Home » Food Info » Huitlacoche (Corn Smut) – A Prized Mushroom Delicacy!

Huitlacoche (Corn Smut) – A Prized Mushroom Delicacy!

Have you ever wondered what a delicacy called Huitlacoche would taste like if it was from a fungus? Huitlacoche, also known as corn smut or corn mushrooms.

It’s a corn fungus that grows on stalks of corn with a fungal plant disease. Now I know it doesn’t sound so appetizing but hear me out.

cuitlacoche huitlacoche

It has a mild earthy flavor mixed with corn taste, and just like truffles, it is prized for what flavors it brings into a dish.

It is commonly found in Mexican cuisine. Not a lot of chefs have the opportunity to handle this ingredient and not many culinary experts even know about this.

Dating back to the Aztecs, they use the kernels of corn also known as maize with huitlacoche, and is used in many dishes as fresh huitlacoche is a prized spore.

But where does huitlacoche come from? Why did the ancient Aztec civilization love to harvest this fungus? And what culinary uses does it have? Let’s find out together!

What Is Huitlacoche?

huitlacoche quesadillas

As mentioned previously, huitlacoche or cuitlacoche, also known as corn smut is a fungus that grows on corn cobs. The blue-black spores form galls on all of the above-ground parts of the corn.

The name comes from Nahuatl, a dialect spoken in a valley found in Central Mexico. Huitlacoche is known to derive from the word “cuicatl” meaning to sing.

The rainy or windy season helps spread out the huitlacoche fungus around. Though it mainly comes from Oaxaca it is distributed throughout the country and even in the U.S. where huitlacoche is hard to find they are preserved in cans.

It infects the corn on any part that grows above ground. It grows tumor-like galls and is known to have mushroom-like characteristics.

This results in blue-black spores spreading around the corn which gives it a burnt appearance.

What Does Huitlacoche Taste Like?

huitlacoche in english

The huitlacoche will lessen the yield of corn. A warm period of time followed by heavy rains is said to be the seasonality in which this fungus grows. And while the galls are still edible, the crops that they infect are often destroyed.

Though farmers use them to prepare silage. The galls should be in an immature state to retain much of their moisture or else they will become dry and spore-filled.

The immature huitlacoche has a nutty, smoky, and earthy flavor profile which is often compared to mushrooms. This is the reason they are known as Mexican truffles.

Health Benefits Of Huitlacoche And Its Uses

huitlacoche mexico

The huitlacoche contains the amino acid called lysine. It is an essential amino acid that the body needs but cannot manufacture.

Lysine is needed for converting fatty acids into energy and it also helps the body lower cholesterol. Native Americans, including the Zuni, are known to use huitlacoche to induce labor as well. (Source: USDA)

Because of its taste, the versatile huitlacoche found a lot of uses in Mexican cuisine. It is often found on local menus that serve soups, tacos, salsas, tamales, and even sauces.

It can also be mixed with epazote (a Mexican aromatic herb) and chorizo to make special omelets.

Where you saute the huitlacoche in fat from the chorizo with other ingredients to make it taste like a mild truffle.

But one of its most popular use is in quesadillas. where it is turned into a hearty filling for the quesadilla.

How To Prepare Huitlacoche


This edible fungus is easy to use. Since it is considered a vegetable, you can eat it raw. And because it has a soft texture you won’t have trouble chewing it.

But if you want to use it for cooking, you can sautee them whole, tear them apart, or chop them up, and season them with salt and pepper. You can then add them to your favorite Mexican dish.

Just don’t get shocked when the fungus begins to darken as applying heat to it gives it a darker color. This is a signature characteristic of the ingredient.

Huitlacoche Recipes

fresh huitlacoche

Now that we’ve given you some general knowledge about this blue mushroom-like fungi, you’re probably wondering what specific recipe can you use it for.

You don’t have to look far and wide because we have provided you examples of dishes we already have to help guide you on what dishes the Mexican truffle is good for.

Here are a few of them:

If you’re still in doubt about what huitlacoche is good for, don’t be scared to experiment. It is after all still a mushroom, or at least close to it.

Follow your cooking instincts and your taste buds and you will learn how to prepare this delicacy.

Huitlacoche In A Can And Storage Tips

Huitlacoche can be found in most Mexican specialty stores. It can be found in cans and is soaked in oil with spices.

It can also be found frozen, dried, or even in jars. This makes huitlacoche very easy to find and convenient to use.

But if you happen to see fresh huitlacoche go for it. If you have to pick the fungus yourself always pick the light-colored ones with a spongey feel. Also, pick the ones that grow on the cobs, not the stalks.

For storage, if you bought your corn smut in a can or jar, just keep them in a tightly covered container and keep them in the fridge.

The same goes for frozen and dried as well (just keep them in the bag). This will keep for a week up to 10 days.

Huitlacoche Symbolism

The Aztecs discovered this amazing fungus and how to use them. They integrated this into their diet as well as corn.

They would often incorporate this ingredient in their stews, tamales, and other dishes.

But aside from its flavor it also has affected their beliefs. The fungus’ seasonality and the way it grows on corn made the Aztecs treasure it more.

It is said that corn is food for the gods. And when Huitlacoche grew it was a gift from the gods as well.


Huitlacoche is grown largely in Puebla and Oaxaca. Located in Central and Southern Mexico respectively. There are a lot of farmers and suppliers in Oaxaca where you can get your fresh, dried, frozen huitlacoche.

A lot of Mexico’s indigenous people are found in Oaxaca. And even the Nahuatl dialect is found here. Corn is also a staple in their cuisine as well as in agriculture. 



Yes! It is often used as fillings for quesadillas and tamales. You can also find it in other popular Mexican dishes such as salsa, omelets, and even sauces.


It is a prized delicacy in Mexico and it is known as “Mexican truffles”. It has a mushroom-like texture, with a smoky, nutty, woody flavor.


Aside from it having good taste, it is very symbolic to ancient Mexican people. It is known to symbolize “the generation of life”.

As such it was used for medicinal purposes, ceremonial events, and culinary strides.

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