Chicken fried chicken of the woods mushrooms are one of the best things I've ever made with a wild mushroom. This is my original chicken fried chicken of the woods recipe, back from before I even ran my own restaurant.
One week we got a big delivery of chicken of the woods or sulfphur shelf mushrooms at the restaurant I was cooking at. I grabbed them all to make a vegetarian mushroom entree: golden brown and chicken fried.
You can chicken fry just about anything
It's probably nothing new to most people, but your classic chicken fried steak is typically not made with chicken, but beef. The recipe is a Southern thing, and some serious stick-to-your-ribs kind of food when served with the requisite red eye gravy, a sort of pan sauce that can include everything from smoked pork to coffee.
For the tasting menu dish these were originally destined for, I served them with a little pan sauce garnished with some chive flowers, and wilted greens on the side.
For the purposes of this post, I think it's easier to just illustrate a simple method you can use to bread the mushrooms, and let you take the dish from there.
A perfect mushroom substitute for chicken
Since chicken of the woods definitely have a texture when cooked similar to chicken, they're a shoe-in substitute for meat. You can saute them naked in a pan, especially if they're young, but make sure to keep a bit of wine or stock nearby in case the pan dries out.
The genius of chicken frying is that encasing the mushrooms in a little breading lets the mushrooms steam, keeping them moist and juicy while the outside gets crisp and delicious.
At its heart, this is just a simple recipe for breading chicken of the woods--switch the accompaniments up however you like depending on what's in season.
Blanching Chicken of the woods to pre cook them
The mushrooms illustrated in this post were from the tender young growth of a white-pored chicken of the woods.
Those needed no pre-cooking to be succulent and juicy, but depending on the age (and species) of your chicken mushroom, you may want to blanch them and dry before breading and cooking.
Breading vs Batter vs Flour-egg-crumb
The chicken of the woods here are breaded by dipping into flour-egg-flour here. It might not seem that important, but part of what makes this so addictive is the crust, as well as your mushroom being in a good stage for eating in a thick slice.
Using flour, egg and breadcrumbs can make things overly heavy, soggy, and oily. Sometimes it's nice, and I want that rock hard breadcrumb crust, sometimes I don't, and here, I don't.
By the same token using batter requires more oil, and can get messy with drips. The big takeaway here, is that the flour-egg-flour breading is a good trick to know, and it will work with more mushrooms than just good old sulphur shelves. Here's a few examples
- Whole mushroom caps, as with meadow mushrooms or shaggy parasols
- Chunks of hen of the woods
- Ischnoderma resinosum chunks
- Thick slices of puffballs pressed down with your hand to compress them
- Slices of Hericium errinaceous and Americanum
This recipe is fantastic as it is, but once you try it, you might be wondering if you can use it to make other things. You can, and it's great. Here's a few that would be good:
Make a quick pan sauce with white wine and chicken stock, finish with parsley and capers.
After breading, put a slice of fresh mozzarella on top, then tomato sauce, then parmesan. Bake at 450-475F or broil just until the cheese is golden and the mushrooms are hot throughout.
Gently toss the breaded mushrooms in Franks Red Hot that you've warmed and whisked with a knob of butter in a small saucepan. Eat it on a bed of fresh greens with blue cheese sauce on the side.
Chicken Fried Chicken of the Woods
- Heavy saute of frying pan, like cast iron
- 4 2 oz pieces of young chicken of the woods, the size of a small fist. Just imagine it's chicken
- All purpose flour, as needed for breading, roughly 1 cup
- kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1 generous pinch sweet paprika
- 1 tiny pinch cayenne pepper
- 3 eggs for breading
- 6 Tbsp Clarified butter or ghee, for cooking or substitute a combination of cooking oil and unsalted butter
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme optional
- Small clove of garlic crushed lightly with the back of a knife optional
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Take your pieces of chicken mushrooms and trim off the tough part where the stem starts to attach to the tree. Wash and dry the mushrooms well, which will help seasonings adhere.
- Season the flour with a good pinch of salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne to taste (go easy on the cayenne). Toss the mushrooms first in flour, then in egg, then in flour again.*
- Heat a pan with ¼ cup cooking oil, as well as 2 tablespoon unsalted butter. Add your breaded chicken mushrooms, the crushed clove of garlic, and the thyme.
