By Joyce Hendley
When we want to replace or reduce meat in a recipe in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, we often reach for portobello mushrooms. By our lights, portobellos—brown button mushrooms grown to a larger, meatier size, with a pronounced, earthy flavor—are about as close to a juicy steak as the plant kingdom comes. Just try a grilled portobello cap on a bun with burger fixings, for proof. At just 42 calories per cup, the satisfying ’shrooms also provide plenty of nutrients, including magnesium, selenium and fiber. And, as one of nature’s best sources of ergothioneine, an antioxidant that helps prevent the buildup of plaque in arteries, they’re a heart-healthy choice too.
Besides their nutritional merits, choosing portobellos (and other plants) instead of meat to build a meal around can help you reduce your carbon footprint. According to a recent report by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the international livestock industry generates around 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions (due mostly, ahem, to animal-based “methane emissions”). That is more than all forms of transportation combined, from airplanes to Hummers. So every time you replace a meat-centric meal with a meatless one, you’re being gentler on the planet (and usually on your wallet too).
These easy recipes show how deliciously portobellos can win carnivores’ hearts. Finely chopped, portobellos stand in beautifully for ground meat, absorbing and complementing other flavors; try them with smoky barbecue sauce in a quesadilla filling or in a garlicky-gingery stir-fry. Toss sautéed slices with pasta and a wine-enriched sauce. Or leave the caps whole and stuff with a rich spinach-ricotta-Parmesan blend. Pure satisfaction, with no steak knives required.