Mushrooms are incredibly versatile ingredients in any kitchen. With such a range of flavors and textures, they can be used in countless dishes and contain a bevy of health benefits to boot. Chances are, you’re already familiar with one of the most popular varieties—cremini mushrooms.
In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about cremini mushrooms, from how to identify them to their health benefits and more. Before you know it, you’ll know these mushrooms inside and out. Let’s jump in!
Cremini (also spelled crimini) mushrooms are a member of the species Agaricus bisporus. However, you may occasionally see them listed as belonging to Agaricus brunnescens. These are synonyms for the same species.
These mushrooms are also known as baby bella mushrooms. They’re similar in appearance to white button mushrooms but with a darker brown cap. Cremini mushrooms are a more mature version of white button mushrooms and have a deeper flavor thanks to their longer growing time.
Psst: White button mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, and portobello mushrooms are all the same mushrooms, just at different stages in the maturation process. The main differences (aside from color) are their flavor and texture. White button mushrooms have a mild taste and slightly crunchy texture, while cremini mushrooms are firmer with a richer and more developed flavor. Portobello mushrooms are meaty and hold up well to grilling, roasting, or being used as a meat substitute (1).
Cremini mushrooms are medium-sized mushrooms with short, thick stems and thin gills. Their mushroom cap is brown and typically ranges from 1-2 inches in diameter; the stems are often a lighter shade of brown than the cap. While the caps can be smooth, they can also have a grooved texture.
Psst: As mushrooms age, they lose more moisture, resulting in a better tasting mushroom. This makes cremini mushrooms much more flavorful than white button mushrooms (2).
Crimini mushrooms have a long history dating back to the seventeenth century. In 1600, Olivier de Serres, a French agronomist, published his most famous work, Théatre d’agriculture, which remained the gold standard in agriculture for centuries. Known for his pioneering work in agriculture, he’s often referred to as the father of French agriculture (3). De Serres experimented with transplanting mycelium from horse manure into compost, which resulted in higher mushroom yields, which would eventually become the massive industry of mushroom cultivation we see today.
The story doesn’t stop there. In the 1980s, a clever marketing campaign championed the “reinvention” of Agaricus bisporus with a new (albeit made-up) Italian moniker—the portobello. A wave of the marketing wand gave rise to a market ready to scoop up the same mushroom at different stages in its lifecycle as if they were entirely different mushrooms (1).
While we don’t have a historical record that speaks directly on cremini mushrooms, we do know that mushrooms, in general, have been an essential part of traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, both medicinally and nutritionally. It’s believed mushrooms have a detoxifying and cleansing effect on the body in addition to assisting with wound healing (4).
Like other mushrooms, cremini mushrooms contain a wealth of health benefits. Here are some of the ways these little mushrooms help support your body.
Psst: The average American eats more than two pounds of mushrooms yearly, and Agaricus bisporus shrooms account for 90% of the mushroom production in the United States (2).
Aside from finding them at the grocery store or farmer’s markets, you could see cremini mushrooms while on an evening walk. Cremini mushrooms grow widely throughout the temperate regions of North America and Europe.
Their natural habitat is varied; these mushrooms thrive in grasslands, meadows, forest edges, manured grounds, healthy soils, and even roadsides. If you’re in coastal California, these little brown mushrooms will happily make their home under cypress trees too.
It can be tempting to gather your own cremini mushrooms while you’re enjoying the outdoors, but there’s a distinction between foraging and ethically wildcrafting those mushrooms.
Foraging refers to gathering food from the wild, including mushrooms. There tends to be more emphasis on collecting mushrooms and less on how to harvest wild food sustainably—and in such a way that it has a minimal impact on the local ecosystem.
Another vital factor to consider is that without proper knowledge and training, foraging for mushrooms can be dangerous since several species of mushrooms are poisonous and even fatal if ingested. What may look like a harmless cremini could be something entirely different (and dangerous). Mushroom poisoning is a considerable health risk when people who aren’t appropriately trained in identification try foraging on their own. If you’re at all unsure of what you’re harvesting, we strongly recommend consulting with a professional.
Ethical wildcrafting involves sustainable harvesting practices that prioritize environmental conservation while maintaining respect and gratitude towards nature. Preserving the delicate mycelium and surrounding plant structures ensures mushrooms will continue to grow successfully after being harvested. Professional mushroom hunters who have extensive knowledge about mushroom identification can safely harvest mushrooms without endangering their environment or being at risk of consuming harmful varieties.
We always recommend familiarizing yourself with local laws and regulations and applying for a permit if necessary. It’s also a wise idea to learn about your area’s local plant and mushroom varieties. Are there any endangered species you need to be mindful of, or are there dangerous lookalikes to be aware of?
Wildcrafting can be a fun and enriching activity. It’s a wonderful way to connect with nature and bask in the peacefulness of the outdoors. Even more, it’s a fantastic way to enjoy nature’s gifts responsibly and respectfully.
There are so many ways you can enjoy cremini mushrooms as their versatility in the kitchen is endless! We’ve rounded up some of our favorite cremini mushroom recipes to show how easy it is to incorporate cremini mushrooms into your cooking.
1. Sauteed mushrooms
The Forked Spoon’s sauteed mushrooms are the perfect addition to any meal, especially if you’re looking for a side dish or appetizer with fewer carbohydrates. Sauteed in butter with a generous amount of garlic and kissed with parsley, these mushrooms are brimming with delicious umami flavor. Wait until you’re nearly done cooking your mushrooms before adding salt. Adding salt too soon can draw out moisture and prevent them from caramelizing.
2. Beef and mushroom stew
Ahh, soups and stews. Is there anything more satisfying when you’re craving a cozy and substantial meal? Girl and the Kitchen’s wild mushroom and beef stew is Sunday dinner-worthy. With their meaty texture and earthy flavor, cremini mushrooms are perfect for this dish. Prefer a plant-based mushroom soup instead? Swap out the chuck roast for different types of mushrooms—maitake (also known as hen of the woods), oyster mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms would all be fabulous additions.
3. Wild mushroom risotto
Modern Proper’s wild mushroom risotto is full of flavor with thyme, shallots, garlic, white wine, parmesan cheese, and a full pound of wild mushrooms. Weeknight-friendly, this dish only uses a handful of things in the kitchen. A heavy skillet, measuring cup, and a good stirring spoon are all you need. Feel free to use a mix of your favorite mushrooms here, although we think king trumpet mushrooms would be delicious.
There are so many easy and simple ways to add cremini mushrooms to your meals. Think about adding some of those sauteed mushrooms to your omelets in the morning or getting creative with your favorite mushroom mix in a veggie stir-fry.
Psst: Wherever you decide to store your mushrooms, we recommend keeping them in a paper bag with a paper towel until you’re ready to use them. The paper towel will help keep your mushrooms from getting slimy by absorbing excess moisture. When you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get cooking, clean your mushrooms by wiping off any debris with a soft cloth or (another) paper towel, and you’ll be ready to go.
Cremini mushrooms offer a rich and distinctive flavor profile that can elevate any dish. Whether you decide to source your mushrooms from the farmer’s market or wildcraft them yourself, be sure to store them properly so you can enjoy all the health benefits they offer. Want more mushrooms in your life? Keep up with the latest news and discoveries and learn about other types of mushrooms on shroomer.