- Cook the chicken of the woods until they are golden brown on each side, about 4-5 minutes, adding extra oil if the pan gets dry, then blot the mushrooms on a paper towel quickly to weep excess oil, sprinkle with a little salt to finish and serve immediately.
Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms
Love all your earthy cooking. Such wonderful recipes and ideas !
I will be sure to try the olio santo next time I happen on some blue indigos.
And I still have one last batch of chicken of the woods in my freezer
from last year and am eager to try frying them as you suggest!
I also wondered about breading them in panko.
Hi patty. Chicken of the woods would be just fine breaded with panko, make darn sure that you have young mushrooms though, thats really the ke, otherwise their woody.
Thank you! So simple and very succulent if the COW is young 🙂
Prepared this for two "foraged dinners" and everyone went nuts for it - especially the meat heads. Impossibly tender/moist fried chicken. We used almond flour (GF peeps) which seemed to work well.
After cooking this one a few times... my favorite is super duper duper light batter, seasoned with a dry porcini rub (extra mushroomy), and little S&B Oriental Curry Powder.
Nice variation using the porcini powder, yeah this is so simple, really easy to convert any non believers.
This recipe was a HIT! So were all your other recipes I've tried thus far on my friends! I was curious next time to try to boil the chickens before frying (maybe with a little ACV), to more thoroughly cook the mushroom as they sometimes cause gastrointestinal upset. Have you attempted this? Do you think it would mess up the breading/texture?
Glad you liked it.
I tried this recipe and it was great!
Yep it's a good one!
My 17 year old daughter just consumed her body weight in chicken fried chickens for dinner tonight (before AND after the squid main course). I found the first of the season today - no longer very young but still very good.
and just a comment on a totally different topic. I liked your instagram tiny dinosaur. Also the comment of scrying the accompaniments from the crop contents. So I take this opportunity to make you aware that crop contents of some (but certainly not all) birds are an interesting base for infusing vodka. i.e., if you score a plant-eating bird (ruffed or sharp-tailed grouse where you live - or maybe spruce grouse, though the crop contents would be really sprucy), save those drop contents and pop them in a jar of vodka. We have a bottle of European Black Grouse crop vodka - mainly crowberries, heather sprouts and a little willow... It is a conversation piece after dinner I can tell you.
Wow. Crop schnapps. Definitely a conversation piece for after dinner. The chicken fried chickens are super popular for some reason this year, I think because I re-shot the dish in 2017. Really a great treatment and simple way to celebrate the mushroom that everyone loves.
I discovered a huge stand of oak trees and have been hunting every weekend for Hen of the Woods. I found nothing until first week of October when it seemed every tree had a basketball sized hen. 3 garbage bags later, I was laboring to carry my bounty to the car when I found the largest chicken of the woods I've ever found. It was the size and shape of a standing rib roast. It was long and dense kind of like an oversized pineapple.. I processed all the Hens by sauteing and freezing. But I was too worn out to deal with the enormous chicken. So I cut it into 1 inch thick slabs and froze. So now I have 20 lbs of these chicken steaks in the freezer. Yes I know it wasn't the best way to preserve them but it's what happens sometimes. Any idea how best utilize now that they have that altered texture from freezing?
I use chickens a lot in soups - like Tom Kha Gai. I think any texture shift might be less of a problem. Also soupy curries. I suspect that if you cook it in a sauce or in liquid you will have fewer texture issues. Similarly I think you could use these in Risotto for good effect. I would suggest using them in anything where you could have chosen a dried mushroom. But try using them as you would normally ... they might be fine.
I do usually freeze my chickens after cooking so I have no personal experience with this but I know it happens that you have had enough of sautéing at the end of the day...
Thanks Jacqui. I think I will try the Tom Kha Gai. I have a bottle of Red Boat 40N that should mix well. We have 20+ for Thanksgiving. I'm trying to serve as many wild foods as possible. I've got a glogg with autumn olive, black raspberries, wild currents and ground spice bush; sticky toffee pudding made with dried persimmons and acorn flour; marinated hen of the woods mushrooms and now the Tom Kha Gai as a starter coarse. Should be great!
