I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of wood ear mushroom substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or want a swap that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
Wood ear mushrooms don’t have much flavor and are mostly used for their texture. Oyster mushrooms and enoki mushrooms are good replacements because they also have a very mild flavor and interesting textures. If you can find them, cloud ear mushrooms are a great swap.
I made a few batches of wood ear mushroom salad to test out several different substitutes.
Wood ear mushrooms usually sprout on decaying trees. They don’t have much flavor, so they’re primarily used in Chinese cuisine for their texture, which is gelatinous and slightly crunchy (almost cartilage-like is a good way to describe it). They also have a lot of potential health benefits.
The mushrooms have thin folds and crevices, making them the perfect vehicle for soaking up the flavors of soups, sauces, and dressings. You’ll find them in hot pots, soups, stir-fries, and even salads. Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Oyster mushrooms||Mild taste and chewy texture||9/10|
|Enoki mushrooms||Bland taste and crunchy texture||9/10|
|Shiitake mushrooms||Stronger flavor||7/10|
|Cloud ear mushrooms||Very similar, but hard to find||7/10|
|Fresh wood ear mushrooms||Can forage (with an expert)||7/10|
|Firm tofu||Good non-mushroom alternative||5/10|
Psst… if you haven’t already, check out your local Asian supermarket and you might find some.
Oyster mushrooms are an easy-to-find and affordable alternative to wood ear mushrooms.
They look different, but they have a mild flavor and a similar ability to take on the flavors of whatever they’re cooked in. There is a subtle woody, somewhat seafood-like taste to the mushrooms, but it’s not strong enough to overpower a sauce or broth.
In terms of texture, oyster mushrooms aren’t as jelly-like but they are tender and chewy. And the edges will crisp up if you pan-fry them.
How to substitute: Replace wood ear mushrooms in a 1:1 ratio with oyster mushrooms.
Enoki mushrooms are my favorite mushrooms. They’re similar to wood ear mushrooms in the fact that they’re prized for their texture more than their flavor. The mushrooms are long and very thin with small caps and are typically clumped together in small bunches.
They have a lightly crunchy texture like wood ear mushrooms but aren’t gelatinous. In terms of flavor, they’re extremely mild and pretty much taste of nothing!
If you’re using enoki mushrooms, make sure to add them near the end of the cooking process because they’re best with very little cooking. Overcooking them will turn them slimy.
How to substitute: Replace wood ear mushrooms in a 1:1 ratio with enoki mushrooms.
Shiitake mushrooms aren’t the best replacement for wood ear mushrooms, but you can use them in a pinch. They do a good job of replicating the chewy texture of wood ears, but that’s where the similarities end!
They have a much stronger flavor, with a deep meatiness and lots of umami. Although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because they’re delicious! I loved them in my salad.
You can get fresh or dried shiitakes, but I recommend the dried ones in this situation because they have a chewier texture.
How to substitute: Replace wood ear mushrooms in a 1:1 ratio with dried shiitake mushrooms.
Black fungus (or cloud ear mushrooms)
Black fungus (also known as the cloud ear mushroom) is a close relative of the wood ear mushroom and the two often get mixed up. If you happen to have some on hand, then it’s a perfect substitute because it’s got the same jellied texture and bland flavor.
There are a few small differences – cloud ear mushrooms are smaller in size and slightly coarser in texture than wood ear mushrooms, but most people won’t notice.
The only reason this substitute is so low down the list is because if you can find cloud ear mushrooms, then chances are you can also find wood ear mushrooms.
How to substitute: Replace wood ear mushrooms in a 1:1 ratio with black fungus (rehydrate before using)
Fresh wood ear mushrooms
If you’re up for an adventure, why not try your hand at foraging fresh wood ear mushrooms?
Although they’re more common in Chinese dishes, these mushrooms aren’t exclusively grown in Asian countries. You can also find them in the UK, U.S., and Canada. They thrive in cooler woodland areas and grow on decaying trees.
The hunt can be quite a thrill, but remember, it’s essential to go prepared – not all the mushrooms you encounter will be edible. Make use of available guides online like this one from Gardening Know-How or Sarah Pointer’s foraging video above.
Or better yet, take along an experienced foraging friend!
Note: Wood ear mushrooms must be cooked before you eat them, you can’t eat them raw.
How to substitute: Replace wood ear mushrooms in a 1:1 ratio with fresh wood ear mushrooms.
This is a different suggestion but if you want a non-mushroom alternative, tofu is great. It’s got a very bland flavor and soaks up broth/sauces/dressings just as effectively as wood ear mushrooms.
Pro tip: If you want the tofu to have a slightly crunchy texture, you can fry or bake it before adding it to your dish.
Psst… Smoked tofu was suggested in one blog, but wood ear mushrooms don’t taste of anything, so there’s no need for the added smoky flavor.
How to substitute: Replace wood ear mushrooms in a 1:1 ratio with tofu.
Other substitute options
The options I’ve listed above are my top picks for wood ear mushroom substitutes, but they’re not the only options. Here are some more:
- Apricot jelly fungus: If you’re into foraging, these fun mushrooms are very mild and have a soft, gelatinous texture once you cook them. They’re found under wood conifers and are very easy to spot because of their striking orange-brown color.
- Snow fungus: is like wood ear mushrooms’ delicate, fair cousin. It’s got an even more gelatinous texture and will soak up loads of flavor from your dish.
- Button mushrooms: If you’re in a real bind, regular button mushrooms can stand in for wood ear mushrooms. They’re mild compared to most mushrooms and really budget-friendly.
Best Wood Ear Mushrooms Substitutes + 3 To Avoid
- 1 cup black fungus, rehydrated
- 1 cup cloud ear mushrooms, rehydrated
- 1 cup enoki mushrooms
- 1 cup snow fungus, rehydrated
- 1 cup fresh wood ear mushrooms
- 1 cup apricot jelly fungus
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen wood ear mushroom substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.