Real huitlacoche, in all its spooky beauty

I was so excited to find this yesterday: a piece of huitlacoche, real huitlacoche, with the corncob still attached!

Usually vendors in Mexico sell huitlacoche (a corn fungus, obvs) in plastic bags, having already plucked the plump nuggets off the corncob. I bought this from an old woman outside Metro San Cosme, in the Colonia San Rafael. She had huitlacoche, nopal and a few bunches of herbs spread out on the sidewalk. Everything came from Toluca.

Fresh huitlacoche is a rare find in the United States, by the way. According to the cookbook Tacos, which I just stumbled on in Google Books (otherwise, I would not normally read a taco cookbook, because tacos are not dishes in themselves, they are a way to eat something) the U.S. government requires a special permit to grow huitlacoche, since it’s a fungus and the spores are disseminated through the air. Heaven forbid too much American corn becomes contaminated — how would we fulfill our corn syrup needs?

Unfortunately I won’t know what corncob-attached huitlacoche tastes like. I’m leaving town tomorrow for two weeks and won’t be home for most of today. Yesterday I gave my spooky huitlacoche to Lola, so she could enjoy it. She said she planned to make “unos ricos tacos.”

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17 Responses to “Real huitlacoche, in all its spooky beauty”
  1. Don Cuevas

    “Unfortunately I won’t know what corncob-attached huitlacoche tastes like.”

    Dirt “earthy”, with corn attached.

    Don Cuevas

    • Don Cuevas

      Umm, the strikethrough for “dirt” didn’t work. Can you set up a preview mode for the blog, Lesley?


      • Lesley

        Hi DC: I’ll have my IT guy get on that, stat. :-)

        Did you try the strikethrough HTML tag? It’s the usual HTML brackets around the word “strike.” Use “/strike” to close.

  2. Cooking in Mexico

    Lucky you! I love huitlacoche but rarely find it fresh. My favorite way to eat it is the simplest — either scrambled into eggs or cooked with onion for quesadillas.

    Called the truffles of Mexico, it is a rare, special find. I hope it is still around when you return from your travels.

    Buen viaje!


  3. Ruth Alegria

    Recent USA research has it as highly nutritional food, next is the USA supporting its growth! (
    A true seasonal crop, heavy rains help its growth, the Xochimilco market always seems to have a good supply, on and off the cob.
    The plastic bag though is definitely not good for the huitlacoche which would start to bleed, turn black prematurely and make it soggy.
    If you have Facebook here is a another look at the huitlacoche and wild mushrooms from the rainy season

    • Lesley

      Thanks for the tips Ruth!

  4. Stephen

    I love huitlacoche…you’re right about finding it in the US. I’ve had it in dishes made from a can and it doesn’t quite do it for me. Too bad you didn’t get the chance to try this one! It’s beautiful.

  5. Maura Wall Hernandez

    Lesley, I first saw huitlacoche still on the corn cob last month at the mercado de Coyoacan. I’ve seen huitlacoche tons of times before in baggies at the markets in Mexico, but never still attached. I was so excited, I wanted to take a photo, but the stall owner wouldn’t allow me to photograph her huitlacoche (not even after I offered to buy something). She was so rude, my suegra told her some choice words (that I did not see coming!) and that was the end of that. I found out from a few restaurant chefs here in Chicago where they order their huitlacoche from and one even offered to order extra if I wanted to buy some at cost from his bulk order. It’s the culinary form of black gold. Can’t wait to get some and make some quesadillas with it! If I can get my hands on some, I’ll be blogging about it for sure.

  6. Esperanza

    I’ve seen huitlacoche in cans in the US. I’ve never tried it because it seems NASTY.

    I don’t mean that I wouldn’t eat it, I should clarify! I have had it (FRESH!) and it is DELICIOUS. Just the thought of it in a can…WHY. UGH.

    Then again, como dicen aqui en mi rancho (SLP) things in a can just aren’t my “hit”.

  7. Leslie Limon

    Huitlacoche isn’t sold in baggies in my small town. We usually find our huitlacoche when we buy a bunch of freshly picked elotes.

    We had an “elotiza” just before my sister-in-law returned to the U.S. (A big dinner party where all you eat is elotes, with a wide variety of toppings.) My sis-in-law unwrapped her one of her elotes to find that it was full of Huitlacoche. She was about to throw it in the trash, but my brother-in-law snatched it from her hands, heated a couple of tortillas on the comal and scraped the Huitlacoche onto the tortillas. DELICIOUS! (I can’t believe I hadn’t been brave enough to eat it before!) :)

    • Lesley

      Oooh, I love the idea of an “elotiza.” Can you also have pan de elote for dessert? Must keep this idea in mind for my next dinner get-together. :-)

  8. Lindsay

    Oh mmmm, huitlacoche!

    We have a restuarant here in Toronto, Canada (in Kensington Market) that sells huitlacoche tacos. I haven’t seen it elsewhere outside of Mexico, but MAN is it divine!

    Hope you manage to taste some on the cob once you get back to town.

  9. tnemily

    I had huitlacoche soup in a restaurant in Guadalajara about a decade ago. It was outstanding. LOVED IT. One of my travel companions – a gal from Nebraska who had works on a corn farm – could not believe I was eating corn smut.

    Tasty, tasty corn smut.

    • Lesley

      Yeah! Corn-smut lovers of the world unite! I know not everyone is in this camp, but I definitely am.

  10. Nishta

    So gorgeous!

  11. Ruth Thompson

    Growing up on an Ohio farm, I have seen this stuff quite often. Being in my late 60’s, we did lots of weeding by hand, (and hoe). Some of the corn we had to remove from the bean fields would have stuff that looked just like this on it. I figured it was a disease to the corn and smash it to bits with the hoe. It would have black “smoke” come out when I smashed it. Dad called it smut. Everyone has to be kidding about eating it, RIGHT?

    • Lesley

      No, actually, Ruth — people in Central Mexico have been eating corn smut for thousands of years. I promise you it’s quite good, although with your memory of smashing it to bits as a child, I’m not sure if you’d have the same thought. But it really is considered a delicacy here.

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