How to Find Chanterelle Mushrooms

Written by Kaleigh Moore
Updated: June 23, 2023
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Key Points:
  • Chanterelle mushrooms can be recognized by their wide funnel-shaped caps, which are often golden yellow, but can white or even blue depending on your definition of the word “chanterelle”.
  • They can be found worldwide and form a symbiotic relationship with certain trees.
  • There are many different species of them some of which can be very difficult to tell apart from each other.

If you appreciate exotic mushrooms, then chanterelles are most likely on your radar. The attractive, golden hue of these fungi makes them a coveted delicacy with their unique and enticing fruity scent. It tantalizes the taste buds and provides invaluable health benefits like antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can help strengthen your body’s immunity system.

Learn how to find chanterelle mushrooms.

Understanding the process is necessary now that you’re ready to forage for chanterelles. Do you know how to recognize them accurately? How do you differentiate between poisonous look-alikes? Furthermore, can you harvest responsibly and store them suitably so they don’t go bad or lose flavor quickly? In this guide, we’ll teach everything needed in order to become a successful mushroom hunter!

What Are Chanterelle Mushrooms?

Chanterelle  mushrooms in the wild- how to find chanterelle mushrooms

Chanterelles can not be cultivated but can be found and harvested from the wild.

©Ivan Marjanovic/Shutterstock.com

Chanterelle mushrooms belong to the genera Cantharellus, Craterellus, Polyozellus, and Gomphus. They have a funnel-shaped cap, a wavy margin, and a smooth or slightly wrinkled surface. Also, the cap is usually yellow, orange, or white. However, some species can be red or black.

The underside of the cap has forked ridges or folds instead of true gills, which run down the stem. The stem is tapered toward the base. They also have a fruity aroma that resembles apricots and a peppery taste that adds a kick to any dish.

Chanterelles can not be cultivated, so they are mostly harvested from the wild by foragers and mushroom hunters. The name chanterelle has its root in the Greek word “kantharos“, which translates to “cup” or “tankard,” alluding to their general shape.

Where Do They Grow?

Chanterelle mushrooms grow on forest floors near coniferous or deciduous trees. They’re mycorrhizal fungi that basically form a symbiotic relationship with certain trees. They exchange nutrients and water with their host plants through their root-like structures called mycelia. In addition, chanterelle mushrooms are widely distributed worldwide and can be found in Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Africa, and Australia.

Common Species of Chanterelles in North America

Depending on your location or travel destination, you may come across various kinds of chanterelles. Below are some common types you can typically find in North America:

Golden Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius group)

Cantharellus cibarius, chanterelle, golden chanterelle, girolle

Golden chanterelles can be found with their yellow or orange hue and fruity scent.

©muuraa/Shutterstock.com

Taxonomy has changed greatly on these chanterelles over the last 10-20 years. This was once thought to be THE chanterelle of North America, but it is now known that it is a lot of different species and that Cantharellus cibarius is a European taxon. These chanterelles are highly favored and extensively dispersed. Its cap, which measures up to 10 cm in diameter, boasts a vibrant yellow or orange hue, while its stem is dense and sleek, narrowing towards its foundation. Although the inside flesh is actually white. Also, it thrives near hardwood or coniferous vegetation and exhibits a robust, fruity fragrance.

Pacific Golden Chanterelle (Cantharellus formosus)

Pacific Golden Chanterelle Cantharellus formosus

An underside shot of the Pacific Golden Chanterelle aka Cantharellus formosus

©jstraka aka J Straka / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ https://inaturalist.ca/photos/102002070 – License

The Pacific golden chanterelle is a close relative of the golden chanterelle, but it’s more common in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. It has a funnel-shaped cap and is orange to yellow. The cap is smooth and has gill-like ridges on the underside that typically exhibit a pinkish hue.

Pacific golden chanterelle has a fruity smell and also a mild taste that most people find appealing. It grows in association with western hemlock, douglas fir trees, and some other conifers.

White Chanterelle (Cantharellus subalbidus)

White chanterelle pushing through leaves- how to find chanterelle mushrooms

This white chanterelle is native to California.

