The Chanterelle Mushroom, the False Chanterelle and their look-alikes
Updated: Sep 9
The Chanterelle mushroom is possibly one of the best eating mushrooms in the world, in my opinion only second to the fresh penny bun otherwise known as a cep. But it does have a close look-alike. In this article, we delve into the world of the chanterelle, exploring its unique features, culinary versatility, and differentiation from its lesser-known look-alike, the False Chanterelle.
The Chanterelle Mushroom and the False Chanterelle mushroom
Hidden beneath the verdant canopy of the forest lies a culinary treasure revered by food enthusiasts and nature lovers alike - the Chanterelle mushroom. With its captivating golden hue and distinctive characteristics, this edible fungi has fascinated and delighted foragers for generations. However, despite being well known and commonly recognised there is a particular species known as the ‘False Chanterelle’ which is sometimes eaten by mistake.
So let's dig a little deeper and look at the defining characteristics between each mushroom, learning how to identify both types.
True Chanterelle Identification:
The Chanterelle (Cantharellus species) is also one of the most well know of all edible fungi and is eaten throughout mainland Europe. The key features of the true Chanterelle is the funnel shaped cap that is lacking in true gills. In mature Chanterelles the cap edges seem to fold upwards as if through pushing to hard to grow through the earth. The cap has a depression in the centre and with an irregular wavy edge that are often undulating. The Chanterelle sometimes has a faint apricot’y or almond’y smell and when you try to peel the top of the mushroom the skin will not easily come off. The Chanterelle can be found in broad leaved woodland and is easily distinguishable from the woodland floor by its egg yolky yellow colour.
While there are several Chanterelle species, we will focus on the common golden Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) for identification purposes.
Chanterelle Identification Checklist:
Cap: The cap of a Chanterelle is typically 2 to 10cm (0.8 to 4 inches) in diameter and is funnel-shaped or somewhat vase-like. It ranges in colour from vibrant golden-yellow to a pale orange or peach hue. The cap surface is smooth and often slightly wavy or irregular.
Gills (Ridges): Instead of the traditional gills found in many mushrooms, Chanterelles have fork-like ridges on the underside of the cap. These ridges are relatively thick, widely spaced, and extend down the stem. The colour of the ridges matches or is slightly paler than the cap. They are usually quite hard to break with a finger tip.
Stem: The stem of a Chanterelle is the same colour as or somewhat paler than the cap, merging into the cap. When torn, the colour of the inside of the stem is usually paler as well, sometimes nearly white.
Smell: Chanterelles often have a pleasant fruity or apricot-like aroma, which can be helpful in distinguishing them from other mushrooms.
Habitat: Chanterelles are typically found on the forest floor, often in association with certain tree species such as birch, oak, pine, or beech. They prefer well-drained soil and can be found in both deciduous and coniferous forests.
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False Chantelle Identification:
The false Chanterelle or Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca, is a species of fungus in the family Hygrophoropsidaceae. It is found across several continents, growing in woodland and heathland, and sometimes on woodchips used in gardening and landscaping.
The false Chanterelles distinguishing difference is the fact that it has clear and distinct gills that do not reunite with each other. The false Chanterelle is also more frequent in conifer woodland Pine/Heather Heaths or sometimes Birch. This time the thin cap has an in-rolled margin and the mushroom is usually more orangey in colour without a fruity sweet smell and is usually bigger than the Chanterelle.
The false Chanterelles cap can be yellow, orange or brown which starts as convex until it becomes funnel shaped with an inrolled margin. Its gills are orange and run down the stem. The mushroom averages between 5 and 8cms.
False Chanterelle Identification Checklist:
Cap: The cap of a False Chanterelle is generally 2 to 7 centimetres (0.8 to 2.8 inches) in diameter and resembles that of a true Chanterelle, having a funnel or vase-like shape. The colour varies from orange to orange-yellow, often resembling the golden hue of true Chanterelles.
Gills: Unlike Chanterelles, False Chanterelles have true gills that are attached to the stem. The gills of False Chanterelles are widely spaced and somewhat decurrent, meaning they extend down the stem. They can be more easily broken with the rub of a finger.
Stem: The stem of a False Chanterelle is typically the same colour as the cap and can be hollow or filled with a cottony-like tissue. It lacks the distinct central cavity found in the stems of true Chanterelles.
Smell: False Chanterelles can have a faint fruity aroma similar to true Chanterelles, but the scent might not be as pronounced.
Habitat: False Chanterelles are commonly found on the forest floor, growing near the base of trees, particularly conifers. They often appear in clusters and prefer moist, woodland environments.
True Gills vs False Gills
One of the key identifiers to distinguish true Chanterelles from false Chanterelles lies in their gill structure. This differentiation is crucial for mushroom foragers, as it helps avoid the risk of mistakenly harvesting the toxic false Chanterelles, which have gills similar to those found in many common mushrooms.
True Chanterelles are easily recognised by their distinctive fork-like ridges on the underside of the cap. These ridges are widely spaced, relatively thick, and extend down the stem. The ridges have a similar colour to the cap, ranging from golden-yellow to pale orange or peach. Instead of the typical gills seen in many mushrooms, the Chanterelle's ridges are one of its defining features, setting it apart from most other fungi.
