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8 Mushroom Substitutes You Need To Know For Cooking

Written by Luisa Davis on . Posted in food

Mushrooms (and mushroom replacements) are a really controversial ingredient in my house – some people love them, and some people hate them. Some people love these spongey little foods that soak up the sauces and spices they are cooked with, and some people absolutely detest them. There are many reasons why people may look for replacements for mushrooms.

In my family, a lot of the younger kids don’t like the way that mushrooms feel, as it is a feeling most people don’t get all that often. However, one of my best friends is also allergic to mushrooms, so I need to find a substitute for mushrooms in recipes when I have her over for a meal.

Whatever the reason is, it can be difficult to find a substitute for a few reasons. Mainly because there are so many options, but not every option will work for every meal. Often, it depends on the other ingredients.

8 Substitutes For Mushrooms

It is important to note that mushrooms aren’t easily replaced in many recipes. It will really depend on how you want to replace them. Do you want to find something that will add the same nutritional profile? Something that will create a bulkier food? Or do you like the delicate flavoring of mushrooms? No matter what, you do have some pretty good options.

1) Tofu To Help Bulk Up Your Meal

Tofu has a bit of a bad reputation because people really don’t know how to prepare it. They think that it is a flavorless, spongy mass, which is exactly some of the same criticism lobbed at mushrooms. Take some time to learn how to prepare your tofu. The first thing you want to do is press that tofu. You can buy a tofu press or if you don’t want to prepare it all that often, you can simply wrap extra firm tofu in a paper towel and press it under something heavy. Gradually increase the weight until the tofu feels drier.

Then, slice the tofu and submerge it in the sauce of whatever your recipe is. If you don’t have a sauce, you can use tofu or some other sauce that will complement the meal.

Tofu will firm up after it is cooked, so if you want something that isn’t as spongy, allow it to sit for a few hours.

2) Tempeh – The Best For Flavor

As someone who cooks for vegetarians on a frequent basis, I’m well versed in using tempeh. However, I know some people aren’t used to this ingredient. It is similar to tofu in texture and cooking style. It looks somewhat like nougat and can be a bit sticky, depending on the age.

If you love the mushroom taste but cannot have it in your recipe, the best-tasting replacement for mushrooms is tempeh. You will need to slice your tempeh extremely thin to get the same texture.

One thing to note is that some people are also allergic to tempeh. There is a higher likelihood that they will be allergic to tempeh if they are allergic to mushrooms, so be sure to ask before you just use the substitute.

3) Sun-Dried Tomatoes When You Just Need A Topping

If you have a meal that doesn’t look that great, some of us will just use mushrooms as a topping to make it look fancier. If this sounds like you, consider using sun-dried tomatoes instead. These flavorful little bits are dried and seasoned with herbs and other spices to help them pack a powerful punch.

While cooking with them in the meal will dramatically change the flavor, you can use them as a replacement for mushroom garnishes.

4) Zucchini For Bulkier Meals

People will often eat mushrooms when they are trying to eat more food but keep their calories low. Most of us don’t know what calories look like, but we know that a lot of food looks like. If you want to keep the calories low in your recipes but need to replace mushrooms, try zucchini. They have the same basal tastes that mean you can easily replace them in meals with a lot of ingredients.

Zucchini is a vegetable that most people will grow or buy, and they try to get bigger varieties. If you want a taste that is most similar to mushrooms, get the smallest zucchinis you can find. They are moderately sweet and, if you keep on the flesh (be sure to scrub it well!), you will even get a similar texture.

5) Eggplant To Add Bulk To A Meal

If you have a meal that is a little thin and you want to replace the mushrooms and add some bulk, eggplant is a great way to go. Eggplants don’t have as much flavor as mushrooms do, but they are similar in texture. They have a slightly sweet taste and when you cook them, the taste comes out even more. Just remember to soak your eggplants in some saltwater, so you may have to cut back on some of the salt elsewhere.

Cut your eggplants into small cubes, soak them, and then start to cook. You won’t have to make many adjustments in cooking time, just be sure to poke the eggplants with a fork to see if they have softened.

6) Potatoes As The Crowd Favorite

I challenge you to find a food that is more universally loved than potatoes. If you are cooking for a crowd and need to find a mushroom alternative, consider potatoes. Many people will say to use russet potatoes, but you can use any potato that you have on hand. Russets are better in fried or baked recipes, but you can use whatever you have. Just be sure to clean the potato extremely well and, if you use them in sauces, allow them to dry out just a little bit.

The good thing about potatoes, in comparison to some of the other options on this list, is that they are cheap, easy to work with, and will make everyone happy. You can even shape potatoes into whatever form you want, which helps with presentation.

7) Use Chickpeas For Dried Mushrooms

If you have a recipe that calls for dried mushrooms, you may be stuck. We mentioned sun-dried tomatoes, but that is a flavor that not everyone is going to like. If you are looking for something that you can flavor yourself or that doesn’t have much flavor at all, consider chickpeas. You can get some great nutrition out of chickpeas and they are packed with protein, so the meal will keep you fuller.

Note that you should cook your chickpeas before you use them as a replacement for dried mushrooms. You can get chickpeas already dried or you can buy them in the can, which is how most people will get them. You want to rinse them off and examen them closely, because there is a tendency to get a few “bad” ones.  Boil your chickpeas on high for about four minutes. Keep the pot covered. Turn off the heat and allow them to sit for a few hours.

Alternatively, you can put your chickpeas on a tray and roast them with the appropriate spices for your recipe. They will get harder than mushrooms, but you can break them down into smaller pieces by beating them with a rolling pin in a plastic bag.

No Alternatives At All

The final alternative is to not use an alternative at all. Most recipes that call for mushrooms don’t really need to have mushrooms. You can pretty safely eliminate mushrooms and it won’t change the cooking time, temperature, or preparation method. This works best for soups, stews, and recipes that have a ton of ingredients. If one of the main ingredients is mushrooms, you can try one of these alternatives listed above.

If you are just looking for a substitute for picky eaters or kids, just cut those mushrooms smaller and they may not even notice!

Fighting with your kids or trying to expand the palates of your friends can be difficult. Mushrooms are gaining popularity, but there are still some people who just don’t like them. Many recipes that call for mushrooms can be altered by including some of the foods mentioned above.

However, it is harder to replicate the health content of mushrooms. The ingredients listed above can help you to keep some of your favorite recipes in rotation as you deal with picky eaters.

Remember that there are different types of mushrooms as well, so if you don’t like a certain flavor, you can just try another type. Do you have any favorite recipes that include mushrooms? What alternatives have you tried?

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Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis is a frelance writer and foodie based in Portland, California. Though raised on her mother's homestyle Italian cooking, she has spent most of the last five years traveling and immersing herself in other countries' cuisines. Her work have been published in various publications, both online and offline.

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