BySamantha Maxwell/Dec. 17, 2021 2:29 pm EDT
For some people, mushrooms are a luxury. Their earthiness and meaty textures make them a go-to kitchen staple for those who love rich, intense flavors and chewy bites that bring something special to a dish. For others, though, mushrooms are a no-go. If you fall into the latter category, it may just be because you haven't yet tried a variety of mushroom that you really like.
See, in the U.S., a massive portion of the mushrooms we eat all come from the exact same species. And if you've only had these types of mushrooms for your whole life, we can understand how you wouldn't be fond of them. But in reality, there are so many different types of mushrooms to choose from, and they all boast different textures and flavor profiles.
That's why we've decided to round up some of our favorite mushroom varieties. We're covering the classics, of course, but we also want to give some of the more under-the-radar mushroom species the recognition and praise they deserve. Give these mushrooms a try if you've never had them before, and you might just have a new favorite food on your hands. Let's take a closer look.
1. Button mushrooms
If you've only ever had one type of mushroom in your life, we're going to assume that you had a button mushroom. This variety of mushroom is very common, and it's probably what you see whenever you're in the produce section at your grocery store. Actually,button mushroomsare the same species as cremini and portobello mushrooms (we'll get to those later), but they are just harvested at an early point in their growth cycle. The result is a mild, somewhat unremarkable flavor.
Because they don't have a super strong flavor, they're often used for their texture. They can be added raw to a salad, and their somewhat tough and chewy texture makes for an interesting addition to a plain plate of lettuce. When they're sautéed or grilled, the flavor becomes deeper and richer, making them better for sauces or even as a side dish. We suggest adding plenty of spices and herbs to button mushrooms if you don't want them to come out bland.
Button mushrooms are a solid option when you're looking for something quick, easy, and affordable, but if you're not a fan, you should definitely branch out and try other options out there.
2. Shiitake mushrooms
If you're familiar with Asian cuisines, you may have come across shiitake mushrooms before — they're common in a variety of East Asian dishes. Some believe that they have medicinal benefits, which means that they often make an appearance in healthy soups. They look different than what you may be used to if you're usually a button mushroom person: Shiitake mushrooms have thin stems and wide caps that have an umbrella shape to them.
Wondering how they taste? They're not super strong, so they're great for beginners, but we also think that they tend to be more flavorful than button mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms have a woodsy, earthy taste to them when eaten raw, but when cooked, they take on a rich umami flavor that tastes amazing in a variety of dishes. They're commonly sautéed, or you can easily add them to soups, but shiitakes also taste good fried and roasted. Add them on top of a pizza if you want to take your pie to the next level.
3. Maitake mushrooms (hen of the woods)
While some varieties of mushrooms are easy to find at your local grocery store, others are not quite so simple to locate. If you have a well-stocked farmers market in your area that sells mushrooms, you're in luck, and you can probably find maitake mushrooms, also often referred to as "hen of the woods." Otherwise, you may only see this kind of mushroom in the woods. It's very important that you don't harvest mushrooms from the wild if you do not have intimate knowledge of fungi, as many mushrooms can be extremely poisonous. But who knows? You may be able to spot some the next time you go for a hike.
Some people may not appreciate The flavor of maitake, but we think it has a lovely, subtle meaty quality to it that pairs well with a wide range of foods. They're found in clusters, and the tops of the mushrooms form a feathery pattern. These mushrooms are particularly good sautéed, and we love adding them to stir frys for a meat-free alternative.
Wondering where you can find them in the wild? According to Edible Wild Food, maitake mushrooms appear globally, including the U.S. and Canada, as well as China, Japan, and across Europe.
4. Cremini mushrooms
Wild As Light/Shutterstock
We've already learned about button mushrooms, but what about cremini mushrooms? They're also known as baby bella mushrooms, and they're the same species as button mushrooms, but they're just harvested later in the growing process. Because they've been allowed to mature for longer, they're meatier and more savory than their younger cousins. For this reason, we tend to prefer cremini mushrooms over button mushrooms (but if you're not already a big mushroom person, the opposite may be true for you).
These are also extremely versatile mushrooms, so they can be used in most recipes that call for mushrooms. You can eat them raw in a salad if you tend to like them uncooked, but they take on a whole different dimension when they're sautéed, roasted, or grilled. And if you're on the hunt for the perfect mushroom for a creamy, savory risotto, you may just have found what you're looking for in the cremini.
