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.
On that note, let’s now look at how to cook baby bella mushrooms. Or you can also click here to learn how to cook portobello mushrooms in more depth.
Uses and recipes
Before you start cooking with them, you need to learn how to pick baby bella mushrooms at their freshest to get the most out of them.
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.
For an easy baby bella-focused lunch, the A Couple Cooks food blog has a few great recipes, taking inspiration from Italy with this mushroom and parmesan pasta, and Mexico via France with this brie and mushroom quesadilla.
Mushroom and Parmesan Pasta
- Boil salted water in a pot, and cook pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, but save ½ cup of the water for later.
- Sauté onions with olive oil in a pan for a couple minutes on medium high heat, then add cleaned and chopped mushrooms for another couple. Add ½ tsp. salt and cook for 3-4 more minutes. Incorporate the butter and lemon juice and cook for a couple more minutes on high heat with additional salt if necessary. Then add breadcrumbs and remove the mixture to a bowl.
- Fry minced garlic and red pepper flakes in the same pan with olive oil and butter for a couple minutes on medium low heat until right before the garlic browns. Then remove from heat.
- Combine the pasta, garlic mixture, mushroom mixture, parmesan cheese, and a little of the pasta water until the sauce has a good consistency. Serve warm.
Brie and mushroom quesadilla
- Sauté cleaned and thinly sliced mushrooms in a large sauce pan with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper on medium heat for 5-7 minutes, or until golden. Place the mushrooms in a bowl.
- Heat more olive oil in the pan, then heat the tortillas, placing slices of brie on one side of them so nothing sticks out in the bare pan. Then layer with mushrooms, arugula, and more brie slices on top. Put a little honey on the other side of the tortillas. Then fold the bare tortilla sides onto the layered sides.
- Cook the quesadillas for a couple minutes on each side, until the cheese is melted in the middle. Remove from heat and cut up into slices. Serve warm with parsley.
Or if you’re looking for cold weather comfort food, then you can’t go wrong with their hearty and creamy yet entirely vegan mushroom soup recipe.
Vegan mushroom soup
- Soak cashews in water in a covered bowl. Set aside.
- In a soup pot, heat olive oil and add diced onion, peeled and diced carrots and sliced celery, and lightly brown the vegetables. Add cleaned and sliced mushrooms and salt and cook for 2 minutes, then add minced garlic and cook for 2 more. Then add the vegetable broth, kosher salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, garlic powder and pearled barley and simmer with the pot covered for 20-25 minutes.
- Take 2 cups of the hot soup and put in a blender with the cashews, cornstarch and soy sauce. Blend until creamy, pour into the soup and let it simmer for 5 more minutes.
- Serve warm.
If you’re interested in expanding your repertoire of mushroom cooking (and your palate), try some of the recipes listed in 6 ways to cook porcini mushrooms, giving you an opportunity to nearly master this delicious ingredient. But if you’re in a less experimental mood, there’s the opportunity to try stuffed portobello mushrooms, a fast, easy recipe that can be adapted to preparation with different fillings.
Ever wondered what the most prized mushrooms are for cooking? There are a number of varietals, but one delicacy you’d be very fortunate to try is the matsutake mushroom. Native to Japan, and with a shrinking habitat, the mushroom is becoming difficult to get a hold of, and commands higher and higher prices as it becomes harder to obtain.