If you’ve ever eaten magic mushrooms — and let’s face it, you likely have if you’re reading this article — then you’re well aware that they taste like a combination of 100-year-old sunflower seeds and dehydrated packing peanuts. They’re horrific. Which explains why for as long as people have been taking psilocybin mushrooms, they’ve been pairing them with some type of food to make the drugs go down easier. The first time I had magic mushrooms, I ate them between bites of a fried chicken breast. I don’t recommend it.
The lack of consensus around what foods pair well with mushrooms is why mycology expert Dr. K. Mandrake (who has a doctorate in mycology) teamed up with writer and editor Virginia Haze to create the Psilocybin Chef Cookbook, a beginner’s guide to the brave new world of psychedelic cuisine. The duo wrote the Psilocybin Chef Cookbook after fans of their first book, The Psilocybin Mushroom Bible: The Definitive Guide to Growing and Using Magic Mushrooms, took an interest in some of the food-pairing recommendations included at the end of the book.
“Both K and I are really massive kitchen fiends,” Haze told me over the phone. “I really wanted to look into the cooking side of things because I’ve been taking shrooms for too long, I really just can’t chew them without wanting to vomit… and that’s not a good way to start a trip.”
The pair recently hosted a live cooking demonstration with Double Blind Mag and we linked up afterwards to talk the basics of cooking with psilocybin. Over the course of the discussion, we talked about dosing, flavor pairings, and Dr. K and Virginia provided us with a recipe for “Grilled Cheese Shroomwiches” from their book.
Let’s dive in to the world of psilocybin cooking!
Dr. K/Virginia Haze
PART I: The Interview
Before we get into questions about cooking, it’s important we talk about dosing. It’s so delicate, what are guidelines to follow for the unexperienced?
Dr. K: Start slow and start low. You can always have a little more, second chocolate, or a second edible, but it is a really personal thing and set and setting are so important. You hear these people advocating for huge heroic doses, like the equivalent of five dried grams or more, in the book we start with a tenth of that, which is what most people would consider the high end of a microdose or a very low dose.
We don’t want people to think they have to take these incredibly high doses every time. We’ve made allowances for people to add more if they want, but we always suggest that people start low.
Virginia: For every recipe, there is the ability to double up but how strong a dose feels is so reliant on a number of different things. If you’ve slept, how much you’ve eaten in the day, whether you’re stressed out, whether you’re hydrated, how hot it is, how humid it is. As Dr. K said, you can always take more, but you can’t take less.
I remember one of the first times I took .5 of a dose, which is really low, and I was just so out of it for the entire night and it must’ve just been my particular circumstance that day, but I never assumed it could’ve been that trippy, so we kind of work off that basis.
Dr. K: And we work with just Psilocybin cubensis, which is the species a lot of people would grow at home, it’s a commonly cultivated species, there is a bit of variation of potency, but it’s more consistent to work with one species.
Dr. K/Virginia Haze
In the cannabis world tolerance is so affected by frequency of use, weight, your digestion, is it the same for ingesting mushrooms? Does a standard exist for a microdose of psilocybin?
Dr. K: Maybe a tenth of what you would consider a regular dose for you. The entire point is that it shouldn’t be perceptible. You should feel normal, you shouldn’t feel the walls breathing, and you shouldn’t feel… not straight, if you know what I mean. As you say, dosing is so hard to get ahold of, again we say start at your lowest. Take a tenth of what would be your lowest dose normally and see how you feel on that.
If you’re not getting the effects that you want — which with microdosing is usually a reduction of anxiety — you can always double up.
It’s important to start low, because you’re always trying to work with that sub-perceptual effect. If you feel it you’ve gone too far. You want to start low and work your way up to that level. If you’re going to push it do it on a day you’re not so busy. A day where having the full-blown psychedelic experience wouldn’t be too much of a problem.
What’s the best delivery system for psilocybin? Is it steeping it in liquid, baking it, raw, is there a better way or one that you’ve found agrees with the effects more?
Dr K: The way that is best is the way that works for you. Overall your mindset on this is really going to be affected by how you choose to dose yourself. What I personally like is some of the extractions from the book. You’re having a drink, so it’s very light and there isn’t any material to digest it, the onset is quite quick, I find it quite clean.
Virginia: I like the alcoholic extraction the best, just because I can put it in a dropper bottle and throw it in my freezer and it’ll last for ages. It’s really easy to microdose with it and freeze it into cubes of orange juice and throw it in your juice in the morning. It’s not like cannabis in the sense that if you smoke the same strain of cannabis and you put it in an edible and you do dabs with it, it’ll affect you in a noticeably different way, that’s not really applicable with shrooms. It’s whatever fits into your life the best.
Dr. K/Virginia Haze
Can you pair shrooms with alcohol or wine? Does that infringe on the experience or muddy it in some way?
Virginia: Well, the alcohol extraction is really a small amount of alcohol. You wouldn’t feel the effects of the alcohol unless you had it with an additional amount of cocktails. People come to shrooms from a variety of different backgrounds and communities, some really lean into a cultural and spiritual side of things. Those people would see it as sullying the experience, even if it was just a little bit of alcohol. We respect that, it’s just not really how our culture around shrooms works. Personally, I think when mixing alcohol with any kind of stimulant or mind-altering substance you should always be really careful, but saying that, we would have a beer while we took shrooms, so for us making a mild cocktail is just as enjoyable.
