The Implosion of My Mushroom-Averse Mind




Maple Balsamic Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Havarti, Walnuts and Spinach


I’ve never liked mushrooms.  Combine the unappealing idea of eating fungi along with a rubbery texture and “earthy” taste (i.e. a polite way of saying they taste like dirt) and now you know why I never particularly dug these decomposers.

Did I think they looked cool?  Of course.  I always liked the shape as you can probably tell by the drawing below.

Cartoon Toadstool
This is the cartoon toadstool character I created when I was 10 or 11 years old. Am I aware the name Señor El Toadstool makes no sense? Yes. And before you ask, yes I was a weird kid.

I always found mushrooms to posses an unusually alluring aesthetic.  Some sort of odd combination of funkiness and beauty.

C’mon, a naturally growing circle of mushrooms is called a fairy ring so I can’t be the only person with mixed feelings about these fascinating organisms 

Recently I’ve tried to be a little more open minded and have done some experimentation with mushrooms.  Culinary experimentation only, thank you.

In July, I had some sesame flavored enoki mushrooms in ramen.  In September, I made an apple-goat cheese risotto with both dried porcini and fresh mushrooms.  And just last week I posted the recipe for my cremini mushroom mac ‘n cheese.

But mushrooms were never the main component of any of these dishes.  It was time to cast the humble mushroom in the lead role.

And boy, was I surprised.

I served these Maple Balsamic Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms as an appetizer.  They were followed by a New York Strip Steak accompanied by sautéed spinach and mashed sweet potato.

No joke, I could have eaten a whole plate of these stuffed portobello mushrooms as the entrée instead of the steak.  I think I could eat them every day for an entire week.  After my first bite, I did want to eat them every day for a week.

They didn’t taste like dirt.

They weren’t rubbery.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I always feel a little strange raving about my own food but honestly, this dish blew my mushroom-averse mind.

The creaminess of the Havarti cheese.  The mild toast on the walnuts.  The rich, almost caramel-like sweetness of the maple balsamic reduction.  And yes, the genuine earthiness of the mushrooms.

I had to revise my F.A.Q page.  Mushrooms had been fairly high up in my list of disliked foods and there I was craving more stuffed mushrooms.

Stuffed with cheesy nutty deliciousness or not, I was craving a fungus cap.  What is life?

Am I now enamored with this sect of the eukaryotic kingdom?  Yes and no.

Yes, these stuffed portobello mushrooms have become one of my favorite recipes.  They taste amazing and I still feel pretty healthy while eating them.  Plus they’re a perfect party appetizer and they’re ridiculously easy to make.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Maple Balsamic Reduction

In general, I still find restaurant mushrooms to be rubbery.  I don’t see myself ordering a burger covered with mushrooms or a burger with a mushroom for the patty.  I don’t think the words “This portobello mushroom burger tastes just like beef,” or “You fooled me portobello mushroom steak, I could’ve sworn you were actual steak!” will ever come out of my mouth.  If they do, kudos to you, you tricky fungi.

If I want a burger, I’ll have a burger— likely topped with cheese and either caramelized pineapple or green peppers.  But if I want a mushroom, I’ll make these adorable stuffed mushrooms and that’s okay too.


Maple Balsamic Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Havarti, Walnuts and Spinach




Recipe Type: Appetizer

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Makes 6 mini mushroom caps

Topped with a sweet maple balsamic reduction and jam-packed with walnuts, spinach and creamy havarti cheese, these stuffed portobello mushrooms are an easy appetizer for your next party!

Stuffed Mushroom Ingredients

6 mini portobello mushroom caps
3/4 cup chopped spinach leaves
1/4 cup crushed walnuts
1/3 cup shredded havarti cheese
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt, pepper, thyme

Maple Balsamic Reduction Ingredients

1/4 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar


  1. Bring maple syrup and balsamic vinegar to a boil and reduce over medium low heat for about 5 minutes until slightly reduced. It should be bubbly with a beautiful golden red color.
  2. Set aside and let cool.
  3. Combine spinach leaves, walnuts, lemon juice and 1/4 cup of the shredded havarti cheese in a bowl.
  4. Place mushroom caps on a baking sheet.
  5. Drizzle a small amount of the maple balsamic reduction in each mushroom cap then season with salt, pepper and dried thyme.
  6. Stuff each mushroom cap with the filling mixture. The mushroom caps should be nearly overflowing with the filling mixture because the spinach will shrink as it cooks.
  7. Either top each mushroom with remaining cheese or reserve the rest of the havarti for a garnish.
  8. Cook for 25 minutes at 400°F.
  9. Drizzle with maple balsamic reduction and serve the stuffed portobello mushrooms warm.

Pairs Well With

Block_Salad      Walnut and Cranberry Orzo Pasta Salad     Grilled Steak       Garlic Mashed Potatoes


* Make sure not to cook the maple balsamic reduction too long or else it will take on the consistency of a very sticky caramel. While delicious, the candy-like maple balsamic will seize up and become difficult to drizzle on the mushroom caps.

* Don’t want to dirty your guests’ hands but still want to serve these stuffed portobello mushrooms as a handheld hors d’oeuvre? If sturdy toothpicks are too boring, try serving in Chinese porcelain soup spoons. Alternatively, use more of the maple balsamic reduction inside the mushroom caps and drizzle less on top.

* To make the mushroom caps even more of a party-friendly dish, top the mushrooms with the remaining havarti cheese right before cooking rather than use it as a garnish. When the havarti melts, it will create a thin layer of cheese that will help hold the rest of the filling inside the mushroom.

* If you’re in the mood to turn these stuffed portobello mushrooms into an entrée, try serving over rice, orzo or creamy smashed potatoes.

* To recreate the mushroom caps photographed above, garnish with remaining havarti and serve over a bed of sautéed spinach. Alternatively, forgo the sautéed spinach and lightly drizzle the maple balsamic reduction over the plate.


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