Cremini mushrooms, also known as baby bella mushrooms, are probably often found on your table if you’re a fan of fungi.
They’re tender, creamy, and extremely flavorful, whether you cook them, fry them, or just lightly sauté them with some onions. Whether you’re eating plant-based, or you like a vegetable side dish with your meat, cremini mushrooms are a delicious choice.
You may not always be able to find the best batch of cremini mushrooms, since they’re not particularly tasty if they turn soggy. Let’s see what could be the best cremini mushroom substitute for your recipe.
The best substitutes for cremini mushrooms
Cremini mushrooms are usually small in size, and they have a round brown top. They belong to the most widely spread mushroom family called Agaricus bisporus, just like button mushrooms and portobellos.
When it comes to flavor and texture, cremini mushrooms are somewhere in between button mushrooms which are collected early in the growing stage and are really tender and mild, and portobellos which are older, meatier, and savory.
The flavor of cremini mushrooms could be described as a mix of earthy and savory notes. You’ll also notice that cremini mushrooms are firmer and darker than common white mushrooms. Besides a rounded, brown, smooth cap, they also have a layer of skin covering the gills.
A useful trick to know when purchasing cremini mushrooms is checking to see if the gills are covered underneath the cap. If this is not the case, you’ll know that the mushrooms aren’t fresh and that you should avoid using them in your recipes.
The easiest way to prepare mushrooms is to sauté or roast them, but they offer much more versatility than that. For best results and to not let cremini mushrooms dry out, sauté them over high heat on some olive oil for only a couple of minutes, until they turn golden brown and tender.
Add your desired spices, salt, and drizzle with a little bit of lemon juice when done. If you decide to roast the mushrooms, toss them with some olive oil, salt, and garlic powder, and roast them for about 10 minutes at 450 degrees.
If you know your mushrooms, you’re probably well aware that not all mushrooms are created equal, and there are significant differences in their flavor, aroma, texture, and size. However, you can find an adequate substitute for cremini mushrooms that can help you achieve similar results.
1. Portobello mushrooms
Portobello mushrooms are what many would refer to as an older version of cremini mushrooms.
They belong to the same family of mushrooms as the cremini, but they’re the oldest variety which means that they have an extremely meaty texture and a distinctive savory flavor.
Since they’re so meaty, they can even be the main course – especially if stuffed with your favorite cheese. No matter what the recipe is, portobello mushrooms can be used in place of cremini mushrooms.
They’re ideal for mushroom cream soups, stews, mixed with other grilled veggies, baked in the oven, or even fried.
2. Button mushrooms
These mushrooms are yet another relative of cremini mushrooms since they belong to the same category. Button mushrooms are the least aged mushrooms in this category, as opposed to cremini mushrooms (semi-aged), and portobello mushrooms (aged).
Since they’re collected so early in the growing process, button mushrooms offer a milder taste and a softer, more tender texture than the two mentioned alternatives.
Despite their delicate and quite neutral flavor, they will pair well with other ingredients in your dish. Their neutrality allows them to absorb all the flavors, aromas, and spices, which gives you limitless options when working with button mushrooms.
3. Shiitake mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms have a similar texture to cremini mushrooms, as they’re spongy, soft, yet a bit chewy and woodsy. You’ll notice that they’re a bit more expensive than the options we’ve mentioned, but the flavor certainly justifies the price.
While they can also be found dried, it is always a better choice to use fresh shiitake since they’re more nutritious and flavorful. The color of these mushrooms ranges from cream to light brown, while their flesh is cream-colored.
Some people prefer to remove the stems as they’re a bit chewier than the cap, but if you don’t mind the fibrous texture, we recommend you prepare them with delicious stems.
4. Oyster mushrooms
If you’re looking for that chewy, rich, meaty texture in your mushrooms, this might be the best cremini mushroom alternative for your recipes.
The name comes from their oyster-like shape and unique fan-shaped caps that can be tan, white, or grey. Underneath the caps, you will notice many branched gills or even clusters of small mushrooms.
A significant difference between cremini mushrooms and oyster mushrooms is that the latter will usually take more time to cook, as they’re more fibrous. However, when it comes to preparation methods, you can treat them the same.
5. Porcini mushrooms
Porcini mushrooms grow wild, so it may be harder to get your hands on a fresh batch. However, just like shiitake, they’re sold both fresh and dried, and both options are extremely flavorful and aromatic.
You’ll recognize them by their tan to dark brown color, cream-colored stems, white, solid under caps, and meaty flavor. Since they’re very hearty and meaty, you want to preserve their moisture by not overcooking them and reducing the heat if you notice they’re drying out.
Porcini mushrooms pair amazingly with beef dishes, eggs, all kinds of pasta, and can be used to elevate your broth and add more complexity.
