Why shouldn’t you eat raw mushrooms?

Eating raw mushrooms can be dangerous and lead to unpleasant side effects. Cooking mushrooms thoroughly before eating is the safest option. Here’s an overview of the health risks and precautions you should take when it comes to eating mushrooms.

Can you get sick from eating raw mushrooms?

Yes, eating raw mushrooms can make you sick. Many wild mushrooms contain toxins that cause gastrointestinal issues. The symptoms can range from mild stomach upset to severe vomiting and diarrhea. In rare cases, toxic mushrooms can cause organ damage and even death.

Even store-bought mushrooms can pose risks when eaten raw. Mushrooms are very porous and absorb environmental contaminants easily. Bacteria like salmonella or listeria can live on the surface. Eating raw mushrooms that contain harmful bacteria can lead to food poisoning.

What toxins are found in raw mushrooms?

Several different toxins can be present in raw mushrooms:

  • Amatoxins – cause delayed liver and kidney damage
  • Orellanine – causes kidney damage
  • Muscarine – leads to increased salivation, sweating, and digestive issues
  • Coprine – interacts negatively with alcohol
  • Gyromitrin – converts to a toxic compound in the body

Many of these toxins are heat sensitive and get destroyed during cooking. Consuming raw mushrooms means you ingest their full toxic potential.

What types of mushrooms are most risky to eat raw?

Wild mushrooms pose the biggest risk when eaten raw. It’s impossible to tell just by looking if a mushroom in nature is toxic. Some mushroom species that are very dangerous when raw include:

  • Death cap mushrooms – can be fatal if eaten raw
  • Autumn skullcap – contains coprine toxin
  • Podostroma cornu-damae – causes delayed kidney and liver damage
  • Galerina marginata – contains amatoxins
  • Conocybe filaris – contains muscarine

Store-bought mushrooms also have risks when eaten raw. The main varieties sold in grocery stores include:

  • White button mushrooms
  • Portobello mushrooms
  • Crimini mushrooms
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Oyster mushrooms

Of these, shiitake mushrooms are more likely to cause issues if eaten raw due to a toxin called lentinan. Oyster mushrooms also have some heat-sensitive toxins.

What are symptoms of mushroom poisoning?

Symptoms of mushroom poisoning can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping and diarrhea
  • Excessive sweating and salivation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle spasms
  • Damage to liver and kidneys in severe cases
  • Coma and possibly death with highly toxic mushrooms

Symptoms typically start 30 minutes to 2 hours after ingesting toxic mushrooms. But with some species, onset of symptoms is delayed 6-24 hours.

Can you get mushroom poisoning from cooking?

Proper cooking of mushrooms reduces the risk of poisoning significantly. However, cooking may not destroy every toxin completely. The level of risk depends on:

  • Type of mushroom – Some have more heat-stable toxins.
  • Cooking method – Boiling or pressure cooking is most effective.
  • Cooking time – Longer durations destroy more toxins.
  • Parts consumed – Toxins concentrate more in caps than stems.

Consuming a mushroom stew or soup carries less risk than eating lightly sautéed or grilled mushrooms. Make sure mushrooms are thoroughly cooked before eating.

Can you eat any wild mushrooms raw?

It’s not recommended to eat any kind of wild mushroom completely raw. The risks are too unpredictable. However, some wild mushroom species can be eaten raw in small quantities if you’re able to identify them positively. Examples include:

  • Chanterelle mushrooms
  • Chicken of the woods mushroom
  • Morel mushrooms
  • Puffball mushrooms

These mushrooms only cause minor stomach upset raw for most people. But take caution, as some individuals can react negatively. It’s still best to cook them.

Is it safe to eat raw mushrooms if you remove the skin?

Removing the skin or peeling the cap of raw mushrooms doesn’t make them completely safe to eat. Many toxins are present throughout the flesh of mushrooms, not just the skin.

Peeling can reduce bacteria load on store-bought mushrooms along with some toxins. But mushrooms should still be cooked thoroughly after peeling to degrade remaining toxins.

Can you eat mushrooms raw if you boil them first?

Blanching or boiling mushrooms briefly then eating them raw is not safe either. Some toxins require extended boiling for 15-30 minutes to break down sufficiently. Partial boiling will only destroy some toxins, leaving dangerous ones intact.

Do all wild mushrooms have toxins when raw?

