6 Best Shiitake Mushroom Substitutes That You Can Use

If you’re a mushroom lover, chances are your first introduction to these delicious fungi was the shiitake mushroom. This mushroom originated in Asia but is now popular all around the world. It has a strong umami flavor and is mature enough that it won’t crumble apart when exposed to heat.

Most of the time you are able to find shiitake mushrooms fairly easily, but that isn’t always the case. Some grocery stores may not have them or you may just want to switch the flavor profile of your foods up a bit. Regardless, you’ll want a substitute for shiitake mushrooms.

The best substitutes for fresh shiitake mushrooms are: 

  1. King Oyster Mushrooms
  2. Portobello Mushrooms
  3. Porcini Mushrooms
  4. Cremini Mushrooms
  5. Enoki Mushrooms
  6. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms

Make sure to read about each point before picking your substitute. The substitute you should use will vary depending on the flavor you’re looking for.

Why is Shiitake Mushroom So Popular?

One of the biggest questions that you may have is why, above all other mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms are so popular. The main reason behind their popularity is a special flavor that is mostly spoken about when discussing mushrooms, umami.

The umami flavor can best be described as savory and somewhat meaty. It is basically the part of the meat that makes it so satisfying and it can be found in certain vegetables, like shiitake mushrooms. This meatiness is a big reason that these mushrooms are so popular, especially among vegetarians.

In their native region of East Asia, these mushrooms are used to make broth, as part of stir fry, and as a meat replacement. Meat was often considered a food that was only for the rich in Asia. Therefore, people would use shiitake mushrooms to make their foods more satisfying without having to purchase expensive meat. 

You can use these small mushrooms in everything from soup to a meat replacement in most dishes. You can purchase shiitake mushrooms either fresh or dried. When they are dried, the umami flavor is even more intense. If you are looking to make a mushroom broth, shiitake mushrooms can be a great way to do that and are much easier to store.

One last reason that shiitake mushrooms are so popular is that they are readily available. Unlike some other mushrooms, you can find shiitake mushrooms in various forms in most grocery stores. You kind find whole shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced shiitake mushrooms, and dried shiitake mushrooms pretty easily.

What Substitute is Closest to Shiitake?

Although shiitake mushrooms are typically readily available, this isn’t always the case. You may find it difficult to find shiitake mushrooms in your area or you may not like the texture or exact flavor. For whatever reason, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to use a substitute for shiitake mushrooms. 

There are multiple delicious substitutes that you can use. Some of the best are:

  1. King Oyster Mushrooms
  2. Portobello Mushrooms
  3. Porcini Mushrooms
  4. Cremini Mushrooms
  5. Enoki Mushrooms
  6. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms

1. King Oyster Mushrooms

You’ve probably heard of oyster mushrooms as they are one of the most popular mushrooms on the market. However, you might not have heard of king oyster mushrooms. These mushrooms are technically a type of oyster mushroom but are differentiated by their flavor and size.

King oyster mushrooms are the largest out of all the types of oyster mushrooms. They also have a distinct flavor that makes them a better substitute for shiitake mushrooms. Regular oyster mushrooms have a lighter flavor and while this is still good, it isn’t at quite the same level as shiitake mushrooms.

In contrast, king oyster mushrooms have a much meatier flavor that gives plenty of umami flavor, the main reason that shiitake mushrooms are popular. They also have a somewhat meaty texture when cooked, making them a great option if you’re looking for a new meat substitute in your diet.

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Generally speaking, the king oyster mushroom has a different shape than the shiitake mushroom. Instead of having a large cap, these mushrooms have a thick stem and normally, this is the part that is processed and eaten. Just make sure to wash it well beforehand to prevent any dirt from the stem from getting into your food.

2. Portobello Mushrooms

One of the most popular shiitake mushroom substitutes is portobello mushrooms. These mushrooms rival the shiitake mushroom in popularity and are frequently used as a meat substitute in vegetarian diets.

It’s easy to recognize these mushrooms with their large caps and they are frequently a part of many dishes. If you’ve ever gone to an Italian restaurant, chances are you’ve seen portobello mushrooms listed as an alternative to meat in many of their dishes like chicken alfredo.

Portobello mushrooms are very large mushrooms that are typically sold with the stems removed. That way you can just purchase the caps and won’t have to deal with the tougher stem in your recipe. 

They are most popular for their meaty flavor and texture, making them an excellent substitute for the shiitake mushroom. They also hold up better against heat making them a good option for slow-cooked recipes. You won’t have to worry about them falling apart like some other mushrooms, the oyster mushroom, tend to do when exposed to heat.

