Bolete Mushrooms vs. Porcini Mushrooms

Written by Carrie Woodward
Updated: March 13, 2023
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Have you heard about bolete mushrooms? This group of hundreds of different species contain many edible species, some of which are popular and delicious mushrooms that may be harvested from forests across the Northern Hemisphere. Among these are porcini mushrooms. 

Many people wonder if bolete mushrooms and porcini mushrooms are the same or different. The interchangeable way both of these names can be used is often confusing! This article will answer this question and equip you with the knowledge to explain the relationship between bolete mushrooms and porcini mushrooms. Here are some key points. 

Key Points

  • The term “boletes” encompasses hundreds of different species in the genus Boletus, while “porcini” usually refers to one species of “bolete,” Boletus edulis
  • Boletes grow across continents of the Northern Hemisphere
  • Bolete mushrooms can be edible or poisonous, but porcini mushrooms are an edible species of bolete
  • Bolete mushrooms vary greatly in color, size, and other physical attributes, while Boletus edulis typically has a consistent appearance among other boletes 

Let’s learn more about these mushrooms together now! We will dive into taxonomic classification, uses, history, appearance, and more. 

Bolete Mushrooms vs. Porcini Mushrooms

CharacteristicBolete MushroomsPorcini Mushroom
SpeciesThere are many species called “boletes,” including more than 300 in the genus Boletus and others in the genera of Leccinum, Suillus, and Tylopilus. Some of the best-known species are Boletus edulis and Boletus aureus.Boletus edulis
GenusBoletus, Leccinum, Suillus, and TylopilusBoletus
Common NameBolete mushroomPorcini mushroom, king bolete, penny bun, cep, steinpilz
OriginNorthern Hemisphere (Europe, Asia, North America)Northern Hemisphere (Europe, Asia, North America)
Description of FungusBolete mushrooms grow in many parts of the world, primarily in forests of countries in the Northern Hemisphere. The mushrooms called “boletes” are the many different species in the genus Boletus. The many species in Boletus typically are medium or large upright mushrooms with stout stems, sponge-like pores (rather than gills), and thick caps. They grow in soil. Many boletes are edible, but there are some species that are considered to be toxic. Porcini mushrooms are also mushrooms in the genus Boletus. The term “porcini” typically refers to the species Boletus edulis, which also goes by many other names. Boletus edulis grows in forest environments and is a popular, edible mushroom that is harvested from the wild and is difficult to cultivate. The fruit body has a stout, white stem and convex to flat, light brown cap. When eaten, the mushroom has a mild, nutty flavor.

Descriptions of Bolete Mushrooms vs. Porcini Mushrooms

Bolete Mushrooms

Traditionally, the term “bolete” has been used to refer to mushroom species in the genus Boletus. Species in Boletus grow across the world in countries of the Northern Hemisphere, where they appear in forest environments.

Today, “bolete” includes several different groups of fungi in the family Boletaceae, and doesn’t only refer to those in one genus. Oftentimes, the types of boletes are broken down into groups based on their genus, with three major genera that are relevant: Leccinum, Suillus, and Tylopilus

The majority of these species are mycorrhizal fungi and live in symbiosis with the root system of trees in the forest. Boletes were first defined by the mycologist Carl Linnaeus, who described this genus of mushrooms in 1753. This group was originally defined by the fact that the species in the genus are not gilled, but have spores instead. This is a major defining feature of the group of mushrooms.

In general, boletes are medium or large in size. The fruiting body of boletes is typically an upright mushroom with a stout stem, thick cap, and sponge-like pores rather than separable gills. Though boletes have caps that look similar to those of mushrooms with gills hiding underneath, rather than gills, they have tightly-packed tubes. This makes the tubes look like a porous surface that looks sponge-like. Because there are so many species of boletes, they can vary in their appearance significantly.

There are hundreds of species that are considered to be boletes, with many in the genus Boletus. Many species of boletes are edible, though some species are toxic and should not be eaten. However, none of these species are considered deadly. 

Bolete mushrooms, Boletus aureus
There are hundreds of species that are considered to be bolete mushrooms, with many in the genus Boletus such as Boletus aereus.


Porcini Mushrooms

The name “porcini” refers to one species  within the larger group of boletes, the species Boletus edulis. Boletus edulis is also known by several other names: the king bolete, penny bun, cep, or steinpilz, among others. This is an edible species that grows in forested environments and is difficult to cultivate, so is typically only harvested from the wild. Porcini mushrooms are famously harvested in Italy, but you can also find these mushrooms throughout Europe, parts of North America, and even some other countries such as New Zealand.

