Once you learn how to cook oyster mushrooms, you'll realize it isn't too different from cooking other types of mushrooms.
Oyster mushrooms can be roasted, sautéed, grilled, or stir-fried. Because they soak up moisture easily, they are also good simmered in soup broth and stew or braised in sauce.
Oyster mushrooms have a very satisfying meaty texture and a delicate flavor. They are easy to cook and a delicious plant-based alternative to meat and seafood.
This blog post includes a recipe for sauteed oyster mushrooms. You should also try my recipe for roasted oyster mushrooms with garlic and thyme.
Why are they called oyster mushrooms? Well, the name "oyster mushroom" comes from the way the mushrooms grow in attached clusters, just like oysters in the ocean. In the wild, the clusters attach to trees and logs, just like real oysters attach to rocks.
Also, the shape of the mushroom cap slightly resembles the shape and color of an oyster.
Lastly, when you cook oyster mushrooms, you might notice a delicate seafood aroma, which is another way this mushroom got its name. For this reason, oyster mushrooms are often used as a vegan substitute for seafood.
What do Oyster Mushrooms Taste Like?
All parts of an oyster mushroom are edible. Overall, they taste fairly mild and share the same earthy flavor of other mushrooms. What sets them apart is a very slight flavor and aroma that is reminiscent of seafood.
The oyster mushrooms has the same spongy texture that other types of mushrooms have, although it's more dense and chewy.
How to Buy and Store
When purchasing, look for fresh and soft mushrooms that don’t have dried edges. The color should be light, not dark and wilted.
In stores, oyster mushrooms can also be called pearl oyster mushrooms or tree oyster mushrooms.
Keep in mind that mushrooms shrink quite a bit when cooked. A full pound of oyster mushrooms will cook down to 2 larger servings or 4 very small servings.
Plan to eat the mushrooms within several days of buying them. The best way to store mushrooms is in a paper bag, which allows the mushrooms to breathe and prevents moisture from building up.
Cooked mushrooms taste best if eaten within 2 to 3 days, although they stay fresh for up to 5 days.
How to Clean Oyster Mushrooms
Oyster mushrooms are usually cleaner than other types of mushrooms and have less dirt clinging to them. However, it's still a good idea to clean them before consuming.
You have two options. You can brush the mushrooms off with a dry or damp paper towel. Or, for a more thorough cleaning, use water.
Oyster mushrooms are like sponges and it's easy for them to get waterlogged. For this reason, it's not a good idea to soak them in a bowl of water. Instead, the best way to clean oyster mushrooms is to fill a bowl with cold water, then hold the stems and swish the cluster of attached mushroom caps in the water to remove dirt from the caps.
After washing, immediately pat them dry with a towel. Even after this step, the mushrooms will remain a bit wet. The moisture will steam from them as they cook. If the mushrooms are really moist, it might take them longer to cook than you expect, especially if you want a browned, crispy texture.
How to Trim and Prep Oyster Mushrooms
Oyster mushrooms are sold in clusters of attached mushrooms. They can be gently pulled apart into individual mushrooms. You can do this with your hands, but sometimes it's easier to use kitchen shears to simply snip the mushrooms free from the bottom stem that holds the cluster together.
Before cooking, you can leave the individual mushrooms whole, or you can tear them into pieces, or you can slice them with a knife. In most cases, the mushrooms are left whole because they look more impressive than chopped up pieces of mushrooms.
How to Cook Oyster Mushrooms
Oyster mushrooms can be cooked just like any other type of mushroom. They can be roasted, sautéed, grilled, stir-fried or battered and deep fried. Because they soak up moisture easily, they are also good simmered in soup broth and stew or braised in sauce.
To saute oyster mushrooms, spread the mushrooms out evenly in a hot skillet with oil or melted butter. Cook for 3 minutes without stirring.
Lightly salt the mushrooms and turn the heat down slightly. Saute for about 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
At the end of this blog post, you'll find a detailed recipe card with exact measurements and instructions for sauteed oyster mushrooms. You can also try my recipe for roasted oyster mushrooms with garlic and thyme.
No matter how you cook oyster mushrooms, you'll want to follow these basic guidelines:
- First, wash the mushrooms, pat them dry and separate the clusters into individual mushrooms.
- To saute, roast, grill or stir-fry the mushrooms, you'll want to first toss the mushrooms in a light coating of oil or melted butter.
- Be generous with salt.
- You can start with a higher heat on the stove to brown the mushrooms, but then lower the heat so the mushrooms have time to soften without burning.
- In the oven, check the mushrooms frequently. It's hard to give an exact cooking time for roasted oyster mushrooms, although they usually take around 20 minutes to roast. You can leave them in the oven longer if you want a really crispy texture.
- If making soup or stew, first saute the mushrooms before adding broth.
Helpful Tip: If you clean mushrooms in water, they will absorb moisture that will release when the mushrooms are cooked. This creates a steaming affect that can make the texture of cooked mushrooms limp and soggy. If you want browned mushrooms with crispy edges, make sure not to crowd mushrooms in a saute pan or on a sheet-pan. Spacing out the mushrooms allows to moisture to release and then evaporate.
