Last updated: February 28, 2024
This guide explores eleven of the most popular types of edible mushrooms, each with its own unique looks, flavors, and nutritional benefits.
From a botanical perspective, mushrooms are classified as fungi. Unlike vegetables, mushrooms don’t have leaves or roots and don’t need light to grow. However, from a nutritional perspective, mushrooms are generally considered a vegetable. Mushrooms are nutrient-rich, with nutritional profiles quite similar to those of vegetables.
If you’re struggling to find some of the less common mushrooms, perhaps venture out to more specialized grocery stores, or try the larger fruit and vegetable markets. Don’t go and try to find mushrooms in the wild unless you’re an expert. Some mushroom types simply aren’t edible, and you’d want to stay far away from those.
Let’s unearth the secrets of 11 of the most popular edible mushrooms, shedding light on their unique characteristics and how they can elevate your culinary creations!
1. Button Mushroom
Button mushrooms are the most common type of edible mushrooms that you can buy from pretty much any supermarket out there.
They may not be the most nutrient-rich, but they are pleasant to eat and work great in various breakfast and dinner dishes. Their white color indicates that they are fresh and young at age.
Whether you like them raw or cooked, the button mushroom will give you that mild, earthy flavor. This edible mushroom will make your salad, soup, pizza, and pasta tastier.
Check out my list of white vegetables for a complete overview of my favorite veggies that might look a bit pale but are very tasty.
2. Shiitake Mushroom
Shiitake mushrooms are native to East Asia, and if you’re looking for the best choice in the taste and nutrition department, this is the one for you.
It has a rich flavor and meaty texture that will exceed your taste expectations. Put them on top of your favorite meat dishes, make mushroom sauce from the water you used to soak them, and cook them in any way you want.
They don’t just taste good, though, shiitake mushrooms are also good for us. They can help boost our immune system and are an excellent source of copper, zinc, manganese, various B vitamins, and many more essential vitamins and minerals.
3. Oyster Mushroom
Unsurprisingly, oyster mushrooms inherited their name from their appearance because they do look like oysters.
They are large and thick, and almost give off this striking look that may even intimidate some. But when you look closely and learn more about them, you will want to take them to your kitchen immediately.
They have a velvety texture and delicate flavor, and it’s best to prepare them briefly to experience their rich taste. Eat these mushrooms raw with your salad, or you can also saute, stir fry, and roast them using an oven.
This edible mushroom is rich in dietary fiber and B vitamins, and offers essential minerals such as copper, potassium, phosphorus, and iron.
4. Enoki Mushroom
With their long stem and tiny white cap, people might think the Enoki mushroom is a bean sprout. But despite the similarities in looks, this mushroom will taste very differently.
They are popular in Asian dishes. The mild taste and crispy texture will work well with salads, soups, sandwiches, and garnishes.
When cooking them, it’s better to add them last so that overcooking won’t be an issue, and you’ll get to taste their full flavor and texture.
5. Maitake Mushroom
Maitake, also called Hen of the woods, is originally from China, but it can also be found in other countries such as Japan, the United States, and Canada.
The meaty, rich, savory flavor of this edible mushroom is best for stir-fries, soups, sautees, and many more dishes.
As you cook them, you won’t have to worry too much about overcooking as they can hold up quite well.
6. Portobello Mushroom
If you like the button mushroom, you should meet its older relative. The portobello mushroom and button mushroom are of the same species, but the portobello has an older and more mature appearance.
The Portobello mushroom (also spelled “Portabella”) is basically a variety of the common mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, which is the same species as the white button mushroom and the cremini mushroom (see below). The difference between these mushrooms is primarily their stage of growth and size, with the Portobello being the most mature and largest.
The Portobello is indeed quite large; almost as big as the palm of a hand. It has a flat, dark brown cap, which can measure up to 6 inches in diameter. The deeper and richer flavor makes it a great meat substitute in your meals. You can grill, bake, or stuff it with an ingredient of your choice.
Check out my list of brown vegetables for a complete overview of my favorite veggies with the color brown.
7. Cremini Mushroom
Between the Portobello and Button mushrooms, you will find the Cremini mushroom. These three are part of the same species, the Agaricus Bisporus.
Also known as baby bellas or crimini mushrooms, the Cremini mushroom features a meatier, earthy flavor.
If you want to level up your cooking game, simply replace button mushrooms in your recipes with cremini mushrooms. The stronger flavor might come as a welcome surprise!
8. Chanterelle Mushroom
This yellow to orange colored mushroom with quite the unique appearance offers a nutty and woodsy flavor with a delicate texture.
Saute it with butter and perhaps add a little garlic to produce that creamy taste. It also works great as a side dish or an extra ingredient to your pasta or risotto.
Chanterelle mushrooms are pretty nutritious too, as they offer many essential nutrients in generous amounts, most notably iron, copper, vitamin D, and various B vitamins.
9. Morel Mushroom
The appearance of morel mushrooms might deceive you and turn you off, but don’t fall to this mistake. The darkness of its color equates to a more pronounced flavor, best described as savory, nutty, and smoky.
It’s difficult to find this cone-shaped, hollow, and sponge-like mushroom in a grocery store as it takes a lot of work to produce them on a larger scale.
The other option is growing them yourself. And although they are easy to identify in the wild, it’s not recommended to try and find them by yourself.
10. Porcini Mushroom
This type of mushroom is often used in French and Italian cuisine. The meaty, smooth texture and nutty, creamy flavor will work well with soups and stews, and when sautéed with butter.
The Porcini is quite recognizable as a brown-capped mushroom with a thick, white stalk. What’s great is that they’re easy to clean, but they are also quite expensive because of their short season and popularity in international cuisines.
I couldn’t find any nutritional data online for this mushroom, but it’s safe to assume that, similar to the other types of edible mushrooms on this list, the porcini is not only tasty but also a nutritious food.
11. Blue Milk Mushroom
The Blue Milk mushroom is also known as the Indigo Milkcap, a bright blue mushroom that grows naturally in Central America, North America, and East Asia.
The unique indigo coloring of these mushrooms fades to pale blue-gray as they dry. The blue color cooks away with heat, but the deep indigo latex sap can be used to add natural blue pigment to sauces.
Although it might look a bit scary, the Indigo Milkcap is safe to eat and is quite a common ingredient in various Asian and Central American dishes.
Fascinated by the color blue? Check out my list of blue vegetables for more of these uniquely colored veggies!