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Bursting with umami flavor and a rich history, shiitake mushrooms have been most prevalent in Asian cuisine. As one may guess, though, it’s gaining popularity in the culinary space worldwide and in this blog post, I’m going to delve into the origins of this fungi, explore their nutritional benefits, and also show you ways to incorporate it into your every day dishes!

photo of several shiitake mushrooms
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What are shiitake mushrooms?

Scientifically known as Lentinula edodes, shiitake mushrooms are a type of edible mushroom that originated in East Asia, particularly in Japan, China, and Korea. They are highly regarded for their distinct flavor and numerous health benefits.

Appearance-wise, they’re vastly different from lion’s mane mushrooms! Shiitake mushrooms have a dark brown cap and to me, they have a distinct look to them. I think it might be the fact I grew up with them my entire life, but there is something about the dark brown cap on them and the exterior texture that I can immediately tell if it’s a shiitake mushroom or not.

up close image of a shiitake mushroom and its detailed cap

How did shiitake mushrooms get its name?

The name “shiitake” originates from the Japanese language. “Shii” refers a specific tree species called Castanopsis cuspidata, but it is commonly known as shii. It is on that tree that shiitake mushrooms naturally grow. “Take” means mushroom in Japanese. So with that, “shiitake” roughly translates to “mushroom that grows on shii trees.”

What do shiitake mushrooms taste like?

Shiitake mushrooms have a very unique and distinct taste to them. To me, they taste rather smoky – but not like liquid smoke smokey. They taste earthy smoky, if that makes sense. It’s a rich and savory umami flavor that you can’t replicate.

a shiitake mushroom standing up in front of several other mushrooms

What are the health benefits of shiitake mushrooms?

This below information is not a replacement for medical advice, treatment, or supplements!

Shiitake mushrooms contain compounds like beta-glucans, which may support immune function by protecting cells from getting damaged and boosting white blood cells. Additionally, they are a good source of B vitamins, copper, selenium, and dietary fiber. Shiitakes also contain polysaccharides which are associated with anti-inflammatory properties.

How to prepare shiitake mushrooms for cooking

Fresh shiitake mushrooms. Like all mushrooms, they don’t need to be rinsed or washed under water. They hardly ever have dirt on them. I just knock them against the sink and the dirt falls off. I also sometimes take a damp paper towel.

Dried shiitake mushrooms. Asians love to cook with dried shiitake mushrooms. I personally think dried shiitake mushrooms have an even richer flavor than fresh. In any case, if you are using dried shiitake mushrooms, you will want to reconstitute with hot water. This softens them up and allows you to be able to chop them.

up close image of a small shiitake mushroom growing under a large shiitake mushroom

How long and how to store shiitake mushrooms

To maintain their freshness, store shiitake mushrooms in a paper bag in the refrigerator. When stored properly, they can last up to two weeks, and sometimes more. Do not store them in a plastic bag. They need to breathe and the condensation of the plastic bag will also spoil your mushrooms faster.

Where can you find shiitake mushrooms?

Fresh and dried shiitake mushrooms are readily available at many local grocery stores. They’re also available at farmer’s markets if you have a local mushroom vendor! Asian grocery stores have a large variety of dried shiitake mushrooms as we use it a lot in our cooking, but they also have fresh as well.

How to cook with shiitake mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms can be cooked in various ways, including sautéing, roasting, grilling, frying, or boiling. Their firm, meaty texture that makes them suitable for use in a variety of stir fries. Here are some recipes that use shiitake mushrooms:

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