Mushrooms: Taste of the Earth

Healthy, versatile mushrooms are an excellent addition to your plate. Mushrooms impart a fifth taste sense called umami, which is savory. Hearty meat-like mushrooms are an economical and nutritious way to enhance any meal.

Mushrooms are low in calories (one cup of raw sliced mushrooms has about 20 calories) and high in vitamins and minerals. A source of potassium, mushrooms can provide selenium and copper, depending on the variety. They have three B-complex vitamins: riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid, which help release energy from the fat, protein and carbohydrates in food.

Mushrooms also can be excellent sources of vitamin D if they have been exposed to ultraviolet light right before or after harvesting. Mushrooms provide plenty of opportunity in the kitchen. This is one vegetable you’re better off cooking as it releases more of the nutrients. Try grilling, stir-frying and sautéing to limit fat.

Choose mushrooms with a firm texture, even color and tightly closed caps. They can be refrigerated in a paper bag for up to one week, but they’re best used within a few days. Before preparing them, brush mushrooms off with your finger then rinse and pat dry with a paper towel (do not soak them). Some mushrooms, like shiitakes, should have their stems trimmed before cooking.

There are more than 2,000 varieties of edible mushrooms in all shapes, sizes and textures, but never eat mushrooms in the wild that you don’t know are safe — some are poisonous.

Agaricus (White or Button)

White button are the most common and least expensive mushrooms to appear on grocery store shelves. They have a mild taste and can be used in just about anything from salads to sauces. Button mushroom flavor intensifies when cooked, making them ideal for sautéing and grilling.


One of the most commonly harvested mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest, chanterelles are funnel- or trumpet-shaped mushrooms with a fruity, apricot-like aroma and mild, peppery taste. Most are yellow or orange. Chanterelles pair well with herbs like chives and tarragon, are delicious sauteed or roasted and are a good substitute for pricier morel mushrooms.

Crimini (Italian Brown)

Crimini look similar to the white button, but are a little darker in color and have an earthier, stronger taste. They’re actually a young portabella and are sometimes called “baby bellas.” Criminis are good eaten raw, roasted or sautéed. Pair with garlic, thyme or balsamic vinegar for the best flavor.

Enoki or Enokitak

Enoki mushrooms are often used in Asian cuisine (particularly soups). They are long stemmed, white and have a delicate flavor and a slight crunch. Trim off the root end of the cluster and separate the mushrooms before serving. Enokis add crunch to salads and sandwiches, and mild flavor to soups and stir-fries.


Its honeycomb-like shape and intense, deep woods flavor add to the morel mystique. Varying in color from light yellow to dark brown, fresh morels are available (and hunted) in spring and summer. Accessible year-round, dried morels are full of flavor and much less expensive than the fresh variety. Cook before eating by sautéing, stuffing or simmering morels to create flavorful sauces.


Oyster mushrooms are smooth, trumpet-shaped and have a light flavor. Though the color fades when cooked, oyster mushrooms can be yellow, pink or blue. Oyster mushrooms pair well with fish, seafood, poultry and red meat and are delicious simply sautéed or roasted whole.


Porcini mushrooms are reddish brown in appearance. Porcinis are some of the most sought-after wild mushrooms for their distinct earthy, nutty flavor. Less expensive dried porcini can be reconstituted and used to add robust flavor to sauces, soups, stews and stuffing. Try them in a classic Italian risotto.


A grown-up crimini, portabellas are large, firm and have a meaty taste and texture. With its steak-like texture, grilled portabellas make a satisfying vegan “burger.” Sauté, broil or roast portabellas and enjoy in fajitas, as a pizza topping or chopped into a hearty ragout. To prevent discoloration, remove the black gills before sautéing.


Shiitake mushrooms were originally cultivated in China and Japan. Like portabellas, shiitakes have a meaty texture. Cooking brings out their earthy, smoky flavor. With the tough stem removed, try shiitakes sautéed or add to stir-fries, soups or pasta dishes. For more intense flavor, try dried shiitakes in your recipes.

Jamaican Jerk Mushroom Lettuce Wraps with Papaya Salsa

Developed by the Mushroom Council

These Jamaican jerk wraps with papaya salsa are a meal for the whole family to enjoy.


