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Do You Eat the Chicken of the Woods Mushroom?

Updated on March 28, 2015

The Gourmet Mushroom That Tastes Like Chicken

If you do not eat flesh foods, or even if you do - you need to get acquainted with the "Chicken of the Woods" mushroom. It is one delicious, delectable, decidedly "downright" good mushroom - that tastes like chicken!

I first tasted the "Chicken of the Woods", when I placed an order for some gourmet mushrooms, as a gift for my husband. The company had a special on the Chicken of the Woods, so I thought we might like to try some. They were unbelievably good!

Needless, to say, they rapidly became one of our all-time favorite mushrooms. I only eat fish, as the flesh food in my diet, so I was particularly thrilled that I "stumbled" upon them. Imagine, living for well over half a century - missing one of the best taste sensations around!

From Forestry Images by Paul Hennon
From Forestry Images by Paul Hennon

Where Do Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms Grow?

The one in the photo above, is growing on the trunk of an oak tree. I am not certain what type of tree the one to the right, is - but it gives you an excellent illustration of how they grow. They also can be found on yew, cherry, sweet chestnut, red fir and willow trees - dead, or alive. Beautiful, are they not? Some people don't think they are beautiful, because they have the reputation of destroying any living trees that are their host. Nevertheless, their yellow-orange "shelves" are a bounty of good eating!

Chicken of the Woods can be found growing on live, decaying, or dead trees - in many areas of the world. They grow in North America, Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, and we even found sources citing their existence in Africa.

Forestry Images: Credits to Paul Hennon, for his photo of Chicken of the Woods mushroom shelves.

Before you continue, tell us...

What do you know about the "Chicken of the Woods" mushroom?

See results

100 Edible Mushrooms

100 Edible Mushrooms
100 Edible Mushrooms

You are sure to enjoy this interesting book about edible mushrooms, however, we want to caution you to POSITIVELY identify any mushroom that you find in the wild which you intend to ingest.

Even mushroom "experts" have been fooled!

 

Botanically Speaking...

If you want to be scientifically accurate, the name for these mushrooms, is Laetiporus Sulfureous, not "Chicken of the Woods". The name is indicative of their "sulfurous" color. This is just one species of the mushrooms commonly called the "Chicken of the Woods". There are other types, such as: Laetiporus gilbertsonii, which is pink, Laetiporus coniferica, and Laetiporus persicinus, and several more. As with any mushroom, do your homework! Investigate thoroughly, before ingesting - some are not suitable for eating, due to various toxic reactions on record.

There is a very informative article on the "Chicken of the Woods", on Wikipedia. "Chicken of the Woods, or Laetiporus".

"Chicken" Mushrooms

There is also a mushroom called "Hen of the Woods". It is NOT the "Chicken of the Woods". Also called "Maitake", its scientific name is Grifola frondosa. It resembles a ruffled chicken; hence, the name. Both mushrooms are delicious!

Oh! Before I forget - there is another mushroom called the Fried Chicken Mushroom - botanical name "Lyophyllum decastes", and according to most people, it really DOES taste like fried chicken!

Chicken of the Woods Photos - Credits to Joseph O'Brien, USDA Forest Services

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Spectacular photo of "Chicken of the Woods" taken by Joseph O'Brien, on the Bugwood Files.Another one of Joseph's images of the mushrooms.Close-up, showing the intricate growth pattern of the "Chicken of the Woods".Zoomed-in photo of Joseph O'Brien's.Another one of his, from the USDA Forest Service, on their Forestry Images website.
Spectacular photo of "Chicken of the Woods" taken by Joseph O'Brien, on the Bugwood Files.
Spectacular photo of "Chicken of the Woods" taken by Joseph O'Brien, on the Bugwood Files.
Another one of Joseph's images of the mushrooms.
Another one of Joseph's images of the mushrooms.
Close-up, showing the intricate growth pattern of the "Chicken of the Woods".
Close-up, showing the intricate growth pattern of the "Chicken of the Woods".
Zoomed-in photo of Joseph O'Brien's.
Zoomed-in photo of Joseph O'Brien's.
Another one of his, from the USDA Forest Service, on their Forestry Images website.
Another one of his, from the USDA Forest Service, on their Forestry Images website.

Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest

Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest (A Timber Press Field Guide)
Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest (A Timber Press Field Guide)

According to the one of the authors, there are 466 species covered in this exhaustive book. He states that edibility is addressed, and the common names for the mushrooms are given over 50 percent of the time. He explains, on a comment we read, that some mushrooms simply do not have a common name, so they are referred to only by their botanical name. Great book!

 
From Forestry Images by Paul Hennon
From Forestry Images by Paul Hennon

How to Eat the "Chicken of the Woods"

These mushrooms are best eaten - fresh. They can also be purchased dried, and reconstituted, but they require slow cooking, on low heat, for a long time - due to their tough nature. If you have the time, it is well worth the wait, as they really DO taste like chicken!

This photo is from the Mushroom Master website, which was simply a feast for the eyes. They had pink mushrooms, blue mushrooms, yellow mushrooms, and a lot of information about exotic edible mushrooms. You would have enjoyed their site, immensely, however it appears they are no longer around!

We found recipes for Sautéed Chicken of the Woods, Chicken of the Woods and Beans, Shrimp with Chicken of the Woods, Trout with Chicken of the Woods, and Mustard Chicken of the Woods Supreme, online - just to mention a few.

Basically, they can be substituted for chicken, in any recipe you can concoct! Remember - go easy on them, if they are new to you. Some people do have reactions to them, but then, some people have reactions to dairy, wheat, and peanuts, too!

Small Book, Loaded With Big Ideas...

Totally Mushroom Cookbook (Totally Cookbooks)
Totally Mushroom Cookbook (Totally Cookbooks)

This book does not have a lot of pages, but it is whimsically shaped like mushrooms! Everyone who owns it, agrees - the recipes in it are wonderful!

For an out-of-the-ordinary mushroom cookbook, this one is perfect.

 
8-2011 Chicken of the Woods mushrooms growing in Alaska. The photo was taken by a cell phone; better in "person".
8-2011 Chicken of the Woods mushrooms growing in Alaska. The photo was taken by a cell phone; better in "person".

Fresh from Alaska

Two of my sons have lived in Alaska. One of them has property there, and has to trek quite a long distance to get to it. His location is so remote, that in order to get cell phone reception, he had to climb about 30 feet up a tree! We felt badly that he had to take that much effort to contact us, but it was always good to hear from him.

The photo to the right was sent to us, from his cell phone, when he came across a large growth of Chicken of the Woods mushrooms while hiking. I was so thrilled to get it. I believe HE was shocked to see them in such profusion.

He didn't eat any of them, but was glad to see there was another source of food available - free for the taking!

Where Can I Buy Them? - That's a good question!

When I first wrote this article, I did not know. We have had a hard time finding any, ourselves. At the moment, we content ourselves with eating the "Hen of the Woods", or Maitake Mushrooms. They are also delicious, and reconstitute with water, beautifully!

Since then, we have found two places where they can be purchased.

They are seasonal, though. We told you that we would let you know when we found some sources, and if more become available, we will share them, too. They are usually a seasonal purchase, so you may have to be satisfied while you are waiting, with the "Hen of the Woods" mushroom, which is an excellent substitute.

You could also grow them yourself - as we mention, below...

A Word of Caution

Despite many references to the "Chicken of the Woods" being a mushroom that is unmistakeable, and therefore easy to identify in the wild, I found a few places that conflicted with that opinion. Even though the mushroom is quite distinctive, there are a very few species that resemble it, which have been implicated in poisonings. As with ALL mushrooms - it is better to be safe, than sorry. I prefer to purchase ours, from reputable growers, to allay all concerns.

Also - reportedly, in some people, they can cause gastric upset - so eat a small amount, until you are certain they will not do that - to you! Easy does it, especially on your first sampling. Try a minute amount, and eat only young, fresh growths. The older ones are usually implicated in allergic reactions people have experienced - most commonly: swollen lips, and once in a while nausea, and vomiting.

See the Wikipedia article about them, mentioned under our heading above - Botanically Speaking.

Wait A Minute! Here are some options, so you can grow your own!

