Chanterelles vs. Shiitake Mushrooms

shitake mushrooms
© puttography/Shutterstock.com

Written by Carrie Woodward

Updated: March 11, 2023

Share on:

Advertisement


Key Points

Chanterelles, various species in the Cantharellus genus, and shiitake mushrooms, Lentinula edodes, are popular edible fungi. Throughout history, people have foraged for them in forest habitats where they grow natively. However, despite this commonality, there are also many ways chanterelles and shiitakes are quite different. These differences include where they grow, their features, usage and flavor!

At the end of this article, you should know how to identify chanterelles and shiitake mushrooms and how they are similar and different. Let’s go!

Chanterelles vs. Shiitake Mushrooms: Key Differences

CharacteristicChanterellesShiitake Mushrooms
Scientific NameCantharellus (genus)Lentinula edodes (species)
GenusGolden chanterelles, such as Cantharellus cibarius, are in the genus Cantharellus. Other species, sometimes called “Chanterelles” are in the genera of Craterellus, Gomphus, PolyozellusLentinula
FamilyCantharellaceaeMarasmiaceae or Omphalotaceae
DivisionBasidiomycotaBasidiomycota
KingdomFungiFungi
Common NameChanterelle, girolle, golden chanterelleShiitake mushroom, shitake mushroom
OriginAsia, Australia, Europe, North America, South AmericaEast Asia
Description of FungusThe edible fungus Cantharellus cibarius belongs to the Cantharellaceae family. This fungus is commonly known as a “chanterelle,” though that name can also apply to several species of edible fungi in the Catharellaceae family. Cantharellus cibarius is funnel-shaped and has a wavy, smooth cap that is orange or yellow in color. The underside has gill-like ridges, while fake gills appear outside the cap. The stalk is smooth and has the same orange or yellow color as the mushroom cap. Chanterelles grow between 1 and 4 inches across and 2 to 4 inches high.Lentinula edodes is an edible fungus in the Lentinula genus of the Omphalotaceae family. Known as a “shiitake mushroom,” it has a brown, umbrella-shaped cap, edges that curl inwards, a white or cream-colored stem, and white or cream-colored gills underneath the cap. The size can vary, with the smallest shiitake mushrooms harvested as less than an inch in diameter and the largest considered “jumbo” at 3.5 inches across. 

Chanterelles and Shiitake Mushrooms: Descriptions

Description of Chanterelles

chanterelles growing

The golden color of chanterelles is mimicked by other non-edible mushroom species.

©Paula Savelius/Shutterstock.com

Several different species of edible fungi in the Cantharellaceae family are known as “chanterelles” or “girolles.” Among the most common are “golden chanterelles.” One of the more well-known species is Cantharellus cibarius in Europe. There are many species in North America, one common being Cantharellus lateritius aka the “smooth chanterelle”. Chanterelles grow natively in deciduous forest soil and grow individually or in groups. You typically find chanterelles around the base of trees, such as pines and oaks.

The chanterelle is a delicacy for its fruity aroma and pleasant texture. For years, this has made it a favorite throughout its native Europe and North America, but with the greatest popularity in countries of Europe. Chanterelles have funnel-shaped caps that are wavy and often have gill-like ridges. The cap and stalk are mostly orange or yellow, and some species are white. The chanterelle typically grows between 1 and 4 inches wide and 2 to 4 inches tall. 

However, you must be cautious when attempting to harvest a chanterelle in the wild. Mushroom species can look similar to the chanterelle mushroom. One of the most common lookalikes is the jack-o-lantern mushroom, Omphalotus illudens. Both have an orange color, but jack-o-lanterns are poisonous and can cause vomiting, cramps, and diarrhea. Look out for a key difference between the jack-o-lantern and chanterelle! The jack-o-lantern has non-forked sharp gills. The chanterelle does not have gills and has only gill-like ridges. 

Description of Shiitake Mushrooms

shiitake mushrooms growing in logs

People love shiitake mushrooms for their savory, smoky flavor and rich texture.

