14 Gourmet Mushrooms and How To Use Them

abalone mushroom

At a chain grocery store, you’re likely to see common mushrooms such as white, cremini and portabella, but broaden your search and you can find a much wider range of sizes, colors and textures that range from wispy to steak-like. These prized specimens make delicious and interesting enhancements for soups, hearty pastas, meats, baked dishes and more. The most beautiful varieties of mushrooms, such as the big, spiky lion’s mane and yellowfoot chanterelles, may even become tableside conversation topics. Use this primer to familiarize yourself with 14 different kinds, most of which are only in season during certain times. Find mushrooms in specialty grocery stores such as DR Delicacy (which offers nationwide shipping) and at local farmers markets, such as Urban Harvest’s Saturday Farmers Market

Marvelous Mushrooms & Uses for Each

Abalone: Especially popular in Asian cooking, the abalone mushroom is revered for its hearty texture and buttery flavor. It is an exceptional meat substitute for vegetarian dishes and ideal for high heat or dishes that require longer cooking times. Try abalone mushrooms steamed, fried, broiled, grilled or roasted. They are also good additions to green or coconut curries, soups and stews. These mushrooms, named for a popular seafaring mollusc, pair well with garlic, onions, eggplant, tomatoes, tofu, shrimp, poultry and lentils. They are available year-round, but prime production is during the cooler months.

Black Trumpet Mushroom: This is a beautiful and versatile selection that resembles a chocolate-brown morning glory flower. The flavor is nutty, smokey and rich, with a sweet and woodsy aroma. Use it in classic seasonal dishes that incorporate game birds, poultry, winter vegetables and squashes. It is also stunning in egg-based recipes like omelettes, soufflés and more. Find it December through March.

Blue Foot Wood Blewit: Reserve this sturdy specimen for hearty cooking, such as stews, soups, sauces and other long-simmering dishes. It is also a great choice for grilling and roasting. After cooking, the firm texture gives way to a velvety, silky mouthfeel that is worth the wait. It is highly fragrant with a woodsy flavor and can be used in any recipe that calls for standard white mushrooms. Try adding diced blue foot mushrooms to omelets, cream sauces or alongside virtually any animal protein from lamb to crab. Find this mushroom September through April. 

Cauliflower Mushroom: Visually reminiscent of a head of cauliflower, or even a white chrysanthemum bloom, this cool and popular variety lends notes of fennel and almond while giving off an earthy, musky aroma. Chefs prize its noodle-like texture. It serves as a striking base for toppings of all kinds, including meats, cheeses and vegetables. Cauliflower mushrooms are available through November.

mushrooms with dark brown caps and white stems
Use chestnut mushrooms in recipes that make use of searing or stir frying techniques. Courtesy photo.

Chestnut Mushroom: Versatile and pretty, this variety is distinguished both by the charming smattering of white curls that often decorate its cap, and its accessible flavor profile. Enthusiasts praise its light crunch that remains even after cooking, along with its meaty cap. For those reasons, chestnut mushrooms are perfect for searing, stir frying or adding to soups. The fresh, woodsy aroma and mild, nutty flavor play well with cream sauces, and also make it well-suited in fresh salads and spring rolls. Find it throughout the year. 

Enoki: To fully appreciate the crunchy texture of these long, thin mushrooms, add a raw sheaf to soups, salads and sandwiches. The flavor of enokis is mild and will not overpower other fresh ingredients. These also make a nice addition to stock and are available year-round.

Fried Chicken Mushroom: Due to its chewy, meat-like texture and rich, nutty flavor, this variety is lovely when served as a meat substitute. Try it in dishes that require a longer stove time. Fried chicken mushrooms take time to soften, and they release a thickening agent into cooking liquids. That means these are perfect for stews, soups and similar dishes. Purchase October through November.

