Top 10 Most Expensive Mushrooms in the World
Hidden within the depths of pristine forests and nestled among ancient trees, a treasure trove of gastronomic wonders awaits: mushrooms. Coveted by foodies and culinary enthusiasts, these tasty treats can grow to astronomical prices.
Varieties like the rare Périgord black truffles, Alba white truffles, and the delicate and aromatic Matsutake mushrooms of Japan are well known in the culinary world, but the the list of the world’s most expensive mushrooms contains some exciting surprises.
When it comes to purchasing these beauties, there can be a significant price disparity between auctions and specialty stores. At auctions, exceptionally sparse or high-quality mushrooms and truffles can reach exorbitant prices due to the competitive bidding process.
But the focus of this article is not to showcase the most expensive mushrooms ever sold at an auction, but to highlight the most expensive mushrooms and their prices which can be purchased at specialty stores or online retailers. These prices are rough estimates and can fluctuate further depending on availability, region of harvest, season or markup of various retailers.
1. Yartsa Gunbu (Caterpillar Fungus) | ~$39,900 per pound
Cordyceps sinensis, also known as caterpillar fungus or yartsa gunbu, is a unique and highly prized medicinal mushroom. It has a fascinating life cycle and is famous for its (reportedly) remarkable properties and usage in traditional Chinese medicine.
This strange organism is native to the mountainous regions of the Tibetan Plateau, Bhutan, and Nepal. It grows by infecting and consuming the larvae of ghost moths. The fungus invades the caterpillar, eventually mummifying it, and then emerges from the ground as a slender, elongated stalk-like structure.
For centuries, Cordyceps sinensis has been highly regarded in traditional Tibetan and Chinese medicine for its various health benefits. It is believed to boost energy, enhance athletic performance, strengthen the immune system, and support overall vitality. Practitioners will often recommend it to combat fatigue, improve respiratory function, and promote longevity.
But another supposed advantage has made it even more sought-after. The caterpillar fungus has earned a reputation as an aphrodisiac. At times, this mushroom has been considered as precious as gold, platinum, or diamonds. Incredible figures, of up to $50,000 per pound, have been circulating.
2. European White Truffles | ~$5,490 per pound
Truffles are a type of fungus that grow underground, found hidden near the roots of trees, they are known for being elusive in nature, super delicious, but also incredibly expensive.
Cultivating truffles is a challenging and seasonal process that requires meticulous conditions and a considerable amount of time. It can take years of patient cultivation to obtain truffles, and once they reach maturity, they must be swiftly harvested and utilized due to their super short shelf life (their aroma will halve in roughly 5 days).
The combination of their underground growth which makes them difficult to find, scarcity, demanding cultivation process, and limited lifespan collectively add to the exceptional expense associated with truffles. European White Truffles and Alba White Truffles refer to the same species, Tuber magnatum. However, they differ in specific geographic origins and reputation.
White Alba truffles are highly desirable culinary treasures that hail from the region of Alba in Italy. They possess a distinct aroma and flavor that is unparalleled, with a pungent, earthy scent and a rich, nutty taste with hints of garlic and honey.
Because of their rarity and delicate nature, they reach astronomical prices, but chefs and food enthusiasts worldwide are not deterred. The annual White Truffle Festival in Alba celebrates the arrival of these culinary gems and offers an opportunity to enjoy their unique qualities in various delectable dishes.
As a side note, Alba, Italy, is also home to one of the most expensive restaurants in the world – Piazza Duomo, where you can sample these delicious treats.
3. Matsutake Mushrooms | Up to $4,672 per pound
The Matsutake mushroom, also known as pine mushroom or tricholoma matsutake, is a delicacy in culinary circles. Its distinct aroma and unique flavor make it a favorite among mushroom enthusiasts and gourmet chefs.
You will encounter it in coniferous forests, growing in symbiotic relationships with certain tree species, such as the red pine and fir. It thrives in diverse regions around the world, including Japan, China, Korea, the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and parts of Europe, but the most expensive matsutake mushrooms are harvested in Japan.
The distinctive aroma of Matsutake mushrooms is often described as a blend of spices, pine, and earthiness, which intensifies when cooked. Its flavor profile is complex, with hints of umami, and has a meaty texture. For various culinary preparations such as soups, stir-fries, and sushi, it’s the star ingredient.
Beyond its culinary appeal, the Matsutake mushroom holds cultural significance, symbolizing autumn in Japan. It takes center stage in traditional dishes like Sukiyaki and Matsutake gohan (Matsutake rice).
In Japan, the mushrooms have almost disappeared with the local production dropping by 95% over the past 70 years, according to an Insider report. The matsutake mushrooms can’t be grown on farms and need to be foraged by hand. They are also very susceptible to weather conditions: draught and high heat can greatly suppress the harvest, which leads to very volatile prices from year to year.
4. Black Truffles | Up to $2,950 per pound
Black truffles refer to an assortment of species that share the characteristic dark color and rich flavor profile. The most notable types include Tuber melanosporum, known as the Black Périgord truffle. Native to the Périgord region in France, it’s considered one of the finest fungi.
Another notable type is Tuber aestivum, commonly referred to as the Summer truffle or Burgundy truffle. Found across Europe, it offers a more subtle aroma and flavor compared to other varieties. Additionally, Tuber brumale, known as the Winter truffle, shares similarities with the Black Périgord truffle but has its a distinct taste and lower price.