No, not all wild mushroom species contain dangerous toxins. Examples of safe wild mushrooms when raw include:

  • Scaber stalk
  • Fairy ring mushroom
  • Meadow mushroom
  • Blewit
  • Honey mushroom

However, accurately identifying wild mushrooms is challenging. Unless you’re a mycologist, it’s better to cook all wild mushrooms as a safety precaution before eating them.

Can you eat white button mushrooms raw?

Raw white button mushrooms sold commercially in grocery stores are less risky than wild mushrooms. But they can still harbor bacteria like e. coli or salmonella, especially if improperly handled after harvesting.

Lightly cooking white button mushrooms until just wilted destroys any potentially harmful bacteria. Consuming them completely raw is not recommended.

Do mushrooms have more toxins when raw or cooked?

Mushrooms contain more toxins when raw. Various compounds in mushrooms degrade and break down when subjected to heat from cooking:

  • Muscarine reduces by about 40-90% after cooking.
  • Coprine degrades completely when boiled for 15-20 minutes.
  • Most amatoxins decompose with sufficient cooking time.
  • Orellanine toxin levels drop when mushrooms are roasted or fried.

Some toxins like amatoxins don’t degrade much with lower temperatures like steaming or baking. Higher heat from boiling, roasting or frying mushrooms is more effective.

Can you eat portobello mushrooms raw?

Eating raw portobello mushrooms is not recommended. Along with possible bacterial contamination, they naturally contain agaritine – a toxic hydrazine compound. Cooking has been found to reduce agaritine levels by about 40-60% in portobellos.

Why are mushrooms dangerous to eat raw?

There are a few reasons why mushrooms can be dangerous when consumed raw:

  • Toxins – Mushrooms produce various toxic compounds as defense chemicals against insects and fungi. These toxins can harm your digestive system if eaten.
  • Tough cell walls – Cell walls in raw mushrooms contain chitin and beta-glucans that are difficult to digest. Cooking breaks these down.
  • Bacteria – Harmful bacteria can live on raw mushrooms, especially if contaminated after harvesting. Cooking kills pathogenic bacteria.
  • Allergies – Some proteins in raw mushrooms may trigger allergic reactions for sensitive individuals when ingested.

Cooking mushroom thoroughly neutralizes many of these potential health hazards.

Are there any benefits to eating mushrooms raw?

A few possible benefits from consuming raw mushrooms in moderation include:

  • Higher nutrient retention – Vitamins like B-complex and C can degrade with cooking.
  • Preservation of probiotics – Beneficial bacteria can be destroyed by heat.
  • Better texture – Mushrooms can get slimy and lose their “meaty” texture when cooked.

However, the risks outweigh these limited benefits. Any nutrients lost during cooking are minimal compared to toxic effects of raw mushrooms.

Can you eat raw mushrooms during pregnancy?

It’s not recommended for pregnant women to eat raw mushrooms. The toxins present can potentially cross the placenta and cause harm to the developing fetus. Vomiting and diarrhea from mushroom poisoning also leads to dehydration, which is dangerous during pregnancy.

Pregnant women have weaker immune systems and are also more vulnerable to foodborne illnesses. Only eating well-cooked mushrooms is advised when pregnant.

Do you have to cook all frozen mushrooms?

Yes, frozen mushrooms also need thorough cooking before eating. Simply defrosting frozen mushrooms doesn’t eliminate harmful bacteria like listeria. Bringing them to a full boil on the stove or baking until steaming hot is necessary.

Toxins are also still present in frozen mushrooms. Cooking helps degrade mushrooms’ natural toxins whether fresh or previously frozen.

Can dogs eat raw mushrooms safely?

Dogs should not eat raw mushrooms either. While less sensitive than humans, dogs can also experience toxic effects from mushrooms containing amatoxins and muscarine.

Signs of mushroom poisoning in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, drooling, tremors and seizures. Dog-safe mushrooms to feed after cooking include shiitakes, buttons, crimini and portobellos.

Do all mushrooms need to be cooked?

Technically some edible mushroom varieties don’t require cooking. But it’s challenging to identify mushrooms accurately, especially wild types. Consuming any raw mushroom carries some amount of risk.

Cooking is always the safest option. Different mushrooms just vary in how thoroughly they need to be cooked based on their unique toxin content.

Can you microwave mushrooms instead of cooking them?

Microwaving can cook mushrooms and reduce some toxins, but it’s not very effective. The cooking tend to be uneven, leaving parts of the mushroom raw. Roasting, sautéing, or boiling are better options.