©iStock.com/randimal

The white chanterelle (Cantharellus subalbidus) is a fungus native to California and the Pacific Northwest region of North America. It’s similar in appearance to other chanterelles. However, its cream-to-white color that darken to yellow-orange with age or bruising.

The stem is 2–7 cm (1–3 inches) tall and 1–5 cm (0.4–2 inches) wide, tapered to the base. It has a sweet flavor that’s less fruity than the golden chanterelle. Additionally, it grows in association with conifers, especially Douglas-fir. 

Cinnabar Chanterelle (Cantharellus cinnabarinus)

Cantharellus cinnabarinus or red chanterelle mushrooms growing out of the forest floor

Cinnabar chanterelle can be easily found by its bright red or orange color.

©K Quinn Ferris/Shutterstock.com

The cinnabar chanterelle is a small and delicate chanterelle with a bright red or orange color that may fade with age. The false gills are well-spaced and also have the same color as the cap or paler.

Cinnabar chanterelle is edible and good, but it has high water content (up to 90%), so it needs to be cooked well to release the excess moisture. Some people prefer to dry sauté without oil or butter, while others like adding fat to enhance the flavor. They are also really small and are normally dirty/sandy, so some people say they aren’t worth it. Also be aware that some Hygrocybe species look very similar.

Smooth Chanterelle (Cantharellus lateritius/flavolateritius)

Cantharellus lateritius aka the smooth chanterelle

A great pic of the smooth fertile surface on the bottom of a smooth chanterelle.

©John Plischke aka johnplischke / CC BY-NC 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/153142820

The smooth chanterelle is a medium-sized to large sized mushroom reaching up to 12cm tall. It has a bright yellow to orange cap that is convex to funnel-shaped, with wavy margins and a hollow center. The cap surface is dry and covered with a thin layer of hair. However, unlike other chanterelles, the smooth chanterelle has a smooth or slightly wrinkled undersurface.

The stem of the smooth chanterelle is also yellow to orange. It can be straight or curved and sometimes tapered at the base. The mushroom’s flesh is firm and white, with a pleasant smell and taste. In some areas these are the most plentiful chanterelles you might find. You may also see that these have rosecomb mutations more than other chanterelles.

Small Chanterelle (Cantharellus minor)

Small chanterelle- how to find chanterelle mushrooms

The small chanterelle is more slender than the golden chanterelle.

©iStock.com/Wirestock

The small chanterelle is one of the smallest species of the genus Cantharellus. It usually grows in moss and has more slender proportions than golden chanterelle.

The stem is less than 4 cm (1.6 inches) tall, slender, equal, or tapering slightly to the base. The flesh is thin, yellowish to orangish, with no distinctive odor or taste. The spore print is pale yellowish.

The small chanterelle’s cap ranges from 0.5 to 3 cm (0.2 to 1.2 inches) in width and has a convex and slightly depressed shape with a central knob. At times, it takes on a funnel-shaped appearance. However, its false gills are decurrent, well-developed, distantly spaced, and colored like the cap or slightly paler.

Horn of Plenty (Craterellus cornucopioides)

Black chanterelle, Horn of Plenty- how to find chanterelle mushrooms

The black chanterelle, or Horn of Plenty, can be found in France, Italy, and other parts of Europe.

©SariMe/Shutterstock.com

Most people know of this mushroom as the black trumpet. It is also known as the horn of Plenty, the trumpet of the dead, or black chanterelle. It has a distinctive shape that resembles a funnel or a horn. The mushroom is usually grey to almost black and blends in with the leaf litter on the forest floor.

The Horn of Plenty has a rich history and symbolism in different cultures. In Greek mythology, it was associated with the cornucopia, the horn of the goat Amalthea that could provide any food or drink its owner wished. It was a symbol of abundance and prosperity.

In France and Italy, however, it was called trompette de la mort or trombetta dei morti, meaning trumpet of the dead. Some say this name came from the belief that the souls of the deceased played the mushrooms as trumpets. In the United States you can find Craterellus fallax on the east coast and Craterellus calicornucopioides on the west coast.

