Giant puffballs make some mighty fine eating! If you’re lucky enough to find one in a field or forest’s edge, try whipping up a few of these delicious puffball recipes.
This has been the autumn of puffballs in our house. We have been finding these giant alien-looking mushrooms in our friend’s field and I have had a blast experimenting with all kinds of puffball recipes.
A couple weeks ago my friend Alex called me up saying, Hey, wanna go mushroom hunting? There’s tons of honey mushrooms out in our forest!
alex looking for mushrooms at the path’s edge
Well, I couldn’t resist an adventure, and went with mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation. I am not a mushroom hunter. I’m actually a big chicken when it comes to wild mushrooms. My parents told us too many stories of people who’d died a lingering, agonizing, painful death after just one bite (I’m sure that was to keep us kids from eating wild mushrooms willy-nilly). But I trusted Alex. (That’s her, in the photos above and below.) She’s been foraging for this type of mushroom since she was a child, and it was about time to put my mushroom fears to rest.
Besides, it was a beautiful fall day, and I just longed to get out into the leafy forest.
That first time we went, I came home with a half pail of lovely honey mushrooms and a few little puffballs, which I fried up with butter and they were delicious. Then last week we went again and hit the giant mushroom jackpot! We found the right spot in her forest and after a glorious afternoon of mushroom hunting I came home with leaves and twigs in my hair and four 5-gallon pails full of honey mushrooms, plus 3 giant puffballs.
The mushrooms, I cooked and canned and froze (35 pints of canned mushrooms plus a half dozen bags of frozen ones).
But it’s the puffballs I want to talk about.
Oh, my, the puffballs . . .
I’d never eaten them before (my mom has cooked them, but I was never home at the time). I have now developed an intense love affair with these giant mushrooms. One of the monsters weighed four pounds, one weighed seven and a half pounds, and the biggest one weighed fifteen pounds!
If you’ve never eaten a puffball – you have missed out. I’m not talking about those round bombs of dusty spores that you stomped on as a kid to release the plume of purplish haze. No, if you harvest the puffballs when they are still young and immature and the inside is one even mass of dense, white flesh, they are an absolute mushroom-lover’s delicacy. It’s like finding a gourmet treasure that aliens just dropped into the field. The flesh tastes like mushroom, but is milder and richer, kind of like the cap of a portobello mushroom.
meredith with the two smaller puffballs
Not every year is perfect for puffballs, but this year the conditions have been just right – lots of moisture but warm days. The giant puffballs (Calvatia gigantea) pop up in meadows or at the grassy edges of forests and seem to arrive almost overnight. Puffballs are a good way to start mushroom hunting as they are easy to identify.
There is only one kind of mushroom that can be confused with a puffball when it is still quite small, which is the poisonous amanita mushroom, and it shows the markings of gills in it when you slice it open. So to be safe, when you find a puffball, slice it vertically in half and check that there are no markings of gills or a stem inside. Amanitas also stay small, so if you collect puffballs that are larger than your fist, and the flesh is evenly white inside, you can be assured you have a puffball and that it is safe to eat.
The texture of a puffball is like a very dense damp sponge when you cut into it. Peel off the outer rind (either pull it off or cut it off with a knife), and cut the puffball into slices. The rind can cause gastrointestinal upset in some people. If the inside is any colour other than pure white, don’t use it. Yellow, brown, or purple means the spores are starting to form and it is no longer good to eat.
The puffball will keep in your fridge for 4 to 5 days, but if you want to prepare it for later use, you can also cook it and freeze it. I cubed and sauteed much of my puffball harvest with a little butter and salt until the moisture had cooked out and the cubes started to brown. I then cooled them and packed them into plastic bags and froze them. Can’t wait to pull my treasured stash out of the freezer in the winter to add to soups, stews, casseroles, risottos, stir-fries, scrambled eggs . . .
You can also cook up large slices of puffball and freeze them to use as the base for wonderful gluten-free pizzas (see below). Or try the convenience of breading the raw puffball with the parmigiana breading below and freeze them. Pull them out later, fry them and bake them for a quick pre-prepared dinner. Puffball Fries freeze up equally well. Pull them out of the freezer and in 15 minutes you’ll have crispy fries to dip in your favourite sauce – a great appetizer or snack.
Cooked puffball has a texture kind of like tofu, but more soft and melting (a bit like a sugarless marshmallow). You can use puffball just like you would tofu and most other mushrooms in recipes. I still have so many ways I’d like to try it, so I hope I find some puffballs again next year.
Try puffball some of these ways:
- diced, sauteed, and added to any pasta sauce
- raw, cubed in salads
- diced, sauteed, then tossed in with chives and beaten eggs as you scramble them
- cut slices, dip them in a mixture of equal parts soy sauce and water, plus a dash of sriracha or hot sauce, then pan-fry them in butter or oil until brown
- cubes, strips, or slices, breaded and fried
- grill or fry thick slabs and use them as a meatless burger on a bun with toppings
- toss them in with stir fries
- sauté cubes of puffball with onions, peppers, tomatoes, and Italian seasoning
- use thin slices of sauteed puffball instead of pasta in lasagna
- let your imagination run wild!
