“I’d like to have the grilled salmon with sautéed mushrooms, without the mushrooms, please.”
Now that’s a phrase you don’t often hear – not from any self-respecting foodie anyway. Unless, of course, you’re allergic, in which case, definitely hold the mushrooms!
If, however, you’re one of those people who can’t get enough of the delicious umami flavor that comes from edible fungi, then you’ll love dried mushrooms. Fun fact: Drying mushrooms enhances their flavor.
By how much, you ask? Let’s put it this way. One a scale of 1 to 10, if the taste of sautéed fresh mushrooms is a solid 9, then the flavor of dried ones is, well, off the chart! Yes, it’s that good.
Why Dry Mushrooms
You’re probably wondering why you should dry mushrooms if you intend to cook them in a couple of hours, or days even. While there’s nothing wrong with refrigerating them until you need to use them, drying them elevates their flavor profile to a whole other level.
Think of it this way. A medium-rare, pan-fried fillet mignon tastes great – there’s no denying it. But, if you marinated it first, and then maybe cooked it over a hot open-flame grill, the smoky umami flavor would be second to none had you pan-fried it instead.
That’s basically what drying and then reconstituting them does. It adds that extra boost of intense flavor that you wouldn’t be able to get any other way.
Then there’s the added benefit of being able to store them for longer. In dried form, mushrooms can easily keep for more than a year. So, it’s a win-win either way you slice it.
To learn all about how to dry mushrooms, check out my article: How to Dry Mushrooms, a Complete Guide. To learn about which mushrooms are the best ones to dry, read on!
The Best Dried Mushrooms
All mushrooms taste great. There isn’t a single type that anyone can point to and say, “Well, that tasted horrendous”… Except maybe the matsutake mushroom. Those are in a class of their own. One taste, and you’ll either really love them or completely hate them. There are no in-betweens there.
That aside, here are the best dried mushrooms (in no particular order) you should try.
Not everything good for you has to taste bad. After all, that’s what we’ve all been programmed to believe.
Chaga, particularly those that grow on decaying Birch trees, have a somewhat earthy flavor, infused with a mild sweetness that only gets better when you dry them. They are packed with numerous health benefits and taste amazing as well!
The best way to consume them is to first dry them and then steep them to make a healthy, great-tasting tea. Keep in mind, though, that drying Chaga needs to be done quickly to offset the formation of mold, yeast, and mycotoxins, which can give it a bitter taste. If that’s the case, you’ll need to toss it and dry a fresh batch.
Fewer things in this world taste better than dried chanterelles. The only way to describe their unique flavor is – a cross between earthy, nutty, peppery, and fruity notes.
While dried chanterelles don’t deliver the same bold flavor quite as the fresh ones do, they still pack a punch, making them a highly sought-after ingredient by culinary connoisseurs. When reconstituted, their savory taste works well with salmon, chicken, thyme, sauces, soup, and stews.
Be careful not to overcook them, though. This causes their natural flavor to dwindle.
If you revel in the earthy, woody, spicy, zesty, and pine-like flavor of fresh Matsutake, drying them and then reconstituting them later when you’re ready to cook them only intensifies their unique mushroom flavor.
They pair well with all kinds of seafood, fish, and poultry to deliver on that umami flavor that leaves you craving more. It’s no wonder that this elusive mycelium-fruit is one of the most highly-regarded fungi in the culinary world.
Dried morel mushrooms infuse a higher-than-average earthy umami flavor that you cannot replicate using any other variety of mushrooms. You can’t achieve the same smoky, woody intensity with fresh morels.
They are the perfect accompaniment to any sauce, stew, pasta, and meat dish. You can dry them yourself or skip the hassle and get the store-bought variety.
Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake has a long history of medicinal and culinary use. They have a mild buttery umami flavor in their fresh form that’s easy to miss, especially when cooked alongside ingredients that have overpowering flavors and aromas.
However, when they’re dried and then reconstituted, they develop an even richer, bolder, and smokier umami flavor that’s a little reminiscent of bacon. And, who doesn’t like the taste of bacon?
How to Store Dried Mushrooms
Dried fungi have a long shelf-life. You can store them for more than a year, and they’ll still be as fresh as the day they were first harvested. To ensure that they retain the maximum level of freshness, you need to store them in the right way.
Place them in a zip-lock bag or airtight container and store them in a cool dark place for up to 6 months. Your kitchen cabinet should suffice. Storing them in warm places drastically diminishes their shelf-life.
If you want them to last even longer, place them in an airtight container and pop them in the freezer. This method preserves them for more than a year.
When you’re ready to use them, take them out of their storage container and reconstitute them by soaking them in hot water for 15 minutes or so. They’ll taste infinitely better.
To learn all about how to dry and store mushrooms, check out my article: How to Dry Mushrooms, a Complete Guide.
Kill Two Birds With One Stone
Dried mushrooms are the perfect complement to every meal. They’re not only versatile; they also add depth and complexity to flavors in a wide variety of recipes. The fact that they also have an extended shelf-life is a definite plus. So, kill two birds with one stone by drying some of your favorite go-to mushrooms today.