Cantharellus cibarius (Golden Chanterelle): Identification, Lookalikes, and Recipes

Cantharellus Cibarius (Golden Chanterelle)_ Identification, Lookalikes, And Recipes
Due to its specific growing conditions, C. cibarius is one of the most challenging mushrooms to cultivate. For this reason, this golden chanterelle mushroom is highly sought after and only seasonally available. This exact species is only found in Europe. 

Cantharellus cibarius Profile

From the Basidiomycota phylum, Agaricomycetes class, Cantharellales order, and the Cantharellaceae family, the Cantharellus cibarius is a uniquely delicious mushroom.

This species of golden chanterelle is known as girolle in Europe.

Before mycologists placed it in the genus Cantharellus, this mushroom was described as Agaricus cantharellus. Since 1821, there have been many synonyms, but the mushroom has stayed in the same genus.

This exact species is only found in Europe. In the past, mycologists thought that all golden chanterelles were C. cibarius.

However, in 1997, due to minor differences, the most common species of golden chanterelles in North America was described as Cantharellus formosus.

How to Identify Cantharellus cibarius

A few key attributes are needed when identifying a golden chanterelle.

  • The funnel-shaped mushroom is 1 to 4 inches wide and 2 to 4 inches tall.
  • It can range from a yellow to a golden dark yellow color.
  • If the mushroom is bruised, the bruised spot turns red.
  • The cap is flat or slightly depressed.
  • The hymenium (underside of the mushroom cap) has fake waxy-looking gills that fork.
  • The ridges on the hymenium are decurrent.
  • The white flesh of the mushroom rips apart like string cheese.
  • It has a yellow or cream-colored spore print.
  • C. cibarius has a fruity scent.
  • It usually appears between late summer and late fall.
Golden chanterelle
Golden chanterelle, source: Nina Filippova

Where Does It Grow?

One of the most important facts about this specific mushroom is that it only grows in mainland Europe. If you find a similar species in a different country, it is not considered C. cibarius.

You can find this wild mushroom in deciduous, hardwood, and coniferous forests. Golden mushrooms prefer organic soil with high levels of acid and minerals that allow their fragile mycelium to extend into the ground.

As a mycorrhizal fungus, it intersects with the roots of trees and plants nearby, forming a symbiotic relationship.

If you are lucky enough to come across a group of golden chanterelles, pluck or cut the mushroom and toss the stem back to the Earth to encourage and nourish new growth.

How Does The golden Chanterelle Differ From Other Chanterelle Mushrooms?

Chanterelle mushrooms span over four genera:

  • Cantharellus
  • Craterellus
  • Gomphus
  • Polyozellus

There are only microscopic scientific differences between each. Cantharellus and Craterellus are the two most common.

Many species have switched between the Cantharellus and Craterellus genera multiple times because of their similarities. Both genera house mushrooms with false gills and no clear division between the stem and the cap. The main difference between the two is the thickness of the mushroom skin.

There are exceptions to the rules, for example, the Cantharellus lateritius. This species is known as the smooth chanterelle because it has no hymenial ridges.

There are approximately 90 species of chanterelle worldwide, 40 of which you can find in North America. The white chanterelle, Cantharellus subalbidus, is the most common edible species in the Pacific Northwest. They have a sweet, almost fruity smell and an earthy, peppery flavor.

The yellow mushroom, Craterellus tubaeformis or Craterellus ignicolor, is also edible. These two species can be found in Europe and North America.

They are less flavorful than a golden chanterelle but still a popular choice. The spore print of a yellow mushroom is pinkish-yellow.

Very rarely, it is also possible to find blue and pink chanterelles.

Chanterellus cibarius vs False Chanterelles

False chanterelles, Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca, have true gills that are deep and forked. You can easily separate the gills with your fingers. These mushrooms sometimes grow on woodchips. Meanwhile, a golden chanterelle never would.

A false chanterelle is a deeper orange color with a slightly darker center. The flesh of this mushroom is the same color as its exterior, not white like the Cantharellus cibarius.

H. aurantiaca is not recommended to eat. Aside from symptoms similar to food poisoning, it might also cause hallucinations.

Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca, false chanterelle
Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca, false chanterelle, author =Bubulcus

Are There Any Poisonous Chanterelle Look-alikes?

Aside from the mild toxicity of the false chanterelle, there are a couple more chanterelle look-alikes to be aware of.

  • Omphalotus Olearius, also known as jack o lantern, looks very similar to a false chanterelle. It is found in Europe in the same environment as the golden chanterelle. It has a deep yet bright orange color with true gills on the underside and grows on deciduous wood. The cap of the jack o lantern is rounder and smoother. It has been said that this species also glows in the dark, hence, its common name. O. olearius is poisonous. This mushroom is not likely to kill you but will cause stomach pains, vomiting, and diarrhea for multiple days.
  • Omphalotus illudens, also known as the Eastern jack o lantern, is slightly lighter in color and is found in North America. It is equally as toxic and has the same side effects.
golden chanterelle lookalikes

Golden Chanterelle Taste & Smell

For most people, this mushroom has a fruity scent and smell. The fruitiness is similar to peaches or apricots but less sweet.

When eating the mushroom, the fruit flavor is not overpowering. A slightly nutty flavor mutes it. Some people say they get hints of pepper from the mushroom as well.

Golden Chanterelle Cooking & Recipes

This edible mushroom is delicious enough to eat on its own, sauteed in butter, or used in a sauce. Make sure not to use it in a dish with other overpowering flavors. Otherwise, the fruitiness of the mushroom will be lost.

You can preserve golden mushrooms by freezing them or pickling them. Drying them out in an oven is not recommended. They often lose their unique flavor and come out bitter.

Here are a few creative and delicious chanterelle recipes.


Originally from Florida, but with a lust for travel, Sami has found herself in many remote areas with little-to-no access to traditional medicines. Since 2014, she has been experimenting with natural remedies, eastern medicine, and foraging. She believes that the Earth provides us with everything we need to live, heal, and cure.

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