Soups are a great idea, curry especially since chickens can have a sort of tangy-lemony flavor sometimes.
jennifer l brush
I didn't have chicken of the woods, unfortunately, so just used this batter on a variety of mushrooms, shiitake, cremini and button. The batter is so delicious it really works on any mushroom. My husband thought I had made pakora so used lime pickle as a relish, that was great too.
Steven Joubert Thorold
Steve here, from Cape Town, South Africa...
I have been collecting and preparing COW for the last 5 years or so and I can honestly say that this has been one of the most delicious ways I have ever prepared this special mushroom! Thank you!
My daughters and I were lucky enough to come across not only a LARGE (12 pounds) cluster of COW, but it was also 100% soft, fresh, untouched by insects and just a spectacular find! I'm going to try your pickled COW next...
Looks great, just found some of this distinctive mushroom - will give it a go. If it fails, I'll put the final few pieces in the microwave and cover in beer
Thanks for posting this. I made this last night and it was wonderful, even my skeptical children were thrilled with the flavor. I went a little overboard with the cayenne, but overall it was wonderful. Note that the ingredients list doesn't contain a crushed clove of garlic, but the instructions present a step where it is added.
Glad you like it.
Great recipe! This looks amazing! I would love to try this recipe. Where can I find chicken of the woods?
In the woods 🙂
I guess it's time to hunt some of those chicken and hen in the woods.
I was blessed to find a beautiful, big, young COW for the first time by chance today. Thank you for this recipe! I did half flour, half panko and it was SO delicious. I will be looking for more of these delicacies in my Missouri woods!
Glad it worked for you Lorraine.
I am way late to this party, but I just wanted to say that I made this recipe for the first time today and it was a total hit. Absolutely amazing combo of flavors and textures, and it's a great recipe to convince that "I don't like mushrooms" person in your friend group.Wow.
Glad it worked for you!
Fantastic. We recently found a chicken of the woods, and made this. We are vegetarian and it was just fabulous. Will be making again thanks!
Glad it worked for you Natalie!
Loved the sautéed receipt with white wine and onions and garlic!!
Glad it worked for you.
I just made this , and although my chickens were very young , the pieces came out really tough . What did I do wrong ?
Most likely that means your pieces weren't as young as you thought. Chickens are tricky, they often look younger than they are, and it's natural to want to take them if you find them. This is a tried and true way of cooking them so I'd give it another shot when you find some good ones. You can also try par-cooking or steaming them if they're a little older before dredging.
OMG I LOVE this recipe !! Tonight I found a log COVERED in beautiful , bright , fresh chickens ! It's late but I don't care , I'm making me some chicken fried chicken of the woods !!
Hi Alan ! I made this recipe tonight using chanterelles , it was a different flavor but just as delicious!
This was delicious and the directions were simple to follow. I’m so glad I chose it for my first tasting of COW from my backyard forest. 👌 Will definitely make it again.
Amazing! Did this with panko breadcrumbs.
Glad it worked for you. I'd make sure to try the flour-egg-flour sometime too when you have a chance!
I see you’ve had LOTS of raves about this dish but had to add one more. This is my first sulfur shelf, it was young, tender and no bugs! We tried a bit yesterday to make sure we were good with it and today we had the chicken fried with a side of beets and their greens. We gobbled it all and I can’t thank you enough for providing such accessible dishes and ideas for the midwestern forager ( I’m in the Keweenaw area of upper Michigan.) Also have your book and cook from it a lot.
So delicious! Thanks for sharing these recipes. I fried in bacon fat and used a mixture of rice milk and chia meal instead of egg. I had a homemade Cajun spice blend I mixed with the flour. And, of course, perfectly delectable, fresh-harvested chicken-of-the-wood mushroom from my neighbor’s cherry tree. I’d post pics if possible.
Thank you, thank you!!
I support the use of bacon fat.
I got so excited. I should have read your recipe more thoroughly I would’ve done better. I did bread them and cook them but didn’t slice them in the right direction. They were very dry. Blanching them would have done the trick.
Hope I encounter them again some day.
Yes so the tricky thing with mushrooms is that due to age their water content can be highly variable. You can only use very tender chickens for this. They’re often deceiving in the wild and appear younger than they are, or our brains want them to be.