Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms are a Culinary Delight.

Chicken of the Woods on a cutting board

Chicken of the Woods, also known as Laetiporus sulphureus, is a polypore mushroom that grows in clusters on the sides of trees. It has a vibrant yellow-orange color and grows in overlapping brackets or shelves.

There are a few different species of Laetiporus mushrooms that are commonly called Chicken of the Woods. L. sulphureus is the most well-known and popular to eat. L. cincinnatus has a white pore surface and pinkish-orange caps.

Here are my top three reasons for loving Chicken of the Woods mushrooms...

Reason #1 – Chicken of the Woods have a unique, meaty flavor

Chicken of the Woods get their name because many people think they taste like chicken. The mushrooms have a meaty texture and a mild flavor that is a bit sweet and slightly nutty.

They absorb flavors well, so they are great sautéed and used as a vegetarian substitute for chicken in recipes like pasta, rice dishes, or sandwiches. Their texture holds up well in soups and stews.

Personally, I slice these mushrooms quite thin, sauté them in olive oil, and add them to my morning omelet. From the amount you see in the photo above, I’ll probably use about a third of that for one morning’s omelet.

And yes, it really does taste a bit like chicken! And the texture is similar too.

Reason #2 – Foraging for them is fun and rewarding

Chicken of the Woods growing on a tree

Chicken of the Woods are a great mushroom for beginner foragers to look for. They have a distinct appearance with few lookalikes, and they often grow in the same spot year after year once you find a tree they like.

Look for large clusters growing on hardwood trees like oak, cherry, or beech. Chicken of the Woods are parasites that cause the tree's heartwood to rot, so you'll often find them on older, dying trees.

The best time to hunt for Chicken of the Woods is in the late summer through fall. Bring a knife or saw to cut the tender outer edges of the brackets, leaving the older tough base intact so the mushroom can keep growing.

As always, be careful when foraging for any kind of mushrooms in the wild. Take along someone who has real expertise in identifying mushrooms and fungi.

Reason #3 – They are a nutritious meat substitute

Chicken of the Woods are a good source of protein, fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and iron. 100 grams of the mushroom provides about 14 grams of protein.  

Since they have a satisfying meaty texture and umami flavor, Chicken of the Woods make an excellent vegetarian alternative to chicken. They can replace the chicken in almost any recipe. 

My wife and I are both vegetarians. And while she isn't as big a fan as me when it comes to fungi, we both appreciate the high protein content of this particular mushroom.

If you haven't tried Chicken of the Woods mushrooms before, keep an eye out for them when foraging, or look for them at a local market.


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