3. Porcini Mushrooms

Although the porcini mushroom is common throughout Europe and one of the most used mushrooms in recipes, its popularity hasn’t caught on as much in the United States. They are frequently used in pasta dishes to give them a more savory flavor without having to add meat.

These are small mushrooms with a rounded brown caps and short stems. Although they can be eaten fresh, and taste delicious that way, they are most commonly purchased and used in their dried form. 

When they are dried, porcini mushrooms are frequently used for pasta because boiling them allows the flavor to be extracted. This can make any dish much meatier and more flavorful. It also rehydrates them, returning them to a chewy texture that is enjoyed by many. 

Like the other mushrooms on this list, porcini mushrooms are also known for their umami flavor. However, in addition to the umami flavor, you will also taste a nutty and earthy flavor. This makes them incredibly popular for use in cooking since they have such a rich flavor. You won’t have to worry as much about seasoning your dish when using a mushroom like this one.

The one issue you might have with this mushroom is that if you’re looking for a fresh mushroom, you may not be able to find it. A lot of the time stores will only sell dried porcini mushrooms.

4. Cremini Mushrooms

If you’ve ever been in the store looking through the mushroom section, you’ve probably seen something advertised as the “baby bella.” They are sold as portobello mushrooms, just smaller. However, they technically have a name and are considered cremini mushrooms.

Technically, cremini mushrooms are just portobello mushrooms that have not been allowed to fully mature. This means that they have a less mature flavor and are not quite as meaty as portobello mushrooms. 

They won’t have the same level of umami flavor, but they also won’t be as tough. This makes it easier to use the stems in addition to the caps and you won’t have to cook them as long to make them tender.

Cremini mushrooms are a great option if you’re making something like a stir fry that contains faster-cooking vegetables. That way, you won’t have to worry about overcooking the others while you are waiting for your cremini mushrooms to become tender.

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They are a firmer mushroom, even though they aren’t as mature as the portobello. For this reason, like the shiitake mushroom, these mushrooms are a great option when you want to make a soup. You won’t have to worry about the mushrooms falling apart as you do with younger mushrooms like the button mushroom.

5. Enoki Mushrooms

Unless you are super familiar with Japanese cuisine, chances are you’ve never seen or tasted enoki mushrooms before. These fast-cooking mushrooms are popular in Japanese cuisine and are most commonly used in soups since they’ll cook rapidly in the hot broth.

Compared to the other mushrooms on this list, enoki mushrooms certainly have a unique appearance. Instead of having one primary stem with one cap, they have hundreds of tiny stems and mushroom caps. They grow in bunches and are usually harvested the same way to help keep all the individual mushrooms together.

They still have a meaty flavor like the shiitake mushroom, but it is slightly lighter than the flavor that you’ll get with the portobello mushroom. If you’re not such a big fan of the intense mushroom flavor, you may really enjoy this type of mushroom. 

One of the most popular ways to eat them is in dishes like ramen. You’ll wait until the hot broth is served and then immerse them in the broth for a few minutes. They are delicate enough that the hot broth should cook them relatively quickly.

To find these mushrooms you may need to take a trip to your local Asian market. They can sometimes be difficult to find in mainstream supermarkets.

6. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms

If you’re unable to find fresh shiitake mushrooms at your local grocery store, you may be surprised as to how good of a substitute for fresh shiitake mushrooms they can be.

One of the main benefits of using dried shiitake mushrooms in place of fresh shiitake mushrooms is that they are much easier to store. Storing fresh shiitake mushrooms can be hard to get right and they will spoil relatively quickly even when stored correctly. As long as dried shiitake mushrooms are kept away from moisture, they can stay fresh for months. 

If you are using dried shiitake mushrooms as a fresh shiitake mushroom substitute, you will want to rehydrate them before using them. The easiest way to do this is to let the dried mushrooms sit in a bowl of warm water for at least 30 minutes. This will let them rehydrate a bit and help to start releasing the flavors before you add them to your recipe. 

You should be able to find dried shiitake mushrooms at most grocery stores. If they are not on display with the rest of the mushrooms, you may find them in the Italian or Asian section of the store along with other seasonings and dried ingredients.

Final Thoughts

Shiitake mushrooms are a delicious type of mushroom that is most commonly used in Asian or Asian-inspired dishes. It has a strong umami flavor, making it easy to cook a super satisfying dish even if you don’t include meat. They are also readily available, making them a good option if all you have access to is your local grocery store.

If you are not able to find shiitake mushrooms, or you just want to switch things up a bit, there are several good alternatives that you can use. Some of the best alternatives for shiitake mushrooms are king oyster mushrooms and portobello mushrooms. Both of these mushrooms have a strong umami flavor and meaty texture that makes them super satisfying.