You’ll often find raw mushrooms in salads at restaurants and in veggie trays at parties.
Can you eat raw mushrooms, and should you?
Eating commonly-served mushrooms (like button, oyster and shiitake) raw is typically safe, but they are more easily digested when cooked.
In this article, we’ll explain the few exceptions where eating raw mushrooms is not safe, and we’ll also explore which mushrooms you can eat raw and which you shouldn’t.
We’ll also talk about whether mushrooms are healthier to eat when they’re raw or cooked.
Can You Eat Mushrooms Raw?
Yes, you can eat mushrooms raw if it’s what you prefer. Although this might not be the best or most appealing way to consume them.
All fresh mushrooms that you can purchase at a grocery store or market are safe to eat either cooked or raw.
You can eat white mushrooms, cremini, portabellas and enoki mushrooms raw. They’re commonly eaten in salads or with dip.
It’s certainly faster and more convenient to eat mushrooms raw instead of having to cook them. But we question whether you’d really want to eat them this way.
If you’ve only tasted cooked mushrooms before, the taste and texture of raw mushrooms might be unappealing.
Raw mushrooms are less soft and tend to have a more spongy texture than their cooked counterparts.
They also have a much stronger and earthier taste than cooked mushrooms. So if you only like mushrooms as an addition to recipes, they might be a bit much raw and on their own.
For larger raw mushrooms like creminis or portabellas, you might want to remove the stems. They can be particularly hard to chew when raw.
You should also give all mushrooms a quick wipe down or rinse before eating, to remove any dirt or substrate.
Not sure how to cook mushrooms? How to Saute Mushrooms: Perfectly Cooked Mushrooms Every Time will teach you everything you need to know.
Can Humans Digest Raw Mushrooms?
The cell walls of all mushrooms are made of a very tough substance called chitin. This is the same material found in the shells of crabs and lobsters.
Human stomachs have been found to contain a substance called chitinase. This substance can break down chitin to a limited degree.
However, the purpose of chitinase in humans is thought to be defending against chitin-based parasites. It’s not strong enough to fully break down chitin.
Raw mushrooms are difficult for humans to digest and extract nutrients from.
When you eat raw mushrooms, you’re getting very little of the nutrition available.
Cooking mushrooms helps break down cell walls and releases nutritional and medicinal compounds. Humans can then absorb and use these compounds.
You can think of chitin in mushrooms as the equivalent of cellulose in plants. Both add fiber to your diet.
So if you’re just looking to add extra fiber to your diet, then raw mushrooms can be a great choice. But you’ll be missing out on the rest of the nutrition that they offer.
What Kind of Mushrooms Can You Eat Raw?
Not all mushrooms are created equal. So it’s important to distinguish between mushrooms that can be eaten raw and those that you should avoid.
Let’s cover a few common types of mushrooms that are okay to eat raw.
Can You Eat Shiitake Mushrooms Raw?
Shiitake mushrooms are okay to eat raw.
In fact, they’re one of the tastier mushrooms to eat raw because they have a very unique and distinctive ‘garlic and pepper’ flavor.
For some this flavour is a bit overpowering when raw, and mot people prefer the taste and texture of Shiitake when cooked.
But it won’t hurt to try them on a salad to see if you’re one of the people who prefers to eat them raw.
Can You Eat Oyster Mushrooms Raw?
All types of oyster mushrooms can be eaten raw, but they are definitely much nicer when cooked.
Raw oyster mushrooms have a spongy texture and slight metallic flavor that’s eliminated when they’re cooked.
King oyster mushrooms can technically be eaten raw. But their texture is so dense and chewy when raw that we don’t think anyone would find them so enjoyable.
Can You Eat White Mushrooms Raw?
Yes and no. Allow us to explain!
Some nutrition experts, like Dr. Joel Fuhrman, say that white mushrooms (which include any mushrooms of the Agaricus bisporus species) shouldn’t be eaten raw. This is because they contain a potentially carcinogenic substance called agaratine.
Cooking white mushrooms significantly reduces their agaratine content. That’s why some people recommend only eating them cooked.
Noted mycologist Paul Stamets has also stated that raw Agaricus mushrooms may be potentially dangerous for the same reason.
However, human trials have shown that raw white mushrooms in humans are safe and generally well-tolerated. The risk of potential carcinogenic effects are low.
It’s also been shown that refrigerating or drying agaricus mushrooms breaks down agaratine as much as cooking them.
If you’re buying raw white mushrooms from a supermarket, you likely store them in your fridge before eating. So their agaratine content has already been greatly reduced.
You may want to avoid eating freshly picked agaratine-containing mushrooms. But otherwise, the risk appears to be very low.
If you are concerned about agaritine in mushrooms, then it may be worth simply avoiding all white mushrooms either raw or cooked.
There are plenty of other species like oyster mushrooms that don’t contain any agaratine.
There are many other types of mushrooms like lion’s mane that can also be eaten raw. Although you’ll miss out on their medicinal qualities.
Learn what other mushroom varieties taste like by reading Mushroom Taste Guide: How 16 Popular Mushrooms Taste.
