Using Mushrooms As Meat: The Ultimate Guide

Turn mushrooms into everything from pulled 'meat' to scallops


5 Minutes Read

Garlic butter mushroom scallops, a completely vegan recipe Did you know you can use mushrooms to make scallops? - Media Credit: Romy London

Mushrooms are a healthy and versatile ingredient to use in your cooking. There are more than 2,000 edible types of fungi, providing a huge amount of choice when it comes to texture and taste.

Certain mushroom varieties are particularly good for replacing meat in a meal. While they are not especially high in protein – 100 grams contains roughly 2.5g of protein – they are rich in other nutrients. These include potassium, vitamin C, iron, copper, and being one of the only non-animal food sources of vitamin D. Mushrooms are also a great source of fiber.

Some restaurants are unlocking mushrooms’ potential to replace meat with exciting new menu options. For example, Wagamama’s lion’s mane mushroom “steak” which it launched for Veganuary this year.

But you can easily make use of mushrooms at home as a healthy alternative to meat in a range of dishes. Among the list below are mushrooms chosen by Anna Tebbs, Registered Nutritionist at recipe box company Green Chef, as great options for specific meals. Mushrooms, she says, “stand out” among meat alternatives “for their versatility, ability to absorb flavours, and the ease with which they can replicate a similar texture and meaty taste without as much processing compared to other alternatives.”

Warning: Never forage wild mushrooms without expert guidance. All of the below mushrooms can be purchased in stores.

Portobello Mushrooms

A vegan cheese, bacon, and apple stuffed mushroom being served at a Christmas party
JAZZ Apple Portobello mushrooms are a popular meat replacement

These large, meaty mushrooms have long been used as a replacement for beef patties in burgers for a reason. They fit perfectly in a burger bun, and can be grilled, roasted, or sautéed. Portobello mushrooms can also be stuffed and baked for a filling, tasty main. Use their smaller cousins, portobellinis, to make mini versions that can be served as starters or canapes like these

“Portobello mushrooms are not only a tasty option but also rich in nutrients like potassium and B vitamins,” says Tebbs. “Score the caps, marinate in balsamic vinegar and soy sauce, then grill until caramelised for a juicy, flavourful burger substitute.”

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

Lion's mane mushrooms
Adobe Stock Wagamama has used these mushrooms to make “steak”

These mushrooms have a unique rounded and furry appearance, which is why they’re called lion’s mane. They can be cooked any number of ways, including simple sliced and fried. They work wonderfully on skewers with a satay sauce, or cooked and shredded to replace the lobster in a lobster roll.

Shiitake Mushrooms

shiitake mushrooms in Chinese soup
Adobe Stock Shiitake mushrooms are delicious in soups

The rich, earthy flavor and firm texture of shiitake mushrooms makes them an excellent meat substitute in dishes such as stir fries and soups. But they work equally well in Italian dishes such as pasta and risotto. You can buy them fresh or dried, which concentrates their flavor.

“Sauté until golden brown, and add umami boosters like soy sauce or miso paste which enhance the nutty, savoury flavour,” suggests Tebbs. “Alternatively, for a risotto, try seasoning shiitake mushrooms with garlic, thyme, and a splash of white wine.”

Oyster Mushrooms

Grilled marinated oyster mushrooms
Adobe Stock Oyster mushrooms are mild and light

Oyster mushrooms are a more tender and mild choice of mushroom. They are perfect for creamy pasta dishes, salads, and light soups. 

“Oyster mushrooms are low in calories and packed with antioxidants,” says Tebbs. “For a veggie twist that is reminiscent of barbecued meat, tear them into ‘shreds’, fry until crispy, and season with smoked paprika for a crunchy and smoky flavour.”

Another option is to bread and fry the oyster mushrooms to have in place of chicken nuggets or to add to tacos and wraps.

Cremini Mushrooms

A saucepan full of cremini mushrooms
Adobe Stock Cremini mushrooms are popular for their versatility

These are probably better known as brown mushrooms, or sometimes baby bellas. With their firm texture and mild flavor, they are highly versatile and go in pretty much any dish you can think of.

“Cremini mushrooms are great for adding depth to your dishes,” says Tebbs. “Brown before adding to dishes, infuse with meaty herbs like thyme or rosemary, and use in hearty recipes such as stews or casseroles for rich, meat-like texture and flavour.”

This vegan “beef” stew – which comes from ZardyPlants – features cremini mushrooms as well as plant-based meat

King Oyster Mushrooms

A saucepan full of King Oyster mushrooms
Adobe Stock King oyster mushrooms can be used in a wide range of recipes

With a firm, meaty texture and earthy flavor, king oyster mushrooms are are delicious replacement for meat. They can be “pulled” like oyster mushrooms to serve in place of pulled pork, or sliced and cooked as part of curries or stir fries.

“King oyster mushrooms are rich in antioxidants and may help lower cholesterol levels,” says Tebbs.

Because they can retain a bit of bite when cooked, they make excellent “scallops” as in this recipe from Romy London with garlic butter. Or, if you’re looking to really impress dinner guests, try this king oyster mushroom nigiri.

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