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.
1. Goat Cheese Toasts with Asparagus-Mushroom Ragu
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.
2. Shiitake Mushroom & Tofu Potstickers
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 these plump, hand-folded potstickers. Get the recipe here.
3. Miso Soup with Napa Cabbage and Udon
Miso soup typically is served as a starter, but the addition of shiitakes and noodles makes it fit to be eaten as a meal all by itself. Get our Miso Soup with Napa Cabbage and Udon recipe.
4. Shiitake Mushrooms and Baby Bok Choy
You could have this as a side, but it might just outshine your mains. Tossed in a salty-sweet sauce, these stir fried shiitakes and bok choy possess a show-stealing savoriness. Get the recipe here.
5. Shiitake Quinoa Salad
It takes some carefully chosen ingredients to make an uber-healthy dish that also manages to satisfy. In this masterful composition, shiitakes join forces with avocado, quinoa, and spinach for a salad that is practically the poster child for the power meal. Get the recipe here.
6. Beet and Shiitake Veggie Burgers with Chipotle Tomato Jam
A solid veggie burger is only as good as the sum of its parts. With shiitakes, vibrant beets, and a laundry list of seasonings and spices, everything in these brightly colored patties adds up just right. Get the recipe here.
7. Shiitake “Bacon”
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 recipe here.
8. Gai Lan and Shiitake Stir-Fried Brown Rice
Shiitakes and Chinese broccoli can help transform a greasy takeout staple into something infinitely more wholesome (and worthy of scarfing down with reckless abandon). Get our Gai Lan and Shiitake Stir-Fried Brown Rice recipe.
9. Buddha's Delight (Jai)
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.
10. Japchae (Korean Stir-Fried Sweet Potato Noodles)
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.
11. Miso Ramen with Roasted Vegetables
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.
12. Soy Sauce Butter Pasta with Shrimp and Shiitakes
Mushrooms, butter, shrimp, and soy sauce add up to one immaculate storm of umami deliciousness in this pasta dish that bridges the cuisines of Italy and Japan. Get the recipe here.
13. Asparagus and Shiitake Mushroom Tart with Polenta Crust
The full flavor of shiitakes can shine through even amongst the richness of eggs and cheese. Finished with a few pinches of truffle salt, this polenta tart has all the markings of a truly decadent brunch main. Get the recipe here.
14. Artichoke and Pickled Shrimp with Lemon Aioli
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.
15. Charles Phan's Steamed Ground Pork with Salted Fish
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 our Charles Phan's Steamed Ground Pork with Salted Fish recipe.
Header image: Goat Cheese Toasts with Asparagus-Mushroom Ragu from CHOW
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.