Enoki Mushrooms: The Delicious Low Carb “Noodle”

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Picture of Enoki Mushrooms - Delicious Low Carb 'Noodles'Enoki mushrooms are a type of fungus that grows together in groups of long stems, and they have long been valued for their health benefits.

The mushrooms are also delicious, and we can eat them in a wide variety of ways.

For example, people are recently using enoki mushrooms as low carb “noodles”.

They have a thin string shape, and their texture is similar to noodles and spaghetti, so they work well in all kinds of low carb and keto dishes.

But where can we find these mushrooms? How do we cook them? And what are the health benefits?

Let’s take a look.

What Are Enoki Mushrooms?

Picture of Enoki Mushrooms Ready For Cooking

Popularly known as ‘enoki’ for short, the official name for these mushrooms in their homeland is enokitake.

Other common names include ‘golden needle mushroom’ and ‘lily mushrooms’

They are a mainstay of East Asian cuisine and a regular part of the diet in China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.

As you can see in the above image, they are long, thin and resemble the shape of noodles.

Due to their low carbohydrate count, enoki mushrooms are an excellent replacement for spaghetti in Italian dishes. They also make great low carb noodles in Asian-inspired recipes.

Traditionally, people tend to use enoki mushrooms in soup. However, they work well in a wide range of dishes whether cooked or raw.

Key Point: Enokitake mushrooms (enoki for short) are a long, thin fungus that is part of the traditional East-Asian diet. They make a great low carb substitute for noodles and spaghetti.

Nutrition Facts

Here are the nutritional values of enoki mushrooms per 100g (1);

Nutrient Grams / RDA %
Macronutrients
Calories 44 Kcal
Carbohydrate 7.7 grams
Protein 2.6 grams
Fat 0.3 grams
Vitamins
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Vitamin D Variable
Vitamin E 0%
Vitamin K 0%
Thiamin 12%
Riboflavin 10%
Niacin 30%
Vitamin B6 4%
Folate 13%
Vitamin B12 0%
Pantothenic Acid 11%
Minerals
Calcium 0%
Iron 6%
Magnesium 4%
Phosphorus 11%
Potassium 11%
Sodium 0%
Zinc 4%
Copper 5%
Manganese 4%
Selenium 3%

As shown above, enoki mushrooms are low in calories and provide only small amounts of carbs, fat, and protein.

They also contain some beneficial nutrients such as B vitamins and the essential minerals potassium and phosphorus.

Key Point: Enoki mushrooms provide some important micronutrients, but they also offer further benefits than solely their vitamin and mineral content.

Health Benefits

Many types of mushrooms have a long history medicinal use, and enoki mushrooms are no exception.

Primarily, this is due to the biologically active chemical compounds the mushrooms contain such as ergothioneine and proflamin.

1. Ergothioneine

Wild mushrooms are the most prevalent source of the amino acid, Ergothioneine (2);

  • Ergothioneine is a “most unusual amino acid with substantial antioxidant efficacy,” and it helps protect against oxidative stress and free radical damage.

2. Proflamin

Proflamin is another constituent of enoki mushrooms, and studies show it to be a potent anti-tumor agent.

In particular, animal studies show that mice with cancer live an 85% longer lifespan with a proflamin-supplemented diet (3).

Picture of a Girl Wearing a Ribbon to Support the Fight Against Cancer3. Lower Cancer Risk

In addition to the above animal studies, there is an epidemiological study showing a 39% reduced cancer rate in areas of Japan where enoki mushrooms are farmed (4).

Of course, this correlation does not equal causation (i.e. we can’t be sure it was the effect of the mushrooms). However, it is certainly an interesting finding.

These mushrooms also contain a range of health-protective antioxidants, which help lower inflammation and oxidative stress, and therefore reduce cancer risk (5, 6).

4. Anti-Atherosclerotic Properties

Several studies have found compounds in enoki mushrooms inhibit oxidation of LDL cholesterol (7).

As a result, there is a protective effect against atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

However, it is important to note that this particular study used strong extracts of the compounds, so it is not the same as eating the mushrooms in the real world.

5. Immune Boosting Benefits

How Antioxidants Protect Health and Fight Free Radicals

Enoki mushrooms have long been valued in Eastern medicine for their immune boosting properties.

One reason why is their anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-microbial, anti-diabetic and immune-modulating properties (8).

In plain English, this means they protect the body in lots of different ways – from viruses, bacteria, and general illness.

Notably, they support and enhance the entire immune system, which strengthens our immunity against disease (9, 10, 11).

Key Point: Enoki mushrooms have a lot of scientifically verified benefits. However, some of the more impressive results are from studies using powerful extracts.

How to Cook Enoki Mushrooms

Cooking Enoki Mushrooms is Both Simple and Quick

If you are wondering how to prepare enoki mushrooms, it is quite straightforward.

