Oyster mushrooms, the common name for the species Pleurotus ostreatus, are one of the most common types of cultivated mushrooms in the world. They're also known as pearl oyster mushrooms or tree oyster mushrooms. The funghi grow naturally on and near trees in temperate and subtropic forests around the world, and they're grown commercially in many countries. Oyster mushrooms are eaten in a variety of cuisines and are especially popular in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cooking. They can be dried and are typically eaten cooked.
What Are Oyster Mushrooms?
Oyster mushrooms are beloved the world over for their delicate texture and mild, savory flavor. The mushrooms typically have broad, thin, oyster- or fan-shaped caps and are white, gray, or tan, with gills lining the underside. The caps are sometimes frilly-edged and can be found in clusters of small mushrooms or individually as larger mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms are more expensive than white button mushrooms but less so than rarer mushrooms like morels, and take little prep since they can be used whole or chopped. They are even used to make mycelium furniture and many other products.
How to Cook With Oyster Mushrooms
Like all mushrooms, oyster mushrooms act almost like sponges, soaking up any water they come into contact with. Don't leave them sitting in water, even for the sake of cleaning them. Cultivated oyster mushrooms usually don't need much cleaning—simply wipe off any bits here or there with a dry paper towel. A damp paper towel can be used on extra dirty mushrooms.
Cleaned mushrooms can be sautéed, stir-fried, braised, roasted, fried, or grilled. Use the mushrooms whole, sliced, or simply torn into appropriately sized pieces.
While you can eat oyster mushrooms raw and they can be quite pretty added to salads, they tend to have a slightly metallic flavor when uncooked. Cooking brings out their delicate flavor, turning their spongy texture into something uniquely velvety. We recommend using oyster mushrooms for cooked dishes and using button mushrooms for salads and other raw dishes.
Dried oyster mushrooms don't need to be soaked to be rehydrated the way other dried mushrooms do—just add them to the dish, and they will soak up liquid right away.
What Do Oyster Mushrooms Taste Like?
Oyster mushrooms tend to have a subtle, savory anise flavor. Because their flavor is mild, without the strong earthiness of some mushroom varieties, they work well in a range of different dishes. Oyster mushrooms also take on a tender, pleasing texture when cooked. Cooking methods like frying, roasting, and grilling can retain more texture in the mushrooms while braising and sautéing makes them softer.
Oyster Mushroom Recipes
One of the most popular ways to cook oyster mushrooms is to stir-fry or sauté them. This requires a preheated hot pan, a small amount of liquid, and stirring. Make sure to give them space so their moisture can cook off, that way they will truly sauté rather than steam. Serve as a side dish or use in sauces, stir-fries, pastas, risotto, or even to top toast.
Because they get so silky when cooked, oyster mushrooms respond well to braising, too. Add them to soups and stews or sauces. The mushrooms can also be grilled whole on skewers, roasted, or dredged in a crispy coating and deep-fried.
Where to Buy Oyster Mushrooms
Since most commercially available oyster mushrooms are cultivated in greenhouses, they tend to be available all year round. They are sometimes sold loose by the ounce but are more often sold packaged or bagged for a set price. They sometimes appear at major supermarkets in the produce section, and fresh and dried mushrooms can often be found at Asian markets. Wild varieties are in season during the fall.
Look for mushrooms or clusters of mushrooms with a bright, springy texture and no wilted or dark spots. These spots indicate the mushrooms have soaked up moisture and started to go bad. Dried mushrooms should be in an airtight container and mostly whole with a pleasant aroma.
When foraging for oyster mushrooms, look for clusters on dying or fallen beech trees. Young mushrooms are best, and American foragers should avoid yellowish lookalikes which are poisonous.
How to Store Oyster Mushrooms
Water is the greatest enemy of oyster mushrooms. Store them in a loose paper bag (not plastic) in the fridge for up to three days. They are delicate and will start to wilt and become dry and tough the longer they sit and wait to be eaten.
Dried mushrooms should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Cooked mushrooms will keep for up to three days in the refrigerator or can be frozen for up to three months. We do not recommend freezing raw mushrooms since the moisture breaks down their delicate texture.
Nutrition and Benefits
A cup of raw oyster mushrooms has 28 calories, 3 grams of protein, 5 grams of carbohydrates, and zero grams of fat. They are a good source of essential vitamins and minerals like riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, and copper. Because oyster mushrooms are a good source of protein and other minerals, they are a good dietary option for vegetarians and vegans.