Like other boletes, porcini mushrooms are mycorrhizal. The mushrooms live in a mutually-beneficial relationship with the roots of trees in their forest home. When you find a porcini mushroom poking up outside of the soil near the base of trees, you can know that it is gaining nutrients from the root system of the living trees and helping enrich the tree as well.

Porcini mushrooms have stout, white stems and convex, light brown caps, as well as spores like other boletes. They are a delicious, popular mushroom that offers a mild, nutty flavor when harvested and cooked.

Boletus edulis, porcini mushroom
The name “porcini” refers to one species  within the larger group of boletes, the species Boletus edulis.


Key Differences

As we have begun to explore, porcini mushrooms are just one species within the larger group of hundreds of boletes that grow in forests across the Northern Hemisphere. The rest of this article will dive deeper into the details of porcini mushrooms and how they compare to other species within the genus Boletus. Let’s learn more about these details now.

Bolete Mushrooms vs. Porcini Mushrooms: Background

History and Origins of Bolete Mushrooms

The genus Boletus, which contains hundreds of species now called “boletes,” was originally described by a Swedish mycologist called Elias Fries in the early 1800s. Though other scientists had identified individual species previously, this grouping was initially created to contain fungi species which had pores rather than gills. Most of the species in the genus are mycorrhizal species. These live well in symbiosis with trees, and help the tree species obtain nutrients and other resources from the soil. In return, the trees provide the nutrients needed for the boletes to feed. 

Historically, nearly all of the mushrooms called “boletes” were classified in the Boletus genus. Today, many of these species have been split into new taxonomic classifications. However, the term “bolete” still generally refers to species within the genus. However, this classification is still hotly debated within the scientific community. Species in the genus of Boletus are still being examined and broken down into new groupings based on both macroscopic and microscopic morphologies and DNA analysis. It is exciting to see these new scientific discoveries!

History and Origins of Porcini Mushrooms

As one species within the larger grouping of “boletes,” porcini mushrooms have long been prized and eaten by humans, dating back to ancient times. Porcini mushrooms are often associated with Italy, where they do grow bountifully. For years, porcini mushrooms have had an elevated position in gourmet cooking and are particularly important to Italian cuisine. There is evidence that the porcini was eaten by the Greeks and Romans all the way back in ancient history, during which time it was already valued for its cultural, nutritional, and medicinal benefits.

Bolete Mushrooms vs. Porcini Mushrooms: Characteristics

Appearance of Boletes

In general, boletes have a few common characteristics. The various bolete species have a central stem (also called a stipe), a cap, and pore tubes rather than gills. Boletes have a fleshy to tough texture. While they have flat or rounded caps, often these caps have a “cracked” appearance. Additionally, because boletes grow in a mycorrhizal relationship with trees, they are found in the soil near the base of particular tree species. The particular tree species in question may depend on the species of the bolete, though they tend to appear near oak and hemlock trees in moist, mossy areas. 

Generally speaking, you may identify boletes with different appearances at differing stages of maturity. Boletes have curved tops when they are young, which then grow flatter over time. Many species are light brown or red, and have white flesh, which is dense in its immaturity, but becomes softer over time. 

Boletus chrysenteron
Boletes have a fleshy to tough texture with flat or rounded caps that often have a “cracked” appearance.

©Wirestock Creators/

Appearance of Porcini Mushrooms

Because porcini mushrooms are a particular species, and not an entire genus of hundreds of different species, it is a bit easier to describe their appearance. These mushrooms typically have brown, convex caps, which grow atop thick, white stipes. They can range in size and can be either small, medium, or very large. They have thick stems and caps that can reach as big as 11 or 12 inches in diameter. Though the caps are sometimes flat, they can also form the quintessential “mushroom” umbrella shape. However, there is a big difference between porcini mushrooms and other, similar-looking species. Underneath the cap, porcini mushrooms do not have spiky gills. Rather, they have spores. 

Like other bolete species, porcini mushrooms grow in the soil of forest environments, so look for them near beech, pine, hemlock, and spruce trees.

Bolete mushrooms, Boletus edulis
Underneath the cap, porcini mushrooms have spores instead of spiky gills.

©Holger Krisp, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons – License

Bolete Mushrooms vs. Porcini Mushrooms: Growing Conditions

Bolete mushrooms are mycorrhizal. This means that they live in symbiosis with the trees nearby. Because of this, you will find boletes growing in the soil above tree root systems, from which they gain nutrients. If you want to find boletes, look in woodland areas, often near the edges of a forest, underneath hardwood or conifer trees. 

Porcini mushrooms grow in multiple parts of the world, where you may find them on the forest floor near the bases of hemlock, birch, pine, or spruce trees.Though they originated in parts of Europe and North America, cultivators successfully introduced them to new environments, including New Zealand and South Africa.

