What Are Oyster Mushrooms And What Do They Taste Like?

Mushrooms are pretty unbeatable. There may be no other vegetable that is as versatile, satisfying, and deeply flavorful as a mushroom — regardless of variety. If you're uninitiated with the wonders of the oyster mushroom, though, then you've come to the right place.

Gro Cycle states that oyster mushrooms are an edible fungus and "one of the most widely consumed mushrooms in the world. Live Eat Learn notes that the two primary varieties are pearl and king. The pearl oyster is "tender and small" whereas the king has "thick white stems and small flat caps, with a heartier, more meaty texture." They can be earthy, woodsy, and have a unique, meaty texture. Cooks Illustrated describes them as having a "dense, chewy, almost resilient texture which several tasters listened to that of squid or scallops."

Gro Cycle notes that they've been cultivated since the 1940s and were originally "first documented" in 1775 by a Dutch naturalist named Nikolaus Joseph Freiherr von Jacquin. They are primarily in season throughout autumn, and The Spruce Eats notes that they're most common in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cooking.

How should you cook with oyster mushrooms?

As with most mushrooms, you should not wash them and/or soak them — only pat them dry and remove any debris with a dampened towel. They cook relatively quickly, but if you're doing a quick sauté, be sure not to crowd the pan or the mushrooms won't take on any color.

They are even an excellent meat substitute for any vegetarians, vegans, or even carnivores that are looking to enjoy a meatless meal. Food & Wine even states that they're an excellent substitute for the bacon in a BLT! Beyond that, they're also incredible in pasta dishes, in stir-fried dishes, on pizzas, or — of course — as a stand-alone side, sautéed with butter, shallots, garlic, and thyme.

They offer antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and are said to "lower cholesterol levels and slow the spread of cancer," according to Gro Cycle. They also contain riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and protein, according to The Spruce Eats.

Maybe skip over the eggplant or the plain white button mushrooms next time you're looking to enjoy some veggies and purchase some oyster mushrooms instead. We bet you'll love them.