What Are King Oyster Mushrooms?

Don’t get them confused with oyster mushrooms.

king oyster mushrooms on a plate
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King oyster mushrooms are large, edible mushrooms prized for their unique flavor and texture. You may have seen them perched atop a fancy plate of mushroom pasta or in a stir fry, but how are they different from other mushroom varieties, like button mushrooms and shiitakes? Read on for all you need to know about this large and delicious fungi.

What Are King Oyster Mushrooms?

King oyster mushrooms, also known as trumpet mushrooms, are prized for their meaty texture, versatility, and visual appeal. They have a thick, white stalk with a smaller brown cap. They're popular in many different types of cuisine, especially Chinese. In recent years, they've exploded in popularity in meatless cooking.

They have a dense, chewy texture combined with their mushroomy umami flavor that can mimic the savory qualities of meat. You can find vegan pulled "pork" made from shredded king oyster stalks and vegan "scallops" made from slicing discs of the stalk. The whole mushroom is also commonly cut in half and seared like a steak.

King oyster mushrooms
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What Do King Oyster Mushrooms Taste Like?

King oyster mushrooms have a chewy, meaty texture with the classic earthiness expected from mushrooms. They're mild overall but have a deeply savory, umami flavor that can give any number of dishes an amazing flavor backbone. The texture is slightly spongy with a bit of chew; some people compare it to shellfish – which is probably why they're so popular as vegan scallops!

Oyster Mushrooms vs. King Oyster Mushrooms

Don't be fooled by their similar name; oyster and king oyster mushrooms are actually very different. Oyster mushrooms grow concentric petals with irregular, fan-shaped caps that look like ruffles and are sometimes described as looking like fish scales. They grow in clusters and are often harvested in big, interlocking chunks.

In contrast, king oyster mushrooms are the traditional mushroom shape with a domed cap atop a stalk. Beyond just their appearance, these cousins differ in taste. King oysters are dense, savory, and meaty; oyster mushrooms have a more delicate, almost sweet flavor. They complement each other well, so if you're making a recipe that calls for multiple mushroom varieties, try combining them for a delicious flavor and texture variance.

How to Cook With King Oyster Mushrooms

King oyster mushrooms can be sauteed, roasted, or even grilled. Try them in a stir fry, pasta, or paired with meat. They're incredibly versatile, but because they're so prized and often a bit on the expensive side, most chefs would tell you to favor more minimal preparations. In restaurants, you'll often find them scored and seared (like a French duck breast) to showcase their beautiful flavor and texture.

If you've never tried them before, simply slice them in half longways and sear them in a hot cast iron skillet with some oil until they're brown. Then, toss in a small knob of butter, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, a couple cracks of black pepper and saute for an additional two to five minutes. Just make sure to wait to salt your mushrooms until the end of the cooking – this is the most critical rule of mushroom cooking. Mushrooms have a ton of water, so sprinkling them with salt early on in the cooking will draw that water out and create a wet, soggy mess.

Cutting slices of king oyter mushrooms, fresh raw Pleurotus eryngii fungi, closeup
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To make vegan "scallops,'' slice the stem into half-inch discs. Score one side so there's a cross-hatch pattern – this increases surface area and allows for more crispy browning – then sear in oil. Once both sides are brown, add a squeeze of lemon, some capers, and a handful of chopped parsley.

The stems of king oyster mushrooms can also be shredded into a vegan pulled "pork." Start by slicing away the caps and using a fork to shred the stems. Spread the pieces on a sheet tray, toss with oil and barbecue spices like smoked paprika, cumin, and cayenne. Next, roast the pieces in the oven at 400 degrees F until the mushrooms are crispy, about 20 minutes. Drizzle with your favorite bbq sauce and bake for another 5 minutes. Serve on buns with slaw, and enjoy! This can be an easy dinner if you're cooking for plant-based eaters or are just looking to reduce your meat consumption.

Where to Buy King Oyster Mushrooms

You can sometimes find king oyster mushrooms in your local grocery store with the other mushrooms. Or try your local Asian specialty food store. King oyster mushrooms are popular in many types of Asian cuisine, so they're more likely to be fresh due to demand and stock being rotated regularly. If you don't have an Asian specialty food store in your area, check farmer's markets in the spring. Online Asian specialty food stores like Weee! Or UmamiCart sometimes have them in stock and can deliver right to your door.

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