Flame Chanterelle (Craterellus ignicolor)

Craterellus ignicolor from New Brunswick, Canada aka flame chanterelle aka yellowfoot

A great detailed pic of Craterellus ignicolor

©Stuart Tingley aka stubirdnb / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ https://inaturalist.ca/photos/171912291 – License

The flame chanterelle is also known as the yellow foot. It’s smaller, usually ranging from 2-6 cm in height. It has a funnel-shaped or vase-shaped cap that often has a perforated center. The cap is yellow to bright orange. The underside of the cap has blunt false gills that run down the stem. Also, the stem is hollow, waxy, and bright orange to yellow.

Flame chanterelle has no distinctive smell or taste but can sometimes have a pleasant fruity aroma. You can use it in various dishes, especially soups, stews, and sauces. It has a thin flesh that cooks quickly and also absorbs flavors well.

How to Find Chanterelle Mushrooms

Before you head out to the woods, make sure know how to find chanterelle mushrooms. Have the following items with you:

A Mushroom Identification Guide

Using a mushroom identification guide will help you distinguish chanterelles from other mushrooms, especially those that look similar but are poisonous. You can consult an expert or join a local mushroom club for guidance. We do not recommend any phone apps, but there are great online groups such as Inaturalist, Mushroomobserver as well as Facebook groups where people can help with identification.

A Basket or a Paper Bag

These are better than plastic bags for collecting mushrooms. They allow air circulation and prevent moisture buildup. Plastic bags can make mushrooms spoil faster and lose their flavor and texture.

A Knife or Scissors

These are useful for cutting the mushrooms, helping keep less dirt in your basket. There are some old wives tales about needing to either cut or pluck your mushrooms for regrowth, but it doesn’t actually make any difference.

A Brush or a Cloth

These are handy for cleaning the mushrooms of dirt and debris. You can also use your fingers to rub off any dirt gently. Avoid washing the mushrooms with water, as it can make them soggy, lose flavor and decompose faster.

To find chanterelle mushrooms, follow these steps:

Step 1: Do Your Research

Before you head out to the woods, make sure you know what chanterelles look like and where they grow. You can use books or websites to learn about chanterelle identification and distribution. You can also join a local mushroom club or group to get advice from experienced foragers.

Step 2: Choose the Right Time and Place

Chanterelles typically grow from late summer to early fall on the east coast of the U.S., but can grow into the winter on the west coast. They prefer moist and shady areas with rich soil and leaf litter. Look for them under coniferous or hardwood trees, especially pine, oak, birch, beech, or spruce. 

Step 3: Scan the Ground Carefully

One great thing about chanterelles is how much they stand out color wise from everything else on the forest floor. Once you see one, get a little closer and then just stop and look around, you will probably see more. Look for their characteristic shape and color. Moreover, check for their forked folds underneath the cap once you pick them up. They don’t often grow in clusters but others will be nearby, so if you spot one, chances are you’ll find more.

Step 4: Check the Smell and Taste

Chanterelles have a fruity aroma that resembles apricots or peaches. They also have a mildly peppery taste that adds flavor to dishes. You can test a small piece of mushroom by chewing it and spitting it out. Never eat any mushroom that you are not 100% sure of its identity.

Common Look-Alikes of Chanterelles

It is important to know how to find chanterelle mushrooms accurately. Here are some common look-alikes of chanterelles:

False Chanterelles (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca)

Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca, false chanterelles

The false chanterelles look similar to chanterelles, but they are not even closely related.

©krolya25/Shutterstock.com

False chanterelles are a species of fungus in the family Hygrophoropsidaceae. They have an orange color, a funnel-shaped cap with a felt-like surface, and thin gills that run down the stem. False chanterelles belong to the order Boletales, meaning they’re more closely related to Boletes than true chanterelles. They aren’t considered deadly poisonous but are not recommended for consumption.

Jack-O-Lanterns (Omphalotus illudens)

Jack-o’lantern mushrooms

Jack-o-lantern mushrooms look similar to chanterelles on the outside, however, they are different on the inside.

©bogdan ionescu/Shutterstock.com

Jack-o-lanterns are orange-gilled mushrooms that look similar to some edible chanterelles. They grow on decaying wood or at the base of hardwood trees. The jack-o-lanterns have funnel-shaped caps and thick stems. They usually grow in clusters and can be found from summer to autumn.

