Can Mushrooms be a Meat Substitute?
Mushrooms are, perhaps, one of the most versatile ingredients in the kitchen. A vegetable or a meat? Well, why not both! Mushrooms are often looked at one of the most nutritious vegetable to consume, a superfood if you will. For a vegetable, mushrooms are packed with protein.
Protein Content of Various (cooked) Mushrooms per 100 grams:
- Oyster Mushrooms – 3.3 grams
- Morel Mushrooms – 3.2 grams
- White Button Mushrooms – 3.1 grams
- Enoki Mushrooms – 2.7 grams
- Crimini Mushrooms – 2.5 grams
- Lion’s Mane – 2.4 grams
- Shiitake Mushrooms – 2.2 grams
Now, if we look at the protein content of various meats we can make an easier comparison.
Protein Content of Various Meats per 100 grams:
- Chicken- 27g
- Canned Tuna- 25g
Based on these numbers, mushrooms should not be the only think you are using to replace meat (from a nutritional stand point). Pairing mushrooms with things like tofu, beans, lentils, chickpeas or other protein rich veggies would be a good way to ensure you receive your daily dose.
However, if you are just going to make a meatless dish, you would simply add mushrooms instead of the meat! There are certain mushrooms that blend better with certain flavors than others, as well as, mushrooms which work better in one culture’s cuisine versus the other.
Mushrooms can sometimes closely resemble the taste of meat. Mushrooms are a good meat substitute because they have a firm texture which is often described as fleshy. So, the sensation of taste may be influenced by texture.
These little fungi are also packed with Unami or glutamate taste. This is a rich, earthy, savory flavor that is sometimes described as brothy. The texture and Unami combined may give mushrooms a meatiness quality.
There are also a handful of ways to make your mushrooms taste like meat. For example, using a marinade that you would use on meat. Or mixing mushrooms with other veggies to match the texture of meat. This lentil and mushroom burger uses texture to resemble meat by adding lentils and oats with the mushrooms. This mushroom dumpling using the oyster and shiitake mushrooms create the perfect mix of texture and taste. You won’t even know you’re not eating meat!
There are mushrooms that are better than some for replacing certain types of meat. For steak or beef try using the Portobello mushroom. Known for its versatile flavor profile, large size and full texture, this mushroom is accessible and affordable. The large cap is firm when cooked yet buttery soft.
The Portobello is ideal to throw on the grill or in the oven. It’s easy to make into sandwiches or sliders, and even seasoned and eaten as a whole “mushroom steak.” The Portobello mushroom is quite absorbent and picks up the flavor of whatever you marinate it in.
For duck, try substituting the Shiitake mushroom. It is easily recognized for its unique cream color, delicate form and rich, unique, earthy flavor. The Shiitake mushroom is often underused, mostly because the flavor is so distinctive.
If it is used with clashing ingredients, people may underestimate the full potential of a Shiitake mushroom. Sautéing this mushroom brings out its flavor quality. This mushroom is best used in Asian cuisine.
For chicken, try the White Button Mushroom. It has a mild flavor but is easily adaptable also affordable and quick to cook. They are the usual mushroom you might find on a slice of vegan pizza or mixed into a marinara sauce. These can also be enjoyed in skillet dishes with white wine or light veggie broth sauces.
If you’re more of a seafood lover, try the chanterelle mushroom. Both rare and expensive these hidden gems of the forest are well worth the investment of time and money. They have a rich sweet and nutty flavor that is unique to them.
Their range is a bit smaller for cooking so if you invest in these it is important to do your research and find a good recipe with proper instructions for cleaning and cooking them.
The Enoki mushroom is also a good substitute for seafood (white fish). They are mild in flavor with a noodle-like texture. You can eat Enoki mushrooms raw, cooked, or lightly marinated, sautéed or steamed. Enoki mushrooms are delicious in noodle soups like pho and ramen.
Another choice would be the oyster mushroom. Mild in taste but their texture holds up during cooking time so they’re great in stews and sautés!
As you can see, mushrooms are more than just a fungi! They can be a vegetable in the background, an underlying taste in a sauté, or the star piece of your dish!
Admin. “Types of Mushrooms.” Men’s Journal, 23 Apr. 2018, www.mensjournal.com/food-drink/types-mushrooms
Escher, Faith. “The Best Mushroom Substitute for Every Kind of Meat.” Trendeing, 21 August 2019,
Nast, Condé. “12 Ways to Make Mushrooms Taste Like Meat.” SELF, 20 September 2017,