Cooking Exotic Mushrooms 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Cooking with Exotic Mushrooms
Here’s something the healthiest people in the world will tell you: improving your diet is about simplification. Instead of trying to find the most expensive “superfoods,” it’s far more effective to find ingredients that can boost your overall health without complication.
It’s why mushrooms are considered one of the easiest ways to upgrade the quality of almost any meal. They boast a variety of nutritional and functional benefits that can enhance any diet. Mushrooms provide an array of essential nutrients including B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, and a host of minerals such as copper, iron, potassium, and selenium. They’ve been shown to support healthy immune functions, reduce occasional stress, and lend a helping hand in maintaining the health of the brain, gut, skin, cardiovascular system, and endocrine system.
Even better: Mushrooms are packed full of flavors ranging from earthy to smoky, meaty, briny, and nutty. This variety delights the palette and lends richness, depth, and interest to any meal.
Convinced that mushrooms should have a place in your kitchen? The next step is to learn how to simply add these flavorful, nutritious fungi to good use in a wide array of delectable recipes.
A Few Notes on Buying and Cooking with Mushrooms
Before you start cooking with mushrooms, it’s important to identify high-quality products. This will help ensure you’re maximizing both the flavor and nutritional properties of the ‘shrooms.
Many of the recipes below call for mushrooms in extract or powder form. If you’re fortunate enough to live near a specialty grocer, Chinatown, farmer’s market, foraging community, or natural food store, you may be able to purchase mushrooms locally. Otherwise, you can purchase them online from retailers such as, well, us.
No matter where you purchase your mushrooms, what matters most is quality. There are few regulations for what can be considered a “mushroom” product, meaning that in some cases, what you think you’re getting could be vastly different from what you’re actually getting. That’s why it’s critical to educate yourself a bit before purchasing. At a minimum, make sure any product you consider features the following:
- The fruiting body. This is the part of the mushroom that delivers nutrients and other benefits directly to humans. Mycelium-based products are less effective in terms of delivering functional benefits. Always check how the mushroom product is derived, and opt for those products that are made from the fruiting body whenever possible.
- Dual extraction. Mushrooms contain both water-soluble and fat-soluble compounds, and each play an integral role in delivering the health benefits from said mushrooms to your body. Both need to be drawn out from the mushroom’s fruiting body via a hot water and alcohol extraction process to ensure you get the maximum amount of nutrition and health benefits possible.
- Quality control. Even though they’re antifungal agents, some mushrooms can collect harmful molds on their surfaces. Look for products that have been tested against pesticides, heavy metals, irradiation, and mycotoxins. (This is relevant to both cultivated and wildcrafted mushrooms.)
- High polysaccharide content. While consuming any amount of a mushroom’s fruiting body is good for you, their efficacy depends on getting adequate amounts of the active ingredients. A good rule of thumb is to use mushroom extracts with at least 20 percent polysaccharide content.
Once you’ve obtained your mushrooms, there are a few things to note as you prepare to cook with them:
- A blender and/or food processor will come in handy. The higher-powered your machine, the better the consistency of the finished product. If you start making coffee drinks, an espresso machine is helpful but not essential. If you try fermenting, you may want to invest in specialty equipment down the road.
- Use the highest-quality ingredients possible. If you’re looking to maximize the health benefits of your meals, the quality of the other ingredients you include in mushroom-focused dishes also matters. Though usually more expensive, options that have minimal additives and fillers will make a big difference in flavor, texture, and nutritional quality. Use the best quality you can find and afford.
4 Stellar Mushroom Recipes
Alright, now we’re ready to dive into the good stuff. You’ve purchased high-quality mushrooms, made sure you have the proper equipment on hand, and committed to investing in top-notch ingredients. Now it’s time to put all that preparation to good use by whipping up healthful and delectable dishes.
The following recipes represent just a small sampling of all the many ways you can cook with mushrooms. As you can see, mushrooms can be incorporated into a surprisingly wide range of recipes (and these are just the tip of the iceberg!). If these recipes have you jazzed about cooking with ‘shrooms, check out all 50 recipes in my book, Healing Mushrooms: A Practical and Culinary Guide to Using Mushrooms for Whole Body Health, out October 10th. Bon appetite!
