Find out how to make lion’s mane mushroom mac and cheese, a rich and savory dish that lets the subtle lion’s mane mushroom flavor shine!
In years past, The Tyrant and I always had ample foraging time in the winter to go find lion’s mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) and other winter-foraged goodies. However, this year with a two-year-old toddler and a busy work schedule, we didn’t get many foraging opportunities.
Making matters worse, some of our easy-to-access lion’s mane spots didn’t fruit this year, for reasons we can’t quite explain. Perhaps the trees fought off the fungal infection or perhaps we just had poor timing. The outdoor lion’s mane logs in our mushroom garden have long since stopped fruiting as well.
We freeze and also dehydrate/powderize extra lion’s mane for long-term storage. With no new supply, we’re now running desperately low on lion’s mane mushrooms.
Thankfully, we have a wonderful family. Taking pity on us, my parents and brother arranged to have a lion’s mane mushroom grow kit delivered to us.
Our first flush yielded two beautiful mushrooms, each weighing about 13.5 ounces. This gave us what we needed to create our new lion’s mane mac and cheese recipe.
If you’re trying to figure out what to do with lion’s mane mushrooms, this recipe will be a hit!
Lion’s mane mushroom mac and cheese recipe tips
Follow these important recipe tips to make sure you get things just right:
1. Use the right cheeses (and ratios).
Lion’s mane mushroom is a subtle flavor that’s hard to describe. It’s like a cross between mushroom and crab meat, but not as intense as crab meat.
You could easily drown out the flavor of your lion’s mane with a strong cheese such as sharp cheddar. Thus, our cheese recommendations are for a combination of the following:
These are mild but flavorful white cheeses that won’t overwhelm your lion’s mane mushroom’s flavor; rather they’ll help accentuate it.
The ratios of these cheeses are also important. We did a 1:1:1 ratio of each:
- 1 1/2 cups shredded gruyere (about 5 ounces)
- 1 1/2 lightly packed cup shredded Italian fontina (5 ounces)
- 1 1/2 cup *grated Parmesan (5 ounces) (*thickly grated, not finely grated)
You could adjust this ratio, but we found it to be just right for our tastes.
2. Pull the lion’s mane mushroom into pieces (or cut into small bits) before cooking.
We wanted our lion’s mane mushroom to provide a meat-like consistency in the mac and cheese, similar to the meat texture in crab or lobster mac and cheese.
So we pulled the mushroom into small ~2″ pieces rather than cutting it into chunks.
Yes, this takes more time than cutting. If you’re in a rush, just be sure to cut your lion’s mane mushrooms into small pieces prior to cooking.
3. Pre-cook lion’s mane mushroom medley. Time: ~25 minutes
You’re going to make three separate things before combining them and sticking them in the oven:
- mushroom medley (~25 minutes)
- cheese sauce (~20 minutes)
- pasta (time tbd depending on type of pasta used)
You’ll want all three to finish up right around the same time, so plan accordingly. (*You’ll also be making bread crumb topping, but that only takes a minute.)
Cook your mushrooms, onions, garlic, and thyme until the mushrooms and onions have started browning up, then set them aside in a bowl. Quickly deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine and add it to the bowl.
*Important: Wild-foraged lion’s mane mushrooms can weigh a lot more than homegrown lion’s manes if they get rained on, which increases the mushrooms weight without actually increasing the volume/amount of mushroom.
We used 13.5 ounces of a relatively dry lion’s mane mushroom, measured to about 7.5 cups after pulling it into pieces. If using foraged or outdoor-grown mushrooms, measure using cups not weight.
4. Make a quick roux for a base then turn it into cheese sauce. Time: ~20 minutes
Make a light, white-yellow roux to start with before adding your milk and cheese. A roux is the base for your cheese sauce and also serves as the primary thickener.
Don’t be intimidated here! Making a roux is very simple: measure equal parts *flour and butter (in this case 1/4 cup each), melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium low heat, then add flour and whisk vigorously and constantly for 1-2 minutes until a paste forms.
(*Typically roux is made from all-purpose flour, but you can use white organic whole wheat flour as a healthier alternative.)
Next you’ll immediately but SLOWLY add your milk, one cup at a time, whisking the whole time. Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn up your burner to medium heat, whisking every 30-60 seconds until the contents have warmed up. (You could also warm up your milk in the microwave ahead of time before adding it to your roux to save a few minutes.)
Once the milk/roux is hot, start whisking in the cheese, 1 cup at a time, until it’s fully melted in and incorporated. Don’t forget to whisk in your salt, pepper, and nutmeg before finishing up your cheese sauce!