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Here are six delicious puffball recipes, (yes, we’ve been eating a lot of puffball lately!) All received rave reviews, but the Puffball Parmigiana which I’ve made three times in the last two weeks (once for a dinner party) was the clear favourite in our house.
Crisp-crusted slabs of delicious puffball slathered in zesty tomato sauce and topped with oozing melted mozzarella – you’ll love this version of the classic. (Plus you can bread the slices and freeze them to fry up and bake later.)
1. Puffball Parmigiana
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 4 slices of giant puffball, each about ¾ inch thick and 4 x 4 inches square (2 x 10 x 10 cms)
- ¼ cup (35gms) sweet rice flour or regular all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper, divided
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup (25gms) finely grated Parmesan cheese (the kind that is like a fluffy powder)
- ¼ cup (40gms) instant polenta or fine cornmeal
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 cup (240ml) or more of your favourite tomato pasta sauce, bottled or homemade
- about 1½ cups (150gms) shredded mozzarella cheese
Peel the puffball, then slice it into ¾-inch thick slices and trim them to the size of a chicken cutlet (about 4 inches square).
In one shallow bowl, mix the flour with the salt and ½ teaspoon of the pepper.
In another bowl, beat the eggs well with a whisk.
In a third shallow bowl or rimmed plate, stir together the Parmesan cheese, cornmeal, garlic powder, and remaining ½ teaspoon of pepper.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Dip the puffball slices into the flour to coat all sides. Then dip them into the beaten egg. Finally dip them into the Parmesan cheese mixture, making sure all surfaces are completely covered.
Fry the breaded slices in the oil for 2 to 3 minutes a side, until they are a deep golden colour.
Lay the fried puffball slices into a baking pan, leaving at least ½ space between them.
Spoon a generous ¼ cup of the tomato sauce in a row down the center of each puffball slice. Pile a heaping ¼ cup of the shredded mozzarella cheese into a mound on top of the tomato sauce on each cutlet.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and golden in spots.
*To freeze, lay the uncooked cheese-coated puffball slices onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, not touching each other. Freeze them until solid, then store them in a sealed heavy-duty, zip-top bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. Fry the slices directly from frozen, then add the tomato sauce and mozzarella and bake as directed.
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This recipe is nice and saucy so it goes great over a bowl of cooked rice. You can adjust the heat level to how you like it.
2. Sweet and Sour Asian Style Puffball
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 jalapeno pepper (or 1 or 2 Thai chili peppers, or ¼ to ½ teaspoon dried chili flakes)
- 1 onion
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 pound (450gms) diced giant puffball (8 – 10 cups)
- 1½ cups (360ml) chicken broth, divided
- 4 tablespoons (60ml) soy sauce (gluten free if necessary)
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 -5 green onions (scallions)
- ½ cup roasted, salted peanuts or cashews (don’t omit these as they really provide a nice crunch in contrast to the soft puffball cubes)
- plain cooked rice for serving
Prepare the vegetables:
- Mince the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno pepper (including the seeds) or chili pepper, if using.
- Dice the onion.
- Cut the bell pepper into 1 inch (2cm) cubes.
- Dice the puffball into 1 inch (2cm) cubes.
- Slice the green onions on a steep diagonal slant.
- Coarsely chop the nuts.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven. Add the minced garlic, ginger, and jalapeno or chili flakes. Cook and stir for 1 minute.
Add the diced onion and red pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the cubed puffball.
Stir together 1 cup (240ml) of the chicken broth, the soy sauce, brown sugar, and vinegar. Pour over the vegetables. Bring to a boil and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir together the remaining ½ cup (120ml) chicken stock with the corn starch, and stir the slurry into the bubbling puffball stew. Add the sliced green onions and cook until thickened, about 30 seconds.
Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the chopped peanuts or cashews.
Serve over hot cooked rice.
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You can prepare the puffball crusts for these pizzas several days ahead and refrigerate them, or you can even prepare them and freeze them to have on hand when the pizza craving hits.
3. Puffball Pizza
- Several slices, ½ – ¾ inch (1-2 cm) thick of giant puffball, peeled – these can be whole cross-section slices for large pizzas, smaller slabs for individual pizzas, or even smaller pieces for appetizer-sized pizza bites
- olive oil
- your favourite pasta sauce or tomato sauce
- dried oregano
- your favourite pizza toppings – ham, pepperoni, salami, onions, peppers, tomatoes, etc. (You don’t need to add mushrooms, since the puffball is a giant mushroom and will provide that umami mushroom flavour.)
- shredded mozzarella cheese
- grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Cut the required amount of slices from the puffball, and peel or cut off the outer skin. Brush each side of the slice with olive oil.
The puffball slices need to be cooked and dried out slightly before using them as the crust base, to make them firm enough and ensure they don’t give off too much moisture to the pizza. There are several ways you can prepare them:
- Grill the slices on the barbecue or cook them in a grill pan until they are nicely browned and you have good char marks on each side. (On our barbecue it takes about 10 minutes per side on medium heat, lid open, rotating the slices on a diagonal halfway through on each side to get a grill mark grid.)