5. Enoki mushrooms
If you're not already a fungi fanatic, then enoki mushrooms may seem just plain strange. But stick with us here: These are actually some of our favorite mushrooms out there, and we think you'll like them too if you give them the chance. They have long, thin stalks that branch together in a bunch. Those stalks have tiny, button-like caps on top. You don't eat these mushrooms one at a time — rather, you eat one of the bunches at a time.
Enoki mushrooms are commonly used in a variety of Asian cuisines. You can cook the bundle of mushrooms in a variety of ways, or you can leave them completely raw if you want to add a nice touch of crunchiness to a salad or veggie dish. However, they're also really delicious in soups and shabu shabu. Cook them down until they're nice and tender, and they make an amazing addition to a bowl of brothy noodles. Want to cook your enokis on a skillet? We advise getting them nice and brown with plenty of crunchy edges. This makes your mushrooms sweeter and offers some extra sweetness to the flavor.
6. Porcini mushrooms
All for you friend/Shutterstock
If you're a fan of French or Italian cuisine, then you may have come across porcini mushrooms at some point in your culinary journey. Porcinis are thick, hearty, and meaty, which makes them excellent as a meat replacement or in dishes that require plenty of cooking time.They have a woodsy flavor to them that's a little more intense than many of the mushrooms on this list. It's definitely a mushroom-y mushroom, if that makes sense, so it may not be our first choice for beginners. For the seasoned mushroom lover, though, porcinis are the way to go.
Wondering how to cook them? Porcinis make an excellent addition to a risotto, as they will hold their shape and texture better than many other, less hearty mushrooms. They also make an excellent addition to soups and stews. You'll often find dried porcini mushrooms, which can easily be reconstituted in dishes such as braised brisket.
7. Portobello mushrooms
From the same species as the button mushroom and the cremini mushroom, portobello mushrooms are simply harvested later than the other two, which is why they're so much bigger than their cousins. Since they have grown the longest of these three varieties, they have the strongest and most intense flavor. However, because portobellos are used so commonly in so many dishes, most people shouldn't find the flavor itself too unappealing. And if you usually love the richness and umami flavors of mushrooms, then portobellos should be some of your favorites.
These mushrooms are notable for their size: They're considerably bigger than most other mushrooms on this list. The stems are often trimmed, and you're just left with a large cap. We love slicing and sautéing the cap, but it's also amazing just thrown on the grill as it is with a little marinade if you want to make a portobello mushroom burger.
When you're looking for a hearty mushroom that has a wide appeal, portobellos will always be there for you.
Now we're getting into the luxury mushroom category. If you love fungi, you've probably heard of morels before. These are some of the most sought-after mushrooms in the world thanks to their deep, nutty flavor and unique spongy texture. And according to AllRecipes, they're also some of the most expensive mushrooms on the market. This is because they're not cultivated domestically — the only way you can get them is by going out in the wild and picking them yourself. (But again, you should not do this if you're not an expert!)
You may have only seen them on the menus of your favorite restaurants, but you can sometimes find them at farmers markets if you're lucky. Once you get your hands on them, you may feel like you're under pressure to make them as good as they can be. Keep things simple: Sautéing morels in butter will bring out their natural, nutty flavor, and you'll get the chance to enjoy them all on their own.
9. King oyster mushrooms
We have to confess that king oyster mushrooms, also sometimes known as trumpet or king trumpet mushrooms, are some of our favorites, and if you've ever had one, you probably already know why. These odd-looking mushrooms pack a ton of flavor into every bite, and it's almost uncanny how meat-like the texture is. MasterClass compares the texture to seafood, like scallops or calamari. The stem on these mushrooms is large and dense, and although you can eat the cap too, it really is the star of the show.
While you may tend to think of mushrooms as side dishes, trumpet oysters challenge that assumption. Because of their texture and their striking appearance, they make an excellent main course for vegetarians and omnivores alike. We think that they're amazing when they're seared or grilled and seasoned generously with salt and oil. Don't be afraid to treat these mushrooms like meat if you really want to make a standout dish.