Microwaved mushrooms also retain more moisture, so they lose texture quality. For thorough toxin degradation and optimal taste, conventional cooking methods are superior.


Eating raw mushrooms frequently can potentially make you sick. Various toxic and carcinogenic compounds naturally occur in mushrooms that get neutralized through cooking. While raw mushrooms may seem fine occasionally, it’s better to err on the side of caution and always cook them.

Cooking methods like boiling, roasting and sautéing all deactivate mushroom toxins to varying degrees. Find ways to incorporate mushrooms safely in your diet by cooking them thoroughly. Avoid snacking on raw mushrooms to minimize health risks.

With thousands of mushroom species, each with unique toxins, it’s impossible to know the full effects of eating one raw. The consequences could be mild or severe. The safest approach is to assume raw mushrooms are hazardous and take steps to cook them properly before eating.

While nutrition loss from cooking is minimal, toxin exposure from raw mushrooms poses real dangers. Remove uncertainty when eating mushrooms by consistently cooking them first. Prioritize your health and steer clear of raw mushroom consumption.

How to cook mushrooms to remove toxins

Cooking mushrooms properly helps destroy their toxins. Follow these tips to maximize toxin degradation when preparing mushrooms:

  • Bring mushrooms to a full boil and simmer for at least 15-20 minutes to degrade heat-labile toxins.
  • Sauté or roast mushrooms for at least 10 minutes at 350°F+ temperatures to reduce mushroom toxins.
  • Fry or grill mushrooms on high heat – toxins break down fastest at higher temperatures.
  • Don’t microwave – uneven heating leaves toxins intact in parts.
  • Cook whole mushrooms – toxins concentrate more in broken pieces and juices.
  • Discard mushroom cooking liquid – it concentrates water-soluble toxins like muscarine.

The exact cooking time needed varies per mushroom species. But following general best practices removes a significant amount of toxins and bacteria from any raw mushrooms.

Toxin degradation in different cooking methods

Cooking Method Effectiveness for Toxin Removal
Boiling Very effective due to high heat + moisture
Sautéing Effective due to high cooking temperatures
Baking Moderately effective, depends on temperature/time
Steaming Limited effectiveness due to lower moisture + heat
Microwaving Not very effective due to uneven cooking

What are the best mushrooms to eat raw?

No mushrooms are perfectly safe to eat completely raw. But some wild, edible mushroom varieties carry lower risks if consumed raw in moderation. These include:

  • Oyster mushrooms – possible minor allergic reaction
  • Button mushrooms – may harbor pathogens from poor handling
  • Enoki mushrooms – contains traces of potentially toxic hydrazine
  • Porcini mushrooms – can cause minor stomach upset

While not completely risk-free, these mushrooms contain lower levels of toxins compared to other species. But cooking these varieties is still recommended to optimize safety.

Can you eat wild mushrooms after cleaning them?

No, just rinsing or cleaning wild mushrooms before eating does not make them safe. Harmful toxins are contained throughout the flesh, not just the surface or skin.

Also, pinpointing exact species is difficult. Many toxic mushrooms closely resemble edible ones. Accidentally ingesting a poisonous mushroom can be fatal.

Wild mushrooms should always be cooked thoroughly as a precaution before eating. Identifying or cleaning them raw is not reliable protection against toxins.

Do mushrooms need to be cooked well done?

Mushrooms don’t necessarily need to be cooked all the way through until well done. However, sufficiently high temperatures for 10-20 minutes are vital to degrade toxins.

Lightly steaming or sautéing mushrooms for a few minutes leaves toxins intact. Cook mushrooms thoroughly to at least piping hot temperatures exceeding 150°F for best toxin reduction.


  • Raw mushrooms commonly cause gastrointestinal illness due to their natural toxins.
  • Toxins like amatoxins, muscarine, gyromitrin, coprine and agaritine are highest when mushrooms are eaten raw.
  • Wild mushrooms, portobellos, morels and shiitakes tend to have more toxins, but all raw mushrooms are risky.
  • Cooking methods like boiling, roasting, sautéing and baking destroy mushroom toxins most effectively.
  • Microwaving and briefly steaming leaves toxins intact and is not recommended.
  • Pregnant women and dogs should also never eat raw mushrooms due to toxicity concerns.

Always cook mushrooms thoroughly before eating them to avoid negative health effects. When in doubt, throw raw mushrooms out!

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