I feel it’s my personal responsibility to inform the public about mushroom safety now that we’re seeing Mushroom products become more popular. Unfortunately, many marketing campaigns are misleading which often leads to confusion and even danger for consumers. Not only does this put our industry at risk, but it also damages its reputation. So, can mushrooms be eaten raw?
Can Mushrooms Be Eaten Raw?
Some people prefer to eat mushrooms raw, and although eating raw mushrooms might not be the best-tasting way to consume them, most are perfectly safe. All fresh mushrooms that you can purchase at a grocery store or market are safe to eat either cooked or raw.
While you can eat raw mushrooms that are white, cremini, portabellas or enoki, and they’re often used in salads or as a dip, we query if this is how you’d really want to consume them.
If you’re only used to cooked mushrooms, raw ones might not taste as good. They’re also less soft and have a spongier texture.
Raw mushrooms have a stronger flavor than cooked ones, so if you only enjoy mushrooms as part of a dish, eating them alone might be overwhelming. For larger varieties like creminis or portabellas, it’s best to remove the stems–they can be tough to chew when raw. All mushrooms should also be rinsed quickly before consuming to get rid of any dirt or debris.
Can Humans Digest Raw Mushrooms?
All mushrooms have cell walls made of chitin, a very tough substance. Chitin is also found in the shells of crabs and lobsters. Human stomachs contain a substance called chitinase, which can break down chitin to some extent.
Although chitinase’s primary purpose in humans is speculated to be warding off parasites that contain chitin, it cannot completely break down the substance.
Difficult digestion and nutrient extraction are two main reasons why you shouldn’t eat raw mushrooms. When humans consume them in this state, we miss out on most of the mushroom’s nutrients.
When you cook mushrooms, it helps to break down the cell walls which releases compounds that are both nutritional and medicinal. By doing this, humans can absorb and use these compounds much more easily. Chitin in mushrooms is very similar to cellulose found in plants – they both add fiber your diet.
If you’re only looking to consume more fiber, raw mushrooms is a great option. However, if you cook them, you’ll also get the added benefit of the other nutrients they offer.
What Kind of Mushrooms Can You Eat Raw?
Some mushrooms can’t be eaten raw and some can. It’s important to know the difference so you don’t end up with a case of food poisoning. Shiitake mushrooms are okay to eat raw and they’re even tasty because they have a strong garlic and pepper flavor.
Some people eat shiitake mushrooms raw and find it too strong to eat raw, and most prefer the taste and texture when cooked. However, it’s worth trying them on a salad to see if you’re one of the minority who enjoys eating them raw.
Oyster mushrooms taste better when cooked than eaten raw, due to their spongy texture and slight metal flavor. These characteristics disappear once they are heated up.
Although you can technically eat raw king oyster mushrooms, we don’t think anyone would enjoy their chewy texture.
Mushrooms That Shouldn’t Be Eaten Raw
Some mushrooms are poisonous to humans whether they’re raw or cooked, so it’s best to steer clear of those entirely. Most other edible mushrooms are okay to eat raw, though some should be avoided for the following reasons:
Some mushrooms are poisonous, and cooking them will not make them safe to eat. Do not eat any mushrooms you cannot identify. If you can identify a mushroom, research whether or not it is safe to consume raw.
Reishi mushrooms are an example of this. They’re so tough and woody that it’s difficult to bite into one raw. To get the medicinal benefits from reishi mushrooms, they need to be dried out and crushed so that they can be made into tea or a tincture.
While other edible mushrooms can be eaten raw, boletus mushrooms like the porcini or penny bun are much more difficult to stomach. Morels provide a perfect example of gourmet edible mushrooms that are best cooked before consumption. Those with a refined taste will find these mushrooms especially delicious when prepared correctly.
Morel mushrooms must be cooked before consumption as they contain a mild toxin that can cause stomach pains, cramps, and nausea. This toxin is destroyed through cooking the mushroom. Similarly, honey mushrooms are also unsafe to eat raw and must be cooked thoroughly before being consumed.