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Wild mushrooms deliver umami and more

9 Recipes
A colorful mushroom salad on a plate next to a fork.
(John Kernick / For The Times)

9 umami-full recipes for wild mushrooms

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Wild mushrooms are more readily available to home cooks than ever, especially here in Southern California. Not just chanterelle and morel mushrooms, but also maitake (a.k.a. hen of the woods), hedgehog, shimeji, king trumpet and more. They may look funny and have unusual names, but they have WAY more flavor than the ubiquitous white buttons and criminis and are well worth your while to pursue.

Wild mushrooms have unique flavors and distinct textures, but what we really look to them for is umami, that fifth flavor that fills the senses with an earthy meatiness that is the “essence of deliciousness,” as it translates from the Japanese. Almost every culinary verb can be applied to mushrooms, and they are great as a component of a dish or by themselves.

Roasting intensifies their umami, as with simple-to-prepare Roast Mushrooms and Broccolini with sesame croutons, Roasted Mushroom Stroganoffa vegetarian spin on the classic version and aromatic Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding.

A good sauté will also elicit the essence of deliciousness, as with Craft’s Mushrooms, which are spiked with tarragon and chervil; Jonathan Waxman’s hearty Wild Mushroom Salad; and Union’s Creamy Polenta With Mushrooms, a humble house favorite that is like a secret handshake to locals.

Mushroom soups are like bowls of liquid umami — whether they’re velvety purees, such as Porcini Mushroom Soup, or brothy and chunky, as with chef Betty Fraser’s Spinach-Mushroom-Ginger Soup.

While most wild mushrooms should be cooked before eating, some can be eaten raw and can contribute their depth of flavor and texture even if you’re not cooking them, as with King Trumpet Mushroom Salad With Arugula and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, where the peppery, delicate arugula leaves are a backdrop for the firm, meaty, mild-flavored and seemingly giant trumpet mushrooms.

For more recipes featuring wild mushrooms, check out our recipe database.

Roast Mushrooms and Broccolini With Sesame Croutons

Fried leftover bread adds crunch to simply roasted mushrooms and broccolini served with lightly pickled tomatoes and shallots.
Time 45 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Roasted Mushroom Stroganoff

Roasting the mushrooms infuses this creamy meatless stroganoff with umami.
Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6.

Craft's Mushrooms

A mix of wild mushrooms is sautéed until golden brown and doused with a garlic-shallot butter and a mixture of finely chopped tarragon, chervil and parsley.
Time 40 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6

Union's Creamy Polenta With Mushrooms

This simple polenta is made with a satisfyingly large amount of milk, cream, butter and cheese and topped with wild mushrooms sautéed with garlic, wine, sherry vinegar and fresh herbs.
Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6

Jonathan Waxman's Wild Mushroom Salad

Croutons, pine nuts, mushrooms and vinaigrette all get individual treatment before the final assembly. The result is a subtle combination of terrific flavor, textures and colors.
Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Yields Serves 8 as a first course

Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding

This Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding is a simple, rustic dish with enormous depth — and it's a terrific stand-in for the bland, mushy stuffing that often shows up on Thanksgiving tables.
Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Yields Serves 8

King Trumpet Mushroom Salad With Arugula and Shaved Parmigiano

King Trumpet mushrooms are sliced thin and strewn across a bed of lightly dressed arugula greens. The salad is topped with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano and toasted pine nuts.
Time 15 minutes
Yields Serves 6 to 8

Grub's Spinach-Mushroom-Ginger Soup

Betty Fraser of Grub Gals Catering and Hollywood's Hidden House was happy to share the recipe for Grub's Spinach-Mushroom-Ginger Soup. It's rich and flavorful, and also simple to make.
Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Porcini Mushroom Soup

This porcini soup looks and tastes richer than it is, due to a few secrets for lightening it up without sacrificing flavor or texture.
Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Yields Serves 6 to 8