Hedgehog/Sweet Tooth Mushroom: The underside of this mushroom sports tiny pointed spines or “teeth” that make it easy for novice foragers to identify. It is tasty, too, offering earthy, nutty, peppery and smoky notes that some describe as full-bodied with a traditional mushroom flavor. It is versatile in the kitchen. Sauté, stir-fry or pickle for optimum enjoyment — but don’t overcomplicate it. This variety is great in soups or simply fried in butter. Pick some up December through March.

white mushroom with spike-like texture
The Lion’s Mane mushroom is popular as a seafood substitute due to a spongy texture and flavor reminiscent of crab and lobster. Courtesy photo.

Lion’s Mane: This impressive variety is touted to have brain-health benefits, including stimulants that aid attention. It is also delicious with a mild, sweet flavor that can be compared to scallops, lobster and crab. In fact, it is a fantastic crab replacement in vegetarian crab cakes! The texture has a tender chew, making it a good fit for many cooking preparations. Try it grilled and roasted, or in pastas, egg dishes and more throughout the year.

large orange mushroom
The lobster mushroom is versatile for cooking and is aesthetically pleasing too. Courtesy photo.

Lobster Mushroom: As its name implies, this spongy, vibrant, orange mushroom has attributes that pair well with seafood, but its chewy texture and delicate flavor makes it adaptable and complementary to a variety of dishes. For snacks and starters, try tempura-frying it either whole or cut into large pieces; then serving with a creamy dipping sauce. Elevate entrées by adding chopped, cooked lobster mushrooms to dishes such as buttery lobster risotto or a rich shrimp pasta accompanied by crusty garlic bread — finish with a drizzle of truffle oil or shaved Parmesan cheese for a truly decadent dish. Traditionally available through October, seek and you may still find in November!

single mushroom
The matsutake mushroom lends a distinct flavor profile that works best when allowed to shine on its own. Courtesy photo.

Matsutake: Also known as the “pine mushroom,” this pungent and spicy variety is full of character and gives off potent cinnamon and pine aromas. It is especially prized in Japan, but also revered in kitchens around the world. Use a light hand when cooking these, as a little goes a long way. Instead of incorporating into a complicated dish, let matsutakes anchor your recipe and prepare them simply. Note: avoid pairing with butter or cream. Purchase through December.

Oyster Mushroom: Another multi-season, multi-use option, the beautiful grey oyster mushroom is a good choice for many preparations. Make an appetizer of deep-fried oyster mushrooms for dipping in creamy condiments. You can deepen the flavor by roasting or sautéing in garlic and olive oil and then top with cheese for a side dish, or incorporate slices into stir fry, soups and stews — oyster mushrooms’ spongy texture will soak up the surrounding flavors.

Poplar or Pioppino Mushroom: A popular selection, this mellow and meaty specimen also boasts a crunchy texture and nutty flavor. Toss it into anything you like! Suggestions include sautéing and adding to gravy for meat dishes or to a fresh salad finished with feta cheese. The versatility makes it ideal for cooking any time of year.

Earthy and tender chanterelles. Photo by Pixabay.

Yellowfoot Chanterelle: This alluring chanterelle has a fruity aroma, which when cooked with care, exudes a smoky, peppery flavor. It is earthy and tender, making it ideal for a number of preparations. When it comes to this versatile mushroom, you are limited only by your imagination. For example, incorporate them into heavier dishes such as stewed meats, serve over firm fish or with fresh pastas, or as a standalone side sautéed in butter and white wine. Buy these December through March

Fall Flavors Available Year Round

Dried mushrooms are an excellent choice thanks to deep flavors that are budget-friendly, too. Simply pour boiling water over your dried mushrooms and let soak for about 15 to 30 minutes to rehydrate them, or add to recipes that require a 25-minute (or longer) cooking time. DR Delicacy has lots to choose from, and seasonal favorites include mild chanterelle, earthy morel and rich porcini. They each make stellar additions to stews, hearty meat roasts such as chicken, lamb or beef, and are superb in sauces.

Disclaimer: DR Delicacy is a valued sponsor of Houston Food Finder.

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