Sautéed Fiddleheads with Shiitake Mushrooms & Garlic

Jim Robinson

By Jim Robinson

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Fiddleheads with Shiitake Mushrooms and Garlic.

The only thing better than foraging for fiddleheads is getting to use them to make a delicious and unique side dish that comes together in a flash.

That’s exactly what you get with this fiddleheads with shiitake mushrooms and garlic recipe. Savory sauteed garlic and tender shiitakes come together to elevate the green, earthy taste of the fiddleheads. With a flavor similar to roasted asparagus and garlic, this is the veggie side dish you didn’t know you’d love.

This recipe takes just five minutes to whip up once you’ve prepared the fiddleheads. And it complements a wide variety of meals as a versatile side dish. My go-to pairing is Lemon Dill Chicken with Tear and Share Bread.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Super Easy. After preparing the fiddleheads, all you’ll need is one saute pan and five minutes to cook this delicious side. 
  • Forager-Friendly. This recipe is a great way to put your foraged fiddleheads to use. Substitute the shiitakes for local mushrooms and the garlic for hand-foraged ramps, and you have a complete dish straight from nature. 
  • Budget-Friendly. Whether you use all-foraged ingredients or get your produce from the farmer’s market, this simple dish is easy on the wallet.

What Are Fiddleheads?

Fiddlehead is the enduring term for a young fern frond that has yet to unfurl. Unlike much of the rest of the fern plant, these tightly curled fronds are edible. They’re also quite delicious, and one of my favorite plants to forage in the spring.

But be aware, not all fern species produce edible fiddleheads. Ostrich ferns are the most commonly foraged for, but Bracken ferns and lady ferns are also safe choices. If you don’t know how to correctly identify fern species, it’s best to do your fiddleheading at the local farmers market.

Even with safe, edible fiddleheads, you need to take some additional steps to avoid food poisoning. For a reason that has yet to be identified, eating raw fiddleheads often leads to severe digestive upset. Luckily, boiling these odd veggies appears to reduce the risk and make them safe to eat.

Before you boil your fiddleheads, be sure to scrape off any brown scales and trim off the straight portion of the stalk.

Fiddleheads have a flavor similar to roasted asparagus. It’s earthy and green, but not overwhelming. When sauteed, they become pleasantly tender and take on the flavors they’re cooked with.

Fiddleheads with Shiitake Mushrooms and Garlic.

How to Make Fiddleheads with Shiitake Mushrooms

Don’t let the strangeness of fiddleheads scare you off. This recipe is incredibly easy to make. We’ll take a quick look at the key ingredients and then walk through the basic steps for putting this dish together.

Key Ingredients

  • Fiddleheads. Edible ferns grow readily in the woodlands of the Eastern US. Their fiddleheads can be picked wild in the spring or purchased at local farmer’s markets.
  • Shiitake Mushrooms. I prefer shiitakes for this dish because they have a nice meaty texture that plays well with the tenderness of the fiddleheads. Plus, they bring an umami flavor that mixes perfectly with the zesty and earthy flavors in the dish.
  • Garlic. I like to mince half the garlic and rough chop the rest so I get some big chunks in the final dish.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Prep the fiddleheads. Remove any brown scales, rinse under cold water, and boil for 10 minutes.
  2. Saute the ingredients. Add fiddleheads, garlic, mushrooms, and spices to a hot, oiled saute pan.
  3. Cook for 5 minutes. The fiddleheads are ready once they’re tender and starting to brown.

Recipe Tips, Substitutions, and Variations

  • Take time to prep your fiddleheads. Whether you get your fiddleheads at the market or from the forest, you have to properly prepare them. Some foraging guides say you can eat them raw, but to avoid any potential for illness, it’s best to rinse and boil them before consuming.
  • Flip the fiddleheads as you cook. Don’t just stir your pan as the ingredients cook, but make sure to occasionally flip the fiddleheads so they don’t get overcooked on one side.
  • Substitute butter for oil. If you’d rather, you can use butter or vegan butter in place of olive oil at a one-to-one ratio. This gives the final dish a richer flavor.
  • Substitute other wild finds. As I mentioned above, you can substitute wild edible mushrooms for the shiitakes and ramps, field garlic, or garlic mustard for the garlic. 
  • Add a touch of color. When I’ve had a successful day out foraging, I’ll add some fun color to this dish by garnishing it with edible flowers. My favorites for this purpose, flavor-wise, are allium, thyme, arugula, and kale flowers.
Fiddleheads with Shiitake Mushrooms and Garlic.

Storage Recommendations

Fresh fiddleheads should be stored in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them. I always put mine in a paper bag and keep them in the crisper drawer. They’ll typically stay fresh for around five days this way.

Of course, the flavor and texture are better the fresher they are. So, if possible, cook your fiddleheads promptly. 

If you have leftover sauteed fiddleheads, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days. You can reheat them in a saute pan on low with a little butter or oil. Or, for less mess, pop them in the microwave until warmed through.

Serving Suggestions

Like sauteed asparagus, this dish goes well with a variety of different main dishes. Here are a few of my favorite pairings:

Looking for more fun and inspiring recipes for foraged fare? Check out our helpful articles on dead nettle, redbud jelly, and anise hyssop.

Fiddleheads with Shiitake Mushrooms and Garlic.
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Sautéed Fiddleheads with Shiitake Mushrooms

This fiddleheads with shiitake mushrooms and garlic recipe is super simple to make and comes together in less than 20 minutes. The earthy, savory flavor of the fiddleheads blends perfectly with zesty garlic and meaty shiitakes to create a unique spring side that pairs well with a variety of dishes.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: American
Diet: Diabetic, Gluten Free, Low Lactose, Vegan, Vegetarian
Servings: 4
Calories: 143kcal


  • Large pot
  • Colander
  • large saute pan


  • 3 cups fiddleheads fresh
  • 3 tbsp olive oil extra-virgin
  • 3 clove garlic minced
  • 1 ½ cups shiitake mushrooms sliced
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper



  • Trim the ends off the fiddleheads.
  • Rinse the fiddleheads under cold running water, removing any brown scales.
  • Add them to a pot of boiling water and boil for 10 minutes.
  • Strain and set aside.


  • Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.
  • Add fiddleheads, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and sauté for about five minutes or until fiddleheads are tender and start to brown.
  • Serve immediately and enjoy.


It’s important to prepare the fiddleheads carefully and boil them for at least 10 minutes to avoid food-borne illness, which is common with these plants.
Optional toppings for this dish include parmesan, sundried tomatoes, or edible flowers.


Calories: 143kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Sodium: 299mg | Potassium: 464mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 1900IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 1mg

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