Porcinis thrive in humid, damp environments. Typically, the fungus sprouts with a fruiting body (what most people identify as the mushroom) during the summer or fall months. Look for them in the forest soil during this season and harvest by gently twisting them out of the ground.

Some people grow porcini mushrooms at home, using damp cardboard or sawdust to simulate the wood of its native forest habitat. However, the symbiotic relationship that these mushrooms have with the living trees in their woodland homes has prevented widespread commercial cultivation of porcini mushrooms.

Bolete Mushrooms vs. Porcini Mushrooms: Scent and Taste

Though the taste of bolete mushrooms varies by species, porcini mushrooms are among the most well-known in this group. Generally, people describe the taste of porcini mushrooms as rich, nutty, and earthy. The mushroom has a meaty texture, so though the flavor is somewhat delicate, this mushroom is resilient to cooking and can complement other strong flavors and textures.

In the world of boletes, some are technically edible but are not enjoyable to eat. While some species are considered toxic, others are simply not delicious. If a mushroom tastes bitter, you may find that it is a sign that the species will make you sick. In any case, do not eat any mushroom if you are not entirely sure that it is edible, and also stick to the advice of experts when foraging for mushrooms in the wild.

Bolete Mushrooms vs. Porcini Mushrooms: Health Benefits and Uses

As is the case with many mushroom species, eating bolete mushrooms can have many positive health impacts. Porcini mushrooms in particular offer rich amounts of dietary fiber, no cholesterol or fat, and lots of vitamins and minerals. The health benefits of eating porcini mushrooms can include gaining antioxidants, fighting cancer cells, consuming vitamin D, getting protein, regulating blood sugar, boosting the immune system, and improving digestion. Porcini mushrooms also contain vitamin B, selenium, and zinc, among other vitamins and minerals.

For a long time, porcini mushrooms have had a respected place in the cultures of many European countries, particularly that of Italy. Because porcini mushrooms are not cultivated on a wide scale, they are often harvested from the wild to be dried and later reconstituted in water before adding them into a recipe. Fresh porcini mushrooms may be cooked in a pan with oil or butter, added to a side dish, baked with a meat such as steak or chicken, or used as an ingredient in many other recipes.

As a traditional ingredient in many Italian dishes, porcini mushrooms are often added to various pasta and rice dishes. You may be familiar with the addition or porcini mushrooms to delicious and savory risotto recipes. They bring an earthy flavor to many different kinds of sauces and even gourmet cooking. Though you may find their seasonal availability forces you to use dried and reconstituted mushrooms, when fresh, you can sauté, fry, grill, or stew them for delicious flavor.

Risotto with porcini mushrooms
Porcini mushrooms are a popular ingredient for many risotto dishes.


Warnings When Foraging for Mushrooms

However, there are also a few things to look out for to ensure you are safely consuming mushrooms and not accidentally ingesting inedible species. If you identify a bolete with red or yellow coloration in the stem, cap, or pores, it may be a toxic species. Don’t eat it! This is a sign of toxicity in bolete species and could well make you sick. You may also slice the mushroom in half. When you do this, it is common for the mushrooms to “bruise” and turn a blue color. If this happens, do not eat it. You should also look out for the pores to change color and look green or blue. If you see this occur, do not eat the mushroom. It may be toxic!

In general, you can recognize mushroom poisoning from symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. These should appear not long after you eat the mushroom. If this is the case, immediately consult a medical professional.

In Summary

There are many species called “bolete mushrooms,” including the edible and popular porcini mushroom. In the summer and autumn months, you may find porcini mushrooms in your local grocery store. Alternatively, if you are in the woods foraging for mushrooms, look for porcini mushrooms or one of its other bolete mushroom relatives growing in the forest soil! These mild, nutty-flavored mushrooms may look nondescript, but they are a classic ingredient that has been enjoyed for years and offers numerous nutritional benefits. 

This article explored the relationship between the broad category of hundreds of bolete mushrooms and the very specific, individual species of porcini mushrooms.

The content on this page is for informational purposes only and may contain inaccuracies. Please verify all information independently. AZ Animals says: do not eat any wild mushrooms or plants without firsthand knowledge that they are safe for consumption.

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Bolete Mushrooms vs. Porcini Mushrooms
Bolete Mushrooms vs. Porcini Mushrooms

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About the Author

Carrie is a writer, bookworm, and fan of all types of plants and animals. Her apartment is home to more than dozen different houseplants and she aspires to adopt more in the near future. You can usually find Carrie walking the shores of Lake Michigan or reading a book under the trees in Chicago's Lincoln Park.

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