At a typical grocery store, you’re likely to find anywhere between 3 and 10 different types of mushrooms. Even so, for the longest time, I would only purchase simple button mushrooms, as those were the type I was most familiar with, and I knew I could use them in almost anything. Plus, I figured there probably wasn’t much difference between all the types of mushrooms. But once I started doing some research and trying all the different varieties, I found out that I was wrong. Not only are they diverse, but they also have vastly different flavors and uses.
Button: Like I said before, these are the most common and useful type of mushroom. They may not be very well regarded in culinary circles, but that’s simply because they don’t have a particularly strong or unique flavor. Basically, their flavor can only be described as "mushroomy." But because they are rather mild, they go with almost anything. You can serve them with meat, put them in salads, soups, or pastas, toss them into sandwiches, or even cook them up on their own with some garlic and onions.
Portobello: Portobellos are usually the largest type of mushroom you’ll find at the store, with a full-grown diameter of around 6-8 inches. When cooked, they become buttery and soft with a flavor that is not unlike meat. Because they’re so tasty and hearty, portobellos are popular among vegetarians. One popular way of serving them is to place the portobello cap on a hamburger bun and eat it with olive oil, garlic, and your favorite burger fixings.
Shiitake: Another versatile mushroom, Shiitakes are harder and thicker than button mushrooms, and they have a more earthy flavor. They go great in almost anything. They can be used as pizza toppings, in salads, or as a side dish for any type of meat-based meal. They’re originally from east Asia, which makes them a staple of cuisines from that part of the world, particularly in sushi.
Oyster: Oyster mushrooms get their name from their mild, seafood-like flavor and delicate texture. While soft, they don’t break up very easily, which makes them great for stews that require long cooking times. They’re also good to have on their own, gently sautéed for about five minutes and dashed with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Enoki: Enokis are small, round mushrooms with long stalks. They have a unique fruity flavor and a crunchy texture that makes them appealing as a raw side dish. Meanwhile, they also work great in cooked dishes such as stir-fries and soups.
Truffles: Truffles are the delicacy of the mushroom world. Part of what gives them their classy status is the fact that they’re difficult to cultivate and are rare in the wild. But they also have a unique, complex flavor that is simultaneously sweet, with chocolaty undertones, and mushroomy. In general, they’re served raw, shaved over pastas or salads, but they may also be added to cooked meals such as roasted meats or stuffings. Truffles can be pricy, but they’re definitely worth trying.