Mushrooms are all the rage, and you might say it’s long overdue. The health benefits of mushrooms have earned them a place in meals and medicine for centuries. Today, mushrooms are popping up in tea, coffee, supplements, and more recipes than ever.
If you’re a fan of mushrooms, you’ve probably tried the standard button, cremini, and portobello. But there are 25 species of edible mushrooms, so it’s likely you’ve missed a couple — like lobster mushroom.
Here’s why the lobster mushroom might deserve a spot in your mushroom rotation!
What Is Lobster Mushroom?
Mushrooms are fungi, and most can be found growing in soil, on trees, or in dead wood. But the lobster mushroom is a bit of an outlier. Rather than obtaining energy from plants or dead organic matter like most mushrooms, lobster mushrooms are a parasitic fungus that actually feeds off of fellow fungi.
Interestingly, the parasitic fungus chooses white “host” mushrooms and transforms them into lobster mushrooms. It can be difficult to determine the host species, but Russula brevipes and Lactarius piperatus may be common hosts. A lobster mushroom is only created once the parasitic fungus finds a suitable host mushroom and alters its color, shape, texture, and taste.
Also known by its scientific name Hypomyces lactifluorum, the lobster mushroom is unique in appearance. The parasite turns the surface of a lobster mushroom an orange-red color (a hue reminiscent of its namesake, the lobster), but its flesh retains the white color of the host mushroom.
The surface of a lobster mushroom can be bumpy, its gills are generally obscured by the parasite, and its cap is distorted rather than smooth. This type of mushroom can be found on the forest floor in the woods.
Now that you understand what a lobster mushroom is, you’re probably wondering: Are they worth eating?
Lobster Mushroom Nutrition and Health Benefits
The health benefits of lobster mushroom are similar to those of other edible mushrooms. They’re low in fat and sodium, high in fiber, and packed with protein. Their nutritious composition makes them a welcome addition to any healthy vegan, vegetarian, or traditional diet.
Lobster mushrooms contain the following vitamins, minerals, and compounds:
- Essential amino acids
- Vitamins C, B1, B12, D, and E
- Bioactive compounds
The above nutrients contribute to a bevy of lobster mushroom health benefits, including:
- Boosted immune system. The macronutrients in mushrooms promote a healthy immune system. Selenium prevents cell damage, vitamin B6 forms red blood cells, and vitamin D reduces inflammation while boosting your immune defenses.
- Improved brain functioning. Mushrooms have been linked to lower risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which can eventually lead to Alzheimer’s disease. One study found that people who ate 2 cups of mushrooms per week lowered their risk of MCI by 50%.
- Longer life. In one study, eating one serving of mushrooms per day rather than one serving of processed red meats was associated with a lower risk of mortality over the course of 19.5 years.
- Better gut health. Your gut depends on healthy bacteria to function well. Prebiotics like mushrooms contain an abundance of a carbohydrate called polysaccharide. Polysaccharides are able to survive stomach acid and travel unscathed into the colon, where they stimulate crucial bacteria growth.
- Lowered cancer risk. Eating just two medium mushrooms per day can lower your cancer risk by as much as 45%, with the most significant association relating to breast cancer. Mushrooms contain sulfur-rich antioxidants that help promote healthy aging and prevent chronic diseases like cancer.
- Decreased depression. One study found that consuming mushrooms resulted in a lowered risk of depression. This was attributed to the mushrooms’ anxiety-reducing bioactive compounds like antioxidants, vitamin B12, and anti-inflammatory agents. Mushrooms are the best dietary source of the antioxidant ergothioneine, which protects against cell and tissue damage and could reduce symptoms of depression.
Of course, in order to reap these health benefits, you have to eat the lobster mushroom. So, what does lobster mushroom taste like?
Lobster Mushroom Taste
Lobster fans will be pleased to hear that lobster mushrooms were named after the crustacean delicacy not just due to the color but also because they have a similar taste.
Often described as having an earthy seafood/umami flavor, the lobster mushroom’s unique flavor profile makes it an exciting addition to many meals — and a great seafood substitute for vegans.
How to Cook Lobster Mushroom
It’s likely safe to eat lobster mushroom raw, but it’s better to cook this variety due to uncertainty regarding the species of the host mushroom.
The lobster mushroom’s dense and meaty texture means it can withstand longer cooking times than other mushrooms and could be a great addition to soups or sauces. Cooking lobster mushrooms changes their color from orange-red to a brighter red or yellow.
One of the simplest cooking methods is sautéing. Here’s how to sauté lobster mushroom:
- Prep the mushrooms. Clean and cut the lobster mushroom into uniform pieces.
- Prep the pan. Heat a pan over medium-high heat and coat with butter or oil.
- Cook. Add a single layer of lobster mushroom slices and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until they reach your desired consistency.
Thanks to their nutritional value, you can serve lobster mushrooms as the main course alongside vegetables, potatoes, or other common side dishes. Due to their seafood flavor, lobster mushrooms would also make a great addition to eggs or pasta.
Feel free to turn one of these mushroom recipes into a lobster mushroom recipe!
Lobster Mushroom Side Effects
Although it is possible that the parasite could choose a toxic host, there are no known side effects to eating lobster mushroom. The lobster mushroom is a popular variety, and there have been no documented poisonings.
It is possible (albeit rare) to be allergic to mushrooms, though. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to mushrooms before, it’s best to avoid lobster mushrooms.
Who Should Eat Lobster Mushroom?
Anyone who enjoys mushrooms (or seafood, for that matter) can try this unique mushroom. The lobster mushroom is packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and high amounts of protein and fiber. In addition to their nutritional value, lobster mushrooms harbor brain-boosting, mood-lifting, and cancer-fighting properties that can positively impact your overall well-being.