When I was growing up, the mushroom selection at the grocery store didn't go far beyond the basic white button variety. That certainly isn't the case these days. If you're lucky, your grocery store might carry everything from enoki to shiitake, but it's cremini and portobello mushrooms that you'll find making a regular appearance in the produce section. These brown varieties boast more flavor than their common white counterpart, but aside from their difference in size, you might be surprised at what sets these two mushrooms apart.
Age Makes All the Difference
Both cremini and portobello mushrooms sport a dark brown color and a smooth cap, and boast a deep savory flavor. Despite their difference in diameter, these mushrooms look and taste pretty similar — and for good reason. The difference between these two brown mushroom is age. Portobello mushrooms are simply the mature version of cremini mushrooms harvested when they're fully grown.
More About Cremini Mushrooms
Cremini mushrooms (also referred to as cremino, common brown, and Roman), are commonly marketed as "baby bella" or "baby portobello" mushrooms because they are just that — a juvenile portobello mushroom.
These mushrooms are dark brown and firmer than the common white button mushroom. They have a smooth, rounded cap and a sheath of skin that covers their gills. When purchasing cremini mushrooms, check underneath the cap to see that the gills are covered. If they are, that's how you know the mushroom is fresh.
Recipes with Cremini Mushrooms
More About Portobello Mushrooms
Portobello mushrooms (also referred to as portabello and portobella) are simply the fully mature version of cremini mushrooms. These large, dark brown mushrooms have an open cap, with visible, deep brown gills on the underside. Unlike its younger counterpart, the portobello has had more time to grow, causing it to lose more of its moisture. Portabello mushrooms are not as watery as cremini and have a slightly more pronounced mushroom flavor.
Recipes with Portobello Mushrooms
Choosing Which One to Use
While these mushrooms can certainly be used interchangeably without overtly changing the taste of a recipe, their individual sizes often lend them to excel at different types of dishes. Let larger portobello mushrooms be you go-to for things like burgers, sandwiches, and meal-sized stuffed mushrooms or when you want a firmer texture. Cremini mushrooms are useful when you want mushroom flavor in a smaller package. You can sauté cremini mushrooms whole, serve them sliced and tossed in a dressing, or in omelets and pasta sauces.