Does the brown snake say something to you? How about shiitake? In this article you will learn everything you need

Shiitake mushrooms not only taste great, but are also very healthy. These mushrooms are a staple in many Asian dishes.

You might not be sure how to cook them if you’ve never tried them before. You may not even be sure where to buy them and how to store them.

In this comprehensive article, you will learn everything you need to know before making them at home.

What is shiitake?

In Japanese, shii refers to a type of tree similar to the oak around which these mushrooms often grow, and thus is Japanese for mushroom.

Shiitake mushrooms can be found in stores in both dried and fresh form. This type of mushroom is slightly more expensive than the commonly used oyster mushroom here.

Small and large mushrooms that are spread out on the table.

What do shiitakes look like?

  • Wild mushrooms grow in the wild all year round in most of Southeast Asia. They grow on decaying wood of shii, oak, maple, beech, chestnut, poplar, mulberry.
  • Their hats are quite large and resemble an umbrella with a characteristic wavy brim. The most common coloring is brown, but they can also have shades of black.
  • Under the hat are cream-colored scales.
  • The leg is light brown and smooth, fibrous.
  • When cooked, they release a garlic-pine aroma and have a meaty, earthy, smoky umami flavor.
  • Compared to portobello mushrooms, they have much thinner and stiffer legs that are cream in color.
  • Their appearance is specific and once you see them, you will hardly mistake them for any other type of mushroom.
  • Because mushrooms originally come from Asia, you won’t find them in the wild here. Fortunately, they are some of the most commonly cultivated mushrooms in the world, so they are easy to find in the grocery store.
Brown scales flattened in the under hat.

How does shiitake taste?

If you have only eaten mushrooms or portobello before, you will find that this type of mushroom has a much richer and more intense flavor. They almost taste like meat. Their taste is sometimes referred to in culinary circles as umami (read what this term means in our article on monosodium glutamate ). Dried shiitakes have, according to some, an even more intense flavor than their fresh counterparts.

Types of shiitake

Professional chefs are able to distinguish between several types of these mushrooms. For us as regular cooks and diners, stores usually only offer one. In general, mushrooms with a cracked cap and a thicker leg are considered to be of better quality.

Tenpaku Donko are considered the highest quality variety. They are grown only in winter, and the low temperature causes natural cracks in the cap of the mushroom.
Chabana Donko is another popular variety that is also exclusively grown in the winter months. The crack on the hat resembles a floral pattern and they have a thicker and meatier leg.
Donko shiitake has a large, thick, round hat. Their taste resembles meat and their texture is chewy.
Shiitake Yori are smaller and are traditionally associated with dishes served on Japanese New Year.
Shiitake Koshin have the strongest aroma of all varieties. They are usually chopped and used in soups or rice dishes.
The best variety of mushroom with a cracked hat.

Health benefits of shiitake

Mushrooms are rich in vitamins A, B2, B12, iron, calcium, copper and manganese.

Mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds (perhaps thousands) of years.

Just four pieces of dried shiitake contain a high percentage of daily vitamin B5, selenium, zinc, folate and more.

Shiitake mushrooms can also be a great source of vitamin D. Interestingly, placing the mushrooms in direct sunlight for a day or two increases their vitamin D content up to 460 times!

These mushrooms do not contain cholesterol, fat, are a good source of fiber with a low sodium content.

They also have anti-inflammatory properties and are high in antioxidants, which are substances that help prevent cell damage in the body.

The mushroom is ground into a spice that is medicinal.

How to prepare shiitake?