6. Chestnut mushrooms
Chestnut mushrooms are almost identical to white button mushrooms when it comes to texture, flavor, and use – except for color.
They look just like cremini mushrooms, and the taste is quite similar, which makes them great cremini mushrooms substitute. They usually grow in clusters and have a brownish-tan color.
The chestnut variety of mushrooms is also often referred to as brown mushrooms, and they’re somewhere between mild, delicate kinds and textured, meaty mushroom varieties.
We’d say that with chestnut mushrooms you get the best of both worlds, and they’re incredibly easy to prepare – just like cremini mushrooms.
7. Shimeji mushrooms
Shimeji mushrooms are considered a delicacy in Japan, and they’re truly unlike any other mushroom variety. They have a somewhat nutty, savory flavor, and a chewy, crunchy texture that won’t turn mushy when cooked.
The two most common varieties of shimeji mushrooms are brown shimeji (buna-shimeji) and white shimeji (bunapi-shimeji). The only difference is that the brown kind is slightly more bitter.
Since they’re very much present in Japanese cuisine, shimeji mushrooms pair well with a majority of popular Japanese ingredients, including rice, mirin, miso, and dashi.
8. King oyster mushrooms
King oyster mushrooms can substitute not only cremini mushrooms but meat, as well.
They have massive, thick stems, a bit smaller, yet meaty and rich caps, and an overall chewy, fibrous texture. The stem can be sliced, fried, grilled, or treated any way you would treat meat slices.
Even though the stems are very meaty, they’re not tough and woody, but cook to be tender and umami. This cremini mushrooms substitute is an amazing solution for vegetarian and vegan dishes, and it can easily carry the entire dish.
It pairs well with all kinds of veggies, and with the right combination of spices such as oregano and garlic powder, the umami, savory flavor becomes even more intense.
9. Enoki mushrooms
Enoki mushrooms are the complete opposite of king oyster mushrooms when it comes to appearance, color, size, and texture. They’re white, very thin, small, and delicate, predominantly used in Asian cuisine.
These mushrooms aren’t as meaty as the other alternatives we’ve discussed, so they’re usually used as an addition to dishes such as stir-fries, or as a side dish.
However, just because you’re not getting much “meat” out of them doesn’t mean that they lack flavor and structure. When properly cooked, enoki mushrooms are perfectly savory and crunchy, but they can also be eaten raw in salads or healthy snacks.
This non-mushroom cremini mushroom substitute is a great choice if you simply don’t like mushrooms, or you can’t have them.
Eggplant is just as meaty, and just like cremini mushrooms, it is often used as a meat replacement. When it comes to flavor, it is a bit earthy, yet savory and sometimes bitter.
A quick piece of advice when preparing eggplant: it can be bitter at times, so prepare it for cooking by cutting it up and sprinkling some salt and sugar on top. The salt will get rid of the excess moisture so you’re left with meaty goodness, while the sugar will counter the bitterness.
Similar to eggplant, zucchini is one of the most versatile vegetables that can replace not only cremini mushrooms but also meat and any other ingredient you may think of.
While scrolling through zucchini recipes, you’ll notice that there’s hardly anything you can’t do with this vegetable. It can be fried, stuffed, cooked, baked, roasted, grilled, added to dips, soups, sauces, and pies.
Zucchini, depending on the type, will usually be mild, slightly savory, sweet, and extremely delicate. Just like mushrooms, it is quite nutritious yet extremely low in calories, so it’s suitable for pretty much any kind of diet.
Just like eggplant, the best way to prepare zucchini for cooking would be to sprinkle some salt on top and let it rest a bit to allow for the excess moisture to come out.
How to choose a cremini mushroom substitute
It can be a bit frustrating not having the right ingredient for your recipe and having to make last-minute changes. However, when it comes to cremini mushrooms, there are options that will work just as well – no matter what the recipe.
We’ve found quite a few mushroom alternatives and two non-mushroom options you can rely on when substituting cremini mushrooms.
Portobello mushrooms and button mushrooms belong to the same mushroom family as cremini, which makes them pretty much spot-on substitutes.
Chestnut mushrooms and enoki mushrooms are more on the delicate side, ideal for those of you who don’t particularly enjoy the chewy, dominantly meaty options.
Shiitake, oyster, porcini, shimeji, and king oyster can add texture to any dish, and easily replace meat in your plant-based meals. They’re full of flavor, fibrous, and crunchy when cooked.
However, if you’re allergic to mushrooms or you simply like to avoid them in your cooking, eggplant and zucchini can replace cremini mushrooms in any recipe you can think of, from soups and sauces to roasts and stuffed veggies.
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