Each of these black truffle types brings its own unique qualities to the culinary world, delighting palates with their earthy, luxurious essence.
Fresh Black Perigord Truffles are a real treasure for chefs who appreciate their exceptional aroma and intense, earthy flavor. Originating from the Perigord region in France, they are often considered the black diamonds of the truffle world. With their dark, rough exterior and marbled black flesh, Black Perigord Truffles add a touch of elegance and decadence to any dish.
5. Morel mushrooms | Up to $1,650 per pound
Morel mushrooms, cherished by chefs and foragers alike, are a beloved delicacy known for their distinctive appearance and exquisite flavor. These prized mushrooms are easily recognized by their unique honeycomb-like cap and hollow stem.
Morels possess a complex and earthy taste, often described as nutty and subtly smoky. Highly sought after for their unique flavor profile, they are used to flavor a variety of dishes, including soups, sauces, risottos, and pastas. Morels are typically found in the wild during spring, making them a seasonal delicacy eagerly anticipated by food enthusiasts.
Their limited availability and captivating taste contribute to their status as a gourmet ingredient, highly valued in the culinary world.
6. Porcini Mushrooms | Up to $415 per pound
Boletus edulis, better known as Porcini mushrooms, are loved for their exceptional flavor and meaty texture. With a specific earthy and nutty taste, they are a versatile ingredient in many food cultures. Porcini mushrooms have a particular appearance – a thick, sturdy stem and a cap that ranges in color from brown to reddish-brown.
They are typically found in forests, particularly in Europe and North America. Often used in risottos, pasta dishes, soups, and sauces, Porcini mushrooms lend a rich and savory depth to recipes. They are also popular when dried, as the drying process intensifies their flavor.
7. Black Trumpet Mushrooms | Up to $175 per pound
Black trumpet mushrooms (Craterellus cornucopioides) are a popular edible mushroom with a delicate, smoky flavor and meaty texture. You can also find them called horn of plenty, trumpets of death, or black chanterelles.
Black trumpet mushrooms are typically found growing in hardwood forests in North America and Europe, particularly in late summer and fall. They are small and trumpet-shaped with a dark brown to blackish color on the outside, and a thin flesh that ranges from gray to brownish-black on the inside.
Despite their dark color, they have a gentle flavor that is often described as smoky, nutty, and earthy. They pair well with a variety of foods, including chicken, pork, seafood, and grains like quinoa or farro. Delicious and nutritious, they contain significant amounts of protein, fiber, and vitamins B and D.
It’s important to note that black trumpet mushrooms can be difficult to find in grocery stores or markets. Most of the time, they are foraged in the wild and have a relatively short growing season. As with all wild mushrooms, it’s critical to properly identify them before consuming, as some wild mushrooms can be toxic.
Lobster mushrooms, though not a true mushroom species, are a wonderful ingredient for any professional or home cook. They are actually a result of a parasitic relationship between a specific type of fungus (Hypomyces lactifluorum) and other mushrooms, most commonly certain species of Russula or Lactarius.
Sporting vibrant red-orange colors, their taste resembles that of cooked lobster meat (hence the name). Their unique flavor profile combines a hint of seafood with earthy and nutty undertones.
Typically found in North America, particularly in the Pacific Northwest region, they are most commonly available in the fall.
Liked for their firm slightly chewy texture, you’ll want to use them in soups, stir-fries, or pasta dishes. With their eye-catching appearance and distinct taste, lobster mushrooms add a touch of creativity and excitement to culinary creations.
9. Chanterelle mushrooms | Up to $127 per pound
Chanterelles are easily recognizable by their characteristic funnel or trumpet shape, with a smooth, wavy cap that is usually orange or yellow. The flesh is firm and meaty, and the flavor is rich, nutty, and slightly fruity. They are a good source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, making them a nutritious addition to meals.
They go well with most dishes, but are also commonly dried and used as seasoning or added to stews and sauces for additional depth of flavor. Native to European and North American forests, you might find them during late summer or fall.
10. Lion’s Mane Mushroom | Up to $37 per pound
Lion’s mane mushrooms are often found growing on hardwood trees in North America, Europe, and Asia, particularly during the late summer and fall. They have a distinctive, shaggy appearance, with long, tooth-like spines that resemble a lion’s mane. The flesh is white and firm, with a mildly sweet and nutty flavor.
Most dishes can be enhanced with a bit of lion’s mane, and they pair well even with simple vegetables such as asparagus or spinach. They are also commonly used as a meat substitute in vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Not only are they delicious, they also contain a variety of beneficial compounds. These include beta-glucans, which have been shown to have immune-boosting properties, and hericenones and erinacines, which may help protect against neurological diseases and promote nerve growth.
Some closing thoughts
Mushrooms have captivated chefs and food enthusiasts worldwide due to their distinct flavors, versatility, and rarity. Expensive varieties like European White Truffles, Lobster mushrooms, and Morels are considered culinary treasures, with their unique taste experiences justifying their high prices.
From the earthy aroma of Black Truffle-infused dishes to the delicate sweetness of Matsutake mushrooms, these luxurious ingredients continue to tantalize our senses.