Why Dried Shiitake Mushrooms Should Be in Your Pantry

Why Dried Shiitake Mushrooms Should Be in Your Pantry

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Christine Gallary
Jan 22, 2015
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Flavorful shiitake mushrooms are such a foundation of Asian cooking. They have an intense flavor that always reminds me of my Chinese grandmother's cooking, where she used shiitake mushrooms in soups, braises, and steamed dishes. My grandmother always had a big glass jar of dried shiitake mushrooms in her pantry, and I've picked up this habit too!

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Dried shiitake mushrooms can easily add deep savory flavor, umami, to dishes. I like to think of them as healthy little punches of flavor since they contain no fat, and even vegans can eat them.

While fresh shiitake mushrooms are just as delicious, they can be harder to find, so having dried shiitake mushrooms stocked in your pantry means that you always have a flavorful ingredient at your fingertips. They're easily found at Asian markets and can last for months, maybe even years, if stored in an airtight container in a cool place or the refrigerator.

I reach for dried shiitake mushrooms when making Chinese sticky rice or a Japanese or Chinese soup or broth, and when I need another ingredient to add to a stir-fry.

But the best part about these dried mushrooms? Since you have to rehydrate them in hot water before they can be used, the mushroom soaking liquid that you're left with is a tasty bonus ingredient! Don't waste that liquid — use it in the place of chicken broth or as the base of a sauce.

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How to Use Dried Shiitake Mushrooms in Place of Fresh Shiitake Mushrooms

While fresh shiitake mushrooms are definitely softer and cook very quickly, I find that properly rehydrated dried mushrooms are almost just as good and actually have a deeper flavor. Just place the dried shiitake mushrooms in a heatproof bowl and add really hot or even boiling water to cover it by a few inches. Let the mushrooms sit for at least 20 minutes until the caps are tender.

When the mushrooms are tender, pluck them out and squeeze out the excess water with your hands. Trim off and discard the tough stems, and the caps are ready to cook. If you want to use the mushroom soaking liquid, slowly pour the liquid into a measuring cup but stop when you reach the gritty stuff at the bottom.

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