The practice of eating mushrooms has been going on for a long time – a very long time indeed. Some theories suggest we were eating mushrooms back in the Stone Age, while plenty of evidence points to mushroom consumption at least in Ancient Egypt and in Rome. The Romans even cultivated mushrooms for a time, highlighting their continued popularity.
Mushrooms continue to be popular, with many people interested in enjoying as many different types of mushrooms as possible. And, why not be fascinated by mushrooms? Each type of mushroom has its own distinct characteristics, including differences in size, color, shape, and flavor. It’s no wonder that so many people are dedicated to foraging for and trying mushrooms.
Of course, care is needed if you’re foraging for mushrooms on your own. Many types of mushrooms can make you ill, and some are even deadly. Determining whether you’ve found a safe or a poisonous one isn’t as easy as you might hope for, especially as there’s so much variation within single mushroom species.
Today, we’re focusing on 19 popular edible types of mushrooms. Some will look familiar, while others may be completely unexpected. Why not try a few of these in your kitchen today?
19 Types Of Mushrooms
Button mushrooms should be instantly familiar. These are the white or brown capped mushrooms that you find in grocery stores. These feature in a large variety of recipes, including pasta, omelets, and risottos. They’re also delicious sauteed with plenty of garlic, perhaps served on toast or on their own.
These mushrooms belong to the Agaricus bisporus species and have a mild flavor. This subtle flavor is related to the fact that the mushrooms are harvested young, when they are still immature.
Button mushrooms aren’t just familiar; they’re also extremely popular. They’re so popular, in fact, that when most people talk about mushrooms, they’re referring to button mushrooms.
Cremini mushrooms belong to the same species as button mushrooms. They’re simply the next step up in terms of maturity. Because they’re a little more mature, the mushroom heads tend to be darker.
These mushrooms are also more flavorful and drier than button mushrooms, features that are also linked to the maturity of the mushrooms. Cremini mushrooms can be used in the same way as button mushrooms and you can often simply substitute one type for the other.
Indeed, the extra flavor means that cremini mushrooms will often taste better than button mushrooms in many recipes. Interestingly, while cremini mushrooms are more mature than button mushrooms, they’re still considered immature.
Portabella or portobello mushrooms are another version you might be very familiar with. They come from the species Agaricus bisporus as well and are the most more mature version.
With this maturity comes a meatier texture and a cap that has opened up much more, exposing dark gills. The large size of portabella mushrooms makes them fantastic for stuffing. They can even be used as a type of vegan meat substitute.
Portabella mushrooms are even grown purposefully large to give them a considerable meaty cap. This process decreases the flavor somewhat, meaning that cremini mushrooms often have a more intense flavor than portabella ones. That tradeoff works well in many situations. After all, you mightn’t want to want your mushroom meat substitute to taste too much like mushroom.
Who can go past chanterelle mushrooms? Not only is this golden-hued mushroom incredibly beautiful, but it is also a tasty mushroom, perhaps one of the best for eating.
The golden chanterelle, Cantharellus cibarius, is the most popular type chanterelle mushroom, although there are other chanterelle species as well, many of which are delicious. Much of their popularity comes from chanterelle’s distinct fruity and peppery flavor. This flavor is so revered that you’ll even find the mushrooms served alongside truffles.
The flavor can vary depending on the type of chanterelle you choose, along with where it was grown. That brings up another important point – you won’t find chanterelle mushrooms sold at your local grocery store, as they form a symbiotic relationship with trees. As a result, the mushrooms need to be foraged for.
With their long thin stalks and stark white color, enoki mushrooms are easy to recognize. You’ll often see them sold with an attached root base, which needs to be removed before you start cooking the mushrooms.
The mushrooms are normally served cooked and are quickly ready to eat. They have a nutty and somewhat fruity flavor, although the flavor notes are subtle. The mushrooms are also crunchy, especially when they haven’t been cooked for long. This is another reason for their popularity.
Enoki mushrooms work well in many recipes, including stir fry, soups, ramen, omelets, and many others. You’ll often see the mushrooms served in bundles, as the long stalks are just as tasty and edible as the mushroom caps.
While interest in enoki mushrooms is fairly recent in the United States, the mushrooms have a long history in other countries, including Japan and China. As such, there’s no shortage of recipes that take advantage of their flavor profile.