Dr. K: I think people should definitely proceed with caution if it’s something they’ve never done before. When you mix multiple drugs together, regardless of what they are, there are a lot of different outcomes you can get from that depending on when and how you take each one. With the simple ethanol extraction though, we’re looking at like a milliliter of alcohol so that’s not enough for anyone who wants to drink really. Some people will want to be totally pure about it, and in those cases we provide recipes for those people but we also provide recipes for small to medium amounts of alcohol for cocktail-like recipes.
Are there any specific ingredients that lessen or heighten the effects of mushrooms?
Dr. K: We try and be guided by what research is out there but unfortunately there is very little research about this brave new world of psychedelics. We work with some tried and tested ones, like ginger, which in particular is an antiemetic, so if people get nausea, ginger is an established antiemetic and reduces nausea.
Virginia: Citrus juice, but I don’t know how much of that is based in science and how much is anecdotal. The general idea is that when you ingest psilocybin your body turns it into psilocin, and that’s what brings the magic. The idea is that if you put shrooms or shroom material into a lemon juice or a lime juice it already begins that process for you, so by the time you ingest it it’ll already have done a bit of the work, which will get you higher quicker. That’s what lemon tek is, which is basically putting mushroom material in lemon juice and chugging it, which is effective but kind of horrific. It’s also why we use lime juice in our truffles.
If you’re spacing out a little bit too much, or further than you’d like to go, there is an anecdote that sugar can help to bring you back to yourself a little bit.
Dr. K: Yeah most of the stuff that we work with in this area is pretty anecdotal. Ultimately, no one is going to fund the study of the effectiveness of lemon juice in a psychoactive experience, but if they are, I know two people who could lead that study and write it up!
Dr. K/Virginia Haze
On that subject is there some type of food-related psilocybin study you’d be specifically interested in?
Virginia: Proper scientific peer-reviewed research into whether or not heat degrades psilocybin. This is something we wrote about in the book, it remains a huge bone of contention within the psilocybin community, some people very strongly feel that it does degrade psilocybin, so you shouldn’t put mushrooms into anything that you’re going to bake and you shouldn’t heat it for an extended period of time but there is no evidence for either way!
In the book, we’ve provided a bunch of recipes that are no-cook ingredients, like our cheesecake, but we do have things like brownies because it could be true! I’d love to put that to bed with science.
Dr. K: With the heat thing as well, it’s on a continuum. How much heat do you add-in? How long are you heating it for, it’s not just as soon as the thing comes near heat its over, that’s definitely not the case. It may not be the strongest dose, so you may get a little loss of potency but it doesn’t render it completely inactive. Having some data on that would be great, as well as the effectiveness of lemon tea.
Do you have any favorite flavor pairings?
Virginia: Molecular gastronomy works on the idea that flavors that are similar on a molecular level work well together, no matter how strange they appear. Parsely and white chocolate, chili and cinnamon, the pairing that we’ve played on with this in mind is blueberries and shrooms.
They complement each other in a way that is difficult to understand until you experience it. We came upon the idea of doing it in a risotto, because it’s slightly acidic, it really worked well as a platform for that flavor pairing.
Dr. K: When it comes to dried mushrooms, we use earthy flavors like dark chocolate, that strong intense flavor works with the earthy notes of the mushrooms, but then we have things like lime juice and it’ll just cut straight through and completely mask the flavor. A chocolate recipe with elements of citrus and dark chocolate has a lot going on that your brain doesn’t really register mushroom material.
That’s the first recipe I played with — ginger and lime chocolate truffles. It’s something we’ve used in the first and second book.
Dr. K/Virginia Haze
On that subject, recipes, what’s a good recipe to start off? What do you recommend for the person who has never made food with psilocybin?
Virginia: I think I would always recommend people start off with the ginger and lime chocolate truffles. It’s a fun process, it lets you get a little bit messy, but they also look really cool at the end of the day. They’ve very inconspicuous and they last for a long time. I have some in my fridge that are at least a year old, they won’t be the most potent in the world but they’ll still work.
Dr. K: The chocolate is pretty good because it gives you the sense that you’ve created something. All of the drinks recipes are also very straight forward. The smoothies, or the juice-based recipes, we have a nice one that works with beetroot and apple juice, and it’s based on The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. They used to put their acid in kool-aid, we went with that bright color and made this purple beetroot based smoothie/juice. It drinks like a house drink, its just got a little psychedelic edge to it.
Virginia: We also have a really good grilled cheese recipe.
PART II: The Recipe
Dr. K/Virginia Haze
Grilled Cheese Shroomwich
4 slices good-quality sourdough
200 grams of your favorite cheese; we used Camembert and Shropshire blue (because we’re British) but you could use whatever you want.
2 tablespoons red onion marmalade 1 gram of ground shrooms
good quality butter
Prep time : 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Butter the bread.
Top two of the slices of bread with the cheese.
Top each cheese layer with half of the ground shrooms.
Spread the other two slices of bread with the marmalade.
Press together one cheese slice and one marmalade slice to make a sandwich and butter the outsides of the bread.
Repeat with the other slices to make a second sandwich.
Heat a griddle pan and fry each sandwich on each side for 3–4 minutes
Slice and serve with a side salad, pickles and a cold beer.
Recipe taken from The Psilocybin Chef Cookbook Dr. K Mandrake & Virginia Haze