Chanterelle Mushrooms: Foraging and Eating

Chanterelle mushrooms (genus Cantharellus) are probably the most well known wild edible mushrooms.

The most common is the golden chanterelle, Cantharellus cibarius.

Chefs and foodies love their delicate flavor -- it's sometimes described as "mildly peppery."

How to Identify

They range in color from yellow to deep orange, which makes them easy to spot in the summer forest.

The caps can be as big as 5 inches in diameter, but 2 inches is closer to average.

And the caps are usually convex, wavy and generally funnel-shaped, unlike the round, symmetrical caps of some other mushrooms.

Aside from their brilliant color, the chanterelle mushroom's most distinctive quality is its false gills -- the true gills of some mushrooms are thinner, have sharper edges, are not forked, and are easily picked off of the cap.

The false gills appear more as wrinkles that are forked and wavy with blunt edges that run from the cap down the length of the stem, and they're the same color as the rest of the mushroom.

Another distinctive trait is their fruity apricot-like aroma.

Chanterelle mushrooms growing with ground cedar

Chanterelle mushrooms growing with ground cedar

Look alikes

Avoid the Jack O' Lantern mushroom which is poisonous but not known to be lethal.

Jack O' Lanterns usually grow in clumps on wood (not from soil like chanterelles) and have true unforked gills.

Where to find

Golden chanterelle
Golden chanterelle -- easily identified by their forked and wavy false gills.

Chanterelle mushrooms generally occur from late spring through late summer or early fall.

They love moisture, shade and lots of organic matter.

Drenching rain followed by a couple of days of stifling heat is the natural sauna necessary to spawn a good bloom.

They largely grow near hardwoods like maple, poplar, and oak but it's not uncommon to find them around white pines.

I've seen a few online sources advising foragers not to waste time searching near blueberries. They say the two can't coexist.

I've found this to be completely false. A stand of blueberry in the dappled shade of hardwood canopy can be very productive.

Other tree species associated with chanterelles include birch, hemlock, and bay.

Look for them close to streams and other low lying damp areas.

They tend to pop up in the path of runoff or drainage where surface water carries their spores downhill.

After locating a few, a quick search up and downhill is generally a good bet for finding more.

How to harvest

Once you've found your chanty honey-hole, tread lightly and carry a sharp knife if you like.

Having a careful step will ensure that you don't unnecessarily trample and disrupt the mycelium that spawns new growth.

When I find a good colony of muhrooms, I usually leave the smaller ones behind -- especially if there's a good chance of rain within a week or so.

A revisit after a thorough soaking will almost always result in much bigger chanterelles provided they're in good shape when you find them the first time.

Otherwise, checking an area more than once every couple weeks is probably a waste of time.

We also leave behind overly dirty mushrooms.

Leaf litter and organic matter are fine but dirt and grit can be nearly impossible to remove.

We used to cut our wild mushrooms because we believed leaving the base in the soil helped to preserve the mycellium.

Then I came across this 30+ year study on chanterelle picking and its effect on future harvests:

The results reveal that, contrary to expectations, long-term and systematic harvesting reduces neither the future yields of fruit bodies nor the species richness of wild forest fungi, irrespective of whether the harvesting technique was picking or cutting. Forest floor trampling does, however, reduce fruit body numbers, but our data show no evidence that trampling damaged the soil mycelia in the studied time period.

So pull or cut, but don't trample. We usually just pull them up right out of the soil and throw them in the harvest basket.

We use 16-quart rectangular wooden harvest baskets (the kind you buy apples in) for carrying mushrooms out of the woods.

They're big enough to comfortably walk with a good haul -- several pounds.

And they're loosely woven so spores can fall through on the way out of the woods, which hopefully results in more mushrooms next season.

I also like that the fact that they aren't as deep as they are wide, so your harvest won't be piled so high that they get crushed.


Chanterelle torn in half
For a thorough cleaning, tear chanterelles in half and scrape away any embedded dirt with a toothbrush.

The first step in processing chanterelles, or any wild mushroom, is cleaning.

We've found that a toothbrush works best. You'll need to pull them apart for a good cleaning.

Grit can work it's way into the stem as the mushroom grows. Unless you split the stem to clean away any internal dirt, you'll likely get an unpleasant, cavity-causing bite of sand.

There are a few "grades" of dirtiness.

Perfectly clean? Perfect.

A little dirt or grit? Acceptable and fairly easily remedied with a toothbrush.

A fair amount of dirt? Acceptable for soup stock but not much else.

If you find yourself scraping away half of the stem to get rid of dirt, it's not worth the effort and you'll probably never get it clean. The best thing to do in this case is make stock and strain with a coffee filter. 

How to preserve & store

Once you've cleaned your harvest, use them right away, dry for storage, or sauté in butter and freeze (our favorite method as it preserves the most flavor).

