Winter Tonic Mushroom Soup

Lisa Ganora, Director, CSCH.

Can be made either vegan or paleo.

This soup is both a rich, tasty food and a medicinal extraction of tonic mushrooms (Shiitake and Reishi) combined with Burdock and Astragalus roots: a great winter tonic to build immunity (with immunomodulating polysaccharides – IP –  from the Astragalus, and both IP and triterpenes from the mushrooms) and feed the friendly microbes (with inulins from the Burdock) that help ensure optimal utilization of nutrients and overall health. Garlic and Onions add more inulins and beneficial sulfur compounds for immunity and detoxification; Ginger warms the soup with anti-inflammatory constituents that stoke the digestive fires; Parsley, Nettles and Kelp contribute a rich supply of minerals and antioxidant flavonoids. The Coconut milk adds some delicious, high-quality fat to sustain energy and to aid absorption of fat-soluble nutrients and vitamins, and the beans contribute body and protein. You can add vegetable stock for more flavor and nutrients. The basic stock recipe is vegan; you can also substitute bone broth for a paleo-style soup. There’s no reason you can’t also add some kind of meat (e.g., roasted chicken) and extra root veggies like carrots, beets, or turnips to the finished broth if you want a more proteinaceous product.

This is basically a two-day creation; it takes one day to decoct the Reishi, Astragalus, and Burdock and soak the Shiitake. On the second day, we’ll add the mineral-rich herbs, sauté the rehydrated Shiitake along with the Ginger, Onions, Garlic, then add the Coconut milk and cooked White beans. We can then puree some of our soup and add it back in for a creamier texture.

Ingredients (makes about 10-15 servings)

  • For decoction:
    • ~ 60 grams (~ 2 oz.) dried Astragalus root slices
    • ~ 60 grams (~ 2 oz.) dried Reishi mushroom slices
    • ~ 60 grams (~ 2 oz.) dried Burdock root (standard c/s = cut & sifted size)
  • ~ 90 – 120 grams (~ 3-4 oz.) dried Shiitake mushrooms
  • ~ 4 L of water (~ 4 quarts) spring or filtered water
  • ~ 2 L vegetable broth for vegan version or bone broth for paleo version
  • Dried herbs:
    • ~ 30 grams (~ 1 oz.) of dried Nettles leaf, c/s
    • ~ 15 grams (~ ½ oz.) of dried Parsley leaf, c/s
    • ~ 15 grams (~ ½ oz.) of dried Kelp, broken up as desired
  • To sauté:
    • 2 medium Red Onions
    • 1 large bulb (not just a clove) of Garlic
    • ~ 1 oz. fresh Ginger
    • 3-4 Tbsp. Coconut oil
    • 2 cans of full-fat virgin/unrefined Coconut milk
  • Added at the end:
    • Another can or two of Coconut milk
    • 3-4 cans of pre-cooked white beans: I like to use Butter Beans.
    • Salt and Black Pepper to taste, 1-3 tsp. of each
    • For a spicier soup, add ½ to 1 tsp. of Red Pepper flakes

Day One

First, we’ll make a decoction of the tougher ingredients: Reishi mushroom, Burdock root and Astragalus root. These can be simmered (not boiled) in water for quite a long time (hours, or even all day) to release their nutrients. Start them the day before you make the main soup.

  • ~ 60 grams (~ 2 oz.) dried Astragalus root slices
  • ~ 60 grams (~ 2 oz.) dried Burdock root (standard cut & sifted size)
  • ~ 60 grams (~ 2 oz.) dried Reishi mushroom slices
  • ~ 4 L of water (~ 4 quarts) spring or filtered water
  1. Pre-heat water to light simmering temperature (I like to use an electric kettle).
  2. Add Reishi, Astragalus, Burdock, and the hot water to a stockpot, and simmer lightly, uncovered, so that about half of water will gradually evaporate. Mark the original water level on the outside of the stockpot with a Sharpie® (wipes off with alcohol). Then mark ~ half that; when your water level reaches the half mark, you’re finished decocting.
  3. This will take about 3-4 hours … keep an eye on your water levels, and turn off the heat when you reach the half mark.
  4. When finished decocting, strain the stock to remove Reishi and Astragalus pieces – they are tough/fibrous and not so good to eat – and return them with thanks to the Earth or your compost. You can remove or leave the Burdock pieces in the soup (although it can be hard to separate them out). They’re soft enough to eat and still somewhat tasty.
  5. You now have ~ 2 Liters of Reishi/Astragalus/Burdock decoction, rich in beneficial phytochemicals including immunomodulating polysaccharides (IP) and inulins that feed the beneficial microbiota in our GI systems and support the immune system. (If time is an issue, you can refrigerate this for a day or two, or freeze it for later use).
  6. Add another 2 Liter or quart of pre-made, warmed vegetable broth to make a vegan base for the soup; for the paleo version, add the same amount of warm bone broth.

At the end of the day, add the dried Shiitake mushrooms.

While the stock is still warm, toss in ~ 90-120 grams (~ 3-4 oz.) dried Shiitake caps (break the tough stems off before adding caps). Cover the pot, and soak the Shiitake mushrooms in the stock overnight to rehydrate them. A nice long soak really brings out the savory ‘umami’ flavor.

Day Two

On the second day, we’ll add nutritional herbs (Nettles, Parsley, Kelp) and sauté the Ginger, Garlic, Onions, and rehydrated Shiitake. Then we’ll add the Coconut milk and cooked beans, and puree some of this mixture to make the soup creamy. If you want to add other root veggies (Carrots, Turnips, etc.) you can do that too. This part takes about an hour.

  1. Fish the rehydrated Shiitake out of the stock. Squeeze out excess water. Set them aside in a bowl.
  2. Put the stockpot back on low heat to simmer.
  3. Next, add mineral-rich dried herbs (Nettles, Kelp and Parsley) to the stock. Rub the dried herbs between your hands as you add them to the pot, for a smoother texture.
    • ~ 30 grams (~ 1 oz.) of dried Nettles leaf, c/s
    • ~ 15 grams (~ ½ oz.) of dried Parsley leaf, c/s
    • ~ 15 grams (~ ½ oz.) of dried Kelp, broken up as desired

Using the herbs this way adds a rich supply of minerals and trace minerals to the soup, as well as antioxidant flavonoids and some earthy and savory flavor. Simmer and stir for few minutes.

  1. If you want to add some Fall root veggies and simmer them in the stock until they’re al dente, do so now. Add a little more water if needed. Let them simmer while you do the following steps.
  2. Slice the Shiitake if desired, or use them whole.
  3. Mince the Garlic and Ginger, and chop the Onions.
  4. Put ~ 3 Tbsp. of Coconut oil and ~ 1 Tbsp. Black Pepper into a large skillet, and sauté the Onions, Garlic, and Ginger together for 10 minutes or so.
  5. Add the Shiitake and sauté for another 10-15 minutes.
  6. Add two cans of organic virgin full-fat Coconut milk to your skillet and heat it back up to simmering again.
  7. When it smells perfect, use a ladle and spatula to scrape all of the contents of the sauté pan back into the stockpot with the soup.
  8. Add another can or two of full-fat Coconut milk to the stockpot.
  9. Open 3-4 cans of white beans, drain and rinse. Then add them to the stockpot.
  10. Warm the whole thing back up again, add Salt and more Black or Red Pepper to taste.
  11. Let the whole thing simmer for a little while more to harmonize the ingredients.
  12. Take about 1/3 of the soup out and puree it in a blender or food processor, then add the moosh back in for a thicker texture.