3 Benefits of Eating Mushrooms—and Recipes to Get You Started

Mushrooms are more than tasty fungi.

Many kinds of mushrooms Assorted
Photo: Umaimon/Getty Images

Seem like you're seeing mushrooms everywhere these days? You are, mushrooms are having a moment. Often considered a vegetable, these fungi are a completely different type of produce that are found naturally, foraged in moist forests, or grown under special conditions to keep up with consumer demand, which is high these days.

Packed with flavor and nutrients, completely vegan, and good for the planet and our bodies, mushrooms are a true superfood. Keep reading to learn more about them.

Nutritional Benefits

"Mushrooms are my personal go-to for optimal wellness today, and the nutrients in them help protect against disease risk for tomorrow," says Pam Smith, RDN, president and founder of Shaping America's Plate, Inc.

Mushrooms support cognitive and bone health. "Fresh mushrooms contain the minerals and phytochemicals that can support cognitive and bone health," says Smith, "and are important for feeding the immune system with nutrients such as B vitamins and selenium, essential antioxidants, and in some instances, vitamin D."

Mushrooms are packed with vitamin D. Despite mushrooms' other health benefits, it's the vitamin D that really stands out to Smith. "The vitamin D present in UV-exposed mushrooms not only may help strengthen bones, but it also regulates the production of proteins your body needs to fend off bacterial and viral infections," she says. "Mushrooms are the only food found in the produce aisle that contains vitamin D, truly setting mushrooms apart. Be sure to look for the UV light-exposed mushrooms for that extra boost of vitamin D."

Mushrooms keep digestive and nervous systems in check. The combination of B vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid) in mushrooms is also a key to the fungi's nutritional values. "This helps maintain healthy digestive and nervous systems, as well as healthy skin and hormonal balance," Smith says. "They also help to maintain optimum weight and regulate cholesterol and blood sugar levels, energy, and moods."

Whether you're a button, portobello, or enoki lover, you're in for some nutrition! "All mushrooms are nutrient-rich, so you can reap benefits by choosing whatever is available at your local grocery store, fits into your budget, and makes the most sense with your recipes," Smith says. "Just adding mushrooms to anything makes it better for your body, better for your taste buds, and better for the planet."

Still, there are some standouts if you're shopping for mushrooms specifically to optimize your nutrient intake. "Mushrooms are the only item in the produce aisle that feature immune-supporting vitamin D, and maitake mushrooms are particularly packed," Smith notes. One serving of maitake mushrooms (that's one cup) offers nearly a day's recommended allowance of vitamin D.

More mushrooms stars? "Just one whole portobello or four cremini (baby bellas) provide an excellent source of copper (27 percent), selenium (28 percent), niacin (24 percent) and contain 4.3 mg of ergothioneine," Smith says.

Culinary Uses

"My goal is to eat a variety of mushrooms every day—white buttons, creminis, portobellos, shiitake, maitake, beech, oyster, and lion's mane when available—in a variety of dishes," Smith says. "There are so many interesting mushroom textures and flavors to try, from dense, meaty portobellos and earthy maitakes, to savory shiitakes. Mushrooms are delicious flavor lifters whether they are grilled, roasted, sautéed, stir-fried, or blended using a culinary technique called "The Blend."

What's The Blend? It's a technique of chopping or mincing fresh mushrooms to match the consistency of ground meat, and then blending them into the beef, poultry, seafood, or plant proteins you're cooking with. Use this technique to make burgers, taco meat, meatloaf, pasta sauce, chili, larb, or anything you would traditionally cook with a ground protein.

Besides the nutritional boost, adding mushrooms to ground beef or poultry is a great way to save money on meat. "Mushrooms' umami blends with other ingredients to make menu items more flavorful, juicier, and even meatier. This can reduce the total fat, calories, and sodium of your dishes," explains Smith.

"What's interesting about mushrooms is that they contain the same nutrient content whether raw or cooked," Smith says. "Roasting or grilling mushrooms with high heat and little fat or water develops savory caramelization, making them even more flavorful and bringing more umami to your dishes."

Selection

When selecting mushrooms, focus on ones that are firm with a fresh, smooth appearance. The surfaces of the mushroom should be dry but not dried out and appear plump. A closed veil under the mushroom cap indicates a delicate flavor, while an open veil and exposed gills mean a richer flavor, according to a spokesperson for The Mushroom Council.

Storage

For prolonged shelf life, store mushrooms in their original packaging or in a porous paper bag. Some mushrooms may keep for up to one week in the refrigerator. Dispose of them if they start smelling ammonia-like or develop a moist, soggy surface. Fresh mushrooms should never be frozen, but sautéed mushrooms keep in the freezer for up to a month.

Cleaning

Brush off any debris (like dirt) from mushrooms with your fingers or a damp paper towel, or rinse mushrooms briefly under running water and pat dry with a paper towel. If the mushroom stem is tough, trim it before cooking. Typically, the stem is fully edible, but for shiitakes, remove their stems before use. For portobellos, you can remove the gills if you like, but they offer great flavor and the ability to soak up marinades.

Recipes

Now that you know the health benefits of mushrooms, plus how to clean, store, and cook them, it's time for some mushroom-centric recipes!

Crispy Roasted Mushrooms

Once you taste a crispy mushroom, you may never go back. Use this as a side dish or as a topping for proteins, pastas, or even potato dishes. Get the recipe.

Crispy Roasted Mushrooms
Roasting the mushrooms brings out their deep, earthy flavors, making this a simple yet standout side dish. Get the recipe. Danny Kim

Tofu and Mushroom Larb

This spicy Thai salad, which celebrates mushrooms in all their wonderful textural glory, is sure to become a weeknight staple. Is it Meatless Monday yet? Get the recipe.

Top View of Tofu and Mushroom Larb Dish in a Large Gray Plate with a Metal Spoon for Serving
Caitlin Bensel

Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Pasta

A comfort dish laden with mushrooms, this pasta may not specifically seem super-healthy, but because it offers mushroom's nutritional benefits alongside a rich pasta, it nets out, right? Right. Get the recipe.

creamy chicken and mushroom pasta
Caitlin Bensel

Crispy Mushroom Reuben Sandwiches

If you're looking for fun ways to swap mushrooms for meat, this crisp, gooey deli-style sandwich is a great place to start. Get the recipe.

crispy mushroom reuben sandwiches
Greg Dupree

Tortellini Mushroom Soup

Store-bought tortellini gets a major glow-up in this homemade soup recipe with a few shortcuts. Feel free to add extra mushrooms to make it even more mushroomy! Get the recipe.

Tortellini Mushroom Soup
Antonis Achilleos

Mushroom White Pizza

Make pizza night even better with one of the healthiest vegetable toppings out there. With a store-bought crust, it's faster than takeout. Get the recipe.

mushroom-recipes-white-pizza
Greg DuPree
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