Mushrooms That Shouldn’t Be Eaten Raw
While most edible mushrooms are okay to eat raw, there are some that should definitely be avoided.
First it’s worth noting that there are some mushrooms that are poisonous to humans whether they are raw or cooked.
Never eat a mushroom that you can’t identify, regardless of how you plan to prepare it. Most poisonous mushrooms still remain poisonous even after cooking them.
Even if you can positively identify a mushroom, there are some that you still don’t want to eat raw.
Reishi mushrooms are an obvious example. They are so tough and woody that you’d have a hard time trying to bite into one while it’s raw.
Other tougher edible mushrooms that you’ll have trouble eating raw include any boletus mushrooms, like the porcini or penny bun.
Morels are an interesting example of a gourmet edible mushroom that shouldn’t be eaten raw. These mushrooms are a delicacy when cooked.
But if you eat morel mushrooms raw, they will cause stomach pains. They contain a mild toxin. Cooking them completely destroys this toxin.
Similar to morels, honey mushrooms are also unsafe to eat raw. Eating raw honey mushrooms will also cause cramps, stomach pain and nausea
Is It Okay To Eat Raw Mushrooms in Salad?
Yes, raw mushrooms are okay to eat in a salad as long as they are one of the safe varieties.
After reading about the potential risks of agaratine above, you can decide for yourself if you’d like to eat raw button mushrooms in your salad or not.
If you’re concerned, you can always substitute other types of raw mushrooms like oysters or shiitake.
Besides adding raw mushrooms to your salad, there are other ways of incorporating cold mushrooms.
You might try adding pickled or marinated mushrooms to your next salad instead.
How to Preserve Mushrooms: A Step-by-Step Guide will teach you how to make your own pickled or marinated mushrooms.
Are Mushrooms Healthier Raw or Cooked?
All types of mushrooms are healthier and more nutritious when cooked.
Avoid boiling mushrooms, as some of the nutrients of the mushroom will leach out into the water. It also results in your mushrooms having a more soggy texture.
While deep frying mushrooms can be delicious, it’s not a healthy option because of all the saturated fats in frying oils.
We know that mushroom cells are made of hard-to-digest chitin. Cooking is necessary to get nutritional benefits out of them besides dietary fiber.
Cooking mushrooms allows your body to much more easily absorb the nutrients and medicinal benefits that they contain.
Not all mushrooms have negative effects when eaten raw. But as we mentioned earlier, some types like morels may cause an upset stomach if consumed uncooked.
That’s because even some edible varieties of mushrooms contain toxins that are only broken down by cooking.
It’s also worth considering that raw mushrooms may have bacteria and other pathogens on them.
There are several ways that contamination can be introduced to raw mushrooms:
- Contaminated water
- Improperly sterilized compost or manure
- Contact with animals
- During and after harvest from handling, storing and transporting
- At the grocery store or in your refrigerator
- From counters and cutting boards through cross-contamination
There’s naturally a greater risk of food poisoning or digestive issues when eating mushrooms raw.
This is perhaps the greatest argument for cooking mushrooms, aside from the fact that it greatly enhances their flavor.
To learn more about what mushrooms have to offer, check out our article Health and Nutritional Benefits Of Mushrooms.
Are Mushrooms Good for You?
Yes, mushrooms are good for you. Eating them offers a number of health benefits. We might even go as far as to call them a superfood!
All mushrooms contain a variety of antioxidants.
One Harvard study found that higher mushroom intake had protective effects on the brain in older adults.
Eating mushrooms may prevent the growth of amyloid proteins related to dementia.
Mushrooms are a low-calorie, zero-fat food with moderate amounts of protein. They’re also great for satiety (making you feel full).
Mushrooms also contain good amounts of potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D. Plus they contain other essential nutrients as well.
We can’t really think of any downsides or disadvantages to eating mushrooms, unless you’re allergic to them or just find them unappealing.
If you’re trying to cut back on carbs, be sure to read Are Mushrooms Keto + Keto Mushroom Recipes.
Can You Eat Raw Mushrooms When Pregnant?
There are a number of foods that you should avoid consuming during pregnancy. Raw mushrooms are one of them.
The reason why pregnant people should avoid eating raw mushrooms is similar to why they shouldn’t consume other raw foods.
Sushi, raw steak, raw sprouts, raw or undercooked eggs and soft cheeses are all foods that pregnant women should avoid for the same reason.
When you’re pregnant, your immune system is weakened and compromised.
Raw mushrooms may harbor small amounts of bacteria and pathogens.
An otherwise healthy or non-pregnant person’s immune system can deal with small amounts of food contaminants.
For a pregnant person though, eating raw mushrooms may be an unnecessary risk to them and their unborn baby. Check with your doctor for advice about what’s right for your body.
Can you eat raw mushrooms? Yes.
Is it the best way to eat them? In our opinion, no.
Not only are cooked mushrooms much tastier, but they’re also much more nutritious.
Raw mushrooms contain chitin, a fibrous and hard-to-digest substance that’s only broken down by cooking.
So if you want to get the best of everything that mushrooms have to offer, cooking them is a must.
There are a ton of different ways to cook mushrooms. If you’re not sure where to start, we recommend checking out the following articles: