Mushrooms provide a deep & earthy flavor to dishes and have a light & spongy consistency that often absorbs the flavors of the spices in which they are cooked. This makes them an extremely versatile vegetable.
They are nutrient-dense, with some powerful anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. And with hundreds of varieties available around the world, the opportunities to experiment are endless. Usually, however, grocery stores carry only a few varieties.
Most commonly found are button mushrooms, Portobello, and cremini. It is these 3 types of mushrooms we will seek to substitute.
Why would someone seek to substitute mushrooms?
- Some people don’t like where mushrooms come from … dirt!
- Mushrooms can be one of the more heavily sprayed commercial crops, and their spongy skin absorbs a large percentage of these chemicals.
- Mushrooms aren’t available everywhere. Perhaps out in the forest, yes, but many of us have lost our ancestral foraging roots.
Don’t be nervous or discouraged about finding a recipe you really want to try, but need to substitute one or more of the ingredients. This is the art and fun of cooking! Experimenting with flavors and textures is all part of the process.
Substitutes for Mushrooms
This article will help walk you through some of the best substitutes for mushrooms, focusing primarily on trying to mimic their spongy-like texture and flavor absorbing capabilities
The best substitute for button or cremini mushrooms (often used interchangeably) would be tofu, as its texture is very similar. Tofu is a wonderfully versatile ingredient, as it has virtually no flavor of its own.
This is a great asset because it easily assumes the flavor of whatever dish you are cooking, much like mushrooms do.
Some people worry about tofu being a processed soy product, as there has been a lot of controversy around this topic in the health world. However, when consumed in moderation, soy can be a respectable source of protein, and a great recipe ingredient thanks to its neutral flavor.
Use tofu as a mushroom replacement in veggie/bean burgers, stews, stir-fries, or any other recipe where you would either sautee or blend the mushrooms. Make sure to use your favorite spices, as this will be the flavor taken on by the tofu, and will be what makes the dish so tasty.
A similar substitute to tofu is its healthier, but a less commonly known cousin, tempeh. Tofu is made from only a part of the soybean, whereas tempeh is made from whole fermented soybeans that have been pressed together into a solid.
Tofu is more processed than tempeh and thus less nutritious. There are not the same health concerns with tempeh as with tofu, because it is a fermented, whole food. Tempeh could best replace a Portobello mushroom that gets baked and seasoned with spices and served alongside other vegetables or side dishes.
If you have never heard of tempeh, and you feel nervous about cooking it for the first time, don’t! Tempeh is easy to prepare, and you will likely discover you quite enjoy its texture and nutty flavor.
Eggplant is a quintessential vegetable for some classic vegetarian dishes. It also has a spongy consistency and absorbs the flavors used in the recipe. Similar to Portobello mushrooms, eggplants are often used as a meat substitute in sandwiches and main dishes, such as eggplant parmesan.
Eggplant can be a tricky vegetable, as sometimes it needs to be sprinkled with salt and put aside for an hour so that its slightly bitter flavor drains out of the eggplant in the form of a liquid. Don’t let this overwhelm you! It is a very simple step and will make your eggplant much richer in flavor and easier to bite into.
You can always opt to not do this if you don’t want to, or don’t have time. If you are sautéing or frying the eggplant the way you would a portobello mushroom, be prepared to use a little water in the pan, as the eggplant will likely soak up a lot of oil and may stick to the pan. Eggplant slices are delicious in a sandwich, on a burger, or as a casserole layer like in a lasagna.
Oftentimes, mushrooms are listed as one of many suitable vegetables in stir fry dishes, soups, casseroles, and other one-pot meals. You could either substitute mushrooms for zucchini or include both!
Zucchinis are extremely versatile and taste greatly seasoned on the grill, sautéed in a pan, or baked in a casserole. If your dish calls for raw chopped mushrooms in a salad, try grating a zucchini instead.
Zucchini noodles are a common substitute for spaghetti noodles and are surprisingly filling. So next time you want to make spaghetti, try making zucchini noodles instead! But since we are talking about substituting for mushrooms here, try zucchini anywhere mushrooms would be raw, sautéed, or grilled.