But they're best when fresh and will last about ten days in a paper bag - not plastic - in the fridge.

How to cook

Chanterelles are great in soups, stews, and sauces and pair well with the following wines, foods, and herbs:

  • light red wine
  • heavier red wine
  • venison and other wild game
  • chicken
  • pork
  • fish
  • beef
  • veal
  • eggs
  • garlic
  • thyme
  • tarragon
  • chervil
  • chives
  • onions
  • ramps
  • shallots

Similar edible species

Black trumpet mushroom

Black trumpet mushrooms
Black trumpet mushrooms

Although not technically chanterelles, black trumpets are close cousins and they're commonly called "black chanterelles" or "horn of plenty." You will find them in the same habitat as true chanterelles.

They also have the unfortunate moniker "trumpet of death." But they're one of the tastiest of wild mushrooms.

There are actually a few different species of black trumpets, but Craterellus cornucopioides seems to be the most common.

What do black trumpet mushrooms taste like?

The flavor is really similar to Golden chanterelles but they have somewhat of a smoky quality.

Aside from color, black trumpets look similar to golden chanterelles -- they have false gills and a wavy cap -- but they're more funnel-shaped, hollow, and somewhat thinner and brittle.

Their color ranges from dark brown to gray to black and they grow just a couple of inches tall.

Cinnabar mushroom

Cinnabar mushrooms
Cinnabar mushrooms

Cinnabar mushrooms (Cantharellus cinnabarinus) are similar in appearance to their golden counterparts but they're much smaller, growing only an inch or two tall.

They also tend to be more perfectly formed and they range in color from bright pink to blaze orange.

We love using a cinnabar or three as garnish.



Chanterelles: do these mushrooms grow down in south west Georgia, I would love to try them

Yes, Gail. They do grow in Southwest Georgia. I'm in Decatur county, just north of the Florida line and find them here every late spring/early summer. Happy hunting!

I think I found some chanterelle mushrooms but I live in Collins Ms could I be mistaking

Been finding tons down here in 2nd by sardis lake been camping here for 2 weeks and we have eaten them almost every day..I only pick enough for a meal at a time because they don't do well in the cooler.

Ive found chanterelles as far south as central Florida and as far north as northern Virginia. i have a video of me finding them last month in Florida. If you want to see search "wipsi shrooms" for my youtube channel.

Hi Gail! I live in Thomasville Ga and I have tons of chanterelles! Especially after all this rain!

I have tons of them here in Alexander City, AL and we are a bit south of ATL
The key is a damp area in wooded area with leaf litter.

We have them in Auburn Alabama which is considerably further south than Atlanta!

They grow all over Vancouver Island and surrounding islands, quite far north as well, on the Pacific Ocean in Canada, even past the 49th parrallel.

I live in Athens Georgia and I'll never forget the summer of 2013. We had so much rain! I would go into the woods and it looked as if someone had painted the forest floor yellow. Chanties grew everywhere!!! If someone were to have asked me to buy 5000 pounds of Chanterelles I would have told them that it wouldn't be a problem. It could have easily been done in a day with a few people to help.

I live in Athens too! I'm just learning about chanterelle foraging and found a very small crop in my yard. If you ever want to get together and go on a hunt, get in touch!!!

They grow well south of the Georgia line here in North Florida. The recent rain have painted my woods golden! Some years better than others. If what I'm finding now is any indication of what's to come; I can hardly wait!

I am from Eastern Oklahoma and think I have found a really large bed of several acres on my property. I am convinced they are Chanterelles in every way I can identify except mine have no gills at all. The underside of the cap having the texture of Hen Of the Woods. I sautéed up a couple and they were really good with a med to strong smoky flavor. No ill affects noticed. The tops of the plants are half dollar size and the stems are pencil size. Is the lack of gills ringing a warning bell with anyone?

chanterelles have no gills, just raised veins.. like the veins on your arm or wrist..their poisonous look alike the jack o lantern does however.......

The lack of "determinate" or obvious gills is a trait of the golden chanterelle mushroom. If there is any doubt ask an experienced gatherer. Look at pictures on the net or watch vids on YouTube. Happy Hunting

A friend of mine gave me a bunch of chanterelles, but they got wet when it rained. I put them on a towel covered cookie sheet, but they still have a lot of moisture. Are they unuseable?

They're definitely still useable. Let them dry for a day or so and you could even change the towel out it if it soaks up a lot of moisture. It depends a lot on how much humidity you have in your house. When they're reasonably dry, put them in a paper bag and put in the fridge. If they stay wet too long, they'll start to rot. We just got a bunch of rain-soaked oyster mushrooms and it took a couple of days to dry them to the point of refrigeration, but it was pretty humid in the house at the time.

