Mushroom Magic: How to Substitute Mushrooms for Ground Meat | Midwest Living
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Mushroom Magic: How to Substitute Mushrooms for Ground Meat

Here's how to blend meat and mushrooms in your favorite recipes, a mix that's good news for the planet, your health and your pocketbook. We tell you the basics of blending and also give recipes for family-friendly main dishes such as tacos, meatballs, burgers, stuffed peppers and calzones.

Sure, we love vegetables. But not enough to give up our burgers entirely. That’s why we’re newly obsessed with the technique of blending ground meat with mushrooms. The finely chopped ’shrooms are barely detectable; their benefits, on the other hand, are clear. Mushrooms are low-cal, cholesterol-free and nutrient-rich. Stretching meat with them often saves money. And they’re ecological rock stars, growing in natural, recyclable compost and requiring almost no light or water. (Compare that to the carbon footprint of, well, almost anything else!) Inspired by chefs who have embraced the concept, we created five family-friendly recipes. But once you master the basics, the blending possibilities are endless.

Better-for-You Taco Meat

We fed these beef tacos to several kids (and one mushroom-hating adult). No one noticed the secret ingredient. See our recipe for Better-For-You Taco Meat.

The basics of blending

Four things to know before swapping meat for mushrooms in your fave recipes.

1 Beef, pork, lamb, turkey,  chicken, even sausage—any ground meat is fair game.

2 The ratio of the blend is flexible … to a point. Use 8 ounces mushrooms to 1 pound meat for meatballs and burgers, or up to a 1-to-1 ratio for a casserole or sauce.

3 Finely chopping the mushrooms is key. A knife works, but a food processor is helpful if you have one.

4 Cook mushrooms in olive oil first. Mix them into raw meat for meatballs and burgers. Or brown meat with the ’shrooms for sloppy joes or chili.

The basic of blending mushrooms

Mushroom tips

• If you buy loose mushrooms, store them in a paper bag in the refrigerator. They’ll “breathe” and stay firm and dry longer.

• If you want to keep them a secret, use white button mushrooms. For a slightly stronger mushroom flavor, choose cremini (baby bellas).

• Mushrooms are the produce aisle’s only source for vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium.

Family Favorites Reinvented

You can change the meat in these recipes to match your tastes or what’s on sale.

Tacos l The flavor here is totally old-school, perfect for wrapping in a tortilla or piling onto a baked potato, nachos or a taco salad. In a large skillet, cook 8 ounces finely chopped mushrooms in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until tender and most liquid has evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Add 8 ounces ground beef, breaking it up with a spoon. Cook until meat is no longerpink, about 5 minutes. Add 3⁄4 cup water and 2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix. Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Meatballs l Tasty as is, but also adaptable: Add ginger for hoisin-glazed meatballs, or fennel and rosemary for Italian ones. In a large skillet, cook 8 ounces very finely chopped mushrooms in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until liquid evaporates, 8 to 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine 1 egg, 1⁄4 cup milk, 2⁄3 cup soft bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon pepper and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. Stir in mushrooms and 1 pound ground pork. Shape into 12 golf ballsize balls. Bake on a greased, rimmed baking sheet at 400° until done (160°), about 20 minutes.

Burgers l Hands down, this is the most flavorful, juicy turkey burger we’ve tried. In a large skillet, cook 8 ounces very finely chopped mushrooms in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until liquid evaporates, 8 to 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine mushrooms, 1 pound ground turkey, 1⁄2 cup grated onion, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, and 1 teaspoon each garlic powder, salt and pepper. Form four 3⁄4-inch-thick patties. Grill on a well-greased rack over direct, medium heat until done (160°), 14 to 18 minutes, turning once.

More Mushroom-and-Meat Recipes

Middle Eastern Stuffed Peppers

Finely chopped mushrooms replace some of the beef in these hearty stuffed peppers, flavored with warm spices, feta cheese, pine nuts, dried cranberries and herbs. Middle Eastern Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Cheesy Spinach and Beef Calzone

Kids will never notice the 'shrooms have replaced some of the meat in these super family-friendly calzones (made with purchased pizza dough). Cheesy Spinach and Beef Calzones Recipe

How green are they?

Eating mushrooms really has a planetary impact: One pound requires only 1.8 gallons of water to grow. And because mushrooms double in size daily, 1 acre of land can produce a staggering 1 million pounds of mushrooms annually!

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