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What are Portobello Mushrooms?

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco

Portobello mushrooms, also known as portobella mushrooms and crimini mushrooms, or by their scientific name, Agaricus bisporus, are one of the most widely distributed mushrooms, found in every continent and almost every climate. These mushrooms are easy to identify because of their large size, which is at least four inches (about 10 cm) in diameter, and their characteristic brownish color. They also have a deep musty smell that makes it seem like they were just picked up from the forest.

These mushrooms are white and rounded when young, and may be called crimini or baby bellas. As they mature, the cap of the mushroom becomes flat and acquires their distinguishing dark color. They are mostly eaten broiled and grilled, but they can also be fried, baked, or sautéed. Because of their size and format, they are often used as a replacement for hamburgers in vegetarian recipes. Portobello mushrooms have a characteristic meaty texture that gets better the longer the mushrooms are cooked, so grilling may be the best way to bring out the flavor.

Portobello mushrooms should be stored in paper towels.
Portobello mushrooms should be stored in paper towels.

When buying portobello mushrooms it's important to avoid any that look broken or bruised, as this may contribute to loss of flavor. They are especially sensitive to air oxidation, so they should be stored wrapped in a paper towel or in their original container. Refrigerating portobello mushrooms is OK, but the longer they're kept, the more they tend to lose their flavor — these mushrooms should ideally be consumed within five days of purchase. Avoid washing portobello mushrooms before cooking, as this also may contribute to loss of flavor. Tapping them to remove excess sand or debris is enough, or sweep them lightly with a cooking brush.

The low amount of calories in portobello mushrooms make them great for someone watching their waistline.
The low amount of calories in portobello mushrooms make them great for someone watching their waistline.

Portobello mushrooms are rich in potassium, essential amino acids, and vitamin B. They are low in calories and fat-free, but a great source of protein, which can make them a good choice for people watching their cholesterol intake or their waistline.

Discussion Comments


@charlie89 -- I think that you're thinking of grilled portobellos. Although you can certainly grill a big portobello mushroom like you would a steak, there's going to be flavor differences.

However, I find that grilled portobellos do have a really rich, thick taste almost like a steak does, so it is a good alternative if you want a lighter dinner one night. Besides, portobellos are so much healthier than a big slab of meat that I'm willing to overlook a little flavor difference.

I've only tried substituting portobellos for steak in that situation though -- for other portobello recipes that I make, they're all intended for portobellos in the beginning, not meat.

So I'd have to say that while I certainly like grilled portobellos, I wouldn't call it a steak substitute per se -- just an interesting alternative.


I had heard that it was actually possible to use portobello to substitute steak in some situations. I think I read that in a portobello recipe book that my wife got at the library, come to think of it.

However, I can't really imagine how a mushroom, however tasty, could replace a thick juicy steak. Am I the only one that feels like this, or are the mushrooms really that good?

Does anybody reading this substitute portobellos for steak, and if so, do you feel that it's a good substitute? I'm kind of leery of vegetarian supplements to begin with, and although I like mushrooms, I just can't make the mental leap between mushroom and meat.

What about you guys -- what are your feelings on the mushroom/meat debate?


There's a great place that sells portobello mushrooms -- a road market, actually -- near my house.

I don't know where they get these mushrooms, but these are the biggest and tastiest portobello mushrooms that I've ever tried.

They're fantastic for really any portobello recipes, but I especially like to make stuffed portobello mushrooms with them since they're so big that they can take a lot of stuffing.

That way I can just eat the portobellos for dinner, and have a healthy and relatively cheap vegetarian dinner -- and actually feel full!


Whether it is portebello mushrooms, or any other mushroom from the whole wide variety of mushrooms will hold for a week to a week and a half in a brown bag in the refrigerator crisper.

Brown paper bag will let mushrooms breathe and keep them fresh longer. Moisture is detrimental for mushrooms, they rot faster when wet.

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    • Portobello mushrooms should be stored in paper towels.
      By: WINIKI
      Portobello mushrooms should be stored in paper towels.
    • The low amount of calories in portobello mushrooms make them great for someone watching their waistline.
      By: MilsiArt
      The low amount of calories in portobello mushrooms make them great for someone watching their waistline.