I recommend drying them out in a frying pan with some olive oil, a chopped onion, a pinch of salt and garlic for about 15 mins and then store them in your stomach.

Found my first mess (that was the technical term used where I grew up!) in the woods along the run-off paths under oak and poplar. So excited! Must have harvested several pounds. I'm a Hoosier and grew up hunting morels in spring. I've lived in Virginia for 20 years and have only found a handful. Had no idea the bounty that was out there in our steamy summer months. How long will I be able to find them? And I read they will produce more than once in the same area in one season? True? Here's hoping some of smaller ones I left will grow. Really excited to finally have found the chanterelle!

I plan my trip to the cabin in NW Ontario to coincide with the best time to get Chanterelles which up there is mid-July to mid-August. Believe me they do grow amongst the blueberries. We often come home with both!

I just picked two Walmart bags of Chanterelles (about 8 lbs.) along one trail in 'Village at Deaton Creek' in NE Georgia
a week ago. Should have cut them off. Most were 3-5 inches across w 3/8 - 1/2 inch stems.

Washed Them in sink w spray nozzle, cut off dirty bases, cut in half, soaked in salt water 30 minutes, dried on towels, sautéed in butter until moisture was evaporated and mushrooms were golden brown. Ate them hot.!!

Learning as we grow!

Watching for Morels.!

Ramblin Ron

A friend, who lives in Baldwin County near Mobile, Alabama, just gave me a sackful that he harvested off of his property over the weekend! So they do grow farther south! Now I need recipes for this delicacy!

Live in Athens and just found the honey hole of a lifetime, and not just one but about 8 different spots. Actually, I can find them anywhere now that i know exactly what type of forest anf landscapes to look for. 7/10/17.

Pounds upon pounds of Chanties

I live in central maine and I have a massive single bunch of these growing right in my back yard in the open where the water runs downhill. The thing is creepy. Diameter of base is 3 feet and height is about 16 inches. I'd like to try them but just don't don't know enough about them to bother. Plus it creeps me out that it keeps getting bigger. I think it's actually getting closer to my house. And it's orange almost as if it knows it's hunting season. Weird.

I've never seen a Chanterelle more than about 4 inches tall - not sure what you've found, but best not eat it.

I live in NW Washington St. In past years I have picked pounds of Chanterelles. I have seen only one this year. Can anybody tell me what's going on?

A little west of Augusta in Columbia County found first chanterelles June 2, 2018.

I have them growing like they are trying to move in to the yard. Lots of them. So pretty, I hate to cut them.

LOL Thank you for making me laugh. I needed that.

Northern Lower Michigan (45th parallel) is a haven for the golden Chanterelle as well as Morels. Chanterelles sauteed in clarified butter is perfection!

Bumper crop of golden chanterelles under the oak trees in the sandy hills of W Mobile this year. Each year sees them spreading to more and more lawns and woods here.

In Central CT: small batches only, near a stream, gone for about 5 years until the heavyrain this year, Aug. 2018: yellow, orange red and a few years agoI saw some black trumpets

I live in Lincoln, Maine. Trixie and I went for a nature walk in the wood. I found a bed of the mushrooms. I will enjoy for dinner.

Great job, Eric! We have had plenty in Gainesville all Summer,

Can you find these mushrooms in Central Illinois around Peoria I love to hunt mushrooms and all I've been able to find morels and Hen of the Woods

Nice post. However, I’ve read much about Chanterelles since I found them growing on my property, and they are not spore driven. This is why they cannot be cultivated & can only be found in the wild. They push up out of the Earth from the root system of established trees.

Hi Cara, thanks for the comment. It's my understanding that chanterelles haven't been successfully cultivated because conditions are so specific and maybe there are factors we don't yet understand. It's also my understanding that the mycelium that spawns chanterelles (and all mushrooms) produces spores which are more transportable and serve to inoculate new medium, like organic matter "downstream" from the original mycelium. 

Thank you for sharing your journey and insights on mushroom. This is very educational.Thank you!

Late spring in Central AL = snakes. Anyone have any trouble with them when hunting the fungis? Actually, bugs are probably more problematic? I stay in the woods that surround our house a lot this time of year (Jan-Feb) but the thought of chanterelles might have me stomping the woods in May.... Very hilly and a stream runs through the low spots in the winter/early spring. Ferns and such grow down there. So maybe the chanties too?

Do you think that invasive species like privet and English ivy affect the growth of Chanterelles? I have a huge hardwood forest I live on and have found tiny or eaten chanterelles. Perfect conditions so I thought. I have not found as many as I would expect based on what I have heard from other people in the past few days in my area. I did find evidence of one golden chanterelle field and then some tiny cinnabars, but I am afraid I won't ever have that much luck in that space. I am actually just north of but 3 hours near Chattanooga. Do you offer any classes?