©Saravut Biacharas/Shutterstock.com

“Shiitake mushrooms” are the edible fungus species Lentinula edodes. This species goes by many names, including “shitake,” “dongo,” “shanku,” “oak mushroom,” “black mushroom,” “black forest mushroom.” “Shiitake” is one of the most common names and comes from the Japanese word for “Shii.” In Japanese, “Shii” refers to an evergreen tree where the mushroom grows natively. Cultivated in China and Japan, the Lentinula edodes stemmed from East Asia. With commercial cultivation beginning in the 20th century, shiitakes gained popularity and quickly became some of the most recognized mushrooms. People love shiitake mushrooms for their savory, smoky flavor and rich texture.

Containing more than 50 genera and over 1,500 species, Shiitake mushrooms belong to the family Marasmiaceae. Shiitake mushrooms are brown and have umbrella-shaped caps, which curl under at the edges. The caps cover white or off-white gills and are atop white or off-white colored stems, which sometimes become brown as the mushroom ages. You will find that shiitakes vary greatly in size. The smallest ones reach an inch in diameter. The largest mushrooms can reach 3.5 to 5 inches in diameter.

Important Differences

Both chanterelles and shiitake mushrooms are edible fungi, but apart from that, they are very different in their size, color, shape, history, taste, and growing environments. By examining these differences, you can learn how to identify each one and know when to use one or the other.

History of Chanterelles vs. Shiitake Mushrooms

Humans have been growing and harvesting mushrooms in the wild for thousands of years. Some species grow across a range of geographies and environments. Other species grow only in isolated regions. Thanks to technology and globalization, people grow mushrooms in many environments beyond their native homes. Chanterelles and shiitakes grow in wooded areas.

History of Chanterelle Mushrooms

Numerous mushrooms are called “chanterelles” in the Cantharellus genus. Chanterelle mushrooms grow worldwide, including in Australia, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America. The “golden chanterelle” species are among the most common wild mushrooms and grow across Europe and North America. More than 40 different varieties grow across North America. Throughout history, chanterelle mushrooms have been considered a delicacy and go by different names depending on the language and culture. Because they grow abundantly in the wild in Europe and North America, they are a top choice for mushroom foragers (people who hunt for and harvest mushrooms growing in the wild).

Among the most common species include Cantharellus cibarius, which grows across Europe, and several species in North America, including Cantharellus elenesis, Cantharellus formosus, Cantharellus lateritius, and others. Depending on the species, you may find chanterelles growing on conifers or hardwood trees. 

However, chanterelles are borderline impossible to cultivate, even as scientists progress in understanding effective chanterelle production methods. Because of this, they are not grown commercially, limiting their availability. This can mean that you have trouble finding chanterelles in a grocery store setting, particularly in parts of North America where mushroom foraging is less common. 

Shiitake Mushroom History

Imperial Palace - Tokyo, Japan, Tokyo - Japan, Bridge - Built Structure, Emperor

Shiitake mushrooms originated in East Asia, specifically from the wooded and mountainous parts of China, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea.

©iStock.com/golaizola

These mushrooms originated in East Asia, specifically from the wooded and mountainous parts of China, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. Shiitakes have a place in the traditional medicine and culinary practices of these Asian cultures and have been used for centuries, dating back to ancient times. 

Shiitakes belong to organisms called “saprotrophs.” Saprotrophs feed on the tissue of dead trees, with shiitakes growing best on trees such as maples, oaks, walnuts, and other hardwood logs. Because shiitakes grow on hardwood trees in forested areas, the ancient Japanese warriors would harvest and cultivate them by cutting wood with shiitake mushrooms already growing. They split logs and branches from there to cultivate the spores into new growth. This is the process known as inoculation, in which the fungus spawn is brought into contact with a log to allow them to spread to a new piece of wood. 

This traditional method for cultivating shiitakes was used throughout the 20th century. Only a few decades ago, the first U.S. shiitake farms were started, leading to immense growth in shiitake production and consumption. Today, shiitakes are well-known and can be found worldwide and cultivated in Asia and beyond. 

Appearance: Chanterelles vs. Shiitake Mushrooms

Chanterelles are small or medium in size, have a meaty texture, fan-like wavy caps, gill-like ridges, and thick stems. Some of the most common species are “golden chanterelles,” which are orange or yellow in color. You may see chanterelles growing individually or in groups, typically at the base of a tree – particularly pine or oak trees. Their wavy caps reach up to 4 inches tall and 4 inches wide. Another unique feature of the chanterelle is its false gills. While other mushrooms, including shiitakes, have thin, sharply-edged gills that can be removed from the cap, chanterelles have false gills. These are the same color as the rest of the mushroom and look more like wrinkles that extend from the cap to the stem.