No matter how you cook the mushrooms, you can boost the flavor by adding one or more of these ingredients before serving.
- Teriyaki sauce
- BBQ sauce
- Cream sauce (Spendwithpennies.com has a good mushroom cream sauce)
- Fresh herbs
- Melted or browned butter
Oyster mushrooms are satisfying as a vegan main course or can be served as a versatile side dish. There are many different ways to serve them!
Pasta: Saute or roast the mushrooms, then toss with your favorite pasta or buttered egg noodles. You can also simmer them in bolognese or red sauce. They are also delicious in a cream sauce.
Polenta: Pile on top of sliced polenta or creamy oven baked polenta.
Bread: Pile cooked mushrooms onto sliced, toasted bread. Add fresh herbs, sea salt, or cheese for more flavor.
Fish: The delicate seafood flavor of oyster mushrooms pairs well with grilled or roasted fish.
Steak or chicken: Mushrooms are a perfect side dish for steak or chicken.
Vegetables: You can roast oyster mushrooms on the same sheet-pan as other vegetables. Or, serve them with stir-fried veggies.
FAQ About Oyster Mushrooms
Many grocery stores sell oyster mushrooms year round, or you can buy them at a farmers' market. Some experienced foragers like to harvest oyster mushrooms in the wild or you can buy mushroom growing kits and cultivate them at home.
In the wild, they can usually be found in the fall and early winter. In some climates, you will see them growing in late spring or summer. Whenever foraging in the wild, make sure you’re completely certain about your identification. Some types of mushrooms are poisonous and should never be consumed.
At my local grocery stores, the price of oyster mushrooms is usually between $6.99 and $7.99/pound. Sometimes they are sold loose by the pound and sometimes they are packaged.
However, how much oyster mushrooms cost depends on where you buy them. I've seen them cost slightly less than $6.99/lb and I've seen them sold for quite a bit more. Generally, they are more expensive than button or cremini mushrooms, but typically less expensive than morels, chanterelles or other speciality mushrooms.
The dried version of this mushrooms is very mild and lacks the flavor and texture of fresh ones. However, they can work well in soup and stew because they quickly hydrate in liquid.
There are around 200 species in the oyster mushrooms genus (Pleurotus ostreatus). King oyster mushrooms are simply a variety that has wider stems and thicker caps than regular oyster mushrooms. They are also known as King Trumpet mushrooms.
Mushroom are fungi, not plants.
Oyster mushrooms are actually considered carnivorous! They can break down and consume microscopic nematodes and use the nutrients to supplement the low levels of nitrogen available in wood and trees that they grow on and consume.
It's best to cook oyster mushrooms before eating them. When raw, they have an unpleasant texture and flavor.
More Recipes for Mushroom Lovers
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Sautéed Oyster Mushrooms Recipe
The trick to sautéing oyster mushrooms is starting with medium-high heat to brown the mushrooms, then turning the heat down so the mushrooms will get tender without burning.
A pound of oyster mushrooms will shrink down to 2 servings after cooking, or just enough to toss with a pound of pasta.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: side dishes
- Method: saute
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 1 pound oyster mushrooms, cleaned and pulled apart (see notes section below, or blog post above)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or salted butter (or a combination of the two)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (optional)
- Salt, to taste
If mushrooms are crowded into a skillet, the moisture that releases will steam the mushrooms and they won't brown nicely. To prevent this, you'll need to saute a pound of mushrooms in two batches. When fewer mushrooms are in the skillet, the moisture will release and then evaporate.
- In a wide skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of either oil or butter over medium-high heat.
- When the skillet is hot, add half of the mushrooms in an even layer, spread out across the skillet. Mix well to coat the mushrooms in oil then cook, without stirring, for 3 minutes. This gives the mushrooms a chance to brown.
- Season the mushrooms lightly with salt, then toss and gently mix. Turn the heat down to medium or medium low.
- Continue to saute the mushrooms until they are tender, have shrunk in size, and are lightly browned around the edges, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Take the cooked mushrooms out of the skillet. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter or oil to the skillet along with the remaining mushrooms. Saute the second batch of mushrooms the same as the first.
- Turn the heat down to medium low. Add all of the mushrooms to the skillet along with the garlic. If the skillet seems dry, add a little bit more oil or butter.
- Saute for an additional minute or two, until the garlic is cooked.
- Taste the mushrooms and add more salt to taste.
Oyster mushrooms are usually cleaner than other types of mushrooms and have less dirt clinging to them. However, it's still a good idea to clean them before consuming. You have two options. You can brush the mushrooms off with a dry or damp paper towel. Or, for a more thorough cleaning, hold the stems and swish the caps in a bowl of water. Shake excess water from the mushrooms then use a towel to blot the mushrooms mostly dry.
Trimming and Prepping
Oyster mushrooms are sold in clusters of attached mushrooms that can be gently pulled apart into individual mushrooms. You can also use kitchen shears to snip the mushrooms free. Once separated, you can leave the individual mushrooms whole, or tear them into pieces or slice them with a knife.
Roasted Oyster Mushrooms
To roast the mushrooms, follow my recipe for roasted oyster mushrooms with garlic and thyme.
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