The ultimate all-natural snack..

Recipe for Popcorn Chicken of the Woods

Are you tantalized by the concept of edible wild mushrooms? I am! Finding edible wild mushrooms appeals to me as a combination of nature appreciation, treasure hunting and practical foraging. It’s easy to find certain species of mushrooms, once you know what to look for. I am a novice picker. This means there are about five mushroom species I pick and eat with confidence. Which ones? Morels, chanterelles, black trumpets, chicken- and hen- of the woods. I’ve been working on identifying oysters and edible boletes.

Of these, Chicken of the Woods might be the most well-known among outdoorspeople. Why? As the name implies, it tastes like chicken – it’s ubiquitous, fruits from spring through fall, and its bright yellow and orange colors make it easy to see through the forest.

I’m consistent and confident in identifying Chicken of the Woods, and spend enough time outside to encounter it frequently. But the texture of this mushroom is tougher than my other choice favorites and sometimes doesn’t translate well to omelets and some of my other go-to recipes for wild mushrooms. Inspiration struck one night while I, a semi-vegetarian, was craving popcorn chicken and remembered the other “chicken” in my fridge.

Identifying Chicken of the Woods

You’ll find it growing in “shelves” on trees. They like oak but can be found on other species as well. From far away, I think it sometimes looks like a cartoon beehive.

Break off a shelf (bract in mycological terms) and examine the bottom. If you see little pores instead of gills (like in Portobello mushrooms), you’ve likely got a Chicken. In my personal experience, bright colors indicate a fresh mushroom and faded colors (plus the presence of insects and little holes) may indicate that the Chicken is past its prime. I learned this lesson the hard way: Once I filled a grocery bag full of faded, holey Chicken of the Woods. I gradually realized, in horror, that the bag wouldn’t stop crinkling when I put it down. Too alive for me!

There are many kinds of bract fungi (mushrooms that grow in shelflike patterns on trees) with pores on the underside. If the bract feels too hard to eat, it’s probably not what you want. Chicken of the Woods cuts with the same resistance that a cold, cooked chicken breast might. When in doubt, consult an edible mushroom guide or a local expert.


Disclaimer: some people have sensitivities to this fungus. Certain subspecies that grow on eucalyptus and conifers (i.e. hemlock) appear to be more frequently associated with these sensitivities. Mushrooming guides recommend only having a little of any new type of mushroom your first time.

I’ve repeated this recipe several times now, and it’s a popular and fast appetizer if you’re cooking for a small group of friends. I adapted the breading recipe from a submission by user Naomi.

You will need:

2 cups of Chicken of the Woods, shredded into nickel-size pieces
1 egg
1 cup white flour
1 tsp Cajun seasoning (If you like spicy, consider dicing half a jalapeno and adding it to the mix!)
¾ cup vegetable oil
paper towels for oil collection

Yields two generous servings, about 3-4 cups. 

To prepare the fungus: remove all stones, leaves, and pieces of wood from the mushrooms. Soak the mushrooms in a bowl of water for a couple minutes to allow for any insects or other foreign matter to drop out. Pat dry. Cube them to your desired size.

popcorn chicken

Yes – this is fungus, not chicken! I recommend chopping your fungus a little finer than what’s represented above.

Whisk egg and thoroughly coat the shredded mushroom pieces in a small bowl. If the fungus is very dry, consider adding another egg and a dash more flour to the recipe.

Whisk together the flour and seasoning in a separate bowl. Dip the mushroom pieces in the breading mixture and thoroughly coat each piece.

Heat up the oil in a skillet. Fry the breaded pieces several minutes until golden brown, make sure to evenly fry each side. Transfer the fried pieces with a spatula to a plate with a paper towel to drain the excess oil. Serve with your preferred dipping sauce.

popcorn chickenpopcorn chicken

Now if I could just find a recipe this good for puffballs…