What Are Shimeji Mushrooms (Hypsizygus Marmoreus)?


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With their lightly sweet taste and mild nutty flavor, these wild edible mushrooms are widely enjoyed in the culinary community – especially in Japanese cooking. Shimeji or white beech mushrooms add a uniquely umami flavor to rice bowls, soups, stir fries and can even be slow roasted as a side dish to wild game and other meats.

Also known as beech mushrooms, shimeji mushrooms are – as their name suggests – commonly found on decaying beech trees. However, despite its common name, you can also find this mushroom growing on cottonwood and elm trees.

This fungus comes in white and brown varieties, both of which are delicious mushrooms. The white variety is also known as:

  • White beech mushroom
  • White clamshell mushroom
  • Bunapi shimeji

The brown variety is also called:

  • Brown beech mushroom
  • Brown clamshell mushroom
  • Buna shimeji

Learn more about this delicious fungus, how it grows, and its use in Japanese cooking.

Fast Facts About the Shimeji Mushroom

  • There is some difference in taste between the bunapi shimeji or white beech mushroom and the buna shimeji or brown beech mushroom. Brown shimeji mushrooms have reportedly a stronger taste, while white shimeji mushrooms have a milder flavor.
  • Shimeji mushrooms are rich in nutrients and a great dietary fiber source. Like other mushrooms, white or brown beech mushrooms should not be eaten raw.
  • While this mushroom is native to east Asia, it is cultivated worldwide in North America, Europe, and Australia.
  • A variation of the shimeji mushroom, known as hon shimeji, has been found growing in the wild in northern Europe and is the only wild shimeji variety not native to east Asia. Hon shimeji mushrooms are more difficult to cultivate than other shimeji mushrooms, but special cultivation practices have been patented.
  • Shimeji mushrooms are tough with a bitter taste when raw, but cooking takes out the bitterness and transforms their natural toughness to a pleasant, slightly crunchy texture.
  • Cooked shimeji mushrooms allegedly have more nutritional benefits than raw ones.

How Do Identify Shimeji Mushrooms?


Saprotrophic, with the exception of hon shimeji, which is mycorrhizal.


Small and rounded, measuring between 4 – 8 cm in diameter, with darker scales or spots on the center of the cap. Brown beech mushrooms can be tan to dark brown in color, while the caps of white beech mushrooms are pure white or cream in color.

Both varieties have a smooth, dry texture. Wild shimeji mushrooms have caps that are larger and irregularly shaped.


The gills are white, closely spaces, and connect to the stem.


Tall and slender, with the exception of the variety found in northern Europe, which have bulkier stems. The long stems are white in all varities, including hon shimeji, buna shimeji, and bunapi shimeji.


Crunchy texture, firm and springy.

Spore Print

White or buff.


Grows year round when cultivated.


Wild shimeji mushrooms grow on dead or dying hardwood tree stumps, especially beech trees, cottonwood, and elm. Cultivated shimeji mushrooms, on the other hand, are grown in a bed of grain or sawdust.

Other Species Similar to the Shimeji Mushroom

Chicken of the Gravel (Lyophyllum Decastes)

This common edible mushroom looks similar to shimeji mushrooms, though they are usually grayer in color. They grow in clusters near gravel roads, landscaped areas, and disturbed ground.

They have firm flesh, white gills, and rounded caps, just like shimeji mushrooms. Their taste is strong and slightly bitter, usually described as radish-like.

Elm Oyster Mushrooms (Hypsizygus Ulmarius)

Sometimes placed in the pleurotus genus, the elm oyster mushroom is similar in color and size as the shimeji mushroom. They are also saprotrophic, feeding off decaying hardwood trees, including fallen beech trees, though they are much more widespread than shimeji mushrooms.

The elm oyster is edible, though reportedly doesn’t taste as good as other oyster mushrooms. They are rich in many vitamins and minerals.

Where Can I Find Shimeji Mushrooms?

Conventionally grown shimeji mushrooms can be found in Asian grocery stores. You can also buy shimeji mushrooms at whole foods markets and some conventional grocery stores.

Both brown and white shimeji mushrooms grow from fallen hardwood trees in the wild.

How Do I Cook Shimeji Mushrooms?

Aside from its prominent use in Japanese cooking, shimeji mushrooms can be used in a wide range of global cuisines. Sauté in olive oil and add to your favorite soups. You’ll love combining these mushrooms with green onions and other fresh produce in a stir fry to serve over rice with soy sauce. Their mild nutty flavor pairs wonderfully with other fresh vegetables and soy sauce.

There is little need to wash shimeji mushrooms that you pick up from the grocery store. However, sometimes the mushrooms will have small patches of dirt that you can gently rinse off under the faucet.

Like other mushrooms, shimeji mushrooms act like sponges and absorb moisture, so make sure not to soak them in water.

Shimeji mushrooms don’t need to be cooked for long – just place them with a little butter or cooking oil in a skillet and heat at a low temperature for 1 – 2 minutes.

When cooking or stir frying, make sure not to cook for too long, as shimeji mushrooms will lose moisture and shrink in size when overcooked.

Before cooking, make sure to trim away the mushroom bundle – which is the base to which all the individual stems attach – then separate the strands so they cook evenly.

How Do I Preserve Shimeji Mushrooms?

Fresh shimeji mushrooms will remain in good condition in the refrigerator. However, like most commercially cultivated mushrooms, shimeji mushrooms often come in plastic packaging, which traps in moisture and speeds up decomposition and spoilage.

Take the mushrooms out of the plastic packaging right away, even if you don’t plan to immediately cook it, and place the mushroom bundle in a paper bag. This will keep the fungi fresh for up to five days if stored in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer.

Shimeji mushrooms can also be dried. To do this, you’ll want to hang them in a cool, dry place for several days or until they are brittle to the touch.