The plant-based food space is experiencing a revolution. Contrary to what it was like just 10 years ago, there are now countless options that make cooking vegan meals easier than ever before. While prepackaged foods are convenient and delicious, let’s not leave whole, plant-based foods in the dust! If you’re looking to get your meat fix, you might want to reconsider the humble Portobello mushroom. For real? Yes, for real. This tasty
About Portobello Mushrooms
You probably already know what Portobello mushrooms look like — they’re those big, brown mushrooms caps that often come in packs of two at the grocery store. These shrooms are native to grasslands in North America and Europe, where they are cultivated all year round. Today, the United States grows 90 percent of the world’s Portobello mushrooms and most of them are grown in Pennsylvania.
Fun fact! Did you know that both White Button and Baby Bella (also known as Cremini) are both just immature Portobello mushrooms? White Button mushrooms actually came about in the 1920s after a Pennsylvanian farmer discovered a cluster of white mushrooms growing in his mushroom bed. Like white bread or white rice, consumers found White Button mushrooms to be more attractive, so even more White Button mushrooms were cultivated from the original genetic mutation. It’s amazing how this one fungus has given us three very different varieties.
What do Portobello mushrooms have to offer, besides their delicious flavor? Plenty! They are low in fat, high in fiber, and a good source of copper as well as B-vitamins riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. A single Portobello mushroom cap contains more potassium than one banana. Interestingly, Portobello mushrooms contain a similar protein structure to meat, beans, and legumes, though they themselves are not very high on protein — one cup of chopped Portobello mushrooms will give you about three grams of protein.
Mushrooms, in general, are also the only known plant-based food to contain selenium, an antioxidant that studies have shown to protect cells from damage from heart disease, some forms of cancer, age-related diseases, and more. Another study looked at how brown mushrooms can prevent inflammation and their potential usefulness in treating autoimmune disease.
Selecting and Storing Portobello Mushrooms
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So, you’re ready to pick up some shrooms. You can find Portobello mushrooms packaged or you might have the option to buy them loose — we recommend choosing loose mushrooms, as it gives you the chance to fully inspect the cap. Good mushrooms should have a smooth appearance and not be dried out or slimy.
Before you get started with cooking, make sure you clean your mushrooms thoroughly. You can do that by wiping them down with a damp paper towel — don’t clean them under running water. That will only lead to slimy mushrooms and a dinner that’s half as good as it could be.
Cooking a Portobello mushroom the correct way is like taking a one-way trip to flavor town. Cooked mushrooms like Portobello, White Button, and Baby Bella have a strong, umami flavor – that’s the “fifth taste” that has been described as being deeply savory with a pleasant mouthfeel. Because of that, Portobello mushrooms make an excellent centerpiece in “meaty” plant-based dishes.
Whatever kind of dish you choose to make, we highly recommend marinating your mushrooms for at least 30 minutes to infuse them with even more savory flavor. Just be sure to remove the stem (which is edible) and scoop out the black gills with a spoon prior to getting started. For marinade ideas, read The Ultimate Guide to Making Flavor-Packed Marinades. Now, let’s get cooking.
We’ve already mentioned what a great replacement for meat Portobello mushrooms can be. Try these Portobello Mushroom Steaks if you’re looking for a basic recipe. Or, make these Portobello Mushroom Steaks With Cheesy Rosemary Polenta, where seasoned mushrooms are cut into “steak” strips and then grilled or these Quinoa and Portobello Mushroom Stacks where the mushrooms are marinated in a balsamic mustard dressing, baked, and then served with quinoa and a red pepper coulis. They’re also the perfect candidate for breading and baking, like these Breaded Portobello Mushroom Steaks. If you’re really feeling fancy, you can make this Portobello Wellington for a special occasion.
You can also treat Portobello mushrooms like shredded meat, as in these Better Than Steak Tacos or these Portobello Gyros. Or, how about a Portobello Banh Mi or a Philly Tofu Cheesesteak With Portobello Mushrooms?
If you haven’t quite perfected your veggie burger-making skills (hint: read Tricks for Making Veggie Burgers That Won’t Fall Apart) or if you just really love mushrooms, the whole cap makes the perfect burger. These Grilled Portobello Mushroom Burgers paired with broccolini and bok choy are a perfect example. Or, use the caps as a bun! In these Raw Portobello Hemp Cheese Burgers, marinated mushroom caps are packed with traditional burger toppings and creamy hemp cheese — trust us, they don’t taste raw. Of course, you can always mince the burger and use it to make a regular veggie burger, like this Smoky Portobello Black Bean Burger.
Speaking of mince, use minced Portobello mushrooms anywhere you would use minced meat, as in this Zucchini Lasagna With Pesto and Portobello Mushrooms, this Portobello Lentil Shepherd’s Pie, and this Portobello Pumpkin Ravioli. Or, use minced Portobellos to make these Walnut Portobello Meatballs.
Did we mention you can make bacon and fries? Yup. This Portobello Mushroom BLT Sandwich will have you forgetting all about the real stuff and these Portobello Fries will be your new favorite side to burgers.
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Lead image source: Hans Geel/Shutterstock