Oyster mushrooms have a mild flavor, one that’s said to taste a little like seafood (hence the name). They come in a few types, including the pearl oyster mushroom, which is small, tender, and has minimal stem. There’s also the king oyster mushroom, which has a meatier texture and a thick white stem.
Perhaps the most powerful feature is the meaty texture of the mushrooms when they’ve been prepared well. You can even create BBQ Pulled Mushrooms using king oyster mushrooms. That dish ends up being surprisingly similar to pulled pork.
Of course, these mushrooms aren’t just known for their flavor. They’re thought to offer various health benefits too, partly because of their iron, vitamin D, and B vitamins, along with their antioxidant content.
Hedgehog mushrooms are popular for foragers, partly because they have a delicious nutty flavor and are easy to identify in the wild. The most distinctive feature is the presence of small white spines on the underside of the mushroom cap.
These surprisingly soft spines don’t detract from the mushroom’s use. Hedgehog mushrooms are actually popular for cooking, as they have a meaty texture and absorb too much liquid.
The mushrooms also provide health benefits, as they contain vitamin C, calcium, copper, magnesium, and other important nutrients. There’s a decent amount of protein too, making these a filling addition to any meal.
Chicken Of The Woods Mushrooms
These mushrooms apparently get their name from their flavor and texture, which are both a little like chicken. The similarity is strong enough that chicken of the woods mushrooms feature in a variety of plant-based meat recipes, like this Butter Chicken of the Woods.
The mushrooms look stunning too, as they’re a type of shelf mushroom and grow in layers along the trunk of trees. Interestingly, the mushrooms aren’t good for the trees at all as they’re parasitic and end up causing heart rot to the tree as they grow. Still, they do look amazing, especially with their golden coloring.
While the mushrooms are delicious, it’s important to be cautious. For one thing, Chicken of the woods mushrooms should always be cooked. Eating them raw can play havoc on your digestion. Even after cooking, it’s best to start with a small amount of the mushroom to ensure you don’t have any allergic reactions.
Strange as they seem, morel mushrooms are a valuable ingredient, with notable nutty and earthy flavors. Their texture is interesting, as it’s meatier and much less slimy than other mushrooms. This texture makes morels incredibly useful for cooking.
Morels are also expensive, largely because they’re only found in the wild. Cultivation efforts have been largely unsuccessful, so morel lovers need to forage them or pay an exorbitant price.
Be cautious if you are foraging them, as there are also false morels. These come from multiple species and tend to be poisonous. The most noticeable difference is that real morels are hollow inside, while false morels aren’t. Even so, it’s best to take someone experienced with you until you’re very familiar with the differences.
Beech mushrooms go by a few names, including buna-shimeji, clamshell, and shimeji mushrooms. They look a little strange, as they’re often found in little clusters and can be fairly small.
Yet, the mushrooms are delicious and often used in cooking. They’re also an excellent substitute for enoki and shiitake mushrooms, but they’re not cheap. You’ll often find that beech mushrooms cost more than many other mushroom varieties, partly because they are difficult to produce.
The mushrooms can be white or brown and have a nutty flavor either way. They’re easy to work with too , maintaining a firm texture even when fully cooked.
Black Trumpet Mushrooms
Despite their black coloring, these mushrooms are very much alive. That said, they are sometimes known as trumpet of the dead mushrooms. The trumpet part of that name makes sense too, given that the mushrooms are shaped much like trumpets.
The black coloring of the mushroom makes it tough to forage for, as the debris on the forest floor often has a similar color. Still, the mushrooms are worth looking for, as the mushrooms have a delicious smoky and nutty flavor.
Black trumpet mushrooms can also be dried, developing a complex flavor reminiscent of truffles. You can even crumble them and use them in place of truffles in some recipes.
Reishi mushrooms are most famous for their potential health benefits.
They’ve been associated with improved immune function, reduced fatigue, stress reduction, reduced symptoms of an enlarged prostate, and much more. There’s little scientific evidence for most such benefits, but that hasn’t reduced the mushrooms’ popularity at all.
You’ll mostly find reishi mushrooms as an extract or a powder, although some places do sell whole mushrooms as well (they’re not cheap, with a single mushroom sometimes costing $60 or more!). It’s important to start slowly when using reishi mushrooms or supplements, as there can be side effects.
