Smoky Mexican Oyster Mushroom Soup

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Smoky Mexican Oyster Mushroom Soup with Chipotles
Smoky Mexican Oyster Mushroom Soup with Chipotles

Smoky Mexican
Oyster Mushroom Soup

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The overbearing capsaicin-induced machismo that surrounds the world of chili peppers eclipses their more important culinary role; they're not just used for adding heat. Of course, a pepper can be both hot and flavourful; Scotch bonnets are beloved by Caribbean cooks for their one-two punch of fruity flavour and face-melting heat. But there are a lot of people who either don't like, or aren't accustomed to a lot of spice and many of the will avoid hot peppers, or use the only sparingly, which unfortunately shuts out a whole world of tastes. Different peppers have different flavour profiles, and when they've been smoked, that flavour can be incredibly distinctive and rather pronounced. Plus, some chili peppers contribute little or no heat, making them safe for even the most spice-averse.

If you want to make good Mexican food, you have to embrace the use of different chili peppers. To reiterate, that doesn't mean that you need to love fiery heat (but hey, if you do, go nuts). But the flavour differences between guajillo, arbol, and poblano peppers (to name a few) are so pronounced that they are all capable of bringing completely different characteristics to a meal. Case in point, this smoky soup, redolent with the unmistakable flavour of dried chipotle peppers. Chipotles are mature (red) jalapenos that have been smoke-dried. They contribute some heat, and a great deal of smoky, earthy flavour (for more on the peppers themselves, see the Recipe Notes below). This soup is based on a recipe from Maricel Presilla's seminal cookbook "Gran Cocina Latina." The original recipe hails from Veracruz Mexico, an area where mushrooms grow wild and well. My variation uses primarily the same ratio of ingredients, but a very different method of preparation, including pureed onions and pan-fried mushrooms.

There's a lot to love about this soup. It builds big flavours from a small number of ingredients, it's easy to put together, and it's vegan (though you can certainly use good chicken stock in place of the vegetable stock - homemade, ideally). It's also a great example of how Mexican food can and does embrace ingredients well beyond the repertoire that most of us are familiar with. Northern Mexican food and is over-represented in the US (and Canada), which is unsurprising given the long shared border. Mushrooms do not grow particularly well in the arid heat of the region, and they don't tend to feature prominently in dishes from the region. But in the cooler, wetter, and more mountainous central regions of Mexico, mushrooms are well-loved and widely used. Oyster mushrooms (oreja de cazahuate or hongos ostra in Spanish) are particularly appreciated for their firm texture and mild flavour.  Take it from me (a reformed mushroom-hater) - they're very easy to like.

As a final note, I want to make a little appeal to you.  Try this soup - or something like it. I realize that's a bit odd to say, but I also recognize that when we encounter particularly unfamiliar or unconventional-sounding foods, they can seem approachable. But I promise you, this is both easy to make, and incredibly worthwhile. It's one of those dishes that stays with you.  It's so different and so powerful, yet mellow and easy to enjoy.  It's also ridiculously healthy - which is good, because you're going to want to have four bowls.

Smoky Mexican Oyster Mushroom Soup with Chipotles

Recipe Notes

This is not a difficult meal to make, nor are the techniques particularly intensive. As such, most of the tips I can give are based around the finding and using the ingredients.


Note that this recipe calls for dried chipotle peppers, and not chipotles in adobo sauce. Dried chipotles are generally available at Mexican and Latin American grocery stores, and may be available in well-stocked specialty grocery stores as well.

There are two very distinctive varieties of chipotle pepper commonly found - purple-black, glossy morita peppers, and dusty brown chile meco peppers.  Depending on the market you go to, the former may be labeled simply as moritas, omitting the word chipotle entirely.  Morita peppers are smoked for a shorter period of time, making them fruitier and a little less smoky. They are common in Northern Mexico, and because of the aforementioned prominence of that cuisine in the USA, they tend to be the most commonly available chipotles.  Chile meco peppers (which are generally considered the 'true' chipotle pepper) are more common in Central and Southern Mexico, but less common outside of the country.  I used chile meco chipotles for this dish, but either variety will work. If you can't get dried chipotles, you might be able to find chipotle powder, but you'll have to use your imagination to make up for the lack of soaking liquid (perhaps a little extra dissolved in water could help). Chipotles in adobo would create a very different character for this soup, but you could try experimenting with them. Do not use an un-smoked dried pepper.

