Types of Edible Mushrooms

Mushrooms are edible fungi that have played a part in cooking for millennia. It might surprise you to know that there are over 50,000 species of mushrooms in the world but the question is, which of these are good to eat?

Unless you’re experienced in the field of mycology, don’t eat mushrooms you may find growing in the wild. There are numerous poisonous species that look highly similar to edible ones.

It’s always useful to know about the most commonly cultivated types of mushrooms including how to identify and prepare them and what to keep in mind when dealing with them. This is exactly what we’ll be covering in this article, so let’s go ahead and get started.

Portobello Mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus)

Several mushrooms on a table

Portobello mushrooms can be identified by their dark brown color and large flat caps that grow up to 5 inches when they’re mature. They have dark gills underneath the caps. These mushrooms are delicious in that they provide an earthy or somewhat smokey flavour.

Because these mushrooms are so delicious and large enough, they can easily be used as a substitute for meat in practically any dish. They’re best eaten fresh but they can also be stored for up to 10 days in the refrigerator. However, the longer you keep them, the more they lose their flavour. When cleaning, try to minimize using water as much as possible since this will also reduce its flavour.

Originally imported only from Italy, Portobello mushrooms are now available all over the US and are now in the category of most common edible mushrooms. 

Cooking Options: these mushrooms are delicious grilled, broiled and sautéed. They’re also yummy in sandwiches, pasta sauces, pizza, omelettes and many more!  

Health Benefits: Portobello mushrooms are a great source of vitamin B2 which is important for the production of energy in the body.

Maitake Mushrooms (Grifola frondosa)

Hen of the woods mushroom

Maitake (also known as ‘hen of the woods’) is a common edible mushroom that’s been used in China and Japan for thousands of years. Since it was brought to the US twenty years ago, it’s gained popularity increasingly and is highly praised for its health benefits.

These mushrooms grow on the trunks of oak trees, right at the base and got their name since they resemble the ruffled feathers of a hen with their little overlapping caps in large clusters and not because of anything to do with the taste. Their colors range from brown to a tan and then to white. They’re similar to Portobello mushrooms in taste but the flavour is far stronger and earthier than Portobello mushrooms.

Cooking Options: these mushrooms taste great when grilled or sautéed. They’re an excellent meat alternative for ramen or pizza.

Health Benefits: Maitake mushrooms contain certain chemicals which can stimulate your immune system and there is some evidence that they can lower blood pressure, improving your cholesterol and blood sugar levels as well.

Button Mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus)

Button mushrooms on a table

Button mushrooms look like little umbrellas with a dense cap attached to the stem. The stems are short, thick or thin and also slightly curvy. They’re of the same species as Portobello and Crimini mushrooms but the difference between the two is how long they’re allowed to grow before they’re harvested. In the case of button mushrooms, it’s as soon as they appear from the mycelium.

These cute little mushrooms come in brown and white varieties and are currently the most popular type of mushroom in the US since they blend well into any dish they’re added to. They’ve also got a nice mild earthy flavour and a meaty texture.

Button mushrooms in a dish to be cooked

Cooking Options: you can eat button mushrooms any way you like be it boiled, sautéed, grilled or roasted. They taste great as pizza toppings and can be added into practically any dish you like as a substitute for meat.  

Health Benefits: button mushrooms selenium, a power antioxidant that helps to support the immune system while preventing damage to tissues and cells. They also contain vitamins B and D.

Chanterelle Mushrooms (Cantharellus cibarius)

A container full of chanterelle mushrooms

Chanterelle mushrooms are quite famous around the world not just because they’re so delicious and healthy but also because they’re commonly found in many countries. These mushrooms can be easily identified by their funnel-shaped cap which grows up to a diameter of 10cm, with a wavy and irregular margin. The color can vary from a light yellow to a deeper yellow like that of egg yolks.

