Culinary Arts

How to Use Shiitake Mushrooms in Your Everyday Cooking

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 10, 2019 • 4 min read

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One of the most commonly available edible mushrooms, shiitakes have rich umami flavor and meaty texture.

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What Are Shiitake Mushrooms?

Shiitake mushrooms (species Lentinus edodes) are Asian forest mushrooms that grow on rotting wood logs. Native to East Asia and cultivated in Japan and China for centuries, the Japanese name shiitake comes from shii, one of the hardwood trees that the mushrooms grow on, and take, or mushroom. Shiitakes are the third most cultivated mushroom worldwide, just behind the white button mushroom and oyster mushroom.

Traditionally, shiitake mushrooms are grown on deadwood logs, a time-intensive process that yields a high-quality mushroom. Over the past few decades, alternative techniques for cultivating shiitake mushrooms have emerged, using waste products such as corncobs and sunflower seed hulls as growing media. In addition to the farmed shiitakes you’ll find at the grocery store, shiitakes and other members of the Lentinus genus (including some native to the United States) can be foraged as wild mushrooms.

What Do Shiitake Mushrooms Look and Taste Like?

Shiitake mushrooms are easily recognizable for their brown, convex (umbrella-like) caps, off-white gills, and tan stems. The caps themselves can range in size from less than one inch to up to 10 inches in diameter and sometimes have white cracks in their surfaces that can indicate a more flavorful mushroom. In Japanese cuisine, those mushrooms with lots of cracks are known as donko or flower mushrooms. Donko or not, shiitake mushrooms are known for their strong, earthy flavor. They’re packed with umami thanks to the amino acid glutamate. When cooked, shiitake caps have velvety, meaty texture, while the stems can be tough—or pleasantly chewy, if cooked long enough.

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Are Shiitake Mushrooms Good for You?

Shiitake mushrooms are a good source of dietary fiber, copper, selenium, manganese, protein, iron, and B vitamins such as pantothenic acid. Like other mushrooms, shiitakes can be a good source of vitamin D if exposed to sunlight. (Most commercially grown mushrooms are grown in the dark.)

How Do You Store and Clean Shiitake Mushrooms?

When buying fresh shiitakes, avoid mushrooms that look wrinkly or slimy. Store fresh mushrooms wrapped in a slightly damp kitchen towel in the refrigerator until ready to use, up to a week.

To clean shiitake mushrooms, gently wipe fresh mushrooms with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel to remove any dirt.

How to Cook With Shiitake Mushrooms

When cooking, separate the caps from the stems, since the tougher stems take a little longer to cook. You can use caps and stems together in the same dish, cooking the stems first and then adding the caps, or save the chewier stems for another use. Depending on the size of the caps, you’ll generally want to either leave them whole, quarter, or thickly slice. You can substitute dried shiitake mushrooms for fresh, bearing in mind that they may take longer to cook.

Two of the easiest ways to prepare shiitake mushrooms for a side dish or topping are sautéing and stir-frying.

  • Sauté shiitake mushrooms: In a medium skillet, heat two tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil over medium heat. Mince one small clove garlic and sauté until fragrant, about one minute (don’t let the garlic burn!). Add a cup of shiitake mushrooms and cover skillet with a lid, continuing to cook until tender and golden brown, about five more minutes. Add one tablespoon soy sauce and one tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, continuing to cook, uncovered, until the mushrooms absorb the liquid, about one more minute. (Alternatively, swap the garlic, soy sauce, and lemon juice for a quarter cup of teriyaki sauce.)
  • Stir-fry: Heat a wok over high heat until just smoking, then add two tablespoons sesame or peanut oil. Add a teaspoon minced ginger and two scallions, thinly sliced. Stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add a cup of mushrooms and stir-fry until tender and golden brown, about one to two more minutes.

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How to Prepare Dried Shiitake Mushrooms

Dried shiitake mushrooms, readily available at Asian grocery stores, typically have a more intense flavor than the fresh kind and can last for months, or even years.

To prepare dried shiitake mushrooms for cooking, soak dried mushrooms, gills down, in hot water to rehydrate until tender, about 20 minutes; or soak in room temperature water overnight. Squeeze rehydrated mushrooms to expel excess water. Strain mushroom soaking liquid for a quick vegetable stock. If you’re not planning to use the stems right away, you can cut off the stems of the dried shiitakes while dry, and just soak the caps. Soaked too many mushrooms? You can store rehydrated dried mushrooms in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days.

Are There Other Uses for Shiitake Mushrooms?

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Although we’re most used to seeing thick slices of shiitake mushroom caps sautéd or stir-fried, there are so many other ways to enjoy these flavorful mushrooms. If you don’t enjoy the flavor of the stems, save them to vegetable broths and soups, or add them to a pasta sauce or stew early in the cooking process for an umami-infused richness.

8 Ways to Cook With Shiitake Mushrooms

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Try both fresh and dried shiitake mushrooms in:

  1. Chinese clay pot-style chicken and rice.
  2. Sukiyaki, a Japanese one-pot dish of beef, tofu, and vegetables in a sauce of stock, soy sauce, and sugar.
  3. Pasta with creamy alfredo sauce.
  4. Miso soup. Try using dried shiitake mushrooms to make a vegetarian dashi (broth), then add sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms along with miso, tofu, and scallions.
  5. Wolfgang Puck’s Oatmeal Risotto.
  6. Mandu, Korean dumplings stuffed with tofu and cabbage, shrimp, or other fillings.
  7. Cream of mushroom soup with a mix of mushrooms such as cremini, portobello, and shiitake.
  8. Cauliflower soup topped with vegan shiitake bacon. To make shiitake bacon, roast sliced shiitake mushroom caps with sesame or olive oil at 350°F until dark brown, about 45 minutes to an hour. The mushrooms will crisp up as they dry.

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