Who doesn’t love a creamy risotto with the earthy flavor of mushrooms? This Italian dish is a favorite for many but not everyone knows what makes a good mushroom risotto.
What are the best mushrooms for risotto? While there are many to choose from, some of the most widely-used and flavorful varieties are shiitake, portabella, and porcini. While the first two have a distinct meaty texture and flavor, the latter is a wild variety loved for its nutty taste.
Read on to learn more about these mushroom varieties and what is the best way to use them in risotto.
A Guide To The 3 Best Mushrooms For Risotto
Below we’ll discuss the best mushrooms for risotto, and more importantly, why they are so great!
1. Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms are widely used in Asian cuisine. In fact, this mushroom variety has Asian roots. However, shiitake mushrooms are so versatile and delicious that they are a popular pick for Italian risotto.
Shiitake mushrooms have a large brown cap. They are soft and have a sponge-like texture.
This mushroom variety will remind you of meat when cooked as it has a similar flavor profile.
Picking Shiitake Mushrooms – What You Should Know
To make a delicious risotto with shiitake mushrooms you should be able to pick the good ones.
Whether you are buying from your local fresh market or supermarket, pay attention to the following things:
- Turn shiitake mushrooms around to see whether the cap covers the gills from underneath or not. With shiitake mushrooms, you need to make sure that the cap is tight around the stem and the gills are not completely open.
- Feel them. The caps should feel not spongy but firm.
- Examine the cap. They shouldn’t be wrinkly. If shiitake caps are wrinkly, it means the mushrooms are not hydrated enough.
Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
If you love shiitake mushrooms, then you will love dried shiitakes, as they have a deeper flavor. In comparison to the fresh varieties, dried shiitake is more intense.
It will add a strong meaty flavor to the risotto and simply take it to another level.
To rehydrate dried shiitake mushrooms to use in risotto, you will need to let them sit in hot water for around 20 minutes. All you need to do then is to add the rehydrated mushrooms to the cooking rice. It’s that simple!
Can You Replace Fresh Shiitakes with Dried Shiitakes in Risotto?
Some dishes that require dried shiitakes simply cannot be cooked with fresh ones. However, when it comes to risotto, both dried and fresh shiitake mushrooms work just as well.
With the addition of dried shitakes, you will give the dish a more concentrated flavor.
One thing to keep in mind is the proportions. Dried shiitakes expand in size once they are rehydrated. Thus, you will need to use a smaller amount than you would with fresh shiitakes.
2. Portabella Mushrooms
Portabella mushrooms are another great option for risottos. They are especially a good choice for those who are looking for a meaty taste in a risotto.
In fact, portabella is a mushroom often used to make vegan burgers, where the grilled portabella cap replaces the patty.
Portabella mushrooms have large caps and come in a range of colors.
These mushrooms have a chewy texture and a slightly smoky taste. Because they are larger, portabella mushrooms don’t retain as much moisture as others which results in a meaty texture.
Portabella Mushroom Risotto: A Substitute For Meat Risotto
Portabella mushrooms are often referred to as ‘plant-based’ meat and there is more than one reason to that.
While portabella mushrooms do not taste exactly like meat, they are very thick and meaty in texture.
As far as the taste goes, both portabella mushrooms and meat have umami flavor. The latter is described as savory and ‘meaty’.
While portabellas, and mushrooms in general, do not contain as much protein as meat does, they are a good source of protein. 100 grams of portabella mushrooms contain 4% protein (of the DV).
If you are looking into eliminating meat from your diet, you can easily substitute beef or chicken in risotto with portabella mushrooms. You will not miss the meaty flavor much and will get a delicious rich-tasting mushroom risotto.
How To Pick Portabella Mushrooms
When picking a portabella mushroom, keep in mind the following.
- Portabella mushroom caps should have an allover even color. There shouldn’t be any blemishes on the cap.
- The cap should feel firm and never mushy.
