If there’s one mushroom most of us know and love, it’s the portobello mushroom. These shrooms are delicious, reasonably available, and make for some amazing dishes – particularly vegan substitutes. But there might be something you didn’t know about them. Something that might even be a bit surprising – startling for some: they’re the same mushroom as button mushrooms or cremini. And yet, there are some differences.
Let’s take a look.
A Mushroom By Any Other Name
So, the portobello mushroom actually goes by a lot of different names. The most common ones for this mushroom, under the scientific name of Agaricus bisporus, are as follows:
- Cremini mushrooms
- Button mushrooms
- White button mushrooms
- Common mushrooms
- Cultivated mushrooms
- Champignon mushrooms
- White mushrooms
- Table mushrooms
- Swiss brown mushrooms
- Baby bellas
- Chestnut mushrooms
- Crimini mushrooms
- Italian brown mushrooms
- Roman brown mushrooms
- Portobello mushrooms
As you can see, many of the most common mushrooms we nosh on from the grocery store are all technically the same mushroom. But there are some subtle differences in the use of these different mushroom names and this is why we know the same species by different names.
Agaricus Bisporus Stages
So, the main reason the mushroom has different names is the stages the mushroom goes through that affects its appearance.
The mushroom is an edible basidiomycete mushroom that grows in grasslands in North America and Eurasia, coming in both white and brown caps, ultimately maturing into white caps.
When the mushroom is young, it may have either a white cap and be called by its many common names, save bella, baby bella, or portobello. With the brown cap, it may go by any of the names.
The small white versions of this mushroom are most commonly called button or white button mushrooms. These are the “toddler” phase of the mushroom. Cremini mushrooms are typically brown, though may have white caps or creamy ivory caps, and these are the adolescent stages of the mushrooms. Finally, when they are large and mature, they have white caps with brown markings and coloration on them. These are the portobellos we know and love.
Agaricus Bisporus: The Most Commonly Cultivated Mushroom in the World
Because of the various stages of this mushroom, the ease of growing them, and the excellent flavor and nutritional profile, portobello mushrooms are the most cultivated mushroom species in the world. They make up about 90% of the commercial production in the United States and a huge portion of the world’s production. This is why the young mushrooms tend to be the cheapest you can find and may literally be the only mushroom you remember growing up with.
Flavor Differences Between Stages
You might swear there’s a flavor difference when you eat portobello mushrooms versus white button mushrooms. And if you do, you’re right. There is! When the mushroom matures, it loses some of its water content. By the time it reaches the portobello mushroom stage, this water lose intensifies the flavor of the mushrooms and does, in fact, make portobellos deeper in flavor than white buttons.
Size Differences Between Stages
The average white button mushroom (the toddler of the family) is typically somewhere between 1 and 2 inches in diameter. The cremini mushroom may be the same size or a little larger. The portobello, however, will typically be more than twice that size, coming in at 4 to 6 inches in diameter.
If you wish to learn more about the species as whole, we have put together a Cremini mushroom profile that gives a look into the history, classification, flavor profile, health benefits, and much more concerning the Agaricus bisporus species.
Some specifics on the portobello stage, might pique your interest, though, as you learn about this flavor punch potassium powerhouse.
Is it true portobellos have more potassium than bananas?
It’s not guaranteed that every portobello mushroom compared to every species of banana will have more of this bone-enforcing, muscle-nourishing nutrient, but on average a large portobello mushroom contains 306 milligrams of potassium, while 1 banana contains 362 milligrams per each. The mushrooms don’t typically beat out the bananas, but they sure come close – and cost you fewer calories per serving (18 calories per portobello, 90 per small banana).
How long does it take button mushrooms to become portobello mushrooms?
White button mushrooms are typically harvested after about 2 weeks of growing time. Portobellos take about twice that long to become the large-capped mushrooms we know and love.
When do portobello mushrooms grow?
Thankfully, portobello mushrooms are available year-round. This is part of why they remain one of the easiest mushrooms to find at grocery stores, online, and at farmer’s markets, even when other species aren’t available.
What are portobello mushrooms good for?
Because of the size and deep flavor of the portobello mushroom, it is commonly used as a meat substitute for certain types of meals. Think grilled portobello burgers, for example. The mushroom caps are often used instead or beef for the burgers. They’re also large enough that folks who are gluten-free or trying to reduce carb intakes will change them out for the hamburger buns instead.
They are excellent for soups, salads, pasta dishes, stir fries, as stuffed mushrooms, with potatoes, as pizza crust replacements, and much more. Basically, if there’s something that would benefit from mushroom flavoring or needs a meaty texture substitute, the portobello mushroom is your go-to.
Why are portobello mushrooms more expensive than button mushrooms?
There’s no one reason that portobellos are more expensive, but much of the reason would be because portobellos take longer to grow (twice as long or more) and fewer mushrooms go into a pound than white button mushrooms. They should still be less expensive than exotic mushrooms, however, which means they’re generally still going to be reasonably priced.
Are portobello mushrooms healthy?
Portobello mushrooms are packed with nutrients that have been linked to a healthier lifestyle and body. In fact, many species of mushrooms the world over are used for medicinal treatments, both traditional and modern.
A single serving of portobellos can provide you with:
- B vitamins
- Pantothenic acid
They’re believed to help boost muscle development and the immune system. Some athletes particularly eat loads of mushrooms (and other potassium rich foods) to help recover after workouts, running, cycling, etc.
Portobellos are believed by some to help ward off cancers due to the antioxidants they contain, as well as prevent and help constipation, reduce the risk of heart disease, relieve stress, help with pregnancy related issues such as high blood pressure or diabetes, ease the digestive system, lower cholesterol, and even help prevent weight gain or assist in weight loss.
They also make for excellent healthy substitutes for less healthy foods like red meat or processed breads and buns, making them an excellent choice for folks seeking to lose weight, reduce processed foods in their diet, and decrease red meats.
Can you grow portobello mushrooms at home?
Portobello mushrooms can be grown at home, although due to economies of scale they are probably cheaper to just buy from the store. There are many grow kits that teach you how to grow them, or you can purchase the supplies individually and follow an online tutorial for cultivating your own. Grow tents are great for growing them at home, as well, and come highly recommended by home growers.
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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Yulia von Eisenstein/Shutterstock.com
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- Greatist, Available here: https://greatist.com/health/cremini-mushroom-nutrition
- Specialty Produce, Available here: https://specialtyproduce.com/produce/Portabella_Mushrooms_702.php
- Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agaricomycetes