Edible Wild Mushrooms: Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods after harvest
Chicken of the Woods after harvest | Source

"Chicken of the Woods" is an edible mushroom. Chicken of the Woods is Laetiporus sulphureus and it grows on decaying dead trees and can cause brown heart rot in live trees

Some species of Laetiporus are also commonly known as sulphur shelf, sulphur polypore, the chicken mushroom, or the chicken fungus because some folks think it tastes a lot like chicken. And in some respects, after cooking, this mushroom has the texture of a tender cooked chicken.

These mushrooms have a distinctive sulfur orange coloring. Typically orange on the top and yellow underneath. Many have noted that it is easy to recognize in the wild and that there are no poisonous look a-likes.

These species of mushroom is wide spread throughout the United States. As a parasitic fungus, it feeds on oaks and other hardwoods.

I first ran across Chicken of the Woods this year in a food co-op where locally harvested mushrooms were being sold. Since one of my personal goals this year has been to try new things, I decided to give it a go and taste this delicacy. I must say, I really enjoyed it!


Nutrition and Health Benefits

All mushrooms are a great low calorie food. It has been reported that two cups of chopped Chicken of the Woods contains only 30 calories.

According to Master Gardener Sydney J. Tanner, these mushrooms are considered a good source of fiber, protein, vitamin C, and vitamins B, D, and K.


Cooking with Chicken of the Woods

It is usually recommended that Chicken of the Woods be cooked before eaten. Some mild allergies have been reported when eating this mushroom raw.

I personally chose to cook use mushroom in simple a wild rice dish, and I have used it in soups. It can also be dehydrated and stored for winter.


Wild Mushrooms and Rice

  • 1 cup dried wild rice (I prefer Lundberg's Wild Rice)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 veggie bouillon cube
  • 1-2 cups of wild mushrooms, chopped
  • 1-2 cups of celery (chopped)
  • 1-2 cups of dark green leafy vegetables (e.g., kale, spinach, etc.)
  • 3-4 green onions, chopped

Other optional ingredients (1-2 cups each):

  • Chopped carrots
  • Chopped leeks
  • Cooked chicken
  • Can of bamboo shoots
  • Can of water chestnuts

Simmer the wild rice in water and bouillon according to package directions (usually 40-60 minutes).

As rice starts to become tender (within 5-10 minutes of being done), add chopped vegetables and mushrooms.

Cook an additional 5-10 minutes. Vegetables should be tender but not overcooked.

This is a very versatile recipe. I tend to use whatever vegetables I have on hand. It can work as a stand alone main meal or as a side dish. Wild rice tends to be higher in protein and nutrients so the protein in both the wild rice and chicken of the woods mushrooms adds up.

I also use chopped chicken of the woods in some of the homemade soups I canned this fall. I added all the raw ingredients to the jars and water-boiled the jars for 10 minutes to seal.


Not to be confused with "Hen of the Woods"

While one might naively assume that "hen" and "chicken" are one in the same, when it comes to mushrooms, they are not. "Hen of the Woods" mushrooms are also edible but come from an entirely different genus (Grifola) and it looks entirely different. Hen of the Woods is also sometimes referred to as "Maitake" mushroom.

Hen of the Woods is also a polypore mushroom that also grows on oak trees. Polypores are leathery "poroid" mushrooms that lack a distinct stalk.

Mushrooms that have a porous layer on their fertile surface are said to be "poroid".


Foraging for mushrooms

It is always advisable that those new to mushroom hunting go with an expert or bring foraged mushrooms to an expert for verification. While Chicken of the Woods does not have any poisonous look-alikes, it's always best to play it safe and have your findings verified before eating them!


Learn more about forgaging for morel mushrooms from Jeff Berndt in his article: Springtime is Morel Season.


Copyright 2012, Kris Heeter, Ph.D.

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Comments 16 comments

everythingdazzles profile image

everythingdazzles 4 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

Great hub! I am a huge fan of mushrooms and these would go great with any vegetarian recipe. Voted up and useful!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

I just don't know enough to go hunt for wild mushrooms. I would have serious concerns, so your advice at the end is great. Very informative, Kris!


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana Author

@billybuc - I am with you on that! I would not trust my hunting skills. I've heard our Farmer's Market has an expert that volunteers to be there each week so that community members can come and have their mushrooms confirmed. I remember reading in the newspaper a few years ago that someone in town picked and ate what what they thought were morels -turns out they weren't and the person ended up pretty sick.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I used to hunt wild mushrooms when younger, but now I think I will leave that to more dedicated people. They do have a great taste to them. Better to be safe, as you state, have them verified before ingesting. Voted useful and interesting.


BongSantos profile image

BongSantos 4 years ago from Philippines

Wonderful post! I love mushrooms, after reading your write even more. Really glad I dropped by.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

the name 'chicken of the woods' is really interesting :)

sharing this


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana Author

@unknown spy - I agree, it's a very interesting name. I'll have to see if I can find the history behind why it was named that! Thanks for stopping by and sharing.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Very interesting, Kris. Glad for the caution at the end to get any wild mushrooms verified from an expert. Thanks for the recipe too.

Voted up & interesting.


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 3 years ago from Massachusetts

Great interesting and useful information and a very nice recipe has well, Well done !

Vote up and more !!!


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 3 years ago from Indiana Author

@kashmir56 - thanks for the vote and for stopping by!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Very interesting Hub Kris and well-written as yours always are. I love mushrooms and cook with them a great deal, but I must admit I usually fall back on one of the most common varieties available in the grocery store.

Out of fear (healthy I think) I guess, I have never gone mushroom hunting, but I do think about it every now and then when I have a pannini filled with grilled mushrooms. :) I hope you are having a wonderful weekend. Theresa


Jeff Berndt profile image

Jeff Berndt 3 years ago from Southeast Michigan

Great stuff! Voted up and useful, and I'll be linking to it from my own hub on morel mushrooms.


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 3 years ago from Indiana Author

@phdast7 - thanks for stopping by. I haven't gone mushroom hunting either but it popular around here (there are several experts) and many of these wild mushrooms are available at our farmers market. It's been fun trying new ones. The thing that surprised me the most is the different textures and flavors.


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 3 years ago from Indiana Author

@ Jeff Berndt - thanks:) I'll look for yours and add a link back too:)


KrisL profile image

KrisL 3 years ago from S. Florida

Thanks for an interesting hub. I'd love to look for wild mushrooms some day, but I'm not sure if anybody does that down here in South Florida.


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 3 years ago from Indiana Author

@KrisL - thanks for stopping by. I wonder what kind of wild mushroom you all have down there -- could be that it's too dry for some of the ones like we have here.

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