On the other hand, false Chanterelles have true gills, which are thin, blade-like structures radiating from the stem. These gills are closer together than the ridges of true Chanterelles and are attached to the stem, not directly to the cap's underside. The gills of false Chanterelles are bright orange-yellow, resembling the cap colour, but they are not fork-like or forked.
This fundamental difference in gill structure is a crucial visual clue when distinguishing between the two species. While true Chanterelles' ridges are unmistakable and characteristic of their genus, false Chanterelles' true gills are a key feature to help identify them as a separate species.
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When can you find the True and False Chanterelle?
The Chanterelle (Cantharellus species) and the False Chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca) typically have different growing seasons, and this information may vary depending on the specific geographical location and climate. Below, I'll provide a general overview of their typical seasons:
In many regions, true Chanterelles are most abundant during the late summer to autumn months. Their growing season can start as early as June or July and extend through November, depending on the local climate and environmental conditions. Warm and moist weather following periods of rain tends to be favourable for their growth.
False Chanterelle Season:
The False Chanterelle is often found during a similar period as the true Chanterelle, primarily during late summer and autumn. Like true Chanterelles, they prefer moist environments, making their appearance more common after periods of rain or in areas with higher humidity.
It is important to note that the exact timing of mushroom fruiting can vary each year due to weather fluctuations and regional differences. Additionally, the appearance of mushrooms is influenced by factors such as soil conditions, temperature, and the presence of mycorrhizal associations with specific tree species.
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Can you eat the False Chanterelle?
Although the False Chanterelle is not known as a toxic toadstool, there are reports that some people have suffered hallucinations after eating it. The False Chanterelle should be treated with caution, and we recommend that it should be considered as inedible.
The good news is, false chanterelles won’t kill you. In fact, it is listed as edible mushroom in some countries.
However, there are also many other mushrooms that are similar to the true Chanterelle these include the Meadow Waxcap and Jack ‘o Lanterns, one being a very edible mushroom, the other not so.
Other Chanterelle Mushroom Look-alikes
A fairly large mushroom that is common and can be found quite late in the year with a convex to flat cap that cracks and creases with age.
The waxcap is considered to be both edible and tasty.
The Jack O'Lantern
Bright orange to yellowish orange, with sharp-edged gills descending the stalk. They can be found between July and October. These look alikes grow in clusters from wood or buried wood. Cap convex, becoming flat to funnel shaped, sunken in the centre, with incurved margins. Their gills glow at night, hence the name. Although not poisonous, they are known to cause gastric issues in humans, so should be considered toxic.
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Where can you find Chanterelles in the UK?
True Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius) can be found in various locations across the UK, primarily in woodland areas. These mushrooms have specific habitat preferences, and their distribution can vary depending on the region and environmental conditions. Here are some common places to find true chanterelles in the UK:
Deciduous Woodlands: True chanterelles are often found in deciduous forests, particularly in areas where oak, beech, and birch trees dominate. They have a symbiotic relationship with these tree species, forming mycorrhizal associations, which contribute to their growth.
Mixed Woodlands: Similar to the false chanterelles, areas with a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees can also support the growth of true chanterelles. They may be found in locations where both oak and pine or spruce trees are present.
Coniferous Forests: While True Chanterelles primarily prefer deciduous forests, they can sometimes be found in coniferous woodlands as well. Look for them in areas with well-drained soil and a mix of tree species.
Wooded Heathlands: In some regions, True Chanterelles may also be found in heathlands and moorlands with scattered trees.
Soil and Moisture Conditions: True Chanterelles prefer well-drained, sandy, or loamy soils. They are often found in areas with sufficient moisture, especially after periods of rain or in regions with higher humidity.
Seasonal Timing: As previously mentioned, True Chanterelles typically fruit during late summer and autumn. Their appearance may be more common in the UK between June and November, depending on local climate conditions.
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What is so special about Chanterelle Mushrooms?
Chanterelle mushrooms are renowned for their exceptional flavour, making them a highly sought-after ingredient in the culinary world. Here's a closer look at their flavour, culinary uses, and nutritional benefits:
Distinctive Flavour: The flavour of Chanterelle mushrooms is truly unique, setting them apart from other fungi. When cooked, they offer a delightful taste that combines nuttiness with a subtle peppery kick, alongside hints of apricot or peach. This distinct flavour profile adds complexity and depth to a wide array of dishes, making them a beloved addition to gourmet cuisine.
Culinary Uses: Chanterelles are incredibly versatile in the kitchen and can be prepared using various cooking methods to preserve their unique taste and texture. Some popular ways to cook and enjoy Chanterelles include:
Sautéing: Sautéing Chanterelles in butter or olive oil with garlic and fresh herbs allows their natural flavours to shine, creating a delectable side dish or topping for meats and pasta.
Roasting: Roasting Chanterelles brings out their rich flavours and concentrates their natural sweetness, making them an excellent addition to roasted vegetable medleys or grain-based dishes.
