Baby bella mushrooms are a smooth, brown-capped fungi with a deep and delicious savoury flavour. They’re easy to get mixed up with other types of mushrooms, especially as they belong to a variety that’s picked at different stages of maturity – each suited to different uses in the kitchen. Not helping matters is the plethora of names for mushrooms of this species, so let’s clear up any confusion here and now by learning all about baby bellas.
Facts about Baby Bella Mushrooms
Baby bella mushrooms are also known as cremini mushrooms. They are the same variety as white button mushrooms but picked when they’re more mature, which results in a more developed flavour.
Baby bella mushrooms are also the same variety as Italian portobello (or portabella) mushrooms, but a stage younger. Baby bella mushrooms, white button mushrooms, and portobello mushrooms are simply different maturations of the agaricus bisporus fungus species.
So if you can’t find baby bella mushrooms by name, large white button mushrooms or small portobello mushrooms will generally suffice (we will cover the differences in more depth below). For the record, baby bella mushrooms are usually labelled portabella by the US Mushroom Council.
There are few calories in baby bella mushrooms (about 19 calories per cup). They are also low in fat and cholesterol free.
On the subject of baby bella mushroom nutrition, they are, like most mushrooms, one of the only vegan sources of dietary vitamin D, as well as a good source of B vitamins. They also contain a decent helping of potassium and phosphorous, and small amounts of calcium, magnesium, sodium and folate.
Baby bella mushrooms also contain selenium, niacin, copper and pantothenic acid.
Combined, the minerals in baby bella mushrooms can help maintain healthy immune and cardiovascular systems, improve bone health, and potentially prevent chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.
Differences with other Mushrooms
Difference between Baby Bella (cremini) and White Button Mushrooms:
As mentioned above, white button mushrooms are the same variety as baby bella mushrooms but picked at an earlier stage of maturation. Despite their name, white button mushrooms are generally light brown when grown in the wild, but white (or off-white) when cultivated.
White button mushrooms are the most commonly available and widely consumed variety of mushrooms in the world, despite generally tasting mild and uninteresting. In fact, that is probably their greatest strength, as it makes them very adaptable. They’re a good all-rounder and can be used in all types of recipes.
For a more robust flavour in a still fairly versatile mushroom – especially if you’re simply looking to sauté them – go for baby bellas.
Differences between Baby Bella (cremini) and Portobello Mushrooms:
Portobello mushrooms are at the other end of the scale to white button mushrooms. They are the most mature of the agaricus bisporus, and therefore the largest and most flavourful.
Moreover, portobello mushrooms are also the meatiest, which makes them a natural choice for vegetarian burgers. Of course, it also helps that they are roughly the size and shape of a burger patty too.
Of course, you can use portobellos as an easy meat substitute in other ways too, including sandwich fillings and mushroom steaks. There’s nothing stopping you from slicing them up and cooking them either, but at that point you’re probably better off choosing baby bellas.
Ideally, a baby bella mushroom’s rounded cap should curl underneath so that it touches (or almost touches) the stem, covering its gills. When a baby bella mushroom is showing its gills, it’s no longer fresh. (However, that doesn’t mean it’s not fit for consumption, just that it’s not at its best. Of course, if your mushrooms have gone slimy or mouldy, then it’s time to throw them out.)
Anyway, now you’re ready to cook, let’s start with the simplest way to enjoy baby bellas in all their glory. Lisa at Jersey Girl Cooks has an easy method of sautéing them with a red wine pan sauce here. It only takes 25 minutes and uses a single pan, with the result being a perfect side for steaks and pastas.
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