Rather than gills, these mushrooms have thick, wrinkled veins on the undersides of the cap, extending all the way down their stems which are usually about 2 cm long and merge into the cap. When these mushrooms grow in clumps, their stems are usually curved and joined together near the bases.

Cooked chanterelle mushrooms on a plate

Cooking Options:  Chanterelle mushrooms are extremely yummy when sautéed in butter. They also make a great side dish when baked.

Health Benefits: Chanterelles contain a large variety of B vitamins, protein, copper and iron. However, don’t eat too much of them in one sitting since they can give you a stomach ache.

Cremini Mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus)

Cremini mushrooms on the table

Cremini mushrooms are actually young Portobello mushrooms which are picked before they can grow fully. These mushrooms are darker, firmer and pack a lot more flavour than the white button mushroom.  They’re a more mature version of the button mushroom which is why they have a similar flavour.

Cremini mushrooms have a whitish stem and their caps look shaggier and more textured than button mushrooms. However, they’re still fairly smooth and well rounded. There’s a lot to enjoy in cremini mushrooms. Since they’re more mature, they have a more robust flavour than button mushrooms.

Cremini mushrooms as  pizza toppings

Cooking Options: These mushrooms taste delicious in stews or soups since they tend to hold up a lot better in liquid. They’re also great as pizza toppings.

Health Benefits: These mushrooms are healthy since they’re high in all the vitamin Bs, protein, manganese and choline. They also have excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which is why they’re so healthy.

Shiitake Mushrooms (Lentinula edodes)

A lot of Shiitake mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular types of edible mushrooms worldwide, prized for their many health benefits and their savory, rich taste. They’re easily identifiable by their umbrella-shaped caps that are tan or brownish in color. The edges of the Shiitake mushroom rolls down and curls inwards towards the gills on the underside which are white in color

The shiitake mushroom stems are cream or white, but sometimes they can turn brown as the mushroom continues to grow larger. They’re used around the world as supplements and for food and they’re great for weight loss since they’re very low in calories

Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular types of edible mushrooms worldwide, prized for their many health benefits and their savory, rich taste. They’re easily identifiable by their umbrella-shaped caps that are tan or brownish in color. The edges of the Shiitake mushroom rolls down and curls inwards towards the gills on the underside which are white in color.

The shiitake mushroom stems are cream or white, but sometimes they can turn brown as the mushroom continues to grow larger. They’re used around the world as supplements and for food and they’re great for weight loss since they’re very low in calories.

Cooking Options: shiitake mushrooms are delicious no matter how you cook them. You can cook both the fresh and dried mushrooms, but the dried ones are the most popular. Add them into stir-fries, stews, soups and practically any dish you like.

Health Benefits: these mushrooms contain bioactive compounds that have cholesterol-lowering, immune-boosting and anticancer effects.

Enoki Mushrooms (Flammulina velutipes)

Enoki mushrooms are a type of thin, long mushroom that grows in clusters. They’re firm in texture and have a fruity, mild flavour. They’re fairly easy to recognize since they’ve got very thin and long stems and tiny little white caps. Wild enoki mushrooms have shorter stems than the cultivated ones and are peach-brown in color with larger caps.

The main difference between cultivated and wild Enoki mushrooms is that unlike the wild ones, the cultivated variety of mushrooms doesn’t get any exposure to light and is grown in an environment rich with carbon dioxide which allows the stems to grow longer.

Cooking Options: Surprisingly enough, these mushrooms can be eaten raw or cooked, but make sure you clean them well before you decide to eat it raw. Dried mushrooms can be added at the last minute into any stir-fry dish or soup just before serving.

Health Benefits: Enoki mushrooms are high in minerals and vitamins, valued in both Japanese and Chinese traditional medicine. They’re used to treat high cholesterol, stomach ailments and even liver disease. 

Hedgehog Mushrooms (Hydnum repandum)

Hedgehog mushrooms are another type of extremely healthy mushroom that offers multiple health benefits. Although some people find the appearance of this mushroom unappealing, it has a great flavour and is quite delicious. They can grow anywhere from small to large and have an irregular shape. It’s called “Hedgehog” because of the many little irregular gills on the underside of the caps.

