Baby bella mushrooms go by several names, so while you may not be sure you’ve enjoyed them before, they’ve likely made their way into your kitchen. We’ll give you all the details on baby bella mushrooms, from their history and use in natural medicine, to their numerous health benefits, along with some delicious recipes that make it super simple to enjoy these delightful culinary mushrooms.
Sometimes called cremini mushrooms, brown mushrooms, or Italian mushrooms, baby bella mushrooms are a more mature version of humble white button mushrooms. Baby bella mushrooms are at the midpoint of their maturation process, and once fully developed, they become another mushroom variety you’re likely familiar with—portobello mushrooms (sometimes called portabella).
White button mushrooms, baby bella mushrooms, and portobello mushrooms are all Agaricus bisporus mushrooms, albeit in different stages of their maturation process.
Regarding taste, expect these mushrooms to have an earthy, mild, but oh-so-savory flavor that enhances a variety of dishes, making them highly versatile in the kitchen. The longer a mushroom matures, the more its flavor develops, which means baby bella mushrooms taste comparatively more mushroomy than white button mushrooms.
Psst: Baby bella mushrooms aren’t always considered functional mushrooms. Remember, functional mushrooms are cultivated for health benefits beyond their nutritional profile. And while baby bellas are filled with vitamins and antioxidants, they don’t have some of the impressive health benefits that medicinal mushrooms do. Just the same, there are still plenty of reasons to include them in your diet.
Sometimes we don’t always have a solid historical record of how a particular type of mushroom was used throughout history, especially when a culture has relied more on oral histories or a written document has been lost.
In natural medicine and, more specifically, Traditional Chinese Medicine, many types of mushrooms are held in high regard for their ability to boost the qi, or vital life force energy, of the user (1).
As for our modern era, the white button mushroom was discovered as a fluke by a farmer, Louis Ferdinand Lambert, in the 1920s. Lambert isolated and cultivated his discovery on his Pennsylvania mushroom farm and was one of the first mass growers of mushrooms in the United States, where it remains one of the most popular mushrooms in the country (2).
Even though baby bella mushrooms may not hold the illustrious status of being a functional mushroom, they still pack a pretty heavy nutritional punch (3). The little brown mushrooms contain a combination of phytonutrients and antioxidants that can help support your immune system, regulate inflammation, positively impact heart health (including blood pressure and cholesterol), and more. Here are more of the vitamins and minerals baby bella mushrooms can provide:
Baby bellas even contain small amounts of protein and dietary fiber. And because these mushrooms are low in carbohydrates, they’re fantastic for anyone limiting their carb intake.
Baby bella mushrooms are native to North America and Europe and usually found growing in open fields. You can forage and wildcraft this variety of mushroom, but there are some essential things to keep in mind if doing so (more on that soon).
Hitting up your local grocery store is typically the easiest way to find baby bella mushrooms; no trip to a specialty market needed. But another idea that’s worth considering is growing your own. Even if it sounds intimidating, a mushroom growing kit can make it super easy to cultivate your baby bella mushrooms right in your kitchen. You can skip the trip to the supermarket and harvest your own instead.
White button mushrooms (which will eventually mature into baby bella mushrooms) are among the best mushrooms to grow since they’re one of the least fussy fungi. Easy and affordable? Sounds like a win-win.
Despite sounding similar, there’s a difference between foraging and wildcrafting. Foraging usually means searching for and gathering food sources out in the wild, from berries to mushrooms, herbs, and other plants.
Wildcrafting, on the other hand, has more to do with harvesting local resources for medicinal needs. There are also some ethics to keep in mind while wildcrafting.
Proper identification is essential, so be sure to familiarize yourself with what you’re harvesting. It’s also a wise idea to learn what native species look like in your local area. You wouldn’t want to bring home a poisonous or deadly mushroom by mistake when looking for something healing and therapeutic.
Also, remember that we aren’t the only ones in the food chain that enjoy feasting on mushrooms. Other animals and insects like to enjoy them as much as we do. Only harvest what you need, remembering that we’re sharing nature’s gifts with other living beings.
While it’s tempting to forage or wildcraft your baby bella mushrooms, it’s easy to confuse these with other little brown mushrooms, and a mixup could have catastrophic consequences. We recommend sticking to your local supermarket or farmers market or growing your own.
Psst: Want to wildcraft your mushrooms but are curious about growing your own? Think about making a spore print. A spore print is like saving seeds from the fruits and veggies in your garden. Mushrooms produce spores to propagate; in natural conditions, drops of rain or air currents spread spores far and wide. But you can make a print by setting your mushroom caps on a piece of paper overnight. Yes, it’s that easy!
Baby bella mushrooms are one of the most versatile mushrooms you can stock in your kitchen. Perfect for appetizers, brunch, lunch, and dinner, you can enjoy baby bella mushrooms at any meal. Here are some of our favorite baby bella mushroom recipes to get you started.
It doesn’t get much simpler than this easy recipe for sauteed mushrooms. Made with a handful of ingredients like olive oil and lemon juice, this recipe is perfect as a quick side dish or topping for another meal (think hamburgers, brie, or pasta with parmesan cheese). The total time for cooking these comes in at just 15 minutes. Finish with garlic butter for an extra hit of flavor.
When you need a heartier side dish or a substantial main meal, give this cream of mushroom soup a go. Made with fresh herbs, this recipe calls for two pounds of mushrooms, so feel free to mix and match baby bella mushrooms with shiitake or oyster mushrooms. Home cooks will love this recipe as it’s weeknight-friendly, delicious, and nutritious.
Think about including these adobo mushroom tacos in your next Taco Tuesday spread. This simple sheet pan dinner is filled with umami flavor and lends itself well to a blend of mushrooms if you’d like to explore other types of mushrooms. Pile on your favorite toppings for the perfect taco, or save some for a lunchtime quesadilla the next day.
Psst: If you’d like to experiment in the kitchen without recipes, there are a few things to remember. Cook mushrooms over medium-high heat; the goal is to help mushrooms caramelize and cook off their liquid without burning. Think about adding salt closer to the end of cooking; adding it before can cause them to release more water (this happens with some vegetables, too) and can change both the taste and texture of your mushrooms.
Baby bella mushrooms are a fantastic addition to any lifestyle. They’re easy to find, a versatile ingredient in the kitchen, and brimming with nutrients. These mushrooms are also the perfect introduction to starting a mini mushroom farm right at home. Be sure to keep up with the latest news and discoveries and learn about other types of mushrooms on shroomer.