- Examine the gills. They should de dark brown and not damaged. To check if portabella mushrooms are fresh, pay attention to the dryness of the gills. If the gills are moist, the mushroom is going bad.
3. Porcini Mushrooms
If you want a risotto with wild mushrooms, then porcinis are one of the best choices.
Porcini mushrooms have a somewhat nutty flavor and a reddish-brown color. The taste of porcini mushrooms is quite intense.
The texture of fresh porcini mushrooms is quite delicate. Nonetheless, they are suitable for a variety of dishes, from soups to risotto and sauces.
Porcini is also one of the few mushroom varieties that doesn’t turn brown when cut.
Preparing Porcini Mushrooms for Risotto
To prepare porcini mushrooms for risotto, it is essential to first examine them to see if they are good to use.
As porcinis are a wild variety, it is important to pay close attention to each mushroom you are working with. There are two things to pay attention to: the stem and the gills.
- Analyze the stems. Porcinis mushrooms have thick stems. Check to see if there are any holes in them. If yes, cut those parts out if the entire mushroom is not affected.
- Pay attention to the gills. The sponge of porcini mushrooms should be white. Green or brown sponge means that the mushroom is old and not suitable for use.
To prepare porcini mushrooms, scrape off the dirt from the stems. Don’t soak porcini mushrooms in the water as they will lose their fragrance. Instead, wash under running water and pat dry with a paper towel.
Once you have cut off affected parts of the stem, cut the beautifully shaped porcinis into slightly thick slices.
Porcinis will preserve their shape and unlike many other mushroom varieties, they will maintain the nice creamy color even after being cooked.
Dried Porcini – A Popular Choice for Mushroom Risotto
Dried porcini mushrooms are one of the most used mushroom varieties for risotto. It is not surprising as fresh porcinis are not the easiest to find.
As dried porcinis taste as delicious as fresh ones, there isn’t much difference in using the dried variety. Some people even prefer dried porcinis over the fresh ones as they have a nice smoky flavor.
Additionally, the shelf life of fresh porcinis is quite short – up to 3 days if kept in a paper bag in the fridge.
Dried porcinis keep for over 6 months in an airtight container.
When prepared right, dried porcinis add the right texture and flavor to the dish. You simply need to soften the pre-cut dried porcini slices in hot water.
Let them sit in hot water for around 15 minutes and only then add the mushrooms to the rice.
How to Use Fresh Mushrooms to Make Risotto
Mushrooms have very high water content. This is why you need to get rid of the liquid in mushrooms before you mix them in with the cooking rice.
To prepare fresh mushrooms for risotto, you will need to heat the pan well and give the mushrooms a little fry until the water content is diminished. You can do this with or without olive oil.
Make sure to get a nice color on the mushrooms to make them look good once you combine them with the Arborio or other Italian short-grain rice variety.
Once the mushrooms release their moisture, you can introduce your own flavors to them.
Unlike dried mushrooms, fresh ones don’t have intense and deep flavor. This makes it important to correctly season the mushrooms.
Garlic, thyme, and mushrooms are a match made in heaven. You can also add salted butter to give the mushrooms added flavor and caramelization.
Mushroom Risotto Tips
Making mushroom risotto is not difficult. However, as with all dishes, there are some culinary secrets and techniques to master.
Here are some tips for making the ultimate mushroom risotto.
Tip 1: Make use of the stems
With some mushroom varieties, including shiitake mushrooms, the stems should be cut off before cooking. However, even though they are stiff, there is still lots of flavor in the stems.
Use the stems to make a delicious mushroom stock and use it to cook the rice for risotto.
Tip 2: Make use of the dried mushroom liquid
Don’t let the soaking liquid go to waste.
Once you take out the rehydrated mushrooms from the water they have been sitting in, use the flavorful liquid in combination with the chicken stock. Doing this will add more depth to the risotto.
Tip 3: Mix and match
Don’t stick with one variety of mushrooms. If you are cooking a risotto with fresh shiitake mushrooms, adding a handful of dried porcinis will make your dish exceptionally good.
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