It's About Time You Started Using More Cooked Mushrooms In Your Salads

Among the very best salad and salad dressing recipes are a handful of delicious salads that include the satisfying texture and flavor of roasted vegetables. While many salad lovers enjoy chowing down on a plate of chopped raw produce, nothing amps up a meal salad more than adding in a variety of assorted toppings and flavorful extras. What better way to consume colorful and nutritious vegetables than intermittently changing how they're prepared? Next to steamed kale and roasted peppers, perfectly cooked mushrooms might be the ingredient your epic salads have been missing as of late.

While you can certainly add raw mushrooms to your next plate of salad, their sponge-like consistency leaves them a bit undesirable as common raw salad toppings. Mushrooms are made up of over 90% water, which might sound more soggy than savory. But when cooked properly, they transform into tasty, umami-flavored foods that are perfect to add to any dish, including your next hearty salad. Specifically, cooking mushrooms can activate the Maillard reaction. This leads to the development of complex flavors thanks to the way a food's amino acid and sugar content respond when exposed to sufficient heat. Besides water, mushrooms are composed of protein, carbohydrates, and various amino acids that can create epic flavors when cooked.

There's more than one type of mushroom to cook for your next hearty salad

When considering various ways to add more flavor to mushrooms, simply cooking your next round of edible fungi is sure to produce extremely tasty results. However, there are a few cooking methods that bring out mushrooms' umami goodness, making this vegetable the perfect addition to your next bed of mildly flavored greens. While certain meats, cheeses, and soups produce this signature umami taste, mushrooms impart a similar, complex flavor profile with a bit of roasting or sauteeing. Yet what type of mushrooms are most recommended when it comes to upgrading your next meal salad?

In terms of the types of mushrooms and how to best cook them, you can always opt for the popular supermarket standby and use white button mushrooms, yet you may need to add extra seasonings since this variety tends to have a more nuanced flavor. For those of you hoping to taste more of a pronounced mushroom flavor from the start, choose cremini mushrooms, which are just button mushrooms picked later in life. For those of you who want not only a distinct savoriness from your mushrooms but also a hearty composition, opt for porcini or king oyster mushrooms. Now that you know the flavor benefits associated with specific mushroom varieties, you might also like to know that these cooked delicacies also come with additional health benefits.

Why cooking mushrooms is always a good idea

While some salad ingredients, like watercress, broccoli, and bell peppers may be more nutritious when consumed raw, your body can obtain more nutrients from cooked mushrooms versus fresh varieties from the cold section of your supermarket. According to the Institute of Culinary Education, mushrooms maintain their firm exterior thanks to a tough fiber called chitin, which humans have difficulty digesting in raw form. For your body to absorb more of the nutrients found within mushrooms, that tough exterior should be softened and broken down through mild forms of cooking. Just make sure you don't cook mushrooms for too long or roast them at too high of a temperature because you would risk losing those precious antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Mushrooms are unique not only for their ability to cultivate that umami taste, but these complex vegetables also contain many of the same nutrients found in certain meats and carbohydrates such as selenium and copper. Given mushrooms' uncanny ability to be transformed into deliciously complex foods through mild forms of cooking along with their associated health benefits, you now have more than one reason to make warm wild mushroom salad.