Once a person’s love affair with mushrooms begins, it seems the desire for them becomes insatiable. For those of us in the realms of plant-based living, mushrooms often bring to the table a chewy, some would say “meaty,” texture that is sometimes hard to come by, especially in an unprocessed, whole food choice.

It’s no wonder we love them. Mushrooms are versatile, strong enough to feature in a dish but subtle enough to blend into the choir in equal opportunity dishes like stew or casserole. They soak up flavors, and they blend seamlessly with so many different flavors and cuisines.

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One thing that contributes to the many varied powers of mushrooms is the growing diversity of choices we have out there. The days of the one-and-only-choice white button variety has long since passed, and portobellos, chanterelles, oysters and many more have become regular sights in not just specialty shops but also supermarkets and green grocers.

In fact, there are so many options now that it can be a little intimidating. But, there is no need to feel that way, and as we will soon see, all this fungal variety is a good thing, a means by which to pinpoint the mushroom qualities each recipe is after. Let’s see what out there to choose from.

Portobello

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These have become one of the most familiar mushrooms, even for people who aren’t necessarily on plant-based diets. Truthfully, they are just common button mushroom fully matured. They are big, juicy and firm, making them perfect for sandwiches and being stuffed. Try these Portobello Mushroom Steaks to give them a go!

Cremini

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Yet again, we are dealing with button mushrooms that are simply more mature, but they are perhaps a better choice than the standard white buttons we are all accustomed to. The age adds little depth of flavor as well as a firmer texture to sink into. Use them anywhere typical button mushrooms would be used, such as spaghetti sauce or Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff.

Shitake

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Big in Asian cuisine, shitake mushrooms are beloved for their chewiness as well as their appeal to umami taste buds (very important in Japanese cuisine). In fact, shitake mushrooms are available in powdered form for those of us just looking to add the flavor of these delights into our dishes. They are powerful and work well as a sort of “meat” component to stir-fries. You can even create Shitake Bacon with them.

Oyster

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A bit of an eyesore to look at, with stacks of caps, oysters may scare some mushroom newbies off due to their appearance. However, this is a major mistake as they are amongst the most delicious and affordable. A nice strong texture with bit of sweetness on the tongue, they are delicious in thick sauces, stews, soups or just sautéed. They also go great in Gluten-Free Vegan Stuffing.

Porcini

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Also “meaty” like the portabella variety, porcini mushrooms are generally smaller with nearly as much trunk as cap. They are respected for their flavor, a bit on the nutty-earthy side, which pairs perfectly with creamy sauce or bold things like red wine reductions. They are popular in Italian cuisine. We also love them in Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto.

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Chanterelle

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Chanterelles are a beautiful golden color and have a slightly floral scent. Their flavor suggests a bit of pepper, and they are better suited for delicate dishes in which their flimsy texture isn’t overly challenged. They are also somewhat watery, so they work better in drier settings where they can release their own juices. They also work well in this Lowfat Vegan Silken Tofu Omelet.

Morel

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These mushrooms are a bit of a delicacy in that they can come at whopping costs (sometimes well over $10/pound), and despite a sort of unusual and intricately ugly appearance, they offer a chewy texture and savory palette. At those prices, it might be worth using these fungi as the focal point for dishes. Plus, they’re pretty taste in these Garlic and Thyme Pan Seared Mushrooms.

Enoki

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Common in East Asian cuisine, particularly soups, enokis are unique in appearance, with long, slender stems and classic bell-shaped heads. They remain firm under the simmering and smoldering preparation of soups and stews, so they are a welcome source of something to chew on in the broth. They can be used in any mushroom soup of your choosing, perhaps with some miso or another type of soybean paste as they are traditionally used.

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By no means have we exhausted the list of what’s available out there in the mushroom world, and with these comfortably in the cooking repertoire, it’s definitely worth going out to explore others. However, these varieties provide a wide spectrum of flavors, textures and idiosyncrasies to suit just about any recipe, and now we all know how to choose the right one.

Also see 30 Cool Vegan Recipes Made With Mushrooms for more ideas and recipes.

Lead Image Source: Baked Pesto Mushies With Crunchy Cashew Cheese