There’s a reason mushrooms are so highly prized by chefs and home cooks. Their distinctive earthy flavor add unparalleled savory flavors to vegetarian dishes and meat dishes alike, and each variety has a unique character. Read on for our best tips for using both wild and cultivated mushrooms, plus a few favorite recipes for spring. Finally, check out our mushroom glossary for an overview of each variety’s shape, texture and flavor.
Look for: Fresh mushrooms should be firm with smooth, unblemished caps. Avoid any that are broken, limp, wrinkled, soggy or moldy or with gray, dried ends. As mushrooms age, they dry out, so the heaviest ones are the freshest. Here are a few of the best varieties for spring:
- Morel: Considered the king of mushrooms, these have an intense, musky flavor and a dark, elongated, spongelike cap and hollow stem. Morels are especially delicious in cream sauces and scrambled eggs.
- White Button: All-purpose white mushrooms are the most common variety you see in stores. The medium-sized ones are ideal for general cooking, and the large ones are great for stuffing.
- Cremini: These common brown mushrooms have a light brown color, and a firmer texture and fuller flavor than regular white mushrooms. They can be substituted for white buttons in most recipes.
- Portobello: The portobello is a mature version of cremini, allowed to grow until the cap is about 6 inches wide and dark brown. They have a rich, smoky flavor and meaty texture, perfect for grilling or roasting.
- Shiitake: These widely cultivated mushrooms are available both fresh and dried. The fresh ones have smooth, plump caps and are delicious when grilled, roasted, stir-fried or sauteed.
- Oyster: Oyster mushrooms are cream to pale gray in color, with a fan shape and a subtle flavor of shellfish. They give off a lot of liquid when cooked, so they’re best grilled, roasted or stir-fried.
Prep tips: You’ve probably heard you shouldn’t wash mushrooms because they’ll absorb water and become soggy. In reality, a quick rinse and a thorough drying with paper towels just before cooking won’t hurt them.Trim the dried end of tender stems, but if the stems are tough, remove them completely and save them for soup or stock.
|Mushroom Omelette with Fontina and Thyme
Start off the day with the earthy flavors of white or cremini mushrooms, thyme and fontina cheese, all folded into a fluffy omelette. Serve with thick slices of artisan bread, brushed with extra-virgin olive oil and toasted under the broiler.
|Goat Cheese, Leek and Mushroom Tart
This savory mixed mushroom tart can be cut into pieces and served with an apéritif before dinner as an elegant hors d’oeuvre.
|Mushrooms en Papillote
Serving mushrooms in parchment makes a beautiful and dramatic presentation. Pair with a main course of light poultry or fish.
|Mushroom and Manchego Quesadillas
This recipe calls for creminis, but substituting a wild mushroom (like morels) takes it to the next level. A cherry tomato salsa gives the dish a warm-weather feel.
|Stir-Fried Tofu with Mushrooms and Greens
Savory mushrooms and bold Asian flavors make this meatless main ultra-satisfying. Serve over steamed rice to soak up the stir-fry sauce.
|Penne with Mushrooms and Turkey Sausage
Soaking dried porcini mushrooms in warm water creates a flavorful liquid to add to sauces and stews. Here, it enhances regular button mushrooms sauteed with sausage.
|Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Mushroom Ragout
A mushroom ragout made with oysters and creminis makes a delicious topping to mild beef tenderloin. This dish is perfect for a special occasion dinner.
|Risotto-Style Farro with Porcini and Pecorino
Here’s another meat-free main that doesn’t skimp on flavor. Again, dried porcinis amp up the flavors of cremini, portobello and shiitake mushrooms in an earthy, tender-chewy risotto.
|Roasted Asparagus and Morels with Shallot Butter
This side is as simple as it is impressive. Thin asparagus spears and fresh morel mushrooms are roasted until tender, then dressed with a compound butter of shallot and tarragon.
Featured Recipe: Baked Cod with Leeks, Morels and Bacon