9 Mushrooms to Substitute Meat

Mushrooms are a plant-based food that is highly versatile in cooking. They have several health benefits because they’re rich in vitamins and minerals and may have anti-cancer properties. Some mushrooms are believed to contain high amounts of protein, but how do the gram values compare to meat sources? Keep reading to find out.

Are mushrooms a good alternative to meat?

For the last few years, more people have been trying to reduce their meat intake and consume more plant-based foods.

Mushrooms are commonly used to substitute meat in recipes because they have a similar texture to the chicken breast once cooked. However, nutritionally, mushrooms have quite a different profile than meats — specifically, they are lower in protein and don’t have or have low amounts of vitamin B12.

It’s important to be aware of the nutrients in your meal to build balanced, satisfying dishes. Most mushroom varieties contain:

  • Antioxidants. Health-promoting compounds that may reduce inflammation and potentially benefit those suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases.
  • Prebiotics. Carbohydrates that nourish healthful probiotics throughout your gastrointestinal tract.
  • Small amounts of fiber. Help you feel full after eating and contribute to blood sugar and cholesterol management.
  • Vitamins and minerals. Micronutrients your body needs to function properly.

Additionally, some mushroom varieties are believed to offer anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties, which is one of the many reasons they’ve been consumed for thousands of years in different cultures worldwide.

Comparing protein content in mushrooms and meat

Animal products, like meat, fish, and seafood, are naturally rich in protein. Your body relies on the amino acids in protein to build new cells and hormones and repair vital tissues. Below is a comparison of the protein content in popular meats and mushrooms commonly found in grocery stores. All data is pulled from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient database, and the serving sizes are 100 g to make it easier to compare.

Meat protein contentMushrooms protein content
Cooked chicken: 32 gPortobello: 2.1 g
Cooked T-bone steak: 27 g Enoki: 2.6 g
Raw pork loin: 21 g Lion’s mane: 2.5 g
Cooked ground turkey: 27 g Cremini: 2.5 g
Cooked salmon filet: 22 gShiitake: 2.2 g
Cooked shrimps: 24 g King oyster: 2.4 g

Mushrooms protein content is all raw

Some wild mushrooms are reported to have higher amounts of protein, like tricholoma having upward of 35 g per 100 g serving. However, these numbers haven't been validated yet by the USDA nutrient database.

Are mushrooms good for muscle building?

Although mushrooms are very nutritious, no human research demonstrates that mushrooms can promote muscle building. If you’re interested in gaining muscle mass, you should contact a sports dietitian for a personalized meal plan to help you reach your goals.

Top 9 mushrooms for substituting meat

By now, you’re probably getting excited to start eating some mushrooms. Here are nine popular mushroom varieties to substitute meat in your dishes:

Grilled portobello as a beef burger alternative. Top with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and mustard. Add mashed black beans seasoned with garlic and onion powder for more protein.

Portobello

Shiitake for stir-fry dishes. Add shrimp, tofu, or edamame to increase the protein intake. Garnish with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice for brightness.

Shittake

Lion’s mane as a seafood substitute. Add white beans and roasted broccoli to round out the dish and serve over quinoa.

Lions mane

Finely chopped cremini to replace ground meats, like beef, chicken, or turkey. Add lentils and other beans when making chili, spaghetti sauces, or taco bowls.

Cremini

Grilled oyster mushrooms instead of chicken breast. To make lettuce wraps add mushrooms, cashews, avocado, and a sprinkle of hemp hearts. Dress with olive oil, herbs, and lemon juice.

Oyster mushrooms

King oyster for vegan scallops. Pair with steamed asparagus and baked sweet potato. Serve over quinoa.

King oyster

Maitake grills nicely and can give a juicy, meaty texture to salads and grainy bowls. You can use your fingers to pull apart the mushroom into bite-sized pieces before cooking.

Maitake

Enoki complements Asian dishes and can be lightly fried or added to soups and stews. They’re often served in ramen—a Japanese soup that is very comforting and filling.

Enoki

Morel for expensive gourmet dishes. They require a light sauté to showcase their natural, intense flavors.

Morel

Extra tips for adding more protein

Remember that cooked mushrooms can have a similar texture to cooked meat but won’t be as high in protein. You’ll need to add extra protein-rich foods to these meals to make them nutritionally balanced. We’ve included a few examples of how you could do this below:

  • Add mashed beans to sandwiches, wraps, and burgers.
  • Add lentils and beans to soups, stews, taco bowls, spaghetti sauces, and other high-liquid foods.
  • Add nuts to salads, stir-fries, and other baked dishes.
  • Serve your meals over quinoa, which naturally contains fiber and protein.
  • Add shrimp or eggs (if they align with your dietary preferences).

How to get the most out of mushrooms

Although you can enjoy raw mushrooms, you can enhance their flavor by cooking them into stir-fries, pasta sauces, and other delicious recipes. Some research suggests that grilling or microwaving your mushrooms can preserve their nutrients, compared to boiling or steeping.

To get a beautiful brown color while cooking, add a small amount of oil and sear them on a pan without touching or moving them for 4–5 minutes. After, flip them over and repeat the other side. This technique creates a mouthwatering, crispy outer layer and reduces the chances of soggy cooked mushrooms.

How to select mushrooms

Choose a mushroom that best fits your recipe. You’ll want a large, flat variety like portobello if you're trying to create a mushroom steak. However, a cut-up shiitake might be more appropriate if you want to make something with smaller bite-sized pieces that are chewy and tender.

All mushrooms have nutritional benefits, and choosing various types can help you satisfy your nutrient requirements while keeping meals interesting.

Tips for properly storing mushrooms

They are delicate vegetables and should have their own space in your refrigerator. Moisture and cold air in a fridge can rapidly break down their texture without some protection, so covering them with a breathable material (like a brown paper bag) can help them stay puffy and spongy longer.

How to clean mushrooms?

Edible mushrooms grow in dirt and should be cleaned before eating. The outer membrane of the mushroom cap can retain a lot of water, and its texture can become slimy. You don’t want to waterlog them by soaking them for too long.

Here’s a simple technique to clean your mushrooms:

  1. Fill a bowl with cold water.
  2. Submerge mushrooms for one to two minutes. You can gently massage them to remove large clumps of dirt.
  3. Remove and place on a paper towel. Pat dry and remove any lingering pieces of dirt.

Mushroom safety

Mushrooms are generally considered safe for all ages, although sometimes people don’t enjoy their intense flavors. It’s unlikely that a mushroom would be contraindicated for prescription medications, but if you have concerns, you should ask your pharmacist for clarification.

Some wild mushroom species are poisonous and should never be consumed. Do not forage and eat wild mushrooms unless you have verified their species with a trained expert.

Final takeaway

Mushrooms are delicious and have several nutritional benefits. Although they contain some protein, they probably won’t be enough to satisfy your daily needs, and you should consider adding other high-protein foods to your meals.

Other plant-based options include tofu, edamame, beans, eggs, nuts, and seeds. A high-quality protein powder can also be used occasionally, although getting your essential nutrients and energy from foods is always recommended when possible.

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