Portobello mushrooms are a large, meaty variety of mushrooms with a rich, savory flavor and dense, toothsome texture. They're typically served grilled, broiled, stuffed, and as a meat substitute in sandwiches and burgers.
What Are Portobello Mushrooms?
Portobello mushrooms are the mature form of the edible fungus Agaricus bisporus, which also includes button mushrooms and cremini mushrooms. All of these mushrooms are in fact the same species of mushroom at different stages of maturity. Button mushrooms are the least mature, with cremini being the in-between stage, followed by portobello mushrooms, which are the largest, darkest brown, and most mature stage of the species.
Portobello mushrooms, also sometimes called portabella, are rich in flavor, and their texture is more meaty and less spongy than button mushrooms. Because of their large size, they can be stuffed, baked, broiled, and grilled. The caps can be removed from the stem, grilled, and served as a meatless burger alternative, with its meaty texture closely approximating that of a real burger.
Portobello mushrooms average around 6 inches across, with a dark brown color and firm texture. By the stage at which they reach full size, the caps have opened fully, exposing the gills and accelerating moisture loss, leading to a meaty, dense texture and richer flavor.
How to Cook With Portobello Mushrooms
Because of their larger size, portobello mushrooms can be prepared in a number of ways that their smaller brethren can't. For instance, it's common to grill the caps and serve them as a burger substitute, as well as in other sandwiches and panini. The caps can also be hollowed out, scraping out the gills, then stuffed and baked, or used as a base for toppings, sort of like a pizza crust. And they can be finely chopped and used as a filling for strudels and other pastries, and as an ingredient in pasta, risotto, pizza, stir-frys, and sauces.
The stems are edible, but they can be somewhat woody, so some cooks find that they work best for making stock, although if chopped finely and cooked they're fully edible. Likewise, some cooks prefer to scrape out the gills before cooking and serving portobello mushrooms, but this isn't necessary and is mainly done to make room in the cap if the recipe involves stuffing it.
In addition to grilling and roasting, portobello mushrooms can be sautéed, baked, and cooked under the broiler. Their meaty texture means that they can also serve as a substitute for meat in dishes like tacos, fajitas, and enchiladas, usually chopped is sliced into thin strips.
To grill portobello mushrooms, you'd remove the stem (if any) from each cap and brush both sides with olive oil. You could marinate the caps for up to 30 minutes before grilling if you wish. Season with Kosher salt and grill over medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes per side, then remove from the grill and serve.
What Do They Taste Like?
Portobello mushrooms taste have a rich, earthy, meaty, and brothy flavor, a combination of flavors known as umami. This umami flavor comes from a type of amino acid called glutamate, which is naturally present in mushrooms, as well as in other foods, such as parmesan cheese and anchovies. With portobello mushrooms, the umami flavor is more intense, because as the mushrooms mature and lose their water content, the flavors are concentrated. This rich, meaty flavor, along with its meaty texture, makes it a particularly useful meat substitute.
Portobello Mushroom Recipes
Here are a few recipes that feature portobello mushrooms in different ways.
Where to Buy Portobello Mushrooms
Portobello mushrooms are widely available in supermarket produce departments and farmers' markets. They're frequently sold with their stems removed, and they're also sometimes sold sliced and packaged with plastic wrap. Look for mushrooms that are firm, plump, and dry to the touch.
Portobello mushrooms are best prepared and served soon after purchasing, but they can be stored in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. The best way to store them is loose, in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator on the humid setting, with a clean paper towel underneath. Plastic wrap is the enemy of mushrooms, as it promotes slime and mold growth. So if your mushrooms came wrapped and you're not using them right away, remove the plastic before storing. This is also true for plastic produce bags.