Chicken Of The Woods Mushroom Mycelium Plug Spawn - 100 Count - Grow Edible Gourmet Fungi On Trees & Logs
Chicken Of The Woods Mushroom Mycelium Plug Spawn - 100 Count - Grow Edible Gourmet Fungi On Trees & Logs

What is the best way to eat Chicken of the Woods mushrooms? Why, you can grow them yourself! We have successfully grown mushrooms at home, right on our counter top. I have not grown this particular variety yet, but that is about to change!

 

Other Names for the Chicken of the Woods

  • Sulfur Mushroom
  • Chicken Mushroom
  • Sulfur Shelf
  • Chicken Fungus

Have You Eaten Chicken of the Woods?

If you have, let us know. Did you pick them yourself, or purchase them? Which variety did you eat? What is your favorite mushroom? If you love mushrooms, as we do - you are "bound" to have a favorite! What is it?

Tell us, in the comments section, below...

© 2011 Emily Tack

What Do You Think?

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    • firstcookbooklady profile image

      Char Milbrett 6 months ago from Minnesota

      Hmmm. Are these the same mushrooms that grow to be huge and people do art on them? I have a huge mushroom hanging on my wall, that my grandfather drew on in 1900. A deer picture.

    • Shades-of-truth profile image
      Author

      Emily Tack 2 years ago from USA

      Glad you liked it, poetryman. Yes, the mushroom really does taste like fried chicken.

      I can understand your caution about your liver, too!

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      Love to have more wild foods to eat when we run out of zombies after the Apocalypse. At present I will still be getting all my mushrooms from the store since I only have the one liver.

      But a fascinating hub! I was wondering if it was April first when I saw there was supposedly a mushroom that tastes like fried chicken.

    • Shades-of-truth profile image
      Author

      Emily Tack 2 years ago from USA

      Hello, aesta1! Do you remember if you liked eating it? So far, everyone has said it is delicious, and actually tastes just like chicken.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      We used to gather them as kids for our aunt who would cook it with eggs but I never knew anything about it even its name. Thanks for all these info.

    • Shades-of-truth profile image
      Author

      Emily Tack 2 years ago from USA

      Actually, there are at least two types of mushrooms that taste like cooked chicken. The "Chicken of the Woods" variety is the closest to the taste, according to the general consensus.

      There are so many things we have yet to discover in our incredible world!

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      I never heard of mushrooms that taste like chickens, really

    • Shades-of-truth profile image
      Author

      Emily Tack 3 years ago from USA

      Oh, morels are my favorite mushrooms. My husband used to be able to pick them out in the timbers where he lived up north. Now, I have to order them for him when they are in season. Morels are marvelous!

    • emi sue profile image

      Emily Lantry 3 years ago from Tennessee

      I've seen them bur never tried. I love morrels. I will have to try these sometime.

    • profile image

      wnc.jim 3 years ago

      Absolutely amazing . they grow all over western north Carolina you have got to try

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: I live in Phoenix and want to know about your deli!

    • profile image

      Echo Phoenix 4 years ago

      Fab 'shroom! it certainly made the transition to Vegetarianism possible for me:)

    • Eric Mayo profile image

      Eric Mayo 4 years ago

      I love learning something new. I have never heard of chicken mushrooms. Great lens, great info. thanx!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I am fascinated by these mushrooms, and have not been able to find them. I am working on opening a Vegan Deli in Phoenix, Arizona and would love to be able to offer Chicken of the Woods specialties. Anyone living in an area where they are abundant willing to contact me? Please respond to this post if so!

    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 5 years ago

      I had not heard of this mushroom before, although I think I have seen it growing in the woods. Interesting read, thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I found few eysterday and I am very happy, looking for dirrent receipies now

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Beautiful and Delicious! Only way to describe the Chicken of the Woods Mushroom! I harvest them near my home and around out family cabin, both locations in central and north central Minnesota. Have never seen them for sale in the local markets.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I think it's my favorite of all the shrooms...better than any piece of meat.....absolute delicacy! I would like to know if they are grown commercially?

    • Lynne-Modranski profile image

      Lynne Modranski 6 years ago from Ohio

      Nope, never heard of it before. . . . thanks for the education.