The Real Difference Between Button Mushrooms And Portobello

Hy Zaret was really on to something when he co-wrote the massive hit "Unchained Melody" that gave us the poignant lyrics "time can do so much." It's true in so many facets of life — and when it comes to nature, enough time can even turn one type of mushroom into another!

Button mushrooms and portobello mushrooms look totally different. One is smooth and white while the other is more textured and brown. But the truth is, they're actually the same thing! According to quizzical site What's the Difference?it all has to do with, yep, time — and the aging process. 

Button and portobello mushrooms — and their other counterpart cremini mushrooms — are all scientifically known as Agaricus bisporus and, in reality, each of the three is just in a different part of their lifespan. The pristine, white skin of a button mushroom is not unlike soft baby skin, which makes sense since they are the baby of the bunch. Cremini mushrooms (or baby bellas as they're affectionately called) have a bit more grit and are in their angsty teenage years. While portobellos, which have had some more time to grow past the cremini stage and are much larger, are the adults in the kitchen. 

Mushrooms are now all the rage, but it wasn't always that way

No matter which type of mushroom you choose, all are incredibly popular. In fact, according to What's The Difference?, the entire Agaricus bisporus family accounts for 90 percent of mushroom production in the United States and it's said that a grown human can eat up to 2 pounds of them a year.

Though, according to the Washington Post, portobello and cremini mushrooms haven't always been an easy sell in the United States. There was a time when grocery stores couldn't sell them at all, and growers had to throw them out. Eventually, the flavorful portobello mushrooms caught on, due in part to tastemaker New York restaurants and food writers giving them their due props. There's also the fact that vegetarianism has grown in popularity and portobellos are known as the "steak" of the veggie world (per Foreman Grill Recipes) due to their size and texture as they cook.

Real Simple further explains just how good of a meat substitute portobellos are, like in Shake Shack's popular 'Shroom Burger. On the other hand, according to Food & Nutrition, button mushrooms have a milder flavor (though it intensifies as they are cooked). You can always try a recipe that calls for both, like Pizza Today's Super Beefy Mushroom Pizza and have the chance to taste the difference for yourself!