A Forager’s Guide to Bear’s Tooth Mushroom (H. americanum)

A Forager’s Guide To Bear’s Tooth Mushroom
Bear's tooth mushrooms (Hericium americanum) are among the world's wildest and most exotic edible mushrooms. Due to the isolation of the areas where it grows, this species is difficult to locate.

Hericium americanum profile

Scientific nameScientific name: Hericium americanum
Family nameHericiaceae (tooth fungi)
Plant typeEdible mushroom

Common names include:

  • monkey’s head
  • lion’s mane
  • bear’s head
  • bearded hedgehog
  • bearded tooth

Known botanically as Hericium americanum, bear’s tooth mushrooms are North America’s only Hericium species and belong to the Hericiaceae family.

Is Bear’s head tooth the same as lion’s mane?

Lion’s mane is a sibling of the bear’s head tooth mushroom.

There is a slight difference between a bear’s tooth mushroom and a lion’s mane mushroom, with the mature bear’s head mushroom possessing branched fruiting bodies while the lion’s mane mushroom lacks them.

How do you identify a Bear’s Tooth Mushroom?

Bear’s Head mushrooms grow in large, compact clusters that resemble icicles hanging from trees.

This mushroom has a diameter of 6-12 inches and is characterized by white, soft, smooth spines drooping downward from a thick, braided body.

It is a tightly branched structure that comes up from a rooted base, and the mushroom can be found growing on conifer stumps or logs in North America.

Bear's head
Bear’s tooth mushroom

Is Bear’s tooth mushroom edible?

H. americanum is an edible mushroom.

Bear’s head mushrooms should be cooked before consumption and are best used in baking, sautéing, and frying applications.

What does bear tooth mushroom taste like?

Bear’s head mushrooms are very wild in nature, and their tastes and odors reflect this wildness. They have a fresh, earthy, natural flavor and aroma.

Having a mild, nutty taste and a sweet and fragrant undertone similar to lobster or crab, bear’s Head mushrooms are tender and meaty when picked young and cooked.

Are there poisonous hericiums?

It is important to note that the Hericium species are not poisonous in any way.

These mushrooms are really not similar to anything else (poisonous or otherwise) but always read a description in a field guide if you are identifying your first specimen.

Is Bears head tooth medicinal?

Bears head tooth is not considered to be a medicinal mushroom.

Very little research has been conducted on this species’s medicinal potential.

In contrast, its relative, H. erinaceus or lion’s mane, has received extensive research and shows promise as a treatment for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive impairment, digestive issues, and cancer.

For more information about medicinal mushrooms used to increase gut health, check out our video below!

How do you cook bear’s tooth mushrooms?

As the mushroom cannot be consumed fresh, it can be used in a variety of meals after it has been boiled or cooked.

  • The best way to prepare them is to break them up or cut them into chunks, and then pan-fry them.
  • the mushroom can also be broken into nuggets, baked, and then dipped into sauces, mixed into pasta, sprinkled into soups, or used as a meat substitute in crab cakes, fish tacos, and clam chowder.
  • The bear’s head mushroom pairs well with potatoes, corn, cabbage, shallots, garlic, onion, leeks, chicken, beef, pork, sriracha, saffron, truffle butter, and apples.

These are the two of our favorite bear’s head mushroom recipes:

It is recommended that they be consumed as soon as possible, as if kept in the refrigerator for more than a few days, they may become bitter.


Ana has always been interested in all things nature and flora. With her expertise in home gardening and interest in foraging, she has been spending her weekends and free time looking for edible native plants, flowers, and fungi. One of her many hobbies includes testing new savory and sweet recipes, juices or teas made from freshly picked plants, wild fruits, or mushrooms.

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