First of all, there are many different ways to use enoki mushrooms; baking, boiling and frying are all possible.

The first step is to cut away the bottom quarter. As you can see in the picture, this part is clumped together rather than in individual stems.

Next, separate the mushrooms from each other and get them ready for cooking.

One of the best things about enokitake is that, similar to rice and cauliflower, they absorb the flavors of the dish.

Boiling

When boiling enoki mushrooms, they only need three or four minutes to become tender and soft.

The mushrooms make an excellent combination with a range of foods, and you can directly add them to curries, stews and soups.

Generally speaking, Asian countries use them in soup and they are like a low carb noodle in these dishes.

Baking

Want to cook some meat or fish in the oven? Just prepare the mushrooms and lay them next to whatever is in the baking tray.

The enokis will go very soft and juicy and take on the flavor of whatever is close.

Frying

Frying enoki mushrooms is simple and only takes a few minutes.

As the mushrooms absorb flavors exceptionally well, frying in some leftover bacon fat or lard gives a delicious taste.

Otherwise, choose an oil suitable for high heat cooking and give them a quick saute for two or three minutes.

If you add a bit of salt, pepper and garlic, it goes a long way in the flavor stakes.

Key Point: There are many different ways to cook enoki mushrooms, but adding them into dishes is probably the best choice.

Enoki Mushroom Recipes

Here are two tasty ideas for cooking with enokitake;

Low Carb Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

Thai Chicken With Low Carb Noodles (Enoki Mushrooms)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup enoki mushrooms
  • 1 pound chicken thigh/breast
  • 1-quart chicken broth
  • 1 medium carrot chopped
  • 1 green onion chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon crushed ginger
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 1/2 fresh squeezed lemon
  • Cilantro (to taste)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

1) Heat the oil in a pan and then add the garlic and green onion, and stir-fry for about 5 minutes.

2) Add everything else, and bring the soup to a boil. After this, cook on a low heat for around 20 minutes to let the flavors infuse.

Bacon-Wrapped Enokis

Picture of Bacon-Wrapped Enoki Mushrooms - Recipe

Ingredients

  • Bacon
  • Enoki mushrooms

1) Wrap the enoki mushrooms in strips of bacon.

2) Roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes

Such a simple recipe, but it tastes great!

You can also substitute the bacon for sliced beef which is another delicious option.

Picture of Enoki Mushrooms and Vegetables Wrapped in Meat

Key Point: Enoki mushrooms are one of the most versatile foods available, and these two sample recipes are just some of the many culinary uses.

Where Can We Buy Enoki Mushrooms?

The first thing to remember is not to buy them from a health food store – you will likely have to pay a huge markup!

In particular, look for a Japanese or general Asian market, and you’ll be able to pick them up for a low price.

These tend to be the same mushrooms as in Whole Foods but at about 25% of the price.

You can also buy them as dried mushrooms.

With dried mushrooms, they need rehydrating in boiling water before using them.

Growing Enoki Mushrooms

Growing Enoki Mushrooms is Easy and Rewarding

If you have the time, then cultivating enoki mushrooms is a fun option.

They are famously easy to grow compared to other mushrooms.

Enoki mushroom cultivation doesn’t require much equipment except for;

  • Plastic bottles
  • Hardwood sawdust
  • Enoki spawn

Any plastic container will do, but it will need cleaning well beforehand to make sure no bacteria is present.

You should be able to find the enoki spawn in a local garden center, or you can even buy it online.

Growing Method

According to this guide, take the following steps to grow your own enoki mushrooms;

  • First, clean the bottles that you intend to use for growing the mushrooms.
  • Next, thoroughly mix the enoki spawn into the hardwood sawdust, before adding the mixture into the plastic bottles.
  • Following this, keep the bottles in a humid environment of around 90°F and at room temperature – approximately 74°F (23°C). Whether the room is dark or light is not of importance.
  • After growing for several weeks, the mushrooms will start to penetrate the mixture. Once they have spread across the top of the base, move the bottles to a cooler area of around 50 – 65°F (10-18°C). Apparently, a refrigerator will do if there is no cold room.
  • As a result of exposure to a lower temperature, the mushrooms will quickly shoot up to become like the typical enoki mushrooms we all recognize. Usually, they will be ready within around 60 days.
Key Point: In contrast to other mushrooms, there is minimal need for equipment when growing enoki mushrooms. The only real commitment is time.

Final Thoughts

Enoki mushrooms are great-tasting, affordable and versatile mushrooms that offer a range of health benefits.

They add to the taste—and absorb the flavor of—dishes they are in, and we can use them as low carb noodles, especially in soups.

For those that haven’t tried them before, they are definitely worth a go.

If you become a fan, you can even grow your own!

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