I take the seeds and membranes out of the rehydrated chilies to reduce the heat, but you can leave them in if you want the final dish to be spicier.

Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms are increasingly common in well-stocked grocery stores and green grocers. Look for firm mushrooms with good, clean edges. Slimy or ragged edges on the mushrooms indicate that they're past their prime or that they've been mishandled quite a bit.

Hen-of-the-woods mushrooms (also called maitake in Japanese) would make an excellent substitute.  For a different look but similar (somewhat nuttier) flavour and texture, you could also use brown shimeji mushrooms.  If you're a big mushroom fan, you could probably use sliced crimini/button mushrooms as well, though the texture and flavour will differ pretty substantially.


Epazote is an herb that has a prominent role in Mexican cooking, but remains poorly known north of the border.  The plant is closely related to lamb's quarters, and it grows like a weed (and is considered a weed in some places).  It has a clean, penetrating, distinctive flavour that is difficult to describe; it is often compared to cilantro because of the bright and penetrating flavour, but the two have very little in common.  It can be difficult to obtain fresh, but can generally be found in its dried and crushed/chopped form in Mexican and Latin grocery stores.  Unfortunately, the dried version does not contribute as much to a dish - I used dried because I couldn't get fresh, but if you can get fresh, I urge you to get as much as you can.  If you're feeling particularly dedicated to bringing your Mexican cooking to the next level, consider growing it in a home garden or a small pot.  As I mentioned, it grows VERY well.

Bean Variation

Because mushrooms don't pack a big nutritional punch (they're low in calories and protein), you could add white beans or navy beans to add some substance to the soup.  Add canned or home-cooked beans to the strained soup before the mushrooms and simmer for an extra 5-10 minutes.

Smoky Mexican Oyster Mushroom Soup with Chipotles

Nutrional information is given for a single serving (1/6th of the total recipe).

Nutrition Facts
Smoky Mexican Oyster Mushroom Soup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 103 Calories from Fat 45
% Daily Value*
Fat 5g8%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Sodium 487mg21%
Potassium 446mg13%
Carbohydrates 13g4%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 3g6%
Vitamin A 1100IU22%
Vitamin C 5mg6%
Calcium 30mg3%
Iron 2.3mg13%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Nutritional Summary

This manages to be very flavourful while remaining extremely low in fat and calories. You can easily eat seconds or thirds with zero guilt.

If anything, this is so low in calories that it doesn't really make a meal of itself, but that's being pretty picky. See the note above on adding beans if you're interested in making this a bit more substantial.

Ingredient Pages

No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe.  Like to see one?  Let me know in the comments below or by email.

Pantry Pages

  • Vegan
  • Gluten free
Smoky Mexican Oyster Mushroom Soup
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5 from 3 votes

Smoky Mexican Oyster Mushroom Soup

Oyster mushrooms and smoky chipotles come together to make a memorable, delicious, and very simple Mexican soup that's both vegan and gluten-free.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Soaking Time (Chilies)20 minutes
Total Time55 minutes
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican, North American
Keyword: gluten-free, healthy, mexican mushroom soup, oyster mushroom soup, vegan, vegan mexican soup
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 103kcal


  • 6 cups vegetable stock (preferably low-sodium)
  • 1 cup water
  • 14 oz oyster mushrooms
  • 1/8 tsp thyme
  • 2 chipotle peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 large white onion
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil divided into 1 tbsp portions
  • 1 tbsp dried epazote see note