Now we come to porcini mushrooms. These are especially common in French and Italian cooking but are making their way into other types of cuisine as well.
Notably, these mushrooms shouldn’t be soaked, as they absorb water too quickly. Just a quick rinse should be enough, or perhaps just use a damp paper towel to remove dirt.
The mushrooms are delicious, with a similar nutty and earthy flavor as many other types of mushrooms. This means you can use them in many of the same recipes. Just make sure you don’t overwhelm their delicate flavors with other ingredients.
Who hasn’t heard of shiitake mushrooms? They’re extremely popular, especially in East Asian cooking. It’s easy to see why too, given that the mushrooms have a fleshy texture and plenty of flavor.
Because of their strong flavor, you only need a small amount of the mushrooms at any one time. The mushrooms can also be used in many ways. They’re frequently used in miso soup and also show up in vegetarian dishes and anywhere where a rich umami flavor is desired.
Shiitake mushrooms are often confused with the porcinis from above, as both types are sold in a dried form for easy use. However, shiitakes have less earthy flavor than porcinis and are typically less expensive – a very appealing combination of features.
Giant Puffball Mushrooms
Have you ever seen mushrooms like these? Giant puffball mushrooms don’t have any stems or gills. Instead, they’re this large white ball and have solid white flesh all the way through.
There are other puffball mushrooms as well, most of which are smaller and not as easy to spot. Some of these are safe to eat, while others aren’t. However, giant puffball mushrooms are great for beginners, as they’re not easily confused with poisonous mushrooms. That said, it’s important to make sure the mushroom is fresh and be confident about your identification.
In particular, giant puffball mushrooms are best consumed when their exterior is firm and the inside is white (looking a little like cream cheese). The mushroom shouldn’t be avoided if the flesh is yellow instead, as it’s no longer safe to eat.
Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
Lion’s mane mushrooms are another species famous for health and medical benefits. There’s a ton of hype surrounding this mushroom, including how it could act as a ‘fountain of youth’ and the presence of potential that it comes with spiritual benefits.
While research is still ongoing, there is some evidence for benefits, such as how compounds in lion’s mane mushrooms may reduce cholesterol oxidation. Unfortunately, many of those benefits are associated with lion’s mane mushroom supplements rather than the fungus itself.
If you can find it, lion’s mane mushrooms are exciting and delicious. The mushrooms can even be eaten raw, giving you plenty of options for serving them.
The common name chestnut mushroom is actually used for a few different species of mushroom. We’re just talking about one of these – the species Pholiota adiposa. The little mushrooms are parasitic and grow in clusters on rotting wood and living trees.
It’s even possible to grow these mushrooms yourself by purchasing an inoculated spawn bag or a similar product. Watching the mushrooms grow is a great way to learn more about mushrooms and is perfect for any budding mycologists.
Because this type of mushroom isn’t exceptionally well known, there are limited recipes that show you how to use it. However, the principles are the same as for other types of mushrooms, so you can easily experiment and develop your own dishes.
Maitake also goes by the name hen of the woods, although it is quite different than the golden chicken of the woods mushroom we discussed earlier. The name hen of the woods seems to come from the mushroom’s appearance, as the fan shape looks a little like feathers from a hen.
Despite looking unfamiliar, these mushrooms can be used just like other types. You might sauté them in butter on their own or perhaps include them in a rice or pasta dish. Either way, the mushrooms are going to be delicious.
Beyond this, maitake mushrooms have been linked to health benefits. This includes the potential to fight cancer, to promote long life, and to support the immune system. These potential benefits are partly associated with the antioxidants and nutrients in the mushrooms and partly with unusual plant-based compounds.
Bonus: Lobster Mushrooms
Lobster mushrooms demand attention from the first moment you see them, as they’re stunning and taste delicious. They even live up to the lobster part of their name, as notes in their flavor profile are reminiscent of lobster.
Nevertheless, lobster mushrooms are misleading, as the bright orange color actually comes from a type of parasitic fungus that can attack multiple types of mushroom. Despite the presence of this fungus, lobster mushrooms are popular and considered safe to eat.
This fungus makes lobster mushrooms truly remarkable. If you’re foraging for them, only focus on bright orange mushrooms. The mushrooms typically turn pink or purple as they age and aren’t good to eat once this has happened.