A new study from the Culinary Institute of America and University of California-Davis, published in the Journal of Food Science, explored the flavor-enhancing properties of mushrooms and found that blending finely chopped mushrooms with ground meat enhances flavor and nutrition. 

This proof-of-concept sensory study provides the basis for how mushrooms and meat can combine for healthier alternatives to iconic American dishes. As the study shows, a traditional ground meat recipe prepared with 50 percent mushrooms and 50 percent meat can:

• Reduce calorie intake, while adding nutrients like vitamin D, potassium, b-vitamins and antioxidants

• Enhance the overall flavor, because of double the impact of umami

• Maintain flavor while reducing sodium intake by 25 percent

Greg Drescher, study co-author and vice president of strategic initiatives and industry leadership at The Culinary Institute of America adds, "Mushrooms have really come into their own as a solution to changing dietary patterns, earning their place on the plate with their nutrient quality, flavor impacts and incredible functionality across the menu."

The "Blendability" technique of blending finely chopped mushrooms and ground meat together allows consumers to enjoy healthier versions of the recipes they love (like burgers, tacos, meatballs, meatloaf and pasta sauces) without sacrificing taste. Blendability is served on menus from fine dining establishments to street festivals and Ivy League to elementary school cafeterias.

Linton Hopkins, Atlanta-based restaurateur and "Burger Time" creator, is one of the leading chefs experimenting with mushrooms on his menu in different ways. His top reasons for serving mushrooms to his clients and family include:

• Add flavor with umami. "Mushrooms add an earthiness to burgers and a deep, savory tone that is pleasing to the bite."

• Create savory texture with a roasted mushroom and meat blend. "What people love about a great burger is texture, and by roasting the mushrooms you can nail it."

• Enhance the nutrient value with mushrooms, they go with almost everything. "White button mushrooms are a staple in my house and restaurants thanks to their accessibility, they amplify the flavors of my favorite meals, and they're the perfect consistency for Blendabililty."