The versatile portobello

portabellaGGBoth vegetarians, meat eaters appreciate hearty, flavor-filled portobellos

Meaty tasting and low in calories, portobello mushrooms are a great alternative to a beef burger. What makes them ideal as burgers is their size and texture. They also work well grilled or broiled, served on sandwiches, or sliced on salads.

Portobellos are basically an overgrown variation of the common button mushroom. They can be very large, about 5-6 inches in diameter, although many stores now carry mini bellas, about 3 inches in diameter, and porteenies, which are even smaller.

It was in 1980 that the name portobello started to be used as a “brilliant marketing ploy to popularize an unglamorous mushroom,” according to “The Food Lover’s Companion” (Barron’s, $16.99) by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

Portobellos have a meaty texture because their gills are exposed, which gives them a low-moisture content.


Many recipes call for removing the gills before cooking. It can be a matter of preference, but it also can be because the spores released from the gills during cooking will discolor other ingredients. Remove the gills when making a mushroom soup or using portobellos in, say, a risotto or other rice or pasta dish. If you’re stuffing portobellos, it’s a good idea to remove the gills and stems to make room for the stuffing.

In this portobello burger recipe, the gills are removed so that they won’t darken the cheese, but it’s not totally necessary. Use a spoon to easily scrape out and remove them.

Grilling instructions

Prepare: Remove and discard the stems and scrape out the gills. Wipe caps clean with a damp paper towel.

Season: Brush both sides of mushroom caps with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea or kosher salt, and black pepper.

Grill: Preheat the grill to medium-high. Place mushrooms, top-side down, and grill 4 minutes. Turn over and grill an additional 2-4 minutes or until the caps are tender.


In today’s recipe: The portobellos are topped with tangy blue cheese and caramelized red onions. Serve them on a lightly toasted bun. Match the buns to the size of the mushrooms before grilling, keeping in mind that the portobellos will shrink a little. If you add a thick slice of tomato and peppery arugula, your guests won’t ask “Where’s the beef?”



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