Chicken Mushroom
(Laetiporus sulfureus,
L. cincinnatus)
Chicken Mushroom

Chicken Mushroom

sculpture, acrylic paint

If there's one mushroom to start with, this is it. The chicken mushroom is easy to recognize, with no poisonous look-alikes. It's common and widespread, it has a long season, and it can be huge.

Adam Brandt and His Chicken Mushroom

Adam Brandt and His Chicken Mushroom

After 1st grader Adam Brandt spotted and identified this huge chicken mushroom deep in the woods from the window of his speeding school bus, he returned with his parents to the right place and provided the family with a year's supply of choice gourmet fungus!

photo by Joe Brandt

I once found 50 lbs. covering a log in a NYC park, and if you find it while it's still young, it can be extraordinarily delicious.

This polypore consists of flat, fan-shaped, bright orange to salmon, overlapping caps 2 to 12 inches across.

Chicken Mushroom, top view

Chicken Mushroom, from above

Note the overlapping caps.

There are 2 species. One species, L. sulfureus, has a bright, sulfur-yellow pore surface.
Chicken Mushroom, Yellow

Chicken Mushroom, Yellow Variety, from below

The other variety, L. cincinnatus, has a white pore surface.
Chicken Mushroom, White Variety, from Above

Chicken Mushroom, White Variety, from Above

Note the white pore surface showing along the edges of the caps.

Chicken Mushroom, White Variety, from Below

Chicken Mushroom, White Variety, from Below

Note the white pore surface.

The tiny pores are sometimes too small to see without magnification. The spores are white.

The flesh is white, light yellow, or pale salmon, and looks like chicken meat. It’s soft when the mushroom is young, then becomes dry and crumbly when the mushroom is too old to eat.

People sometimes confuse the brightly-colored chicken mushroom with the nonpoisonous, dull orange-brown Berkeley's polypore.

One man wanted to have found a chicken mushroom so badly, he convinced himself that 30 lbs. of mature, inedible, drab Berkeley's polypore was a bright orange chicken mushroom. He hauled it out of the woods to has car and brought it to me to confirm its identity.

After I told him it was worthless (you can only eat it when it's very young) and he had to return it to the woods, it instantly reverted to a dull orange brown color before his eyes!

One more source of confusion is the fried-chicken mushroom, a completely different edible species with a similar name.

The chicken mushroom grows on trees, logs, or stumps, deciduous or coniferous, across North America. Most common in autumn, it also appears in spring and summer.

The chicken mushroom tastes very much like chicken, especially with customary chicken seasonings. Properly prepared, it’s wonderful.

To adapt it to traditional chicken recipes, include a source of protein (i.e., grains or beans) to make the dish filling, plus some olive oil or vegetable oil, because unlike chicken, this mushroom contains no fat.

Unless the mushroom is so young and tender it almost drips with juice, it’s better to cook it in moist heat (i.e. in soups, stews, or in grains) than to cook it in oil.

Chicken Mushroom, Immature

Chicken Mushroom, Immature

When a chicken mushroom is this young, it's great sautéed.

Chicken Mushroom Recipes