Mushrooms are not often thought of as being the main ingredient in hot sauce and up until recent years have probably had never been used. As hot sauces develop and evolve exotic and lesser-known ingredients are being used, to include mushrooms.
Adding mushrooms to a hot sauce will produce an umami flavor profile not often found in hot sauce. Although there are over 600 edible varieties of mushrooms there are only a few types that are found in commercially sold hot sauces. Mushrooms can add unique flavor, change the flavor profile, and a thick consistency when used in a hot sauce but will not add much unique seasoning if they are not one of the more prominent ingredients.
Like many ingredients in hot sauce, mushrooms can be used in many ways but their overall flavor impact may be minimal. According to PBS.org mushroom consumption is as old as eating hot peppers but the two haven’t been combined to create a hot sauce until recently.
The mushrooms that are consumed today are mostly the button mushroom which makes up nearly half the consumption. These, and all mushrooms, are usually classified in the vegetable category although they are fungi. Mushrooms combine with many varieties of peppers including hot peppers. This allows the mushroom to absorb some of the spiciness that it does not naturally have to create unique flavoring.
Mushrooms are often described as being “meaty” or “beefy”. They fall under the flavor profile of umami, which stands alone as its own flavor profile along with salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. This is the same category, but not necessarily the flavor of meat, seafood, seaweed, and soy sauce to name a few (healthline.com) . Mushrooms, specifically shitake are known to be packed with umami flavoring.
Dried mushrooms will have a more intensified umami flavor to them. The removal of water makes a less watery hot sauce and concentrates on the flavor. In this form they may need to be reconstituted before they are made into a hot sauce, depending on the process. The process of reconstituting is done by soaking the dried mushrooms in water for 20 – 30 minutes before using them. If this is not done they can absorb some of the other flavors after the sauce is made. This could alter the flavor of the end product.
What do mushrooms do to a hot sauce?
Mushrooms will not eliminate the heat of a hot sauce but reduce the pungency based on the mass. Adding mushrooms to a hot sauce will create a thicker sauce due to the solid structure of the mushroom itself. If the mushrooms are cooked before processing this can release some of the water and make a creamier sauce.
In general, a medium-sized mushroom will only have a few calories, giving very few additional calories to an already low-calorie condiment. Adding mushrooms to a hot sauce will provide vitamins, fiber, and protein that a hot sauce may not otherwise have.
Many mushrooms have a deep and dark brown color to them, especially when blended and this color can influence the appearance and shade of a hot sauce. This color becomes deeper and darker if the mushrooms are cooked before they are added to a hot sauce.
Mushrooms can become mushy and almost slimy when they are cooked. This allows them to become a creamy consistency when they are blended. This texture makes a thicker hot sauce. The overall flavor of the mushrooms may not be as strong against other ingredients and will therefore need to be enhanced by limiting ingredients and not watering down the mushrooms.
Mushrooms can be cooked in a variety of ways or used plain in a hot sauce. This alters or enhances the flavor, consistency, and appearance of the mushrooms and can be used to accentuate the flavor profile within a hot sauce.
There are over 10,000 varieties of mushrooms but only 614 that are edible. Out of those numbers, there is only a handful that is used in hot sauce recipes. That is because there are only about 20 varieties that have a recognizable and desirable flavor. Of these the porcini, shitake, cremini, and lion’s mane variety are found in various hot sauces. Each of these mushroom varieties can cost as much as $30 per pound except for shitake which is about $20 per pound.
A portabella mushroom is probably one of the better-known and more accessible mushrooms available. There are known for their deep flavor and dark brown color. Often compared to having a steak-like flavor and appearance. Their deep umami flavor develops even further if they are cooked.
Porcini mushrooms are popular in gourmet Italian cooking for their strong flavor. Porcini mushrooms are easily cultivated and this makes them readily available. These can be found in most large grocery store chains, specialty shops, or through this link to Amazon in dried form.
Shitake mushrooms are native to East Asia and are one of the more popular button varieties. These mushrooms are higher in calories than the average mushroom but have a lot of vitamins and minerals and pair well with spicy food.
Cremini or crimini mushrooms, like shitake and porcini, are also readily available. Cremini have an earthy “mushroom” flavor to them often thought of as savory. Portobello are a matured version of a cremini mushroom.
Lion’s mane mushrooms may not sound as common as some other mushroom varieties but they are also very common and obtainable. Of the mushrooms in this article lions mane have the most unique flavor and are said to taste like lobster or crab.
Seed Ranch Umami
Seed Ranch uses porcini and shitake mushrooms. These mushrooms are listed about halfway through the ingredient list above any hot peppers which means that it is more a mushroom flavor than a hot pepper flavor. This is also why the sauce has such a deep rich red flavor and low heat level.
Dawson’s Cremini Habanero
Dawson’s Cremini Habanero lists the cremini mushrooms at the top of the ingredient list the habanero peppers being second. This makes it a very hot sauce with a lot of mushroom flavor. The mushrooms lend to the sauce being thick.
Lion’s mane piri piri by Heatonist
Lion’s Mane Piri Piri is another example of hot peppers and mushrooms not being the main ingredient. Even though this sauce contains habanero peppers and not piri piri. Lion’s mane mushrooms also come in form of a capsule superfood as an energy boost for your brain. Putting this variety of mushrooms in a hot sauce could help boost these benefits.
Although mushrooms are not the first go-to ingredient for a hot sauce they are becoming used more often as exotic flavors and rare ingredients get used. As the demand for new and creative hot sauce flavors expands manufacturers are reaching for new ingredients like mushrooms…don’t be left out of the trend.