Why Mushroom Powder Is A Chef-Favorite Umami Booster

Chefs seriously know how to maximize their at-home pantry. Anyone who cooks for a living does not want to exert too much effort to cook for themselves and their families when they get home after a long day. However, chefs have good taste, of course, and definitely are not going to sacrifice flavor for the sake of ease. This is where a well-stocked pantry becomes important. It should include both filling bases to start a meal and easily incorporate flavorful ingredients that can make something simple really pop.

For Padma Lakshmi, long-lasting produce items like onions and garlic are a must. Beans and lentils are key for Alex Guarnaschelli, and for Giada De Laurentiis, a flavor heavy-hitter like Calabrian chili paste makes all the difference. Forrest Brunton, chef at Chasing Sage in Charleston, South Carolina always has mushroom powder on hand. Brunton suggests adding this versatile ingredient to dishes like beef bourguignon, ramen broth, or vegetable stock for an umami boost.

What is mushroom powder?

Mushroom powder is made by finely grinding dehydrated mushrooms. Porcini and shiitake mushroom powders are common, but there are lots of options these days. There are medicinal mushroom powders geared toward health benefits, often using reishi or lion's mane varieties. Often called umami powder, mushroom powder can also be sold in blends, like the popular Trader Joe's Umami Seasoning. These can be great multi-purpose seasonings for your pantry. Just be sure to read the ingredients carefully as these blends can also add quite a bit of salt to your dish.

Just like how the taste of fresh mushrooms varies, so does the taste of the powders. Lion's mane powder is mild and has a cocoa-like scent, while shiitake powder is very bold in taste. In general, mushroom powders impart a warm earthiness and depth of flavor. Mushroom powder works great with anything you would eat mushrooms with, like steaks and creamy pastas. It helps add oomph to vegetarian braises and broths and can even work well in sweet dishes. Just like how a little bit of earthy coffee in a chocolate dessert helps the chocolate flavor shine, mushroom powder can be used in the same way. Candy cap mushroom powder is a great option for sweet treats, as it has maple notes.

So next time you're making a quick pack of ramen noodles or a batch of brownies, reach for the mushroom powder to add a major umami boost.