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A Guide To California Mushrooms

A Guide To California Mushrooms

Here’s a guide to help you identify some of the most common species of wild mushrooms growing along the rugged California coast.

Jenny D.


4 min read

March 18, 2024

Northern California is known for being a mushroom paradise. The region is home to diverse varieties of rich, nutritious, and edible wild mushrooms that grow year-round. There are numerous destinations dotted with mushrooms, drawing foragers from around the world.

Foraging for wild mushrooms in strange shapes, different sizes, and various flavors can be a fascinating hobby, and NorCal’s fertile soils and foggy, coastal climate create the perfect environment to pursue it as well. If you’ve ever been curious about the types of mushrooms you see when hiking through the state’s forests, we have a guide for you! Check out our breakdown of the common mushroom species that grow in California.

Porcini Mushrooms

Also known as boletus edulis, porcinis are among the tastiest edible wild mushrooms found in the Golden State. With their large stems and thick caps, porcinis look similar to shiitake mushrooms and contain numerous nutrients. Porcinis have a meaty texture and a strong woody flavor that dominates the palate. These mushrooms are commonly dried and powdered and added into sauces and soups.  

Porcini mushrooms are prized varieties known for their rich flavor and appetizing texture.

Candy Caps 

Dominantly present in the West Coast, this type of mushroom grows in moss or rotting matter beneath spruce, pine, oak, or other hardwood trees. Varying in color from cinnamon to reddish-brown, candy caps tend to sprout in a scattered manner. They have wavy caps and a characteristic sweetness that is reminiscent of maple syrup, making them quite special. There are also hints of burnt sugar, butterscotch, camphor, curry, caramel, and fenugreek in candy cap mushrooms. 


Featuring glorious hues of orange, yellow, or white, chanterelles (a.k.a., Cantharellus) are among the most popular and sought-after mushroom varieties. They grow under mighty oak trees and boast an enchanting aroma as well as spicy, earthy, and fruity flavors—the taste varies among different species, which makes cooking with chanterelles an experiment every time. The diverse flavors and unique textures offer endless cooking opportunities; you can even try powdered chanterelles in the form of capsules. 

With their beautiful colors and delectable flavors, chanterelles are beloved mushrooms.


The pitted caps, honeycomb-like structure, meaty texture, and extraordinary taste make morels one of the most beloved mushroom varieties. They typically grow in and around the forest perimeter close to oak, ash, and elm trees. There are over 10 different species of morel mushrooms (also known as Morchella), and cooking them in butter tends to bring out their nutty, earthy flavors. Edible morels are white in color and hollow, while false (and potentially poisonous) morels are usually reddish, yellow, or brown in color. 

Chicken Of The Woods

This succulent mushroom variety is a must-try while in California. Laetiporus sulphureus typically grow in clusters and are yellow or bright orange. Chicken of the woods along with porcinis, morels, and chanterelles are often referred to as the “foolproof four”—they are very easy to identify in the wild and do not have toxic properties, making them the ideal choice to explore in the kitchen. Chicken of the woods mushrooms are also among the tastiest varieties and are beginner-friendly, as they are quite easy to cook. Their texture and flavor are similar to those of chicken, hence the name.  

Chicken of the woods are easy to identify thanks to their impressive size and vibrant yellow-orange hues.

Coral Mushrooms 

Also referred to as crown tipped coral, this exotic fungus is a wild variety commonly found between June and September. As their name implies, coral mushrooms grow in clusters that resemble a coral reef. These mushrooms are known to cure stomach problems, as they have a strong laxative effect and can be consumed both raw and cooked. The variety has thin stalks with a crown shape at the top that is usually yellow or slightly pink in color. Corals are simple to cook and tend to have a peppery flavor that makes them ideal for sauces and soups.  

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Just as delicious as chocolate truffles, these edible mushrooms grow near tree roots and are very expensive due to their rarity. California is among the few regions that can sustain truffles. They don’t have a long shelf life, either, so they’re hard to store. Truffles can range from strawberry- to apple-sized and have a multitude of peculiar odors that makes them flavorful ingredients in many recipes. Truffle oils have also become popular in recent years. 

Luxurious, bold-flavored truffles are coveted mushroom varieties due to their rarity.

Turkey Tails 

One of the most colorful varieties in California, turkey tails are leathery disks that originate from tree bark. The fungus is a common part of Chinese medicine due to its therapeutic properties and immune-boosting abilities—the mushroom can help improve stamina, support gut health, and provide necessary antioxidants to fight free-radical damage. It is usually dried and powdered. The variety has a wild combination of flavors with a touch of sweetness, making it easy to include in salads dressing, oatmeal, or bone broth.   


Boletes set themselves apart with a distinctive feature: instead of gills, they have tubes beneath their caps, which can sometimes lead to confusion with other gilled fungi. These mushrooms thrive in a symbiotic relationship with the surrounding flora, making them a more reliable choice for foragers compared to certain gilled varieties, like the psilocybe cyanescens. Boasting a kaleidoscope of colors, boletes are a striking presence in any woodland setting. Generally recognized as edible, they offer a rich and savory taste that makes them a prized addition to culinary adventures, whether used fresh or dried.

Boletes are fairly easy to spot and are among the most savory wild mushrooms.

Apricot Jelly Mushrooms

Jelly mushrooms, with their vibrant hues ranging from sunny orange to soft pink, stand out in the wild, making them a breeze to spot. Their distinct trumpet shape and somewhat rubbery feel add to their unique charm. For those new to foraging in the great outdoors, these mushrooms are a fantastic starting point thanks to their unmistakable appearance. Typically nestled under the shade of conifer trees, these fungi often gather in friendly groups. Unlike their forest counterparts, jelly mushrooms bring a notable aroma and a slightly sweet taste to the table, along with a delightful gelatinous consistency that enhances many culinary creations.

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