Do White and Brown Mushrooms Taste Different?

By the editors of Cook's Illustrated

Does the loss of color mean a loss of flavor? We ran an experiment to see—and taste—for ourselves.

Despite their differing appearances, white button and cremini mushrooms (and portobellos) actually belong to the same mushroom species, Agaricus bisporus. Creminis are mini-portobellos, brown in hue and evenly rounded. We think of creminis as a recent introduction to the marketplace, but all button mushrooms were actually brown until 1926, when a mushroom farmer in Pennsylvania found a cluster of white buttons growing in his beds, which he cloned and began selling as a new variety, which tend to be a bit cheaper than creminis. Does the loss of color mean a loss of flavor?

  Mushrooms

THE EXPERIMENT

We sautéed white button and cremini mushrooms and tasted them side-by-side in risotto and atop pizza.

  Mushrooms

THE RESULTS

The flavor of the creminis was noticeably deeper and more complex. This difference in taste was also apparent, though less obvious, when we compared both types of mushroom sprinkled raw over salads. The lesson? If bolder mushroom flavor is what you're after, it's worth shelling out a little extra for creminis.

  Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

RECIPE FOR MEMBERS: Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

Now that you know your cremini from your white button mushrooms, make something with them! This rich, nutty-tasting soup calls for creminis, and we found a way to bring their earthy flavor to the forefront.

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