In contrast, shiitake mushrooms have rounded brown caps, which grow from white stems. Dark brown gills are underneath the cap. Shiitakes can grow several inches wide but maintain their smooth, rounded caps. These look very different from the convex funnel shape of chanterelles. 

Growing Conditions

Chanterelle species grow worldwide and have slightly different needs depending on the species. For example, depending on the species, chanterelles may grow with conifers or hardwood trees. Chanterelles begin as small buttons that emerge from the ground in the summer and grow into the late autumn or early winter. They grow at the base of a tree trunk or nearby and establish a symbiotic relationship with trees such as pines, firs, and spruces. Because they establish this symbiotic relationship with the trees growing near them, they are difficult to cultivate. Researchers are still learning how to support the cultivation of the chanterelle mycelium. Though there have been promising learnings recently, chanterelles remain a wild species not commercially cultivated.

In comparison, shiitake mushrooms stem from the countries of China and Japan. Like chanterelles, shiitake mushrooms require wood to feed from and grow. However, shiitakes grow best on hardwood species only. The shiitake mycelium digests the wood cellulose and lignin from hardwood species, which provide the nutrients the fungus needs. Maple or oak logs provide the ideal host for shiitake cultivation because they are high in sugar content, particularly when harvested in the fall or winter. Though shiitakes grow natively in Asia, they have been cultivated for centuries and commercially in North America since the 1980s through inoculation. 

Taste Differences

Chanterelles have a fruity flavor and strong, pleasant aroma that is sometimes described as peach or apricot-like. The flesh of the chanterelle is firm and sometimes called peppery. Particularly in Europe, where chanterelles are a favorite ingredient, they are often added to creamy sauces, pasta, venison and other meat dishes. This is a unique flavor among other edible mushrooms and makes chanterelles very different from other edible fungi, including shiitakes, which have a smoky and savory flavor. Shiitakes bring a great texture and flavor to soups, and sauteed dishes and can be purchased fresh and dried.

When they are dried, shiitakes develop an even stronger flavor and earthy fragrance. Because of this, dried shiitakes are often recommended for use in soups or stews. In these dishes, they impart a strong umami flavor. In contrast, many cooks recommend eating chanterelles fresh and cooking them simply to maximize their natural flavor. Some studies have said that dried shiitake imported from China may contain heavy metals from the growing process, so proceed with caution.

Some experts recommend not eating shiitake mushrooms raw because they can cause a skin reaction called toxic flagellate dermatitis. This is a reaction to the shiitake mushroom containing the lentinan compound.

Usage of Mushrooms

In general, it is best to avoid saturating your fresh mushrooms in water. You may avoid washing them and use a cloth or brush to wipe away dirt. Alternatively, gently rinse the mushrooms in water and quickly dry them using a cloth or paper towel. 

You may use all parts of your chanterelle mushroom, including the cap and stem. Many cooks recommend using butter or olive oil to gently sauté the chanterelle and then add it to a white wine pasta dish or another recipe.

However, if you eat fresh shiitakes, you should begin preparing them by taking them off the stem. Though the stem is technically edible, they are tough and unpleasant to eat. If you use dried shiitakes, start by soaking them in cold water for about an hour or hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Then you can strain them (conserving the remaining water to make a sauce or broth!) and use them in your favorite soup, pasta, stir fry, or other dishes.

Health Benefits of Chanterelles vs. Shiitake Mushrooms

Mushrooms are nutritious and delicious and have gained great popularity for the many vitamins and minerals they provide.

Chanterelles are rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, E, C, and D; beta-carotene, lycopene, and many others. They also contain fiber and copper. Shiitake mushrooms are also rich in copper and contain other beneficial compounds that may reduce cholesterol, and boost your immune system. They also serve as a good source of vitamins and minerals.

To Conclude

The above article compares chanterelles and shiitake mushrooms: two edible fungi which offer strong flavors and unique textures and are important culinary ingredients in their respective cultures. However, these two originate from very different places, are very different in color and shape, and possess very different flavor profiles. Why not try both and experiment with traditional European recipes for chanterelles and classic dishes from Asia for shiitake mushrooms?


Share this post on:
About the Author

Carrie is a writer 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 find Carrie taking long walks or reading a book under the trees in the park.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.