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salted butter, ground coriander and 14 more
lemon, kosher salt, avocado oil, juice, garlic, portobello mushrooms and 1 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, hazelnuts, olive oil, garlic cloves, honey, grated lemon zest and 8 more
fleur de sel, basil leaves, olive oil, eggs, morels, butter, shallot and 5 more
pepper, morels, butter, marsala wine, garlic clove, lemon, frozen peas and 6 more
olive oil, asparagus, dressing, morel mushrooms, kosher salt and 1 more
extra-virgin olive oil, morel mushrooms, rigatoni, Parmesan, heavy cream and 4 more
freshly ground black pepper, eggs, unsalted butter, ramps, Fontina 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, grated Parmesan cheese, fresh spinach leaves, butter, breadcrumbs and 3 more
beans, water, water, hoisin sauce, beans, hoisin sauce, oyster mushrooms and 9 more
light soy sauce, green onion, king oyster mushrooms, sugar, steamed white rice and 3 more
rustic bread, ramps, kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, ricotta cheese and 3 more
ground black pepper, red onion, lacinato kale, unsalted butter and 8 more
heavy cream, oyster mushrooms, pepper, olive oil, red wine, 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, shiitake mushrooms, paprika, oil, apple cider vinegar and 9 more
shiitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, tamari, sesame oil, scallions and 5 more
soy sauce, sugar, sherry vinegar, dried shiitake mushrooms, fresh ginger
green onion, rice vinegar, oil, brown sugar, boiling water, cornstarch and 8 more
garlic, chili flakes, dried shiitake mushrooms, grated cheese and 4 more
fresh shiitake mushrooms, mushroom stock, water, salt, shallots and 5 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.

maitake mushrooms, chopped fresh chives, ground black pepper and 6 more
butter, ear of corn, fresh gnocchi, grated Parmesan cheese, shallot and 2 more
chopped fresh chives, honey, garlic, apple cider, onion, fresh parsley and 6 more
crème fraîche, fresh flat leaf parsley, kosher salt, mushrooms and 10 more
unsalted butter, chanterelles, black pepper, kosher salt, chopped fresh chives and 3 more
tahini, sage leaves, oil, pumpkin, salt, cumin, vegan cheese and 7 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, garlic, sugar, scallion, enoki mushrooms, scallion and 6 more
gochujang, mushrooms, sesame oil, kimchi, kimchi, fish sauce and 5 more
enoki mushroom, mirin, soy sauce
miso paste, salt, kombu, chilli powder, enoki mushrooms, mushrooms and 12 more
ground black pepper, soy sauce, sugar, ground black pepper, enokitake and 8 more
toasted sesame oil, fresh shiitake mushrooms, corn kernels, taro root and 5 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.

unsalted butter, onion, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, chanterelles and 5 more
cheddar cheese, salt, black pepper, butter, arborio rice, garlic cloves and 6 more
ground black pepper, heavy whipping cream, salt, flour, fresh thyme leaves and 7 more
sweet paprika, garlic, rosemary, tomato paste, salt, chanterelle mushrooms and 7 more
chanterelles, bacon, kosher salt, lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper and 3 more
pearl barley, fresh parsley, vegetable oil, garlic clove, shallots 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.

whole milk, dried porcini mushrooms, unsalted butter, all purpose flour and 2 more
porcini mushrooms, olive oil, fresh parsley, jerusalem artichokes and 10 more
freshly grated Parmesan, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, small new potatoes and 7 more
ground black pepper, sea salt, dried porcini mushrooms, rosemary leaves and 3 more
porcini mushrooms, Italian parsley, garlic cloves, waxy potatoes and 2 more
salt, pepper, soy sauce, warm water, salt, onion, butter, flour and 3 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.

ground black pepper, swiss cheese, onions, cremini mushrooms and 11 more
truffle oil, kosher salt, fresh flat leaf parsley, pizza dough and 4 more
arborio rice, garlic cloves, salt, chicken broth, pepper, olive oil and 10 more
extra-virgin olive oil, truffle salt, garlic cloves, peanut oil and 9 more
lemon juice, whole milk, spring onion, truffle
butter, pinot noir, fresh black truffles, chicken wings, carrots 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.

fish sauce, garlic, oil, straw mushrooms, spinach
lemongrass, straw mushrooms, fresh galangal, cilantro sprigs and 10 more
Thai chilies, water, lemongrass, fish sauce, boneless skinless chicken breast and 7 more
minced ginger, spring onions, oil, bok choy, firm tofu, chicken stock and 10 more
cabbage, ground pork, coconut milk, spring onions, salt, black pepper and 15 more
vegetable oil, lily buds, bamboo shoots, gluten, shiitake mushrooms and 17 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!

mixed mushrooms, ricotta, puff pastry, lemon, thyme, egg, gruyère and 3 more
tarragon leaves, large egg yolk, large egg yolk, crème fraîche and 13 more
heavy cream, chicken cutlets, finely chopped fresh parsley, dry white wine and 1 more

Want to know more about mushrooms? Read Mushrooms 101

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