Grilling: Grilling Chanterelles on a barbecue adds a smoky dimension to their flavour, creating a delectable and unique experience.
Creamy Sauces: Chanterelles are perfect for creating luxurious and velvety cream-based sauces that pair wonderfully with poultry or pasta.
Nutritional Benefits: Beyond their exceptional taste, Chanterelles offer various health benefits due to their nutritional content. They are a good source of essential nutrients, including:
Vitamin D: Chanterelles are one of the few natural sources of vitamin D, which plays a crucial role in bone health and immune function.
Potassium: This mineral is vital for maintaining proper heart and muscle function, as well as regulating blood pressure.
Dietary Fibre: Chanterelles provide dietary fibre that aids in digestion and promotes a healthy gut.
Antioxidants: These mushrooms contain valuable antioxidants that help protect cells from oxidative stress and inflammation.
In summary, Chanterelle mushrooms are prized for their exceptional flavour that combines nuttiness, pepperiness, and delicate fruit-like undertones. They lend themselves well to various cooking methods, allowing chefs and home cooks to create exquisite dishes that highlight their unique taste. Additionally, their nutritional benefits add to their allure, making them a delectable and healthful choice for culinary enthusiasts.
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Some quick Chanterelle Recipes
Chanterelle mushrooms, known for their delicate flavour and meaty texture, are a delightful ingredient. These golden-hued fungi are prized for their unique taste and versatility in a variety of dishes. In this collection of recipes, we'll explore how to make the most of chanterelles in your kitchen. From the simplicity of pan-frying chanterelles to the elegance of a creamy chanterelle soup, and the richness of a chanterelle and Gruyère quiche, these recipes showcase the earthy goodness of these mushrooms. Whether you're a seasoned forager or simply looking to elevate your culinary repertoire, these quick and easy chanterelle recipes will surely get you hungry for a forage.
Clean and trim the chanterelles.
Heat butter or olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.
Add the mushrooms and cook until they start to brown and release their moisture.
Add garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper for flavour.
Cook until the mushrooms are tender and caramelised.
Serve as a side dish or over grilled bread.
Prepare a classic risotto by sautéing onions in butter, adding Arborio rice, and gradually adding hot chicken or vegetable stock until the rice is creamy.
In a separate pan, sauté chanterelles with garlic, shallots, and a bit of white wine until they're tender.
Stir the sautéed chanterelles into the finished risotto along with some grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.
Creamy Chanterelle Soup
Sauté chopped onions and garlic in butter until translucent.
Add cleaned chanterelles and cook until they release their moisture.
Pour in chicken or vegetable stock and simmer until the mushrooms are soft.
Blend the mixture until smooth, return to the pot, and stir in double cream.
Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.
Garnish with fresh chives and serve hot.
Chanterelle and Gruyère Quiche
Prepare a pastry crust or use a store-bought one.
Sauté chanterelles with shallots and garlic until they're tender.
Spread the sautéed mixture evenly over the pastry crust.
In a bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, grated Gruyère cheese, salt, and pepper.
Pour the egg mixture over the chanterelle mixture.
Bake in the oven until the quiche is set and golden brown.
Chanterelle and Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breast
Butterfly chicken breasts and season with salt and pepper.
Sauté chopped chanterelles and spinach with garlic and olive oil until wilted.
Stuff each chicken breast with the chanterelle and spinach mixture, then secure with toothpicks.
Sear the chicken in a hot frying pan until browned on both sides.
Finish cooking in the oven until the chicken is cooked through.
Chanterelle and Wild Rice Pilaf
Cook wild rice according to package instructions.
Sauté chanterelles with shallots and garlic until tender.
Combine the cooked rice and sautéed mushrooms.
Add fresh herbs like thyme and parsley, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.
Remember to clean chanterelles thoroughly as they can harbour dirt and debris! Here's a couple more of our favourite ways to cook Chanterelle mushrooms.
The true Chanterelle (Cantharellus species) stands as a truly delicious and prized treasure in the world of mushrooms. Its distinctive nutty, peppery, and fruity flavour profile, coupled with its vibrant golden appearance, makes it a highly sought-after culinary ingredient. From sautéing to roasting, the culinary possibilities with true Chanterelles are endless, adding depth and character to an array of dishes.
However, it is essential to exercise caution and knowledge when foraging for these coveted fungi, as they have a deceptive look-alike, the false Chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca). While the false Chanterelle shares a similar golden hue, it lacks the true Chanterelle's distinguishing ridges and hollow stem. Distinguishing between the two is vital to ensure a safe and enjoyable foraging experience.
Ultimately, the true Chanterelle's exceptional taste and culinary versatility continue to captivate chefs, foragers, and nature enthusiasts alike. Its seasonal rarity and unique flavour make it a cherished gem, celebrated for its culinary prowess and ecological significance in the enchanting world of wild mushrooms.
Caution: Always take advice when you are picking mushrooms and never eat them unless you are absolutely 100% that the mushroom you have picked is the actual mushroom you think it is! This guide is not enough.
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