- Roast the slices in a 425°F (220°C) oven on a metal cooling rack set on top of a cookie sheet. Roast for 30 minutes, turning the slices over halfway through.
- Pan-fry the slices in a skillet. Add a little extra oil and fry them until each side is golden brown. Lay on paper towel to absorb any extra oil.
You can cook the slices several days ahead and keep them refrigerated until needed, or freeze the cooked slices in a sealed heavy duty zip-top bag to make quick pizzas anytime. No need to defrost – top and bake them right from frozen.
Place the grilled puffball slices onto a baking sheet. Spread a thin layer of pasta sauce or tomato sauce evenly onto each slice. Dust with a sprinkling of oregano.
Top with your favourite pizza toppings, thinly sliced.
Cover with a generous layer of shredded mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle lightly with Parmesan cheese, if using.
Bake in a preheated 400°F (200°C) oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and golden in spots.
Let cool 5 minutes and serve.
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This simple side dish is full of umami flavour. Savoury garlic and bright, tangy lemon dress up the soft pillows of puffball. Serve with chicken, fish, or pork.
4. Sauteed Puffball with Lemon and Garlic
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1 pound (450gms) giant puffball, diced in 1-inch cubes (8-10 cups)
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- grated zest and juice of half a lemon
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Heat the butter in a large heavy-bottomed skillet or dutch oven. Add the diced onion, garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt. Saute for 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent, stirring occasionally.
Add the diced puffballs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the puffballs have shrunk in size and are golden brown in spots (5 to 10 minutes).
Add the pepper and lemon zest. Cook for 1 more minute.
Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the puffballs and sprinkle with the parsley. Toss and add more salt to taste, if desired.
Serves 4 to 6.
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Light crispy parmesan puffball fries with a soft fluffy interior are just perfect for dipping into your favourite sauce. They’re low fat, if baked, and full of flavour. These fries make a great appetizer, and can also be coated, then frozen, for convenient use on busy days.
5. Puffball Fries
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
Cut the puffball into thick french fry shapes, about ½-inch x ½-inch (1 cm) by 3 inches (7.5cm) long.
In one shallow bowl, mix the flour with the salt.
In another bowl, beat the eggs well with a whisk.
In a third shallow bowl or pie plate, stir together the Parmesan cheese, cornmeal, garlic powder, and pepper.
Dip the puffball sticks into the flour to coat all sides. Then dip them into the beaten egg, tapping off the excess. Finally dip them into the Parmesan cheese mixture one at a time, making sure all surfaces are completely covered.
Lay the coated puffball fries onto an ungreased cookie sheet, not touching each other. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the crust is golden, or fry them in a skillet in several tablespoons of oil, turning to fry each side until golden brown.
*To freeze the puffball fries, lay the cheese coated puffball sticks onto a parchment lined cookie sheet, not touching each other. Freeze them until solid, then store them in a sealed heavy-duty, zip-top bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. When baking the fries from frozen, they will take a minute or two longer.
Serves 4 – 6.
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Who doesn’t love pasta, cheese, and tomato sauce? This easy weeknight family comfort food classic is made even better with the addition of little pillows of puffball. You can double the amount of puffball in this recipe for more creamy deliciousness.
6. Cheesy Puffball Pasta Bake
- 2 to 3 tablespoons butter or oil
- 1 lb (450gms), 8-10 cups, diced giant puffball (1-inch/2.5cm cubes)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 lb. short pasta – macaroni, fusilli, shells, etc.
- 3 cups (720ml) pasta sauce (tomato-based or cream-based) – a 650ml (22oz jar) + ¼ cup (60ml) of the pasta cooking water works fine, too
- 1 cup (100gm) shredded aged cheddar cheese
- 3 to 4 cups (300-400gms) shredded mozzarella cheese
Set a pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta until almost cooked. Remove it about 2 minutes before it would be done. It should still be somewhat firm in the center. Scoop out ½ cup of the pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta.
While the pasta water is heating and the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the puffball cubes and ½ teaspoon salt. The pan will be very full, but the puffballs will shrink in size considerably. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the puffballs have released and evaporated their moisture and the cubes have turned golden in spots, about 10 minutes.
Toss together the cooked puffballs, cooked pasta, pasta sauce, reserved ½ cup of pasta water, and the shredded cheddar cheese. Tip it all into a greased 9×13 inch pan or casserole dish. Cover with a liberal layer of shredded mozarella cheese.
Bake at 350° (180°C) until the cheese is bubbling and golden in spots, about 30 minutes.
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Here are some additional puffball recipes, from other sites, you might also like:
Puffball Mushroom Burgers
Tempura Battered Puffball
Giant Puffball Mushroom Crust Pizza
Battered & Fried Puffballs
Sichuan Stir Fry Puffballs
Parmesan Puffballs, Chicken with Puffballs, Puffballs with Scallops & Broccoli
a colander of honey mushrooms complete with a camouflaged little critter (kind of like ‘Where’s Waldo?)