The Good Eggs Guide to Cooking Different Types of Mushrooms
When I lived on the Mendocino Coast, I always looked forward to the first fall rains, which signaled the start of mushroom season. A day or two after the storms passed, I’d drive into a nearby forest to an intersection of dirt roads known fondly by locals as Mushroom Corner. Here, I’d wander through the mist and redwoods, eyes glued to the ground in search of wild chanterelles poking through the duff. I’d rush home with my bounty and sauté them in butter and garlic, then fold them into scrambled eggs or heap them on toast for a late breakfast. If there were any left over for dinner, I’d make a quick cream sauce with some white wine to spoon over a chicken cutlet or a grass-fed steak.
Mushrooms are amazing. They cook quickly and have an earthy, umami funk that’s complex and intense, but not overpowering. With dozens of varieties to choose from, they work in everything from burgers to stir-fries to pasta to stuffing to soup to seafood dishes. With a little knowledge to help differentiate one variety from the other, you can add mushrooms to your favorite dishes to highlight more earthy flavors as we head into fall.
Tips for Cooking with Mushrooms
Before we take a look at all the types of mushrooms you have at your fingertips, here are some general guidelines for preparing, storing, and cooking them.
Some mushrooms take to one cooking method better than others, but for the most part, they’re interchangeable. A Chef’s Sampler Pack is a good way to try a few varieties.
Mushrooms absorb water like sponges, so don’t soak or dunk them when cleaning. Instead, rinse fresh mushrooms lightly or use a damp paper towel. You can also use a soft brush to scrape away any soil or debris.
Most mushrooms have a lot of water in them that will release as they cook. This is normal — the water will evaporate as they continue to cook.
Try combining rarer, tastier wild mushrooms with more common cultivated varieties to build interesting flavors.
You can also keep some dried mushrooms on hand to rehydrate and mix with common varieties for more intense and complex flavors.
When reconstituting dried mushrooms, save the water! It’s great for stocks, soups, sauces, and cooking grains. If it seems gritty, you can always strain it.
Store fresh mushrooms in the fridge in their original packaging or an open paper bag. Airflow is important, so make sure they can breathe. Resist the temptation to wash them before storing — adding water could speed up spoilage.
Store dried mushrooms in an airtight container in a dry, dark, cool place.
Types of Mushrooms
White Button Mushrooms — Mildly flavored, but clean and fresh, which makes them great raw. This is your go-to mushroom for chopping into salads. Cooking results in a meatier texture and earthier flavor, though they’re still mild compared to other varieties. Add them to pizza, make a simple cream sauce, or toss them into marinara.
Cremini — A versatile mushroom with more flavor than white mushrooms, but still relatively mild. These are actually baby Portabellas, which is why they’re also called Baby Bella mushrooms. They’re great raw or cooked. A good mushroom for stuffing or grilling — just use a skewer. They pair well with vegetables like onion, carrots, and celery, so I like to dice them and add them to mirepoix when making stuffing or hearty pasta sauces.
Portabella — Cremini mushrooms all grown up. They’re a favorite on the grill thanks to their huge caps, earthy flavor, and meaty texture. You don’t have to cook them whole — they’re wonderful chopped into soups, stews, or stir-fries. They pair well with goat cheese, greens, fresh herbs, and garlic. Don’t eat the stems, but you can use them to make stock.
Shiitake — Woodsy, meaty, and intensely flavored, especially for a cultivated mushroom. Shiitakes are useful to have on hand, as they pair well with everything from poultry to lamb to pork to pasta. Like Portabellas, you don’t want to eat the stems, but they make a tasty stock.
Other Cultivated Mushrooms
Velvet Pioppini — Robust and intense, these pair well with strong flavors like red meat, game, goat cheese, and bold red wines. Clean these delicate mushrooms gently with a damp towel or brush. A great way to add complexity to pasta, soups, and stir-fries.
Maitake Frondosa — Also called Hen of the Woods, these mushrooms have a woodsy flavor that pairs well with chicken, leafy greens, hearty grains, shellfish, and fall vegetables. You can eat both the core and leaves (called “bracts”), which should be succulent and chewy when cooked.
Alba Clamshell (AKA White Beech) — While you don’t want to eat these raw, cooking brings out a mild shellfish flavor. The caps are crispy and crunchy, even after they’re cooked. Keep it simple and sauté them in a hot pan to coax the most flavor out of them. Alba Clamshells pair well with chicken, seafood, bisques, stews, and sauvignon blanc.
Brown Clamshell (AKA Brown Beech) — These have a crunchy texture and mild shellfish flavor similar to the Alba Clamshells, but their flavor profile is a bit more versatile. Try them with shellfish, soups, stir-fries, roasted meat, and Asian ingredients, like soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and miso.
Forest Nameko — These eye-catching orange mushrooms have a layer of naturally occurring gelatin on the cap, which forms a glaze when they’re roasted or grilled. Sautéed, they can help thicken soups and sauces. Their silky texture and fruity, earthy flavor pairs well with red meat, miso, poultry, game, and pinot noir.
Oyster Mushrooms — These delicate mushrooms cook quickly, so give them a quick sauté or add them in toward the end of stir-fries. As their name suggests, they have a mild seafood flavor similar to the Alba and Brown Clamshells. They are more perishable than other mushrooms, so use them as soon as possible. A popular choice for Asian cuisine, they’re great for flavoring soups or sauces and work well in more delicate preparations, like dumplings or tempura.
Trumpet Royale (King Trumpet) — A favorite of chefs for their firm meaty texture, long shelf life, and savory flavor, which has been compared to abalone. The stems can be cut into thick coins and cooked like sea scallops in a hot pan. You could also slice them in half, toss them in salt and olive oil, then throw them onto the grill for a beautiful side dish. Pair these with simple but bold flavors, like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, hearty herbs, cream, and parmesan cheese.
Chanterelle Mushrooms — Meaty and sweet with a velvety texture, these mushrooms are best when prepared simply. Sauté them with butter, garlic, and herbs, or brush them with olive oil (tear larger mushrooms into pieces), then grill them over a gentle flame. They pair well with lighter dishes, like white meat, eggs, and seafood. Grab them when they start showing up in fall — the season can be short and is dependent upon rain.
Porcini Mushrooms — The spots where porcinis grow are closely guarded by locals, who come back year after year to forage these prized mushrooms. Rich and delicious, they add a creamy nuttiness to pasta dishes and soups and make a tasty side to meat and fish. Friends of mine grind dehydrated porcinis into powder (along with a few secret herbs and spices) to make the base for an earthy sauce or soup.
Black Trumpet Mushrooms — To make sure their delicate smokey flavor shines through, use these mushrooms in lighter dishes. The Good Eggs Culinary Team put these on pizza with burrata, arugula, and spring onions in a past Meal Kit. Pasta and seafood are good options, too.
Lobster Mushrooms — Bright red-orange with white flesh, these colorful mushrooms smell and taste of seafood. Lobster Mushrooms actually eat other mushrooms, resulting in complex and delicate flavors that vary from one batch to the next. They pair naturally with saffron, lemongrass, chowder, and other seafood dishes. Find them fresh in the fall or keep them dried in your pantry — they are excellent when rehydrated.
Wood Ear Mushrooms — Fresh, they are shaped like ears with a mild taste. Dried, the flavor is even more mellow. They are prized for their ability to add chewiness and crunchiness to dishes, and to add black color to stir-fries and sautés. They are commonly used in Asian cuisine, especially in soups.
Morel Mushrooms — Their incredible flavor makes them one of the most sought after edible mushrooms. They shouldn’t be eaten raw, but when cooked, they become earthy, nutty, woodsy, and meaty. Prepare these just as you would cook chanterelles. Use them in simple cream and wine sauces, or pair them with spring vegetables, pork, poultry, and beef. Look for fresh morels in the spring.
Sauté Mushrooms for a Simple, Go-To Recipe
Mushrooms can be grilled, fried, roasted, baked, and stewed, but if you had to choose one go-to technique, it would be sautéing. Simple, customizable, and quick, sautéing mushrooms is a great way to explore new varieties. This basic recipe comes from Mark Bittman’s book How to Cook Everything.
1 pound fresh mushrooms
¼ cup of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Dry white wine
Minced garlic to taste
Gently rinse the mushrooms or clean them with a damp paper towel.
Slice the mushrooms — the thickness is up to you.
Heat a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the oil, sliced mushrooms, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Cook, stirring occasionally for 10 to 15 minutes. The mushrooms should release their liquid and become tender, and the pan will dry out. Cook them for another 10 to 15 minutes before moving onto the next step if you want crisp, chewy mushrooms.
Pour in ½ cup of white wine and let it cook for a minute as you scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze it. If you want your mushrooms less saucy, use a ¼ cup of white wine instead. You can also use water or stock in place of the wine.
When the mushrooms are done to your liking, stir in the garlic and parsley and cook for another minute, then remove from the heat, adjust the seasoning, and serve.
Once you’ve cooked a batch of sautéed mushrooms, you can add them as a topping to meat and fish, layer them into sandwiches and burgers, or fold them into grain bowls. Try mixing more common mushrooms, like cremini and portabella, with wild mushrooms to create new flavors. You can even add a few rehydrated mushrooms, using the water in place of the white wine.