Paleo Ice Cream
TOTAL TIME: 10 MINUTES PLUS 2 HOURS FREEZING TIME
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1⁄4 cup coconut oil, melted
- 2 large organic whole eggs
- 2 large organic egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
- 3⁄4 cup ice
- 1⁄2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 20 drops liquid stevia
- 2 to 4 grams cordyceps, lion’s mane, or other mild mushroom extract powder (about 1 teaspoon; see Note)
- 1 teaspoon matcha tea powder plus 1⁄2 teaspoon spirulina (this creates a beautiful green color)
- Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cacao powder Fresh berries
- Honeyed ’Shroomy Bits (see recipe below)
- Combine all the ingredients, including any additional flavors you want, in a high-speed blender. Blend on high for 30 seconds, or until the mixture is creamy and uniform in texture.
- Pour the mixture into a mold or freezer-safe container and freeze for 2 hours. You can also make this in an ice cream machine if you have one (follow the manufacturer’s instructions). The ice cream will keep for 2 to 3 months. Let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving, and then top with Honeyed ’Shroomy Bits.
Note • You can substitute other mushroom powders, but be sure to select a mushroom with a mild flavor. Reishi and chaga are not recommended, as both are too bitter.
Honeyed ’Shroomy Bits
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 4 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and finely chopped (lion’s mane also works well)
In a small saucepan, melt the butter and honey together over medium-high heat. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.
Enoki Mushroom Fries
TOTAL TIME: 30 MINUTES
- 1⁄4 cup cornstarch
- 1⁄4 cup coconut flour (or flour of your choice)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 large egg
- 1⁄4 cup beer, kombucha, or other carbonated beverage
- 1 cup frying oil (we like to use a combination of equal parts grapeseed oil and ghee)
- 2 cups enoki mushrooms
- Handful of fresh herbs, chopped (oregano, thyme, dill, etc.—use what you like!)
- In a large bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, flour, baking powder, turmeric, and cumin. Beat in the egg and beer. You want the batter to be thick, but still “dippable,” so add more liquid if needed.
- In a large wok, stockpot, Dutch oven, or deep fryer, heat the oil to 325°F. Adjust the heat to maintain the temperature.
- Coat the mushrooms in the batter, dipping and turning them in the bowl. Gently and carefully drop a handful at a time into the hot oil. Fry, flipping occasionally, until the mushroom fries are a deep golden-brown color and crisp all over, 4 to 6 minutes total. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate to drain and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms.
- Transfer to a large serving plate. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve with Mushroom Garlic Dip (page 182) or ketchup.
Lion’s Mane Pancakes
SERVES 5 (20 SMALL OR 5 LARGE PANCAKES) TOTAL TIME: 30 MINUTES
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cups almond milk
- 1 cup packed fresh spinach, finely chopped
- 1 cup spelt flour (substitute cassava flour for gluten-free pancakes)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for cooking and serving
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces fresh lion’s mane mushrooms (or 3 cups dehydrated lion’s mane, soaked for 2 hours; see Note)
- Jam or pure maple syrup, for serving (optional)
- In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the eggs and almond milk.
- Add the spinach, flour, butter, salt, pepper, and mushrooms and stir until smooth. Let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
- Set a cast-iron pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add a liberal amount of butter and allow to melt. Add 1⁄4 cup of the pancake batter to the pan. When little bubbles appear on the surface of the batter, use a spatula to check if the underside of the pancake is golden brown. If so, flip and fry on the other side for 1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat until all the batter has been used.
- Serve hot with butter, jam, or syrup. Pancakes are also delicious eaten cold the next day. Store in a sealed container in the fridge overnight.
Note • You can also try shiitake, oyster, or enoki mushrooms in this recipe.
Cordysex on the Beach
MAKES 2 DRINKS
TOTAL TIME: 5 MINUTES
- 1 cup 100% cranberry juice
- 1 peach, pitted
- 1 orange or grapefruit, suprêmed (see Note)
- 2 grams cordyceps extract
- 1 to 3 ounces vodka (optional)
- 3 big ice cubes
- Orange slices, for garnish
Combine the cranberry juice, peach, orange suprêmes, cordyceps, vodka (if using), and 1⁄2 cup cold water in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve over ice in a highball glass and garnish with an orange slice.
Note • To suprême a citrus fruit, trim off the top and bottom of the fruit with a sharp knife. Set the fruit on its end and slice away all the peel and white pith, following the curves of the fruit. Slice to the left and right of each membrane. The citrus wedges should come out easily