Chanterelles are some of the most popular edible mushrooms in the world. Known for their unique flavor and beautiful appearance, spotting them in the woods is a special treat for mushroom hunters everywhere.
They are mycorrhizal, meaning they form a beneficial, symbiotic relationship with the roots of trees. This makes cultivation very difficult to impossible. Thus most chanterelles, even the ones you find for sale in a store, were picked from the wild.
Here you’ll find more information on these tasty mushrooms. We’ll start with some basic facts, and move on to where to find them. At the end are cooking instructions, including an easy recipe. Worth preparing for your first (or millionth!) chanterelle mushroom experience.
For more in-depth information on the identification of these mushrooms, click here.
- There are many species of edible chanterelles in the Cantharellus genus. The most well known is Cantharellus cibarius, the golden chanterelle mushroom.
- Like so many different types of mushrooms, there is now debate over the classification of Cantharellus cibarius. Mycologists now suspect it could actually be made up of a number of different species. For now, Cantharellus cibarius is the most common species name you’ll see in North America.
- Due to their mycorrhizal relationship with trees, you’ll only find them growing on the ground, usually near some sort of hardwood (oaks, conifers, etc).
- These are summer to fall mushrooms. In my area that means they fruit anywhere from June to September. They mainly fruit in North American and North Europe, however they are also found in Asia, Mexico, and Africa.
- Caps are usually convex to vase-shaped, with a yellow to yellow-orange color. Their stems are smooth, not hollow, and the same color as the cap.
- They contain vitamin C as well as a high amount of carotene. High carotene levels play in part in their distinctive orange-yellow color.
- Fascinating research is being done regarding the insecticidal properties of chanterelles. These properties seem to be the reason that chanterelles resist rot and bugs better than many other wild mushrooms.
To experience the distinctive flavor of these gourmet mushrooms, you’ll have to either hunt for them in the woods or buy them from a store.
When purchasing, make sure they’re clean, dry, and have a light fruity odor. Don’t buy anything that looks old, wet, mushy, or has a funny smell. You’ll find them for sale in gourmet or natural food stores.
Dried mushrooms are available for purchase as well. To reconstitute, simply soak them in warm water for 30 minutes or add them to a recipe with simmering liquids in the last 10-15 minutes.
As these mushrooms are mycorrhizal and haven’t been mass cultivated successfully yet, buying them will always be a little pricey. But if you live in the right area, you may be able to find some for free!
If you decide to go chanterelle mushroom hunting, take the time to learn about proper identification. There are false look-alikes that can make you sick, so make sure you consult an expert after your first few times out.
I’ve written a more thorough page on the identification of chanterelle mushrooms here. Some basic things to keep in mind:
- Look for the presence of false gills. These are interlaced wrinkles on the underside of the cap (see above picture). Unlike the true gills of a button mushrooms from the grocery store, they cannot be easily removed.
- They grow on the ground, near hardwoods such as oaks and conifers.
- Appear mid-summer to fall.
Click here for more identification information. Start learning how to find your own chanterelles!
A final word on mushroom hunting: chanterelles are extremely popular and many believe they are being over-hunted. Please respect your natural area and only hunt what you can eat, making sure to leave some so they can drop their spores and give the organism a better chance for reproduction.
Once you’ve acquired some mushrooms, it’s time to start cooking them!
Only wash if they’re very dirty, as they contain a lot of water to begin with. Waterlogged mushrooms are harder to cook and may have a mushy texture. It’s best to just wipe off any dirt with a brush or damp cloth.
They’ll last longer in the refrigerator than many other wild mushrooms, usually up to 10 days. For long-term storage, dry them in an oven or dehydrator at a low temperature until they’re brittle enough to snap in half.
The flavor of chanterelles is often described as fruity or peppery, almost like a flower. They’re excellent with meats, fish, or as an entree topping. They’re also very popular with eggs or as a filling in crêpes.
Due to their high moisture content, they’re often prepared with a dry sauté. This is done by slicing and cooking the mushrooms in a skillet without added water or oil. Excess water will be boiled off while cooking.
If you want something fancier that really brings out the delicious taste of your mushrooms, check out the easy recipe below:
Chanterelles in Butter
- fresh mushrooms (at least 8 oz, or 1/2 lb)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup whipping cream
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Finally, throw in the whipping cream and cook for 2-3 minutes longer. There’s a lot of fat in this recipe, but man is it good!
To make an omelet, remove the mushrooms and add a few beaten eggs to the remaining mixture in the skillet. Cook until the edges are hard but the middle is still slightly runny, and then spoon the mushrooms into the center. Fold closed and cook at least 1 minute more, or however crispy you like your eggs. A little cheese and lemon juice really complete the recipe.
You’ll be enjoying a gourmet snack in no time!