How To Cook Wood Ear Mushrooms?

Maybe you’re looking to try something new, or maybe you just came home with a bumper crop from your latest foraging trip. Whatever the reason, you have found yourself the proud owner of a bunch of wood ear mushrooms. What should you do with them? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll talk about how to cook wood ear mushrooms, ending with a list of tasty recipes for you to try.

Cooking Wood Ear Mushrooms: The Prep Work

Cooking Wood Ear Mushrooms: The Prep Work

When cooking any kind of mushroom, there will be a bit of prep work to get them ready for cooking. This prep work will vary slightly depending on whether you’re using fresh or dried mushrooms.


In most parts of the world, dried wood ears are more readily available than fresh ones. They can be found in grocery stores and Asian markets.

If you are harvesting your own wood ears, obviously, they will be fresh unless you have dried them previously. You may also be able to buy fresh wood ears from time to time at local farmer’s markets or specialty shops.

Regardless of whether the mushrooms are fresh or dried, look them over to check their quality. You don’t want mushrooms that are riddled with bug holes, have a strong smell or a slimy texture.

If using dried mushrooms, make sure they are in a sealed package and no moisture has gotten inside. They should be completely brittle and should snap between your fingers when you remove them from the package.

With fresh mushrooms, it’s best to use them on the day you buy them or within a couple of days after you harvest them. Fresh wood ears begin to go bad rather quickly.


If you’re using dried mushrooms, there’s a pretty good chance they were already cleaned before they were dehydrated. Simply give them a quick rinse under running water.

If you’re using fresh mushrooms, you can clean them by using a mushroom brush or damp cloth, by rinsing them under running water, or by dunking them in a bowl of clean water. 

Keep in mind that all mushrooms, including wood ears, absorb water readily. Though wood ears don’t absorb it as quickly as some other types of mushrooms, you’ll want to be careful about how long you leave them underwater–especially if you are dunking them.

If the mushrooms don’t look very dirty, using a mushroom brush may be the simplest way to clean them. Simply rub the brush over the surface of the mushroom, paying special attention to the folds and crevices.

If the mushrooms look especially dirty or you’re concerned about getting them as clean as possible, rinse or dunk them. Remove them from the water as quickly as possible, placing them on towels or paper towels to drip-dry.


This step only applies if you are using dehydrated wood ears.

If your mushrooms are dried, they must be reconstituted before you can cook with them. Dried mushrooms are hard, brittle, and bone-like; if you throw them into your favorite recipe without reconstituting them first, they will take longer to cook and it may mess with their texture.

To learn how to rehydrate your wood ear mushrooms, check out the video below:


If you’re using fresh mushrooms, or your rehydrated dry mushrooms are especially large, you may want to chop them into smaller pieces.

The way you chop them, of course, will depend on the specific recipe you’re using. Some recipes may call for finely chopped mushrooms, while others may call for large chunks or even whole mushrooms.

Whether you chop them up or not, one important step is to locate and remove the stem ends of the wood ears. Though this type of mushroom doesn’t really have stems, the bases where they grow out of the wood are a bit tough and unsavory.

These stem ends will generally be lighter in color than the rest of the mushrooms, and they may feel tougher between your fingers. Locate these stems, chop them off, and discard them.

Cooking Wood Ear Mushrooms: 5 Methods

Once the prep work is done, you’re ready to cook your wood ears! Here are some different methods you can use.

Steaming or Blanching

This method can be used on its own or to “pre-cook” your mushrooms before sauteing or roasting them.

Place the mushrooms in a steamer basket or a pot of boiling water. Cook them for 3 to 5 minutes if using this as a pre-cook method, or for 8 to 10 minutes if you plan to fully cook them this way.

Boiled or steamed wood ears can get mushy, so keep a close eye on them while they’re cooking to make sure you don’t overcook them. 


Sauteing is one of the most popular cooking methods for mushrooms in general. It also works well for cooking wood ears.

You can use dried mushrooms that you’ve reconstituted, partially cooked steamed mushrooms, or fresh mushrooms. 

Melt some butter in a pan and add some chopped onion and garlic, if desired. Place the mushrooms in the pan and cook, uncovered, for several minutes, stirring and turning them frequently.

The exact cooking time will vary. If you’re using pre-steamed mushrooms, you will only need to saute them for a couple of minutes to allow them to absorb the flavor of the butter and spices.

If not using pre-steamed mushrooms, you may want to put the lid on for a couple of minutes to allow the fresh or reconstituted mushrooms to cook more thoroughly. Remove the lid after a couple of minutes, stirring the mushrooms frequently and allowing the excess moisture to cook off.

Sauteed wood ears can be eaten on their own or added to recipes such as stir-fries. 


Fried mushrooms are another popular side dish. Cooked wood ears have a naturally crunchy texture, so frying them will deliciously enhance this texture.

Coat the mushrooms in a batter of your choice, or dip them in layers of egg wash and flour mixed with spices. 

Place them in a deep-fryer once the oil is hot and bubbly. Allow them to cook for a couple of minutes before turning them over and letting them cook a few minutes more.

Frying is generally the quickest way to cook wood ears, as they should be thoroughly cooked within 5 to 7 minutes.


You can also roast fresh, reconstituted, or partially-cooked wood ears.

Coat them in melted butter or oil and season them to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder, or other spices of your choice. Place the mushrooms in a single layer on baking sheets.

Bake them at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes. If necessary to keep them from burning, turn them over and bake them for another 10 minutes or so.

Roasted wood ears make an excellent side dish, and they can also be thrown into recipes or mixed with a variety of vegetables to make an interesting medley. 

Adding to Recipes

Wood ears can be substituted for other mushrooms in most recipes. They have a very mild, non-distinct flavor, so they absorb the other flavors and spices in a dish exceptionally well.

With this in mind, they are highly versatile mushrooms. You can add them to soups, stews, sauces, stir-fries, casseroles, salads, vegetable medleys, and more. 

Wood Ear Mushroom Recipes

Speaking of adding wood ears to recipes, here are some recipes that specifically call for these types of mushrooms.


There are a variety of ways you can cook wood ear mushrooms and a variety of recipes you can use them in. Thanks to their mild flavor and their ability to absorb other flavors, the sky really is the limit to how you can use these excellently versatile mushrooms!

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