10. Oyster mushrooms
Here's another favorite of many: the very delicious oyster mushroom. They get their name because of their caps, which are similar in color and in shape to oysters. These mushrooms grow in clusters, which we love, because the thin edges of each individual mushroom can get nice and crunchy when you employ certain cooking techniques. Similar to the king oyster, this type of mushroom has a slight seafood flavor to it. The flavor is delicate and mild, but it's more complex than many other types of mushrooms. While the appearance of oyster mushrooms can turn some people off, the taste is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
Wondering what to do with oyster mushrooms once you get your hands on some? We love them as a simple sautéed side dish, but you can also add them to pasta and risotto to provide an interesting texture. Oyster mushrooms are incredibly versatile, so if you can think of something that might pair well with them, you're probably right.
If you want a mushroom that's going to be a showstopper before you ever take a single bite, you can't go wrong with chanterelles. These mushrooms have a gorgeous yellow-orange hue to them that's so bright, you might think that these were poisonous if you didn't know better. Chanterelles generally grow in the wild, but you may be able to find them for purchase at some specialty stores or farmers markets. Since they're not the most common mushrooms around, you may have to pay a premium for them, but we guarantee that they're worth the splurge if you can manage it.
When you first bite into a chanterelle, you'll notice a deeply woodsy flavor. If you're not used to eating a lot of mushrooms, it may not be your style, but for those who love eating mushrooms, it's sure to be a hit. Since they are so flavorful on their own, you can simply sauté some chanterelles in butter for a glorious side dish. If you choose to add them to another dish, just make sure that they get the spotlight they deserve. You don't want to hide a fungus this beautiful.
When you think of a high-end mushroom, what first comes to mind? If you're like a lot of people, you'll think of truffles. Truffles may have been overplayed on many menus in recent years, but your disdain for truffle-lesstruffle oil or truffle fries shouldn't keep you from enjoying the real thing: Fresh truffles really are something amazing. There are three different varieties, according to Eataly: white, black, and burgundy. They all offer slightly different flavors, and they're all available at different times of year. Truffles only grow in the wild, so they can be prohibitively expensive. If you can get your hands on some, though, you'll see what the hype is all about.
This type of fungus is unlike any other mushroom on this list. You won't want to cook it at all, as that can ruin the truffle's delicate taste. Rather, you'll want to shave it over top of pasta or other dishes. You'll be amazed at the amount of flavor the truffle imparts. Since truffles can be quite expensive, they're not exactly an everyday thing, but they can take a special dinner to a whole new level.
13. Black trumpet mushrooms
Never had a black trumpet mushroom before? The first time you see it, you may be surprised by the color: This fungus really is black. But when you take a closer look, you'll see that it doesn't have a structure that's too far off from an oyster mushroom or a chanterelle (it's sometimes called a black chanterelle). We love black trumpet mushrooms because of their rich, concentrated taste. In fact, they're so flavorful that they even taste similar to a black truffle (according to The Cook's Cook, they're known as the "poor man's truffle" in Eastern Europe). Black trumpets are available dried but they're delicious when they're fresh too, though, which means that they make an excellent addition to stir frys. They can be a bit delicate, so you won't want to apply really intense heat for too long.
You'll find these mushrooms growing in the woods as well, particularly if you live in the Midwest or the East. They typically pop up in late summer, so keep your eye on the trail the next time you go for a hike during August and September.
14. Brown beech mushrooms
Brown beech mushrooms are often also found in Asian cuisine, but they can be used in an incredibly wide range of dishes. That's because of their mild flavor and generally pleasant texture. Although they come clustered together in a bunch, they're easy to separate into small, separate mushrooms that make excellent additions to stir frys, risottos, pastas, and other dishes. The flavor of brown beech mushrooms is nutty and buttery. Keep it simple by steaming or sautéing these versatile mushrooms, or make a rich butter sauce for them to bathe in. You can eat them raw — they have a lovely crunchy texture that makes an excellent addition to salads.Speaking of salads, a pickled beech mushroom addition will add some welcome brininess.
Brown beech mushrooms are an excellent option for those who are trying to branch out and try new varieties of mushroom. The texture isn't too intimidating, and the flavor is light and pleasant.
15. Lion's mane mushrooms
Lion's mane mushrooms aren't something you see every day, but when you do get the chance to check one out, you'll be amazed. You've probably never seen a mushroom like this before: Basically, it resembles what a weeping willow would look like if it were a small fungus. It's incredibly recognizable, and as it grows in North America, Europe, and Asia, there's always a chance you can come across it on a hike. With its distinctive look, you'll have no problems spotting it.
While this strange-looking mushroom may not appear to be edible, you can totally eat it. The taste is subtle and almost seafood-like, according to Edible Wild Food. The inside of the fungus is quite meaty, making it a fantastic meat substitution. As long as the little strands are white, they're edible too, and they can get nice and crispy when you sauté them.
Lion's mane may not be for everyone, but if you want to try something completely different, you should try to get your hands on some. You won't be disappointed!
How do you get the most flavor out of mushrooms? ›
For the most flavor, cook off all water that's released. And to enhance their nutrition prowess, put your pack of mushrooms in the sun for about 30 minutes.What is the most common mushroom for cooking? ›
White button. The most common and most mild mushroom is the white button mushrooms. Button mushrooms are soft in texture and can be eaten both raw and cooked. Use them in soups, salads, pizza, pasta and lasagna (to name a few).What mushrooms do chefs want? ›
“Crimini, shiitake, and king trumpet mushrooms are my favorites to cook with because crimini and king trumpet add a meaty texture, while shiitake mushrooms offer a more delicate texture. Together, they're a trifecta of earthy flavor.Which mushroom is most edible? ›
1. White Button Mushroom. Characteristics: The most common and mildest-tasting mushroom around. Ninety percent of the mushrooms we eat are this variety.What is the best mushroom in the world? ›
- Lion's mane mushrooms.
- Maitake mushrooms.
- Cordyceps mushrooms.
- Enoki mushrooms.
- Turkey tail mushrooms.
- Reishi mushrooms.
- Chaga mushrooms.
- Shiitake mushrooms.
The researchers concluded that the best way to cook mushrooms while still preserving their nutritional properties is to grill or microwave them, as the fried and boiled mushrooms showed significantly less antioxidant activity.Do you cook mushrooms on high or low heat? ›
"Medium-high heat is the way to go with mushrooms. You want their liquids to slowly evaporate while they caramelize," says Norton. High heat can burn mushrooms, while low heat will make them cook in their own liquid, she says. You also want to be mindful of the pan.Should you wash mushrooms before cooking them? ›
"All wild mushrooms should be washed and it is crucial to dry them out afterwards," says Joseph Rizza, Executive Chef of Prime & Provisions in Chicago. "Cultivated mushrooms, like buttons and portobellos can be cleaned using a dry cloth or paper towel to wipe off the excess 'dirt' they are grown in.Which mushroom is poisonous? ›
Poisonous mushrooms, such as Amanita sp. and others, can cause acute fatal liver necrosis. Intoxication by Amanita phalloides, known as the death cap, is caused by a group of toxins termed toxic cyclopeptides.Which mushroom is best for pasta? ›
The best mushrooms for pasta are Portobello, Crimini, Shiitake, Chanterelle, Morel, Oyster, and Porcini. Each type of mushrooms goes best with different types of noodles. You can also choose fresh or dried mushrooms, which will change the texture and flavor profile of the pasta dish.
What type of mushroom is not edible? ›
Seven of the world's most poisonous mushrooms are: death cap (Amanita phalloides), Conocy bettilaris, web caps (Cortinarius species), Autumn skullcap (Calerina marginata), destroyin angels (Amanita species), Podostron a cornu-damae and deadly dapperliry (Lepiota brunneoincarnata).Which mushrooms are best for gut health? ›
Mushroom species such as turkey tail, reishi, lion's mane, and chaga are all species that possess gut health-supporting benefits. From their immune defense capabilities to mood-supporting properties, these species of mushrooms are making our list of the four best medicinal mushrooms for gut health.What are the 4 types of mushrooms? ›
There are four types of mushrooms: saprotrophic, mycorrhizal, parasitic, and endophytic. While there are many different types of mushrooms within these categories, not all of them are edible. Since some may be poisonous or hallucinogenic, it's important to be careful if you ever try to pick mushrooms in the wild.Do different mushrooms taste different? ›
Mushrooms have delicious flavors that vary from rich and decadent to subtle, delicate and fresh depending on the type of mushroom. Because of their meaty, umami taste, vegetarians and vegans often use mushrooms as a meat substitute in their dishes.