Many recipes call for mushrooms, but mushrooms are not for everyone. Sometimes it’s their texture, sometimes it’s the flavor, how they darken the broth, or you just can’t stand the sight of them. Or, maybe, you love mushrooms but simply don’t have them or can’t find them. So what do you do ?
You look for mushrooms substitutes, and to your surprise there are so many it’s hard to keep track of them. Yes, believe it or not mushrooms are easily replaced with various other foods, depending on what you originally needed the mushrooms for. So let’s take a look.
Best mushroom substitutes
The best mushroom substitutes vary according to what you originally needed the mushrooms for. In case you need to bulk up a recipe, the best mushroom substitutes are zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, eggplant, beef tomatoes, potatoes, legumes, corn, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin. To replace or add protein you may use tofu, soy beans, nuts and seeds, or legumes. And to add depth of flavor you can replace mushrooms with onions, garlic, soy sauce, or Worchester sauce.
You can easily use a combination of these items to get your desired result. There is no true replacement for mushrooms, as they have their own specific taste and it’s hard to replicate through other vegetables. But if you’re not here for the mushroom flavor, only the substitute, take a look at the following three categories.
To bulk up a recipe
Some recipes need mushrooms to bulk up a recipe, and don’t rely on them for their flavor. For example salads, veggie curries, sauteed vegetables, and the likes. For all of these, the following ingredients can easily replace mushrooms. You may have to cook them a little different, since some may cook and wilt faster.
Zucchini (both light and dark green) work beautifully as bulk vegetables. Their flavor is very mild, and they’re a bit crunchy, like a denser cucumber. You may use zucchini both raw and cooked. It cooks very fast and eventually wilts, so only add it in the last 3 minutes of cooking, before serving.
Carrots are slightly sweet, and they will stain everything a nice golden color, especially if you warm them up and have oil on the recipe. You can use carrots both raw and cooked. Like zucchini, they cook fast nu not as fast. If you still want some body to them add them in the last 10-15 minutes of cooking.
Bell peppers come in different colors and sizes. The green ones are fairly bitter, so they will be noticeable in a dish. The yellow, orange, and red get progressively less bitter. The orange and red are the sweetest, and will bleed color, both cooked and raw.
In terms of flavor, they bring a nice, earthy, herby flavor. It’s more noticeable in the green and yellow ones. They turn to mush quickly when cooked, so for texture give them 5 minutes of heat, tops.
Eggplants have no flavor until you roast them, and then they get a bitter-roasted-umami flavor. If using roasted they’re best used in a spread, or thick stew. You can also grill raw eggplant slices, and they will soften and take on a good flavor. The skin is edible. They break down and become creamy almost as fast as zucchini do.
Beef tomatoes, whether roasted or raw, are the chunkiest and most versatile. They bring their tomato taste without too much juice, but they’re not dry. Great for chopping, in salads, roasting, grilling, and so on.
Potatoes do leave their signature flavor but they can often turn a dish around and make it better. These take a while to cook, so either cook them separately (like for salad), or add them before other, faster-cooking ingredients.
Legumes have a strong taste, especially if using peas. All legumes have some form of protein and fiber in them, so they will have texture. If you’re looking for neutral legumes go for lentils and beans. Garbanzo beans have a bit of an earthy flavor but they can easily be seasoned.
Corn brings a distinct sweetness and its signature corn flavor, stronger than you would find in polenta. It usually comes pre-cooked in tins. If using for something like a creamed soup, they won’t create that beautiful, perfectly smooth texture (much like mushrooms).
Sweet potatoes are definitely sweet, almost sweeter than corn. They do stain everything orange, and cook a bit slow but get incredibly mushy when fully cooked. If you want them with a bit more body you need to undercook them a little.
Pumpkin is just like sweet potatoes, almost the exact same flavor, will stain everything orange, but this one may be eaten raw as well as cooked.
To supplement protein
In case the recipe you’re using wanted mushrooms t replace protein, or simply to add more protein, you need a different set of substitutes. The ones we talked about before were great simply for bulking and adding variety, but these are meant to bring protein into your food.
Tofu is soy-based, and a great source of vegetable protein. You can get various kinds of tofu, with different flavors like smoked, garlic, chili, and so on. You can find soft tofu, which crumbles and is a little flexible, or hard tofu with is a little dry and fries better.
You can eat tofu as-is, it does not need any cooking. But frying and grilling adds a bit more texture. If you’re using tofu in a stew or broth, hard tofu will be better.
Soy beans are also called edamame. They’re delicious and can easily be incorporated into any dish. You will find them canned or froze, like peas. In terms of flavor soy beans are a nice cross between lentils and mild peanuts (just a bit).
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds may not be appropriate for every recipe, but in some they may work. If your recipe asked for fried mushrooms, or diced cooked mushrooms. or something like a mushroom filling, them roasted nuts and seeds will do the job as well. They have their own protein contend, and you can get different flavors.
Legumes are another delicious addition to any recipe, and they will replace mushrooms quite well. If you’re making a vegan burger patty, then legume-based paste will bring plenty of proteins. Peas, beans and lentile are the creamiest, so they will blend nicely into anything. Chickpeas tend to break, rather than crumble.
To add depth of flavor
In other cases your recipe asks for mushrooms to add more depth of flavor to a broth, stew, roast, or anything. It’s usually accompanied by meat, and the mushrooms add another layer of flavor. You can get a deeper flavor with these mushrooms substitutes as well.
Soy sauce is usually very salty, but you need to look for light, low-sodium soy sauce. And be sure to ass less salt than the recipe asks for. After all, you can always add salt but never substract it from a cooked meal. You don’t need a lot of soy sauce, maybe a teaspoon per mushroom. Be sure to taste along the way.
Worchester sauce is very similar to soy sauce, but it has a much wider array of flavors. It’s a bit of everything. Be sure to only add a little at a time, so it does not become overwhelming. Both Worchester sauce and soy sauce will darken the food, much like mushrooms.
Onions, especially sauteed onions, Are a great way to add depth of flavor to a meal of any kind. If you don’t want to use onions you can use shallots, or the white part of leeks and get very similar results. In the end onions are the basis of some of the best meals out there.
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Just a bit of garlic, even if it’s a sneaky little clove, can add a little extra something. If it’s raw garlic, mashed and added to a stew it will give it a lot of extra flavor. The more you cook it, the more that flavor fades into the background. But if you take it out, you’ll notice it’s missing.
And that’s pretty much it for mushroom substitutes. As you can see the list is long and you have a whole lot of options. It really depends on what you originally intended to do with the mushrooms.