The cap of the Hedgehog mushrooms is depressed and the stem is thin and off-centered. It can be either upturned or convex and is quite dry, firm and thick. It’s also got wavy margins and when it’s fully mature, the edges can crack. These mushrooms have a yummy, earthy, peppery, smoky and nutty flavour, a fruity aroma and a nice chewy texture.

Cooking Options: Hedgehog mushrooms are best boiled or sautéed. You can also try simmering them in cream-based sauces or wite sine and serve them in pastas, stir-fries or as side dishes.

Health Benefits: These mushrooms contain potassium, vitamin D, iron and also has anti-inflammatory as well as anti-bacterial properties.

Morel Mushrooms (Morchella)

A brown morel mushroom

Morel mushrooms, also known as top-tier mushrooms are a very popular ingredient among many mushroom enthusiasts and chefs because they’re not farmed, but grow only in the wild. This is because they’re quite difficult to farm. Although these mushrooms are so delicious keep in mind that they shouldn’t be eaten raw since they can easily cause stomach issues.

The shape and size of morel mushrooms can vary greatly, but they’re really easy to distinguish by their honeycomb appearance. The inside of the mushroom is hollow and white. They have an amazing, nutty and earthy flavour and their texture is more meaty and less slimy than other types of mushrooms.

Cooking Options: Morels can be added into wild mushroom sauces which go perfectly with grilled meats. You can also fry them, or cook them pretty much any way you like.

Health Benefits: These mushrooms are packed with all kinds of minerals and vitamins. They’re also low in calories and high in antioxidants, fiber and protein.

Black Trumpet Mushrooms (Craterellus cornucopioides)

A bowl full of black trumpet mushrooms

Available all year round, Black Trumpet mushrooms are quite small, averaging 2-15 cm in height. These mushrooms have a very delicate funnel or a vase shape and a cap that curls outwards with wavy edges, resembling a trumpet which is how it got its name. It’s found growing in bunches but sometimes it grows individually.

This mushroom is related to the Chanterelle mushroom and is easily identified by its thin, smooth skin and scales present in the cap. The skin is also quite wrinkled and feels like suede. The reason these mushrooms are so popular is because of their sweet, strong, woodsy aroma and soft but chewy texture. They have a nutty, rich and smoky taste any mushroom enthusiast is sure to love.

Cooking Options: These mushrooms taste best when sautéed, baked or fried. Since their flavour is so delicate, try not to overpower it with other flavors.

Health Benefits: Black Trumpets contain high amounts of vitamin B12 which is important for maintaining normal nervous system and brain function. It also contains some antioxidants.

How to Choose Mushrooms

Now that we’ve nailed our list of edible mushrooms, let’s take a look at how to choose fresh, healthy mushrooms to eat.

  • When choosing mushrooms, look for ones that look fresh and have smooth, firm caps.
  • Avoid mushrooms that are wrinkled, bruised or broken.
  • The surface of the mushrooms should be a little dry, but still look plump and juicy. They shouldn’t look completely dried up.
  • If you can touch the mushrooms, check to see if they’re slimy. If so, don’t buy them.

How to Store Mushrooms

The best way to store mushrooms is either by keeping them inside their original packaging, or placing them in your fridge as soon as possible after purchasing or picking. Another great option is to transfer them to a paper bag as soon as you can.

If you’re buying the mushrooms loose, put them in a container and cover it tightly with a plastic wrap. Then place it in the fridge for up to 4 days. The sooner you eat the mushrooms after purchasing, the more you’ll be able to experience their freshness and great taste.

Summing Up…

Of course, there are hundreds of edible mushrooms out there but our list includes only some of the most common types.  Now that you’ve got all the information you need on different types of edible mushrooms and how to select them, it’s time to go mushroom shopping!

infographic about mushrooms

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