  • Heat a heavy pan (or comal) over medium heat. Add the chipotle peppers and toast for 2 minutes, turning occasionally. Place the toasted chilies in a small bowl and cover with warm water. Set aside to soak for 20 minutes.
  • Place the dried epazote in a small bowl with 2 tbsp of warm water and set aside. If you have access to fresh epazote, you can skip this step and add the epazote as-is below.
  • Gently wash the mushrooms, removing any overly soft or badly damaged bits. Cut the individual mushrooms from the central 'stem' portion. If any of the mushrooms are particularly large you can cut them into pieces, but bear in mind that they will decrease in size when cooked. Set the mushrooms aside and keep the cleaned central stem/stalk to flavour the soup.
  • Trim the stems from the soaked chipotle peppers and remove the seeds (you can halve the peppers to do this). Add the chipotles, onions, garlic, and epazote (and soaking liquid) to a food processor. Add 1/4 cup of the liquid from soaking the chipotle peppers. Puree thoroughly. (Note that the woodier part of the epazote will not blend, but don't worry - you're going to strain this mixture later). If you're having trouble blending everything thoroughly, add a little bit of vegetable stock to the food processor.
  • Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the pureed mixture from the previous step and saute for 4-5 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, 1 cup of water, bay leaves, and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Add the remaining 1 tbsp of oil to another large pot and heat over medium-high. Add the mushrooms and saute until softened and browned; about 2-3 minutes. Strain the soup and pour it into the mushroom pot (this will deglaze the bottom of the pan and keep all the flavours together). Serve immediately, as is, or garnished with a little cilantro. (Note that using two large pots allows you to quickly strain the soup and continue cooking. If you don't have two large pots or dutch ovens, you can strain the soup, then cook the mushrooms in a pan, deglaze the pan with some of the soup, and add everything back into the original pot.)


Note that this recipe calls for dried chipotle peppers, and not chipotles in adobo sauce. Dried chipotles are generally available at Mexican and Latin American grocery stores, and may be available in well-stocked specialty grocery stores as well.
Dried epazote is generally available at Mexican and Latin grocery stores. If you can find fresh epazote - use it. It's better.


Calories: 103kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 487mg | Potassium: 446mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1100IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 30mg | Iron: 2.3mg

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    1. Author

      Thank you so much Justine! It’s a really different, but very easy-to-love soup. I hope it goes well when you do give it a shot!

  1. We’ve been talking about adding a side soup to most meals. My husband and I love soup. Unfortunately, our four year old doesn’t love it as much. Side soup to the rescue! This looks like a perfect soup to rotate for us. To pack in nutrition, I would use a bone broth. Would you recommend a beef, chicken, or pork broth?

    1. Author

      I totally hear you. I’m always trying to figure out what to feed a four-year-old too. He’s pretty adventurous, but there are more than a few foods off the table. I think a bone broth would work marvelously, and I would VERY much recommend chicken. Beef would be too strong, and pork, while very interesting, would change the character of the dish quite a bit. In any case, I hope you have fun with it. Cheers for sides.

  2. This post? Pure glee!!! I adore chilies of all sorts & love their unique flavors. This soup is marvelous! Bravo!!

    1. Author

      Thank you so much Gwen! It’s such a delight to make and eat, and it’s so wonderfully simple to boot. I’m glad it struck a chord with you!

    1. Author

      Thanks Karen! It’s nice to have a smoky recipe that also happens to be vegan. Tough to get that good smoky flavour into non-meat dishes at times.

    1. Author

      Thanks Carmy! I hope you got a chance to give it a stab, and I hope it worked well for you!

  3. I’m a huge mushroom lover so this soup immediately spoke to me. Unfortunately there’s no way I would find epazote here in Sudbury but maybe on my next trip to Toronto. You always have the most interesting recipes! I’m certainly missing out on having access to all these new flavours.

    1. Author

      I’ve found epazote grown here in Vancouver and sold at farmer’s markets. Apparently it grows like a weed. In fact it’s quite closely related to lamb’s quarters, which IS a weed! If you strike out looking for it in TO, you can look for good dried epazote online too. If it’s good quality, the dried stuff can be quite good, as I’ve learned from drying my own! Glad you’re enjoying this and the other recipes – and don’t despair on missing certain ingredients. You’d be amazed what starts to pop up when you start looking for underappreciated and odd food, and online shopping has made a lot of this stuff WAY more accessible than it would have been in the past. Good luck!

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