The most remarkable feature of Jack-o-lanterns is their bioluminescence, which means they can emit light in low-light conditions. 

Only the gills of the mushroom glow, producing a blue-green color that the human eye can see after dark adaptation. The polish is caused by a chemical reaction between an enzyme called luciferase and a compound called luciferin, similar to how fireflies produce light.

Jack-o-lantern mushrooms are not deadly, but they are not edible. If you eat them, you will experience severe cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea since they contain a toxin called illudin S.

Woolly Chanterelles (Turbinellus floccosus)

Woolly chanterelle Gomphus   Turbinellus floccosus

Wooly chanterelles can look quite similar to chanterelles.

©Cliff Seruntine/Shutterstock.com

The wooly chanterelles are members of the Gomphaceae family, but they used to be ranked as a very close relative to the chanterelle. They’re sometimes called scaly vases or shaggy chanterelles because of their distinctive appearance.

They have funnel-shaped caps that can reach up to 30cm (12 inches) in height. The caps are covered with soft, appressed scales that are dark orange to reddish-orange or brownish-orange in color. The underside of the cap has shallow wrinkles and ridges instead of gills.

The woolly chanterelle isn’t a highly sought-after edible mushroom, mainly because it causes gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea when consumed by some people.

How to Harvest Chanterelle Mushrooms

Once you have mastered how to find chanterelle mushrooms correctly, you can harvest them by following these steps:

  • Step 1: Cut or pull the mushroom at the base of the stem. If you plucked it, you may want to then cut off the dirty base before putting it away.
  • Step 2: Clean the mushroom with a brush or a cloth. Remove any dirt or debris from the cap and stem.
  • Step 3: Place the mushroom in your basket or paper bag. Do not stack too many mushrooms on top of each other, as this can damage them.
  • Step 4: Store the mushroom in a cool and dry place.

How Can Chanterelles Improve Your Health?

Chanterelles are not only delicious but also nutritious. Here are some of the health benefits of chanterelles:

They Provide Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a vital nutrient that helps your body absorb calcium and maintain strong bones and teeth. It also supports your immune system, brain function, and mood. Unlike most mushrooms grown indoors, chanterelles are exposed to natural sunlight and naturally produce vitamin D. Half a cup of chanterelles can provide up to 100% of your daily recommended vitamin D intake.

They Boost Your Immunity

Bursting with antioxidants and a broad scope of beneficial nutrients, like beta-carotene, flavonoids, polyphenols, and ascorbic acid — chanterelles are quite the nutritional powerhouse. Not only do they protect against any damage caused by harmful free radicals that can lead to cancer incidence or inflammation, but their potential role in safeguarding your health from many possible diseases seems invariably integral!

They Support Your Eyesight

Chanterelles are an excellent source of vitamin A, essential for supporting optimal eye health and maintaining good vision. This essential nutrient aids in adapting your eyes to varying levels of light and prevents night blindness. Additionally, it shields your eyes from infections and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a primary contributor to vision loss among the elderly.

They Enhance Your Brain Function

Chanterelles offer a bevy of B vitamins, comprising niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin. These essential nutrients improve cognitive functioning by enhancing communication between brain cells – an efficient defense against Alzheimer’s or dementia.

They Regulate Your Blood Pressure

Potassium, a key mineral found in chanterelles, is vital for balancing bodily fluids and electrolytes. Moreover, it helps to lower blood pressure by easing tension in vessels and countering sodium’s effects. High blood pressure increases the susceptibility to encountering dangerous illnesses like cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney disorder, and diabetes.

Enjoy Safe and Responsible Chanterelle Hunting

Chanterelle mushrooms are a culinary delight that can invigorate your plates and well-being. By mastering the art of locating them, you’ll experience both the joys of foraging and reaping what you sow.

But remember: when it comes to harvesting chanterelles, one must exercise caution and vigilance in order to ensure mindful collection practices. Avoid confusing them with toxic mushrooms and leave some behind for other foragers and woodland creatures. With these tips in mind on how to find chanterelle mushrooms and you can have a fun and rewarding chanterelle hunting adventure.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Paula Savelius/Shutterstock.com


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