What to do with Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms?

We were thrilled when Daryl brought home two big bags of chicken of the woods mushrooms yesterday.  While we harvest lots of pheasant back (dryad’s saddle) mushrooms and morels, this is our first time finding chicken of the woods and I was so excited as I’ve heard for years how much they taste like chicken and how well they work as a chicken substitute in vegetarian recipes.

How do chicken of the woods taste? Mushroom Appreciation says:

This mushroom has a lemony, meaty taste. Some think it tastes like its chicken namesake; others describe the flavor as being more like crab or lobster. Whatever your opinion, the chicken fungus makes a great substitute for meat in almost any dish.

How do you use it?  One green planet says:

Chicken of the woods is most loved for its amazing texture, and for plant-based eaters, it is a real treat to get something so meaty (but is obviously not.) It works amazingly in pasta, as a taco filler, in a sauté, or as deep-fried “chicken” fingers. Just use it as one would use chicken or tofu.

Since we have far more than we can use in one night and I want to make the most of these, we’ve been doing loads of research on the best ways to cook and preserve chicken of the woods.

Here’s the consensus.

By far, the largest number of foragers online recommend freezing extra chicken of the woods.  Most say to saute it first, though a few people say it can be frozen raw with good results.

Walkin’ with the Wild Woman says:

The best way I have found to preserve them is freezing. Over the years I have experimented and found that the most satisfactory way to freeze them is to chunk them up or slice them and lightly brown /saute in butter prior to freezing. While this isn’t absolutely necessary, it does seem to really improve the end product when using during the dark cold says that lie ahead. The chicken of the woods can also be sliced thin and dried. The dried ones are best used in long cooking soups and stews as they tend to take quite awhile to rehydrate, and can have chewy texture when re-hydrated.

Cab’s Wild Food Page says:

Some mushrooms will require some kind of pre-cooking. I reccomend slicing them, and frying them in a little olive oil with some chopped browned onion and garlic, and just a little black pepper. Freeze them in small portions, and when you’re ready to use your mushrooms just melt a portion in a pan. That said, when I have an excess of chicken of the woods or fieldblewits, I freeze them as is with no more pre-treatment than a quick wipe, and they seem none the worse for it.

Mushroom Appreciation says:

If you have too many mushrooms to cook at once, these species will survive a stint in the freezer so sautée them and freeze for later.

On the Shroomery board, most people say to saute them and then freeze, though one person says he just cuts them and freezes them (sometimes vacuum sealing them).

Forager Chef says:

As far as preserving your chicken mushrooms, In my opinion you have two options: Pickling and freezing. I prefer pickling to freezing, since even if the mushrooms are cooked before freezing they seem to develop a kind of off texture. Pickling preserves the texture of mushrooms better than any method I’ve found. The acid you add to a pickling liquid too makes them a natural addition to a vinaigrette, or as a way to cut the fat of a rich sauce.

Die hard mushroom fans may disagree with me, but freezing alters the texture of these, and makes it a bit strange. The same goes for hen of the woods, and many other mushrooms, especially if they are frozen raw.

If you really want to freeze them, saute them in plenty of butter with some herbs like thyme, make sure to season them with salt too. When putting them in the freezer, make sure to add plenty of butter or fat to the plastic bag, tupper-ware, or whatever container you’re going to keep them in, since it will help ward off freezer burn.

He shares his pickling recipe for chicken of the woods here.

All that said, Sam on the Awe Naturale boards reports fantastic success making chicken of the woods jerky and shares his recipe there.

chicken of the woods jerky

Note that you can store chicken of the woods mushrooms in a paper bag in the refrigerator for about a week.

How to cook and preserve chicken of the woods mushrooms

Here are some of the recipes that looked best for using chicken of the woods:

Mother Earth News offers Chicken of the Woods Pasta Sauce Recipe  from the wonderful book Forager’s Feast.

Health Starts in the Kitchen offers Chicken Mushroom Hashbrowns {Vegan & Vegetarian Friendly}

 

One Tomato Two Tomato has Wild Mushroom Tart Recipe

Forager Chef offers Chicken Fried Chicken Of The Woods

Forager Chef also offers Chicken Of The Woods, Spring Vegetables, Ramps, And Chive Blossoms

Whole Food Vegan offers Pineapple Teriyaki “Chicken”

One Green Planet has Grilled Chicken of the Woods Sandwich [Vegan]

They also offer Beer Battered Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms [Vegan]

Wake Up and Eat has Pan-Fried Chicken (of the Woods) and Garlic, which can be used as a chicken substitute in any recipe.

Note this caution from Mushroom Appreciation:

It’s important to note that this is one of those mushrooms that sometimes causes gastric distress in certain people. If you want to avoid a possible stomach misadventure, only try a little bit your first time to see what it does to you. Also always avoid chicken of the woods growing on conifers, eucalyptus, or cedar trees, as these are reported to contain toxins that can make people sick.

Want to learn more about identifying and using chicken of the woods mushrooms?  Mushroom Appreciation has fantastic information to tell you all you need to know.

What are your favorite ways to use and preserve chicken of the woods?  Please add any suggestions in the comments!

I’ll report back and post our favorite recipes as we get to know these beautiful mushrooms.

How to cook and preserve chicken of the woods mushrooms

 

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Post Author: Alicia Bayer

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