Why Do Mushrooms Smell Like Fish? (3 Reasons To Know)


Varieties on mushrooms on a wooden cutting board

Mushrooms are one of the greatest vegetables, with many varieties differing in taste and appearance. However, the smell of fish coming from the mushrooms is something common for all mushrooms if the conditions that led to it were the same. The reason why they smell like fish, among other things related to mushrooms and smell, is what you’ll learn next.

Mushrooms smell like fish because they are past their prime and have started the autolysis process, meaning the mushroom has started to digest itself to spread its spores. Other reasons include specific mushroom varieties like Lactifluus volemus or that the mushrooms have been stored near fish.

As you can see, there’s more than one reason why mushrooms can smell like fish, and determine whether it’s an issue or not; you need to understand which reason causes the smell. To do this, stick with me, and I’ll explain each reason more closely.

Why Do Mushrooms Smell Like Fish?

Generally, there are three main reasons mushrooms can smell like fish: age, variety, and storage. I’ll start with the most likely reason, age.

1. Mushrooms aren’t Fresh Anymore

In most cases, when you notice a fishy smell from your mushrooms, especially if they are the most popular varieties such as white button, crimini, shiitake, or portobello mushrooms, they aren’t good anymore.

The mentioned mushrooms and most others don’t smell like fish naturally, but they have an earthy smell that isn’t strong and necessarily even noticeable. If you stick your nose to the mushroom, you’ll smell its odor, but it isn’t fish.

The reason why these mushrooms start to smell like fish is because of the autolysis process. The autolysis process on mushrooms occurs when their enzymes start to digest their cells to ensure the spores get a better chance of growing. The autolysis process starts when the cells are dying and dead, meaning the whole mushroom is getting old.

The fishly smell or autolysis process is an indicator that the mushroom isn’t good anymore or won’t be in a very short time.

As a verdict, you shouldn’t eat mushrooms that smell fishy, assuming they don’t do it from the beginning of their lifespan. This takes us to the next subject.

2. Mushroom Varieties That Smell Like Fish

Now, if your mushroom is a variety that produces a fishly smell without it being an indicator of spoilage, you should forget about the previous reason in this case. There are, in fact, mushrooms that smell fishly for various reasons other than the autolysis process.

Here’s a list of mushrooms that smell fishy;

  • Lactifluus volemus
  • Russula foetens
  • Phallus impudicus

These mushrooms are famous for their smells that are often described to have a fishly smell, among other things. The most popular in the matter is the Lactifluus volemus, also known as the fishy milkcap is worthy of its name.

The smell of the fishy milkcap is drastically reduced when cooked, and it’s edible, although it’s not the most flavorful from the taste as it’s described as a little dull in taste. Yet, it doesn’t smell like fish at all.

As a verdict, you can eat fishy-smelling mushrooms if they produce the smell when fresh. However, there are better mushroom options than ones that aren’t even that good and smell like fish.

3. Mushrooms Stored Near Fish

The final reason mushrooms can smell like fish is storage, and it’s often overlooked. If you store fish and mushrooms in the same refrigerator, the mushrooms can absorb the fishly smell themselves. The more exposed both ingredients are and the longer they are in the fridge, the more the mushrooms, among other ingredients, have time to absorb the smell.

For that reason, you need to store your mushrooms and fish in a container, plastic bag, wrap, or another container to keep them safe from odors and keep them fresh for longer.

As a verdict, you can eat mushrooms that smell fishy if it’s the result of storing them near fish and they haven’t spoiled. However, be sure to examine the mushrooms to determine whether the fishy smell is, in fact, from poor storage or spoilage.

Do Mushrooms Taste Like Fish?

Lactifluus volemus
Lactifluus volemus

Given that mushrooms can smell like fish because of freshness, variety, and storage reasons, so what about the taste? Often foods that smell from one thing taste similar, and after all, mushrooms are meant to be eaten, not smelled.

Generally, mushrooms that smell fishy won’t taste like fish. Mushrooms can smell fishy if they aren’t fresh or are a specific variety. When you cook mushrooms, the fishy smell goes away or decreases drastically, and the taste won’t be like fish. Also, mushrooms stored with a fish won’t taste like it either.

This is especially true with fishy-smelling mushroom varieties and mushrooms stored with fish and have absorbed the smell. These mushrooms won’t taste like fish when cooked.

In most cases, a mushroom on the brink of being old won’t taste like fish either, although they might taste a little off. You don’t need to worry about mushrooms that have started the autolysis process if they aren’t slimy.

However, smelly mushrooms that are slimy shouldn’t be eaten because it means they are spoiled. This brings us to the next subject.

What Do Spoiled Mushrooms Smell Like?

