Chances Are, Your Favorite Mushrooms Come From The Same Variety

Do you stress over which mushrooms to buy at the grocery store? There's no need when it comes to the most widely known and available mushrooms: white buttons, tan creminis, and big portobellos mushrooms. Despite the difference in color and size, they are related. All three belong to the same species, Agaricus bisporus, and are just cultivated varieties of the white button mushroom. Understanding the subtle similarities and differences will help you understand how to pick the optimal mushroom and also reassure you that there really is no wrong mushroom when it comes to this trio.

Harvested at an earlier stage before their caps fully expand, buttons are the baby version of their more mature siblings: cremini and portobello. Cremini mushrooms, often referred to as baby bellas, are the middle child in this fungi family. Next comes the heavyweight champion: the portobello mushroom. When a cremini is left to reach full maturity, it blossoms into the king of mushrooms, the meaty portobello.

Getting to know your fungi

Let's start with the button mushroom, the unassuming hero of salads and pizzas. These small, pale fungi boast a mild flavor and a firm texture. Their white color is prized in soups and sauces where a darker mushroom would be a distraction. With a slightly more robust flavor and a darker hue, creminis are essentially a more mature version of the button mushroom, allowed to grow longer before harvesting. Their versatility means they can seamlessly substitute for buttons when color is not a factor. As the mushrooms grow older, they lose moisture and become more intense in flavor, which is why the portobello — with its large cap — has such a hearty texture and rich, intense flavor.

When incorporating these mushrooms into your recipes, consider their unique qualities. Buttons work well in delicate dishes, creminis add depth to mid-range flavors, and portobellos provide a robust, substantial presence. Don't be afraid to mix and match or experiment to find the perfect umami balance for your palate.