How to Identify and Cook Pheasant Back Mushrooms

How to Identify and Cook Pheasant Back Mushrooms Outdoor Life

Identifying and Cooking Pheasant Back Mushrooms

April and May are favorite months for mushroom hunters. With warm weather and spring rains, mushrooms start popping up everywhere, making it prime time for foraging. While morel mushrooms are popular, there are other edible wild mushrooms that often go overlooked, like the pheasant back mushroom.

The pheasant back mushroom, also known as Dryad’s saddle, is common and easy to identify. In early spring, its light color stands out against the dark wood of rotting trees or logs. If you have a good sense of smell, you’ll detect its sweet, almost fruit-like scent before you see it.

These mushrooms grow like small shelves, resembling the coloring and pattern of a pheasant with brown scales on top. Use a knife to cut the thick stem and, when turned upside down, you’ll see white spores underneath. The small, young mushrooms are the best to pick as larger ones can become rubbery or infested with bugs. However, if you find a large one in good shape, go ahead and bring it home.

Cleaning Pheasant Back Mushrooms

Cleaning pheasant back mushrooms differs from other mushrooms. Don’t soak them in water as they become water-logged and turn to inedible mush. Use a sponge or soft brush to clean the mushrooms under running water and pat them dry. Remove any pieces that look chewed, dried up, or unpalatable.

Turn the mushrooms upside down, with the white spore side facing up, and gently scrape off the spores using a metal spoon. They should come off easily. Then, turn the mushroom right side up and gently peel off the thin layer of “skin” that creates the scaled pheasant feather look on top. This should also come off easily, especially on young ones. If you have trouble, use a paring knife to finish skinning the mushroom.

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Many newcomers to gathering pheasant back mushrooms are unaware of the scraping and skinning steps, which are important for creating tender mushrooms instead of tough and chewy ones.

How to Identify and Cook Pheasant Back Mushrooms Outdoor Life

Preparing Pheasant Back Mushrooms

There are many ways to eat pheasant back mushrooms. If you have mostly young mushrooms, you can simply slice them and use them as you would any mushrooms in dishes. For larger mushrooms, I like to bread them and create a delicious fried mushroom appetizer platter. Here’s the recipe.

Fried Pheasant-Back Mushrooms


  • 2-3 large pheasant back mushrooms, cleaned
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cayenne powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • Oil for frying
  • Dipping sauce of your choice


  • Slice the mushroom into thin strips, no thicker than ¼-inch.
  • In a large bowl, combine the eggs and milk, and whisk to make an egg wash.
  • In a second shallow bowl, combine the flour, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, salt, and cayenne. Mix well.
  • Carefully drop the mushroom strips into the egg wash and stir until coated. Then, one strip at a time, drop them into the seasoned flour and toss to coat. Set aside and continue until all the mushroom pieces are breaded. Coating a second time is optional, as once usually suffices.
  • In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, carefully place the mushroom pieces into the skillet. Avoid overcrowding to prevent sogginess.
  • Fry until golden brown, flipping the pieces if needed to fry both sides. Once done, set them aside on paper towels to drain. Continue until all mushroom pieces are fried. Serve immediately with a southwest ranch dipping sauce or another sauce of your choice.