How to Use Dried Mushrooms to Punch up Everything from Stocks to Compound Butter

Dried mushrooms are the pure umami pantry staple every kitchen needs.

Dried Mushrooms
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Chef Katie Button gets why you might be wary of dried mushrooms. "There's a little bit of a perception that fresh is always better," she says. "But it's not. You get different flavors from certain dried and canned things."

On the menu at her Asheville, North Carolina, restaurant, Cúrate, Button has a mushroom dish that customers swoon over for its intense flavor — it's unlike anything they've had before, some say. "There's a reason for that," Button says. The dish is finished with an incredibly labor-intensive mushroom stock that reduces for hours.

But Button knows as well as anyone that a stock like this isn't something most people are going to make at home. So, when writing recipes for her Cúrate cookbook, she looked for an easier method to get the same result. That's when she came upon her dried mushroom trick: She microwaved dried mushrooms in water, let them steep, and voilà. "It actually turned out better than our dish at the restaurant," she says.

Button explains that mushrooms' rich, earthy, umami flavor is exponentially more concentrated when they're dehydrated. "They're reduced down to their perfect mushroom essence, so you get that back out in a really big way," she says. Add only a few to a dish to usher in a bit more depth; add them by the handful to pack a big umami punch. Dried mushrooms bring a substantially meaty, earthy flavor to vegan dishes, too. They're an all-around fast-flavoring ingredient you'll want to always have on hand.

Dried Mushrooms
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Beyond their flavor attributes, the dried variety is a solid choice for anyone who's ever watched fresh mushrooms turn in the fridge and go to waste.

"I don't know about you, but the number of times I've bought a pack of fresh mushrooms, sat them in my fridge, and then they're covered in mold because I just never got around to using them?!" Button laments. "I love how dried mushrooms reduce waste."

Dried mushrooms last indefinitely if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. How can you tell when they're no longer at their peak? "If you smell them and they just don't smell like anything," she says. "They're never going to 'poison.' They're never going to spoil. They're just going to lose their flavor over time." If your mushrooms have faded, simply add more to your application.

What to look for

"You're kind of stuck with whatever brand the store is buying," Button says of sourcing dried mushrooms from your grocer. Over brand loyalty, look for specific mushroom varieties. She loves porcinis, chanterelles, morels, and black trumpets for their dark, rich flavors. Buy one or several to create your own blend, or look for mixes featuring at least one of these heavy hitters. "It's about how strong that mushroom flavor you're going to get out is," she says of whichever you find. "The blend may be a bit lighter, but it's still going to be great."

How to use dried mushrooms in almost anything

First, just because the mushrooms are dried doesn't mean you shouldn't wash them. "They grow in the dirt," Button reminds us. As with fresh mushrooms, first taste your dried mushrooms. If gritty, wash the amount you'll use. Then trim the stems, which are often chewy, if you're going to keep the mushrooms in your dish after reconstituting.

Button's favorite application is to make a super flexible stock with the entire bag and freeze individual portions. She suggests a ratio of about an eyeballed tablespoon of dried mushrooms per cup of water for a stock you could use in soup, rice, couscous, or other grain dishes.

To create Curate's famed side dish, sauté mushrooms, add a touch of the mushroom stock, reduce until dry, then add a splash of wine. "I love sherry and mushrooms together because they're a match made in heaven," Button says. "But white wine works, too."

For an even easier soup or braise, throw a few dried mushrooms in your seasoning sachet, or add and remove mushrooms as you would a bay leaf.

Where should you be cautious? "Dried mushrooms could easily overwhelm fish," Button says. Think vegetable and meat dishes that can take a lot of earthy flavor, and avoid those where mushrooms may clash with other elements, such as in a citrusy sauce.

For a super-earthy umami glaze, increase the mushroom content exponentially, using an entire ounce in weight per cup of water. Bring to a quick boil in the microwave and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain and use. "Those amounts add a lot of flavor to any dish you're cooking for four or six people," she says.


Dried mushrooms are not exclusively good for seasoning stock and braising liquid. Button also chops up the reconstituted mushrooms to add flavor to everything from tomato sauce to risotto to scrambled eggs.

"They still have mushroom flavor — you haven't taken all of it out," she says of the mushrooms after they've been used to make stock.

Another option is to blend them into a compound butter, which makes everything taste that much better, whether you cook with it, drizzle it onto steamed vegetables, or baste a piece of meat with it. "You have fat, creaminess, saltiness, then that earthy umami flavor from the mushrooms," Button says. "You have this feeling of, 'Why is that so good? Why does it taste deeper and richer and more delicious?' It's because of the mushroom butter!"

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