Skip to main content

The types of mushrooms you can (and can’t) eat

Foraging for edible mushrooms is a fun, but sometimes deadly activity: Know what to look for

Mushrooms are one of the luxuries of adulthood. I’ve never met a single child who likes mushrooms, including myself. But oh, when I discovered what I was missing, I certainly made up for lost time. Meaty, earthy, savory, and luscious, mushrooms are not only delicious, but a joy to cook with, and full of health benefits.

In recent years, as getting back to nature and homegrown food has become popular again, people have taken to the woods to forage and gather their own mushrooms. A fun activity, to be sure, but also a potentially fatal one. As delicious as many mushrooms are, there’s also a big list of ones that can kill you. The sneaky piece of it all is that it’s often difficult to tell the difference between those that are good, and those that are evil.

So if you find yourself with an urge to gather your own mushrooms, be sure to tag along with an experienced forager, or the consequences could be fatal. To get you started, though, here is a list of popular mushrooms that are safe and delicious, and a list of those that are definitely not.

Be careful out there.

Edible mushrooms

A serving of assorted mushrooms.
Atsushi Hirao / Shutterstock
  • Button – The most common grocery store mushroom, Buttons can be brown or white.
  • Oyster – Uniquely and strikingly shaped, Oyster mushrooms have a slightly sweet and mild flavor.
  • Enoki – Enokis have a long and slender shape that resembles bean sprouts. They are common in Asian cooking.
  • Chanterelle – Bold, brightly yellow chanterelles are fruity and delicious, with a slightly peppery note.
  • Porcini – Thick and sturdy, Porcinis are delicious in a number of preparations — even pickled!
  • Shiitake – Once known primarily for their use mainly in Asian cooking, Shiitakes have recently started to make their way into Western cuisine.
  • Black Trumpet – Most often dried, the Black Trumpet is also known as Black Chanterelle and the Horn of Plenty.
  • Morel – Looking like tiny brains on thick stems, Morels are nutty, earthy, tender, and meaty. An absolutely delicious delicacy.
  • White Beech – Growing in clusters, these mushrooms have a nutty, umami flavor when cooked, but can cause an upset stomach if eaten raw.
  • Chicken of the Woods – Resembling the dress of a Flamenco dancer, this mushroom is bright, frilly, and, you may have guessed, tastes like chicken.

Poisonous mushrooms

H. Krisp/Wordpress
  • Death Cap – Simple and ordinary in appearance, the Death Cap one of the most poisonous mushrooms in the world.
  • Deadly Conocybe – Dainty and deadly, these delicate little mushrooms can be as toxic as Death Caps.
  • Destroying Angel – One of the most toxic species in the world, these pure white mushrooms have many edible look-a-likes, making them that much more dangerous.
  • Satan’s Bolete – Distinct in appearance and easy to identify by their bright red stems, these mushrooms will make you terribly ill.
  • Jack O’Lantern – Given its name due to its bright orange color, this mushroom can cause intense illness.
  • Deadly Webcap – Similar in appearance to edible Funnel Chanterelle and Waxy Caps, Deadly Webcaps can cause complete kidney failure if consumed in large amounts.
  • Angel Wing – Innocently named and beautiful, the Angel Wing can cause fatal encephalopathy.
  • Inky Cap – This odd little mushroom is perfectly edible if eaten without alcohol. However, if mixed with alcohol, it can cause increased heart rate, digestive issues, and tingling in the limbs.
  • Autumn Skullcap – Looking quite dangerously ordinary, Autumn Skullcaps contain very high levels of amatoxin and will often cause liver failure.
  • Brown Roll-Rim – The Brown Roll-Rim is particularly nasty in its sneakiness. After immediate consumption, you may never know what harm it caused, but it will slowly cause your immune system to attack and rupture its own red blood cells.

Of course, knowing the names won’t help you identify edible mushrooms in the wild, so check out this handy guide. (Just remember, a lot of edible mushrooms have poisonous look-a-likes, so you’ll want to be really careful before eating anything.

Types of Mushrooms Infographic by Outforia

Editors' Recommendations

Lindsay Parrill
Lindsay is a graduate of California Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu, San Francisco, from where she holds a degree in…
Rum 101: An enthusiast’s guide to understanding the different types of rum
After you read this rum guide, you'll know which are your favorites

Rum's importance in the grand history of American drinking stretches back to before the U.S. became a country. Rum was a necessity in the Colonial days, both as an item for trade and as one of the primary means of getting good and wasted. When the country was just getting on its feet, whiskey as we know it hadn't quite made an impact yet. That left, rum and hard cider and other imports.

Nowadays, rum is crafted in many parts of the globe, with producers employing traditional rum-making methods and a multitude of blending and aging techniques. Given its strong influence in the world, it’s important to know what rum is, how it’s made, as well as the different types of rum that are available out there.

Read more
Bourbon snifters: What they’re good for, which bourbon you should drink from them, and more
Why you should have bourbon snifters, and what to drink from them

If you’re new to bourbon, you probably pour your favorite whiskey into a rocks glass with or without ice and sip it while you binge-watch the newest show du jour on Netflix and call it good. And while that’s all well and good, as we aren’t here to tell anyone how to imbibe whiskey, you might not be enjoying it as much as you could be. That’s to say that there are whiskey glasses designed to elevate and heighten your whiskey-tasting experience.

Don’t believe us? Just take your classic rocks glass, for example. It’s fairly uniform and unexciting. It’s designed for cocktails. That’s because when you drink an Old Fashioned. Sazerac, or Whiskey Sour the experience is all about the various flavors the ingredients (when combined with whiskey) create.

Read more
When you see “Cru” on a wine label, here’s what it means
Admittedly, it can be a little bit con"cru"sing
Wine bottles

Wine labels can be incredibly confusing. Many of them are in languages we don't speak, or organized in types we aren't familiar with. Often, the only loose guideline we have to understanding a wine's quality is the level of the shelf upon which it sits and the price tag posted underneath. We're all guilty of judging wines in this way, reaching for one on the second-highest shelf and thinking something along the lines of, "This one's probably pretty good." If you have a little more knowledge on the subject of wine, you might know that the word "cru" on a label is a good thing, even if you aren't sure why. We're here to explain this word and what it means in terms of a wine's quality.

The French word "cru" literally means "growth," and in wine, it references a superior growing site or vineyard. This practice was put into place in France hundreds of years ago, and is still used today. Wines with a "cru" classification are ranked according to their soil, altitude, climate, growing practices, and many other factors that make them superior.

Read more