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Porcini substitute

I'm making a braised duck ragu that calls for porcini mushrooms. Rather than spend $10 for the porcini, I'm hoping to substitute an herb. Do you think thyme would lend a similar earthiness as porcini? Other suggestions? Thank you in advance.

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  1. To my taste, thyme has a brighter flavor profile. I use porcini a lot and am doubtful that it can be subbed effectively. Maybe use cremini mushrooms?

    If I were to try to suggest the flavors with other ingredients, I would consider a concoction of tomato paste, a very spare splash of fish sauce, and for herbs maybe some sage and perhaps even a two or three mere leaves of rosemary. I would even consider experimenting with some canned smoked oyster. The stronger ingredients all in great moderation. But that's still all speculation!

    1. No. Thyme would lend an entirely different flavour to it. Not that you shouldnt use it - just be aware that it won't be the same dish. Could you not add ordinary mushrooms (whatever is "ordinary" wherever you are in the world)?

      1. I don't really think it will be at all similar, though it might well be very good.

        If you want to use dried porcini and they are too expensive, you can sometimes find a cheaper porcini powder, that while not as good, will be much closer to the taste of actual porcini.

        1. I don't think there is an herb that can substitute for porcini mushrooms. I think you would do better to reduce the amount of porcini, add some fresh mushrooms that you have roasted in a dry pan, and then use the porcini liquid.

          I do think, however, if you have paid top dollar for the duck, it is an odd choice to cut the porcini. This sounds like "special" meal food to me. If you can't afford the porcini, perhaps a different ragu recipe would work better for you? I love the Duck Ragu in Molly Steven's "All About Braising" as an example.

          1. I have found dried mushrooms in eastern European grocery stores that are 1/2 to 1/3rd the price as porcinis. Here in Chicago we have a large Polish population and I think the mushrooms might be from Poland. The mushrooms are not quite as strong as porcinis but a acceptable substitute. I am not sure of the name because the bags are never marked.

            I don't think herbs can substitute for mushrooms.

            4 Replies
            1. re: cajundave

              I agree no herb could possibly substitute for porcini. I was going to suggest just drying some very thinly sliced button mushrooms at home as a last ditch substitute, but if they're available, your suggestion is a lot easier.

              1. re: MikeG

                Do you have Polish neighborhoods in NYC?

                1. re: cajundave

                  We have one, or one that was traditionally Polish (Greenpoint), anyway, but it's pretty far out of the way. I've seen dried 'shrooms in other grocery stores though - Russian, "Central European", etc. - they're pretty popular among Central/Eastern Europeans generally. And drying them yourself is really easy, in any event.

              2. re: cajundave

                Dried mushrooms are readily available in supermarkets where I am and would, of course, be a good substitute for the fresh porcini.

              3. Truffle oil, preferably black would lend the earthiness you're seeking. Thyme, or most other herbs would add an herbaceuos note. Dried shiitake would be a less costly substitute for the porcini.