1 large head Boston lettuce
1 small onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice (divided)
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 lime, juiced
1 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
7 1/2 tsp. olive oil (divided)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons dried leaf thyme
1 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
12 ounces oyster mushrooms, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 ounces button mushrooms, halved

Papaya Salsa
1 large papaya, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. chopped red onion
1 Tbsp. chopped red bell pepper
1 Tbsp. chopped green bell pepper
1/2  jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 tsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. fresh orange juice
1/4 tsp. dry red pepper flakes


  1. Place ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Remove 6 large lettuce leaves and set aside. Coarsely chop enough of the remaining lettuce to make 1 1/2 cups; set aside.
  3. Place half the diced onion, half of the jalapeño, ginger, lime juice, soy sauce, 1 tablespoon olive oil, maple syrup, thyme, allspice, cayenne, nutmeg and cinnamon in a blender. Puree until well combined. Set aside.
  4. Heat remaining 4 1/2 teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, remaining onion and jalapeño; cook two to three minutes, turning often with a spatula. Stir in the onion and pepper puree and cook for one to two minutes or until fragrant.
  5. Arrange lettuce leaves on a large serving platter. Top each with about 1/4 cup mixed greens, 1 tablespoon papaya salsa and about 1/4 cup mushroom filling.

Nutritional Info

Serves 6
Serving size: 1 lettuce leaf, 1/4 cup mixed greens, 1 tablespoon salsa and 1/4 cup mushroom filling

Calories: 106
Total Fat: 6g; Sat. fat: 1g
Chol.: 0g; Sodium: 105mg
Carb.: 11g; Fiber 2.5g; Sugars: 5g
Protein 3g; Potassium: 442mg; Phosphorus: 88mg

Recipe courtesy of the Mushroom Council. For more recipes, visit

Masala Mushroom Brushetta

Recipe developed by Alexandra Caspero


1 loaf sourdough baguette
1 clove peeled garlic
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 pound mushrooms (preferably a mixture of crimini, button and shiitake, but any kind will do)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1⁄8 tsp. ground coriander
1⁄8 tsp. ground cloves
1⁄8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup cilantro (for garnish)


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Slice the baguette into 1/2-inch slices. Place on baking sheet and toast each side for two to three minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and rub with clove of peeled garlic. It will “melt” into the sliced bread. Do this for each toast point and set aside for later use.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, minced garlic and onions. Cook for 10 minutes until onions start to turn golden brown. Add spices and cook, stirring constantly, about two minutes.
  4. Add the mushrooms in an even layer and let cook for two minutes without touching them. Gently stir, flipping the mushrooms; do the same for the other side. They should be slightly brown and almost crispy on the outside.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth and let cook until most of the broth has been absorbed. If you need more, add it. There should be a little sauce with the mushrooms. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir to loosen any cooked bits of spice.
  6. Top each toast with a scoop of the mushroom mixture. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Nutritional Info

Serves 32
Serving size: 1 slice

Calories: 26
Total Fat: 1g; Sat. Fat: 0g
Chol.: 0g; Sodium: 36mg
Carb.: 3g; Fiber 0g; Sugars: 0g
Protein 1g; Potassium: 71mg; Phosphorus: 19mg

Alexandra Caspero, MA, RD, blogs at Recipe used with permission.

“Cheesy” Vegan Mushroom Quinoa

Developed by Anne Mauney

Packed with nutrition and a garlicky cheese flavor, this vegan recipe will even please carnivores.

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
2 tsp. coconut oil
1 head baby bok choy, chopped
Handful washed kale leaves, stems removed
1 cup portabella mushrooms, chopped
1 (15.5 oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 tsp. coriander
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Salt and cracked pepper to taste


  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.
  2. In a large wok or pan, add the coconut oil, bok choy, kale, mushrooms, beans, garlic powder and coriander. Sauté over medium heat for several minutes, or until kale is wilted and the mushrooms and bok choy are softened.
  3. Add the cooked quinoa and nutritional yeast into the wok and stir. Add salt and cracked pepper to taste.

Nutritional Info

Serves 6 as a side dish.

Serving size: 1 1/2 cups

Calories: 165
Total fat: 3g; Sat. fat: 1g
Chol.: 0g; Sodium: 290mg
Carb.: 27g; Fiber 7g; Sugars: 4g
Protein 10g; Potassium: 516mg; Phosphorus: 142mg

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Marisa Moore
Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD, is based in Atlanta and specializes in culinary nutrition, communications and consulting. She blogs at Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.