Once thought to be just a blight for corn farmers, this unique Mexican delicacy is now a highly sought-after ingredient among high-end chefs, selling for significantly higher prices than the corn it infects.
What is Huitlacoche?
Also known as corn smut, corn mushroom, and Mexican truffle, huitlacoche (pronounced “ui·tla·KO·che”) is a fungal plant disease that forms on the ears of corn. It’s considered a delicacy in Mexican cuisine, owing to its deeply savory flavor, and sporadic availability.
Huitlacoche’s culinary uses date almost as far back as that of corn itself. Aztecs and other Native American peoples regularly consumed the corn fungus for centuries. Indigenous tribes in the Southwest, in particular, held huitlacoche in high regard and used it for culinary, medicinal, and ceremonial purposes.
For most of history, huitlacoche remained relatively unknown outside of South America. But its popularity in the United States has begun to grow over the last few decades as a result of more and more chefs incorporating the delicacy in their menus. Today, huitlacoche can be found in many Mexican groceries, specialty food stores, and even farmers’ markets.
Huitlacoche is mild in flavor with complex undertones. It has the earthy savoriness of black truffles combined with the sweet and buttery taste of corn. Its rich flavor is rounded out by a slight tanginess reminiscent of aged cheese.
You can use huitlacoche to bring depth to stews, sauces, salads, and more. It pairs just as well with meaty and rich flavors as it does fresh and sharp ones. Try adding huitlacoche to Carne Guisada to add more meaty, rich flavors to this delicious dish.
To add it to savory dishes the Mexican way, sauté huitlacoche with onions, chilis, and epazote or cilantro. The bluish gray mushrooms will break down into a deep inky black. Use this savory mixture as a sauce for chicken, beef, or eggs. You can also stuff it into a rich and cheesy quesadilla complemented with a side of zingy salsa.