5. Make al dente pasta (not fully cooked). Time: tbd based on noodles used
You can use your favorite style of pasta for this mac and cheese recipe: elbows, shells, corkscrews…
We opted for an Italian “gigli” noodle, a Tuscan classic. (Gigli means lily in Italian, since the noodles are lily flower-shaped.) Corkscrew noodles make a good alternative to gigli noodles.
Regardless of what type of noodle you use, just be sure NOT to boil them all the way until fully cooked before baking them. You want them al dente (a bit firm and chewy inside) since they’ll continue to cook when you bake them into the final mac and cheese.
If you fully cook your noodles when boiling, you’ll end up with a more mushy noodle in your final mac and cheese.
6. Mix all ingredients in large bowl then pour into LARGE baking dish.
Combine your noodles, mushrooms, and sauce in a large bowl and stir until they’re fully mixed together. Then pour them into your baking dish.
We used a large 12.5″ long x 9 wide x 3″ deep baking dish. That’s because this is a recipe that yields about 8 servings.
If that’s too much or you don’t have a baking dish that large, scale the recipe down accordingly.
5. Add topping, bake, then quick-broil to perfection.
Before you stick your lion’s mane mac and cheese into the oven, you’ll want to evenly distribute a bread crumb topping across the surface. Spoon and sprinkle.
For our topping, we used:
- 1/2 cup organic whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Once your mac and cheese is fully assembled, bake it at 350°F (177°C) for about 30 minutes, then give it a quick ~2 minute broiling to crisp up the top to golden perfection.
Done! Remove from oven, let it cool on a rack to eating temperature, then serve. It’s even better reheated the next day in an oven or microwave.
Recipe: Lion’s mane mushroom mac & cheese
Lion's mane mushroom mac and cheese
A savory yet subtle mac and cheese recipe featuring lion's mane mushrooms!
- 1 lb organic pasta (We used an Italian gigli noodle, but you can use other styles of mac noodles such as elbows, shells, or corkscrews.)
- salt (generously salt your water before boiling - up to 1 tbsp)
Bread crumb topping
- 1/2 cup organic whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup fresh-grated Parmesan cheese (finely grated)
- 1/4 cup fresh-grated Gruyere cheese (finely grated)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 7.5 cups loosely packed, shredded lion's mane mushrooms (see notes and pictures in article) (~13-14 ounces, but moisture/hydration can impact mushroom weight, especially with wild-foraged lion's manes)
- 1 medium white or yellow onion, finely diced
- 3 tsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
- 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
- pinch of salt, or 1/4 tsp
- 3 tbsp unsalted organic butter
- 1/4 cup white wine (to deglaze pan - add back to bowl of cooked mushrooms)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter (for roux)
- 1/4 cup organic all-purpose flour or organic white whole wheat flour (for roux)
- 4 cups whole organic grass-fed milk
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese (5 ounces)
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Fontina cheese (5 ounces)
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese (5 ounces) (measured thick-grated, not finely grated)
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
- 1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
You'll want your pasta, mushroom medley, and cheese sauce to all finish around the same time before combining them. Once your ingredient prep is done, you'll start cooking your mushroom medley. After about 5 minutes, start making your roux/cheese sauce. After a few more minutes, start boiling water for your pasta. When you're about 10 minutes out from completion, pre-heat your oven to 350°F (177°C).
Heat skillet over medium heat and let 1/4 cup butter melt in pan. Then add mushrooms, onions, thyme, salt, and pepper. Add diced garlic after about 10 minutes (it cooks and burns much faster than the other ingredients). Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms and onions are beginning to brown about 25 minutes. Remove ingredients from pan and put them in bowl. Deglaze pan with white wine then add wine to same bowl. Set aside.
In saucepan over medium low heat, you're going to start by making a light white-yellow roux. Melt 1/2 cup unsalted butter in pan over medium-low heat. Add flour and whisk, whisk, whisk for about 1-2 minutes until a bubbling paste forms. Slowly pour in milk, about 1 cup at a time, whisking constantly. Repeat until all milk added. Turn up heat to medium. Now slowly add the cheese about 1 cup at a time, stirring or whisking until fully melted. Whisk in nutmeg, salt, pepper. If pasta and mushrooms aren't done yet, remove cheese sauce from heat and set aside.
Generously salt your water and add 1 pound pasta, stirring occasionally. Be sure NOT to cook until noodles are soft all the way through. You want them al dente, chewy in the middle. They'll finish cooking when baked in the oven.
Finishing mac and cheese
Combine noodles, mushroom medley, and cheese sauce in large bowl and mix until all ingredients fully combined. Pour into baking dish and even out with a spatula. Uniformly cover surface with bread crumb topping.
Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes, then turn oven to broiler mode and give it a quick ~2 minute broiling to crisp up the top to golden perfection. Remove from oven and let cool on rack to eating temp.
We hope you love this recipe!