What Do Mushrooms Taste Like?

What Do Mushrooms Taste Like? You’ll Never Guess

Mushrooms are one of those foods that tend to fall into the category of love it or leave it.

But I’m guessing that if you’re here and you’ve never tried them before, that you’re at least open to the idea of trying something new. The best way to describe what mushrooms taste like is to liken it to foods you already know.

Most mushrooms have a hearty, sometimes savory or earthy, meat-like taste that is detected by a sense we have which is known as umami.

What is Umami?

As previously mentioned, the distinctive quality that gives mushrooms the meaty and earthy taste they do is umami. Umami is present in foods that contain high amounts of glutamate. Besides mushrooms, other foods like parmesan cheese, seaweed and miso also contain glutamate.

The word umami originates from Japan and is loosely translated to mean describe something having a “pleasant savory taste”. If you’ve ever eaten mushrooms, you’ll know exactly what that means!

Even though umami has always been present in various foods, it wasn’t always recognized as a part of the human sense of taste. Until 1985, only four taste senses were scientifically categorized. You already know what they are – sweet, salty, sour, and bitter.

Around that time, more and more products emerged that used glutamate, giving rise to question whether umami could be classified as a taste on its own. After a period of research, it was determined that umami was unique and that no other combination of known tastes could replicate it.

Mushrooms fall nicely into the umami category, but between various species of mushrooms, distinct additional flavor profiles are present.

We’ll discuss those next.

Common Mushroom Taste Profiles

Mushrooms have a wide array of taste profiles, some types even sharing multiple types depending on whether they are raw or cooked. The taste profiles we’ll cover are creamy, earthy, meaty, nutty, peppery, savory, smoky, and woodsy.

Creamy Tasting Mushrooms

Mushrooms in this category have a silky, smooth feel on the palate. They are great for sauteing and served as a side dish or included in pasta dishes. 

  • Enoki Mushrooms
  • Porcini Mushrooms
  • King Brown/King Trumpet/French Horn Mushrooms

Earthy Tasting Mushrooms

Mushrooms in this category taste of fresh earth or cultivated soil. Because of that, they make a perfect complement to most entrees, especially when served with other vegetables. Some options include soups or salads or even on their own as a side dish. 

  • White “Button” Mushrooms
  • Porcini Mushrooms

Meaty Tasting Mushrooms

Mushrooms in this category have broad appeal, especially for meat lovers. Because of this, they work as a perfect side for chicken, fish or beef. Some varieties, like Portobello, are frequently prepared on their own.

  • Cremini Mushrooms
  • Hedgehog/Sweet Tooth Mushrooms
  • King Brown/King Trumpet/French Horn Mushrooms
  • Portobello Mushrooms
  • Shiitake Mushrooms

Nutty Tasting Mushrooms

Mushrooms in this category have a nutlike flavor. They’re best used in stews, soups and sauces but can also as a garnish in meat dishes like roasts, chicken, or pork chops.

  • Beach/Clamshell Mushrooms
  • Hedgehog/Sweet Tooth Mushrooms
  • Porcini Mushrooms

Peppery Tasting Mushrooms

Mushrooms in this category have a hint of heat to them. It’s not quite what you would expect from peppers, but it’s definitely noticeable. They add zip to pastas or soups or even served on their own as a unique side dish.

  • Chanterelle Mushrooms

Savory Tasting Mushrooms

Mushrooms in this category have a spicy or salty quality without the presence of sweetness. They lend themselves to almost any dish, especially ones where a savory flavor is present. Pizzas, pastas, cream sauces and even quiche are great for mushrooms in this category.

  • Morel Mushrooms

Smoky Tasting Mushrooms

Mushrooms in this category have a smoked flavor to them. The addition of smoke works well in a wide variety of dishes, especially meats and seafood. In addition, soups, sauces and pastas are enhanced by adding a hint of smoky flavor.

  • Black Trumpet/Horn of Plenty Mushrooms

Woody/Woodsy Tasting Mushrooms

Mushrooms in this category have the distinct tone of wood or herb. When cooked, many claim that mushrooms in this category have the flavor of meat as well, specifically chicken.

  • White “Button” Mushrooms
  • Oyster Mushrooms
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