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Sara Hansen

Grilling Portobello Mushrooms = A Great Option for Meatless Burgers

We recently broke down everything you need to know about grilling delicious hamburgers for your next backyard cookout. But what if you have some vegan or vegetarian friends or family and you want to do a meatless burger option? Your answer lies in the king of mushrooms, portobellos. Grilling portobello mushrooms can make a fantastic, hearty go-to for a vegan burger that even meat-lovers would enjoy. 

Portobello mushrooms, which are mature cremini mushrooms, can range in size from 3 inches to 6 inches in diameter and about 1 to 1.5 inches thick. This makes them the perfect shape and size to sit on toasted hamburger buns and their texture holds up well to grilling. 

When exposed to live fire, the umami and other hearty flavors found in mushrooms really come to life. This results in a rich, meaty flavor and a texture that is just firm enough. Plus, due to their sponge-like nature, mushrooms easily absorb the complex flavors of your wood smoke.

Like many other things you can cook on the grill, there are some specific recommendations to follow to ensure you end up with a properly cooked result. Portobello mushrooms can quickly become tough on the surface if not grilled correctly. 

Here’s what you need to know when it comes to grilled portobello mushrooms:


Prep the Mushrooms Properly - 

The preparation before your portobellos go on the grill is just as important as how you are grilling them. So, under the cap, make sure to remove the thick and fibrous stem and use a spoon to scrape out the dark brown/black gills. The gills are edible but can often have a gritty, muddy flavor. 


prepping portobello mushrooms | portobello mushroom burgers | grilling portobello mushrooms
Source: Edible Times


Make Sure They Are Clean -

Another part of prepping the mushrooms is making sure they are clean and free of dirt. You can either wipe the surface down with a damp paper towel or quickly rinse and then dry them. Just make sure you don’t let them soak in water because then they will absorb a bunch of water and not be able to absorb any marinade.


Score the Tops - 

When prepping the mushrooms, you also want to use a sharp knife to score the top of the mushroom cap in a small cross-hatch pattern. This will help them absorb more of the marinade, keeping them tender and preventing them from becoming overly chewy.


Definitely Use a Marinade - 

Mushrooms are very good at absorbing liquid. So, a marinade will not only help flavor them but will also keep them tender. Make sure to generously coat both sides of the portobellos and let them marinate at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes. You don’t want to marinate for more than about 30 minutes or else the mushrooms can start to get overly soggy.


Use Complementary Flavors in Your Marinade - 

Certain flavors in particular go well with the natural earthy flavor of mushrooms. Balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, rosemary, and similar ingredients will help enhance the umami flavor and provide a balanced flavor profile


Save the Leftover Marinade - 

Unlike when you are using a marinade with raw meat and have to worry about cross-contamination, it is safe to save the leftover marinade after you remove your portobellos to put them on the grill. And you’re going to want to use the remaining marinade during your cooking. 

(Once the mushrooms have been cooking on one side and you’re ready to flip, brush some more of the marinade on them to keep them tender.)


portobello mushroom burgers | grilling portobello mushrooms | how to grill portobello mushrooms
Source: Food Network


Season the Mushrooms Lightly & Just Before They Go On the Grill - 

If you’re going to season the portobellos don’t go overboard with too much and too many different flavors. You don’t want to compete with the marinade too much. So, just lightly season the mushrooms with some salt and pepper just before you are ready to put them on the grill.


Make Sure the Grill Temperature is Right - 

When it comes to grilling portobello mushrooms (and other vegetables and fruit), you want to get the grill ready for direct-heat cooking over medium heat (350° to 450°F). If you go much hotter than that you risk the mushrooms burning quickly.


Prep the Grill Grates Too - 

Not only do you want to make sure the grill temp is ready to go but you also want to prep the grill grates properly too. First, once they’ve heated up, brush the grill grates off to make sure they’re properly clean. Then, lightly brush some high-heat compatible cooking oil on the grates to ensure your mushrooms don’t stick to the grates.


Always Start Grilling Portobello Mushrooms Cap Side Down - 

You always want to put the mushrooms on the grill with the cap side down (gill side up). Starting them on this side will ensure you capture more of the smoky flavor into the meat of the cap and get proper char lines.

Bonus tip: If you are going to use wood chunks or chips for additional flavor, go with a lighter flavor of cooking wood, like oak, so you don’t overpower the natural mushroom flavor.


portobello mushroom burgers | grilling portobello mushrooms | how to grill portobello mushrooms
Source: The Spruce Eats


Avoid Overcooking Them - 

Portobello mushroom burgers don’t take long to cook. You only want to grill them for 4-6 minutes per side. They’re done when they are slightly tender and have released some of their juices (each mushroom can hold as much as two tablespoons of liquid).


Stay Close to the Grill - 

When it comes to grilling portobello mushrooms and not burning them, it is very important to not venture too far from the grill. You want to keep the lid closed but set a timer for grilling each side and check them promptly.


Don’t Be Afraid to Get Creative With Toppings - 

Another fun part of grilling portobello mushrooms is topping them with delicious ingredients just like you would with regular burgers. Some great toppings for mushroom burgers include grilled beefsteak tomato slices, arugula lettuce, grilled onions, and even grilled pineapple for a sweet and savory combo.


Try Out Portobello Mushroom Burgers Today

As you can see, large portobello mushroom caps make a great beef burger substitute for any meatless guests you may be planning for. They’re even a great option for when you’re looking to cook something different for yourself. Fortunately, mushrooms are one vegetable that holds up very well on the grill. 

Follow our recommendations above and you’ll end up with deliciously grilled portobello mushroom burgers that will have anyone’s mouth-watering. 

Make sure to also check out our article on some great additional vegetarian food options for your grill. 

Have you grilled portobello mushrooms recently? Plan on trying your hand at grilling portobello mushrooms soon? Let us know in the comments below. We want to hear from you!


If you want to elevate your backyard cooking game, make sure to check out our Backyard BBQ Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy today! You’ll learn straight from the pros how to cook a variety of grilling favorites in easy, step-by-step virtual classes.

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Sara Hansen

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