I’ve never met a mushroom I didn’t like. But if I had to name one variety that trumps them all, it would be shiitakes. The brown, saucer-shaped fungi are indigenous to Asia.
But they’ve also proved their versatility across all cuisines. Taut and chewy, but hardly squishy or spongy, they’ve got a texture that falls nicely between the extremes of a beefy portobello or slithery wood ear. And perhaps most importantly of all, they outshine most others in the flavor department, with a woody and intensely savory profile that’s sings its mushroom-y virtues loud and clear.
With so much going for them, it’s seems appropriate to call shiitakes the real king of all mushrooms (sorry, king oysters, but there’s only so much in a name). Here are 15 recipes that benefit from their royal and regal touch.
Asparagus and shiitakes are fantastic friends: they think alike with their velvety textures while also complementing one another with contrasting tones. Plopped onto bruschetta, they’re about as happy a pair as can be. Get our Goat Cheese Toasts with Asparagus-Mushroom Ragu recipe.
It’s no secret that mushrooms can stand in ably for meat in a number of situations. Along with tofu, they make for a perfectly substantial filling in plump, hand-folded potstickers or all-veggie dumplings folded into an ingot shape with the “hug” method. Get our Steamed Vegetable Dumpling recipe.
Shiitakes make this quick veggie version of pho feel meaty and satisfying; the aromatics in the broth make it super fragrant and good to the last slurp. Get the Quick Vegetarian Pho recipe.
It takes some carefully chosen ingredients to make an uber-healthy dish that also manages to satisfy. In this masterful composition from Myers + Chang, shiitakes join forces with marinated ahi tuna, quinoa, crunchy seeds, fresh herbs, and tons of other flavorful components. It is, admittedly, a bit of a project, but easy to break into smaller tasks over a few days and totally worth it. Get the Quinoa Tabbouleh with Marinated Tuna, Shiitakes, and Bonito-Rosemary Aioli recipe. (Or try a simpler but similar salad with this Shiitake Avocado Quinoa Salad recipe, practically the poster child for the power meal.)
A solid veggie burger is only as good as the sum of its parts. With shiitakes and portobellos, short grain brown rice, walnuts, and a laundry list of seasonings and spices, everything in these savory, meaty patties adds up just right. They hold together on the grill too. Get the Best Veggie Burger recipe.
Need something special to top those veggie burgers? Keep with the theme and pile on these salty and crisp shiitake bits that deliver all the craveable qualities of bacon. Get the Shitaake Bacon recipe
As far as feast-worthy vegetarian meals go, Buddha’s delight pretty much tops them all. With an ingredient list and instructions that read like a novella, making it is no easy feat. But for the ambitious, it rewards with a soul-nourishing warmth that is unique to this standard of Chinese Buddhist cuisine. Get our Buddha’s Delight (Jai) recipe.
Japchae is based around translucent sweet potato noodles, which might just out-slither mushrooms in the slipperiness game. Altogether, it makes for one slurpable dish, rounded out by a host of hearty veggies and a sauce flavored with brown sugar and soy. Get our Japchae (Korean Stir-Fried Sweet Potato Noodles) recipe.
A meatless ramen has to work overtime to compensate for the flavor that would normally be provided by chicken, seafood, or pork. Luckily, miso provides ample backbone in this recipe, while sweet potatoes and shiitakes keep things interesting on top. Get our Miso Ramen with Roasted Vegetables recipe.
Mushrooms often find themselves in the role of the secret ingredient, adding texture and flavor to dishes behind the scenes. Here, they help subtly amp up a shrimp and artichoke salad, adding an earthiness to the otherwise sharp and piquant dish. Get our Artichoke and Pickled Shrimp with Lemon Aioli recipe.
This dish is all about big flavors, from the fattiness of pork spare ribs to the brine of salted fish. Shiitakes step in to match those powerful ingredients, holding steady in a situation where other mushrooms might find themselves overpowered. Get Charles Phan’s Steamed Ground Pork with Salted Fish recipe.