Fish and mushrooms don’t exactly fit together, at least in the same ingredient, which raises some troubling questions, such as spoilage. What do spoiled mushrooms smell like, and how do you spot one that has gone bad?

Spoiled mushrooms emit a strong strange odor resembling ammonia, fish, or an unpleasant sour smell. You can easily smell the difference between a spoiled mushroom and a fresh mushroom that emits a slightly woodsy aroma that is pleasant to the nose.

If you aren’t sure whether the mushroom is spoiled or not, I recommend throwing it away because you wouldn’t have doubts about a fresh mushroom, so it’s safe to say it isn’t fresh anymore. Although a mushroom that you aren’t sure is spoiled won’t probably do you any harm, so you can eat it if you like.

In contrast, a severely spoiled mushroom shouldn’t be eaten because it raises the risk of food poisoning, nausea, and digestive issues.

Can You Wash Slimy Mushrooms?

Gomphidius glutinosus
Gomphidius glutinosus

Slime on a mushroom is another do tell that something isn’t right. If your mushrooms are slimy, can you wash them and forget about it, or is there something more to know about slime on mushrooms?

Generally, you can wash slimy mushrooms if you mistake washing them before storing them, which makes them slimy. In addition, naturally slimy mushrooms such as Gomphidius glutinosus should be washed before cooking and eating. However, mushrooms slimy from spoilage should be thrown out.

Common sense plays a big role here, and I can understand it can be difficult to determine why there is slime on a mushroom if you don’t have experience, so allow me to give you four examples.

  1. Washed mushrooms: Mushrooms should never be washed before storing them, only after cooking. That’s because mushrooms absorb moisture, making them slime quickly when stored. However, if you mistake washing them before storing them and they are slimy without spoilage, simply wash the slime off, and they are good to be used and eaten.
  2. Spoiled mushrooms: If your mushrooms emit a strong unpleasant odor, are slimy, and look bad, they are spoiled, and washing off the slime won’t save them. You should throw off this kind of mushroom.
  3. Naturally slimy mushrooms: Gomphidius glutinosus, also known as the slimy spike cap, is a naturally slimy edible mushroom. Before preparing and eating this mushroom, you should wash off the slime, and it’s safe to be used.
  4. Can mushrooms: Mushrooms sold in a can or jar and preserved in oil or other liquid don’t necessarily need to be washed, only drained before cooking. In most cases, washing isn’t required, only draining. However, be sure the check instructions about the specific product and whether washing is advised.

Mushrooms sold in grocery stores shouldn’t be slimy so if you spot one or have accidentally purchased one, the highest chances are that it’s spoiled, and you should disperse it. However, it’s good to remember that mushrooms can be slimy for reasons other than spoilage.

In conclusion, keep the thing you learned in this article in mind, and I’m sure you will be a master in detecting why mushrooms smell, which ones have gone bad, and whether you need to wash them or not.

Here You’ll Find My Favorite Kitchen Equipment.

Thanks for reading this article! I hope that it brought you real value that you can benefit from in your personal life! Here is my top kitchen equipment that I seriously couldn’t live without, and I think they could ease your life as well as they do mine.

  • Knife set: As a chef, I can’t stand dull, poor-quality knives without any design. My absolute favorite kitchen knife set is the Gangshan 3-Piece Knife Set. It comes with a handcrafted 8″ chef’s knife and a 3.5″ paring knife. What I love even more than these flawless knives is the walnut knife block which is incredible and unique.
  • Skillet: In addition to knives and my unwillingness to bargain with its quality is the cookware. My favorite skillet is Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Skillet. This particular skillet is 9″ in size, it is heavy, it gets very hot, which is what is required to get a good sear, and it is just beautiful, as are all Le Creuset products. Le Creuset doesn’t need an introduction as a brand, as it is one of the world’s rated brands.
  • Food processor: I remember when I hadn’t a food processor at home. It wasn’t easy! But now, when I use my Ninja BN601 Food Processor, I can make anything super fast, which saves me many hours per week. This food processor has 1000 watts of power and four options, including chopping, slicing, dough, and purees. I also like the middle-sized 9cup (2.1l) bowl as it is big enough yet not too big to look unfitting in my kitchen.
  • Tweezers: Dalstrong Professional Cooking Tweezers are like tongs but much more elegant, thin, and easy to use. They are great for virtually anything, but flipping, turning, and grabbing with them is easy and makes cooking much more fun! These Dalstrgon tongs are titanium coated and very durable. Also, I like the black color instead of the everyday steel.

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Omar Abdalla

I’m the owner of JRS. While I love writing about food, I also enjoy peaceful and relaxed cookouts at home.

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