Portobello (Portobella) Mushrooms

portobello mushrooms
photo credit: gourmetsleuth


Portobello, pronounced [por-toh-BEHL-loh]The portobello also called portabella is really simply a brown crimini mushroom in disguise. Evidently the usage of the two words "portobello vs. portabella" is simply an issue of a marketing brand. Once the little brown crimini grows up to be about 4" - 6" in diameter he is deemed to be a portobello.

And How It Got Its Name

A brown crimini mushroom is a juvenile portobello. There as many theories on the heritage of the name as there were for why is a Flatiron steak called a Flatiron steak!  We referred to Elizabeth Schneider's vegetable bible "Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini" for some truth and learned that the only information available is theory.  It seems that there are as many "origins" as there are experts to quote them.  Here are some of the main ones:
  • Named after Portobello Road in London which has many high end antique shops and other fashionable establishments.
  • Named after a T.V. show called Portobello
  • The portobello in Northern Italy is called "cappellone" which means "big hat".
The most important thing to know is that it is a big brown mushroom.  Its little brother (crimini) is a little brown mushroom.

Buy And Store

Select plump firm and solid mushrooms. Avoid the limp or dried looking ones. They should not be shriveled or slippery (which indicates decomposition).  The mushroom should have a nice earthy smell.

Remove the mushrooms from any wrapping and spread on a tray and cover with paper toweling.   Don't moisten the toweling or the mushrooms and place them in the refrigerator in an area that allows the air to circulate. Avoid placing any other items on top of them. The mushrooms should keep about 5 - 6 days.

Cooked Portabellas can be frozen and will keep for several months. Place in freezer containers or bags, excluding as much air as possible. (Uncooked mushrooms don't freeze well.)

Basic Cooking Preparations

Portobellos can be grilled, oven roasted or sautéed.
    • Basic Grilled Portobello - Brush mushrooms on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Grill for 5 to 6 minutes on each side until just cooked through.
    • Oven Roast - Brush Portobellos with oil. Place on a baking sheet cap sides up. Roast in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes.
    • Sauté - In a skillet, cook sliced, chopped or whole mushrooms in a little oil or butter over medium-high heat, stirring or turning until tender, about 5 to 6 minutes. Other ingredients such as onions, peppers, and garlic, can be cooked along with the mushrooms. Season with your favorite herbs or spices.

Fun Fact about Portobello (Portobella) Mushrooms

Nutrition Information For Portobello (Portobella) Mushrooms

Serving Size
1 cup diced
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g
Saturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 5mg
Total Carbohydrate 4g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 2g
Protein 2g
Vitamin A  0% Vitamin C  0%
Calcium  0% Iron  0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Grow Your Own

You can purchase the cultures and medium to grow your own mushrooms if you are so inclined. Mushrooms require frequent misting and unless you grow them in quantity you may pay as much or more for supplies than you would just purchasing them at your local produce market.  But if this sounds like it's up your alley and you want to know just where your mushrooms come from then check out of of the resources below for supplies.

Resources For Growing Your Own

Mushroom People - Everything you need to know and buy to grow your own organic mushrooms.

Gardener's Supply - Mushroom Kits Cleaning And Uses

Cleaning Your Mushrooms

As with most other mushrooms, portobellos should not be washed. Simply tap them on the counter to loosen any growing medium. You can twist the stem to remove it but use caution as you could break the mushroom cap. You may alternately use a small sharp knife and cut the stem even with the inside of the gills.

Mushroom Uses

Portobellos in the U.S. have become the "vegetarian meat". Grilled they have a very meaty texture and are served grilled as salad toppings and even as a burger. They are also a perfect companion for polenta and can be stuffed and baked as well. 

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of GourmetSleuth.com she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.