As with any type of mushroom, you’ll want to clean them thoroughly before cooking and eating them.
Also, avoid soaking them in water as they absorb them very well and this will spoil their texture. Instead, wipe the hats with a damp paper towel or rinse them briefly under cold running water. Cut off the legs, but don’t throw them away, you can use them to make stock.
If you are working with dried mushrooms, they will need to be rehydrated (see below for how to do this).
Once they are rehydrated, you can drain them. However, do not spill the liquid! Like the legs, you can also use the soaking water to make stock or soup.
If you want to fry or saute mushrooms, cut them into thin slices so that they can be fried quickly and whole.
If the recipe calls for a longer cooking time, leave their caps whole or cut them in half.
These mushrooms are best suited for culinary preparations such as frying, sautéing, boiling, steaming and grilling.
Their umami, earthy flavor and texture lend themselves well as a substitute in recipes that call for other wild mushrooms.
They commonly replace meat in vegetarian recipes. You can use them to make veggie burgers or put them in lasagna instead of ground beef. Try preparing these delicious and healthy zucchini spaghetti with them!
They can be sliced and used in stir-fries, miso soup, vegetarian dashi, cooked in omelets, mixed into pasta. Add them to one of these delicious Italian gnocchi recipes !
The powder can be used as a flavoring in soups, broths and sauces. Try our recipes for hail soups , which are full of delicious and wholesome ingredients!
Shiitake pairs well with marjoram, thyme, cilantro, spinach, mustard, eggplant, broccoli, peas, carrots, peppers, baby corn, potatoes, onions, green onions, garlic, ginger, poultry, pork, lamb, shrimp, rice , polenta, pasta, soy sauce and dry red wine.


  • The easiest way to dry them is to simply leave them in the sun
  • You can also use a food dehydrator, where you put the mushrooms in the dryer overnight at a temperature of 45 to 50 degrees
  • You will know that the mushrooms are dry enough when they are light, brittle and crispy like potato chips.
Dried mushroom slices.


  • Place your dried shiitake mushrooms in a bowl or container with their caps skins facing down.
  • Pour hot (almost boiling) water over them and let them sit for about 20 minutes to rehydrate
  • Alternatively, you can put them in cold water and let them soak overnight at room temperature
  • Once yours are hydrated, squeeze them a bit to get rid of any excess water they’ve absorbed. Keep the liquid and use it later as a vegetable stock or the base of another soup
  • Once rehydrated, they cannot be dried again. If you’ve made a lot of them, you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge for two or three days.
A bowl full of stuffed mushrooms with water.


  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Spread out the foil and place the mushrooms in the center. Leave enough space on the edges to fold it into a package
  • Add a few tablespoons of olive oil or butter. You may want to add a piece of fish or chopped vegetables such as tomatoes or onions. You can also add salt and pepper to taste
  • Once everything you need is in the foil, create a package
  • Then simply put it in the oven for 15 minutes. If you have added other ingredients to the mushrooms, you may need to increase the baking time. Check them every few minutes so they don’t burn.
Mushrooms packed in a foil package with vegetables.


  • Heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat
  • Once your oil is hot, add the mushrooms to the pan and toss to coat them in the oil on all sides
  • If you add too many mushrooms to the pan at once, they will release too much water and start to suffocate
  • Fry them for about 10 minutes. Don’t forget to stir them occasionally so that they fry evenly. You’ll know they’re ready when they turn golden brown
Sauteed mushrooms in one bowl with vegetables.


  • Heat a wok or deep frying pan over high heat until smoking
  • Add a few tablespoons of your favorite vegetable oil. Add thinly sliced ginger, garlic and onion
  • Fry for about 30 seconds, then add the sliced mushrooms to the wok. Fry them until golden brown just for about a minute or two
Mushrooms fried in butter on a white plate.

How to store shiitake?

When you buy mushrooms in a store, they are wrapped in plastic. Once you get them home, you should remove them from this packaging and store them in a paper bag. Wrapping in a paper bag will help absorb excess moisture and extend their life.

Fresh mushrooms stored in a paper bag should last about a week in the refrigerator.

You’ll want to store dried mushrooms in a glass container to keep moisture out. Store them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight to ensure they last up to a year.

Milan & Ondra

We are both fans of good food and enjoy cooking. On this website, we want to inspire you with traditional, but also less common recipes. We will be happy if you try our recipes and let us know how you liked them. Bon appetite! :)