5 Fantastic Substitutions For Porcini Mushrooms That Will Make You Drool

An ingredient often called for in today’s gourmet recipes is porcini mushrooms. These little rich beauties are great favorites of chefs and cookbook authors such as Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson and are becoming staples of popular diets around the world such as paleo and vegan.

A lot of people are wondering now what are porcini mushrooms? What are these used for? Why are they dried? And if a particular recipe calls for porcini mushrooms what could you use instead?

Porcini mushrooms look like the mushrooms of your fantasies; lovely brown dome on top, beautiful chubby white stem; they are very inviting, like the sort of thing fairies would make homes in. Eating porcini gathered from the wild is something people have done since they were cavemen, and the very best porcini are still grown the same way today

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Porcini mushrooms have been used for hundreds of years in Italian cooking, and are also now found in French and German cuisines, and many others across the world. They have a strong nutty flavor that is a standout addition to a wide number of dishes. This flavor is very distinctive, very original, calling to mind lovely rustic dishes from country homes across the hills of Europe.

These mushrooms are characterized by the undergrowth of the plants entering into symbiotic relationships with the roots of particular other plants. These very specific growing conditions means that the mushrooms rarely occur in nature, and they are very hard to cultivate. This makes them rare, expensive, and hard to find fresh, hence the drying.

These mushrooms have a very high protein content, making them an ideal meat substitute in many dishes. They are very versatile and can be used on pasta, in soups and stews, as a dip or topping on bread, on pizza, grilled, crumbed or fried, and they go well with beef, chicken, and fish.

It is very easy to make a luxurious dish with just a few simple partners to porcini, such as crusty bread, fresh butter, parmesan cheese, and salt. You can create something gourmet out of something as basic as scrambled eggs, with a few fresh herbs. Porcini mushroom recipes are cooking at its best; big flavors, a few quality ingredients, and an uncomplicated dish.

Purists will tell you that you have to source fresh, wild ones to get the best flavor, but this can be very hard to do. So if your recipe calls for porcini mushrooms and you can’t find any, what can you use instead?

5 Surprising Swaps For Porcini Mushrooms

#1 Dried Porcini Mushrooms

Most supermarkets that don’t have fresh porcini mushrooms will carry the dried option for you. It can be difficult and expensive to get a hold of the fresh version outside of Europe. Dried porcini mushrooms don’t lose much quality in the drying process, and will still give the same bold taste.

You should be sure to buy good quality dried ones, the best that you can source, and as whole as possible, with little powder or fragments. If you can’t find good quality dried ones at your local supermarket, you can find excellent ones online. Try here

​You will prepare the dried mushrooms by steeping them in boiling water for around twenty minutes, and you would benefit from using the steeping water as well in the recipe in replace of plain water or stock.

Another readily available mushroom substitute is porcini powder. Many supermarkets or specialty stores that don't carry fresh or dried porcini may have powder, or again you can source very good quality products online.

Follow the specific instructions to make sure you add the right amount of powder to your dish. Shop online here


​#2 Shiitake Mushrooms

​These mushrooms have a less earthy flavor but a very similar meaty texture to porcini mushrooms and are more readily available. How well these will work as a substitute depends very much on the role the porcini mushrooms are playing in the dish. Shiitake mushrooms are not as strong, not as rich in flavor, but are the closest thing you can use.

If you can’t get fresh shiitake mushrooms, you can again get dried ones. Again buy good quality dried, and be sure to use the steeping water in the recipe, it will add a great depth of flavor. If cost is your reason for leaning away from the porcini, then shiitake is a very good less expensive alternative.


​#3 Any Other Mushrooms

Even the most common mushrooms, such as button or brown, will add something special to your dish. Again the flavor will be less than what you get with porcini mushrooms, but the texture will be retained. And regular mushrooms will still create a beautifully rich, flavorsome meal that is very high in protein.

Learn more about types of mushrooms and their uses here


​#4 Truffle Oil

Now you are not going to buy this if you're looking for the less expensive option, but because this is in oil form, it is more commonly available and will last in your pantry for a very long time. This will balance out the cost in the end.

And if you are any kind of foodie you should probably be able to say you tried truffle oil at some stage in your life, and then offer a complex opinion on it. Buy here

​Again truffles do not taste like porcini, so are not a flavor substitute as such, but they will add an amazing tone of their own and help you create a delicious dish and feel like a real gourmet chef at the same time.


​#5 Get Creative

If you are home and stuck with just general ingredients with which to substitute the mushrooms, you’ll need to think outside the box a little bit. Be brave in your choices and taste your dish continually as you add things.

Accept that you cannot recreate exactly the distinct flavor of porcini mushrooms, but you can create a bold flavor of your own that still makes for a lovely hearty, earthy dish. Just don't tell your guests that the dish is porcini because it will be a blatant lie and you will make them sad.

​Some things you could use instead, either on their own or in combination are:

  • Tomato paste
  • Sage or thyme
  • Fish sauce
  • Canned oysters
  • Roasted eggplant
  • Roasted bell pepper
  • Tempeh (soybean product)
  • Asparagus
  • Zucchini
  • Anchovies or Anchovy paste
  • ​You can add rich, gamey meat like duck or rabbit, but that kind of beats the purpose if you were trying for a meat substitute in a vegetarian dish to begin with

For some recipes and ideas how to play around with them, look here.


​Summary

Porcini mushrooms are an amazing and very particular flavor, which gives something very special to dishes. Because the fresh ones are hard to source, you can very easily substitute dried for fresh, and you are still guaranteed that wonderful earthy porcini taste.

Other substitutions will taste different but lovely and rich in their own right. A mushroom dish is always a favorite, even among your meat-eating friends. Any commonly available mushrooms, when cooked with butter and salt, will offer up that distinctive mushroomy taste that you’re looking for.

You can’t go wrong here; just have the confidence to play around with tastes until you find something that makes you and your guests very happy.

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Jessica Leary
 

I’m Jessica, I’ve been a foodie since I was young. That explains my passion for the food movement and food blogs. In addition to being a content creator and recipe developer, I’m also into food photography and blogging. I’m an exercise enthusiast, wine aficionado, and green smoothie addict. The fact that I’ve tried countless recipes is what makes me passionate about food blogging. I write on anything related to food.

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