Treat them the same way you would button and cremini mushrooms. Zucchinis are a great addition to just about any dish.
5. Sundried Tomatoes
These little wrinkly red looking raisins are packed with flavor! This is because all of the water has been removed. Because of their distinct flavor, they couldn’t be directly swapped for mushrooms. They could, however, be a good substitute because of their texture.
You can find sun-dried tomatoes packaged in two ways; in oil or completely dried. If you buy dry, soak them overnight in water so they are easier to chop or blend. They are a great swap in dips or soups.
Both mushrooms and sundried tomatoes are popular ingredients on the pizza and in pasta, and they go very well together. If your recipe calls for BOTH of these ingredients, use sundried tomatoes alongside zucchini.
6. Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)
Perhaps more commonly known as chickpeas, garbanzo beans are another extremely versatile ingredient. Often used as a swap for tofu, you can add chickpeas to just about anything – soups, stews, casseroles, dips, sandwich spreads, desserts … the list is endless!
Chickpeas also have very little flavor of their own and lend themselves well to dishes where spices are abundant. You can include the whole, or blend them up, depending on the recipe.
You can buy chickpeas either dried or canned. Canned chickpeas are ready to use in recipes. Dried chickpeas, however, need to be soaked overnight (they will absorb a lot of water, so make sure you cover them at least with double the amount of water) then cooked in a slow cooker for 12 hours.
You can do it on the stove if you don’t have that much time or you don’t have a slow cooker, but having the stove on for anywhere up to 4 hours is a lot. Ultimately, canned is easiest.
7. Walnuts or pecans
Perhaps this swap sounds less sensical, but stick with me! Oftentimes in dips, sauces, and spreads, mushrooms are an ingredient because of their spongy texture. If you want to make a sauce that calls for mushrooms, try soaking some walnuts in water overnight, then add them to your other ingredients once they have been cooked through, and blend! You could do the same for a veggie burger recipe.
Instead of adding mushrooms, soak the equivalent amount of pecans overnight, then add them to the patty mix, and blend it all together.
Nuts are an amazingly underused ingredient when it comes to these kinds of dishes. High in healthy fats good for the brain, try to sneak a handful into every blended dish you can.
This substitute is more experimental because tahini has a distinct, sometimes bitter flavor. But in a pinch, it could be used. If you don’t have any walnuts or pecans, you could use tahini. If you don’t have tofu, you could use tahini. Because this may be more of an experimental substitute, keep that in mind. Don’t use too much, and taste as you go to see if you like the flavor.
You will most likely be able to get the consistency that you are looking for, just keep in mind that the taste will be different. On the plus side, tahini is made from sesame seeds, which are high in magnesium, an essential mineral to hundreds of bodily functions including the regulation of hormones.
9. Russet Potatoes
This swap is the one I would least recommend, and I would only suggest it when making a casserole dish. Even then, eggplant would be a better substitute. However, it is possible that someone cannot eat eggplant (or other nightshade vegetables), or that you would like to use eggplant AND mushrooms, in which case keep this substitute in mind, but as a last resort.
To use these potatoes, slice, and bake. Once they have a slight golden color, you could use them in a layered casserole dish instead of mushrooms.
10. Dried mushrooms
Ok, I’m cheating with this last suggestion. But hear me out. In some places, people don’t have access to good quality fresh mushrooms. It is possible, however, to keep on hand some non-perishable, dried mushrooms.
Now, dried mushrooms can’t always replace fresh mushrooms. In some cases, all the other swaps would be better choices.
I would never suggest using these mushrooms in stir-fries, sandwiches, or any dish where the texture of the mushroom is important. When dried mushrooms are rehydrated, they take on a chewy texture that isn’t particularly pleasant.
I would only suggest using these mushrooms in recipes where all the ingredients get blended, such as a dip or a veggie burger patty. In this case, they are a great choice.
If you choose to use dried mushrooms, be sure to rehydrate them first, by pouring some hot water on them and leaving them to soak for 30 minutes.
