Difference between: shiitake mushrooms and porcini mushrooms

Both shiitake and porcini are earthy, full-flavor,┬ámeat-like mushrooms. And, they’re each often available dried.

Let’s check out the difference between these two popular fungi.

tons of shiitake mushrooms

Indigenous to Japan and Korea, shiitake mushrooms have become more popular in the US in the past few decades. This is in part because of studies boasting their numerous health benefits – read about the nutritional perks in depth here.

Interestingly, to capture that woodsy, wild-grown mushroom feel, many shiitake growers practice “forest farming,” wherein the mushrooms are produced in a natural wood setting.

Shiitake mushrooms:

  • Also known as black forest mushrooms (not unlike black forest ham).
  • Are now cultivated, but have a wild mushroom taste.
  • Have an earthy, almost garlicky flavor.
  • The stems are too tough to be eaten, but can be used to flavor broths.

Porcini mushrooms:

  • Have an even stronger earthy flavor than shiitake.
  • Are wild mushrooms.
  • When available fresh, can attract worms.*
  • Have a small window of time for harvesting in the fall.
  • Then, they must be consumed fresh within a few days.

*According to Vegetables Revised, these worms aren’t a big deal – you can heat the mushrooms in a 250 degree F oven for 30 minutes and the worms will crawl out and die. The author does recommend not mentioning this to any dinner guests, though.

On the other hand, all the more reason to purchase dried mushrooms!

Speaking of dried mushrooms, shiitake and porcini are both available dried and we might consider buying them this way. Dried mushrooms actually pack a more significant flavor punch than their fresh alternatives.

Further, Cooks Illustrated maintains that dried shiitake mushrooms have 15 times more “flavor-building nucleotides” than dried porcini mushrooms.

Porcini mushrooms not only last a short period of time while fresh, and can have worms in them, but when cooked, they can shrink to almost half their size. In addition, if you do opt for the dried version, not only are they less flavorful than dried shiitake, but often more expensive.

There’s a clear winner here – whether fresh or dried, it’s shiitake mushrooms all the way.

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