All of these substitutes are very versatile, and can also be used as swaps for each other. This truly is the joy of cooking! You can use a different substitute every time.
Ultimately, there are two categories of mushroom swaps you can make
|Stir-fries, Casseroles, Sandwiches, Pasta, Main dishes
||Soups, Dips, Sauces, Spreads, Filling
Mushrooms aren’t entirely substitutable. Each variety of mushroom has its own unique flavor profile and spongy texture. It is not even entirely possible to substitute one variety of mushroom for another.
Portobello mushrooms are best known as a meat substitute on burgers and main dishes. Button and cremini are best known for stir-fries and pasta dishes. Other, more rare and delicate mushrooms, are used only fresh as a garnish on fancier dishes.
As unique as mushrooms are, I am all about the swaps and creativity that can seep its way into cooking. Getting resourceful in the kitchen is so incredibly important.
We cannot let ourselves get discouraged if we can’t follow a recipe exactly, or if we think we are missing a key ingredient. I promise you, there is a swap for everything! And really truly, when in doubt, you can always leave an ingredient out, and keep going.
Don’t have mushrooms, add green peas! Now, green peas didn’t make it onto the top 10 for a reason, but that’s not to say that your dish still wouldn’t taste delicious and be just as nutritious.
Cooking is the art of balancing flavors and textures. So get crazy! Most often, one vegetable can be swapped for another, so don’t worry too much about it not coming out exactly the way it “should”. This is YOUR own version.
When following a recipe, it is important to achieve the consistency and flavor you are looking for. This is where I would focus my attention. So taste as you go. Adjust as you need to. And don’t let yourself get overwhelmed.
Substitutes are where the magic happens. That’s where you discover what works and what doesn’t. That’s where you learn. So embrace it. And get cooking!
Is it true that mushrooms grow in manure? Is that safe to ingest?
Mushrooms are grown in a blend of properly composted manure and other organic materials (much like how other vegetables are grown). Some mushroom growers use logs of wood instead of dirt beds, called log-based cultivation.
Just know, the mushrooms at the store were not grown in straight-up animal poop. Any mushrooms that do grow in those conditions are not harvested and sold to humans.
Are the chemicals sprayed on mushrooms really harmful?
The USDA has reported 11 different chemicals generally found on mushrooms. They are characterized as carcinogens, hormone disruptors, or neurotoxins. Not all mushrooms are sprayed, however. Some smaller companies grow the majority of their mushrooms indoors, and may not spray at all. Others will be labeled as organic.
Try and be mindful of what you consume, but don’t write off mushrooms altogether because you are concerned about pesticides. There are alternatives!
Farmer’s markets are a great location to find better quality vegetables and to be able to talk to the farm employees directly and ask these kinds of questions.
If mushrooms are a fungus, are they really safe to eat?
Yes! Well, the ones in the grocery store anyway. Don’t go foraging for your own mushrooms unless you know what to look for. Mushrooms are so good for you, and here are some of their shining qualities:
-Mushrooms are rich in the antioxidant selenium, more than any other vegetable. Antioxidants fight against aging, protect the body against cancer-causing free radicals, and boost immunity. Eat lots of mushrooms in the cold winter months if you want to prevent a cold.
-Mushrooms are rich in B vitamins, encouraging heart health. Riboflavin is good for red blood cells. Niacin is good for the digestive system and for maintaining healthy skin. Pantothenic acid is good for the nervous system and helps the body make the hormones it needs.
-Mushrooms contain copper, which helps your body make red blood cells that are used to deliver oxygen all over the body. Copper also helps to maintain healthy bones and nerves. Even after being cooked, a 1-cup serving of mushrooms can provide about one-third of the daily recommended amount of copper.
How to properly wash & store mushrooms?
If you are only using a handful of mushrooms in a recipe, go ahead and wipe off the dirt with a damp paper towel. If you are using a lot of mushrooms, dunk them in a bowl of water just before you are ready to prepare them, and then dry them off on a paper towel.
If some are really dirty, take care to brush the dirt off of those ones before submerging in water. Always store mushrooms in a paper bag, otherwise, they will get slimy and moldy very quickly.