Cap 3-11 cm broad, peg to vase-shaped, the disc frequently depressed but not funnelform; margin incurved, wavy, in age decurved, plane, to upturned; surface smooth or with appressed hairs, dry, yellow to golden-yellow, fading in age; flesh yellowish, thick, firm; odor faintly fruity, taste mild.
Gills reduced to ridges, decurrent, forking, often cross-veined or anastomosing, colored like the cap or lighter.
Stipe 2-9 cm long, 0.5-3.5 cm thick, tapering to a narrowed base; surface dry, smooth, concolorous or lighter than the cap.
Spores 8-11 x 4-5.5 µm, elliptical, smooth; spore print pale yellow.
Gregarious, clustered, or in fairy-rings, under Quercus agrifolia (coast live oak), less commonly with Lithocarpus densiflorus (tanbark oak) and Umbellularia californica (California bay); fruiting from fall to early spring; occasionally along the coast in late summer from fog drip.
Edible and choice; keeps well, and is seldom infested with fly larva.
This much sought-after edible is recognized by a fleshy, yellow, vase-shaped, fruiting body, wavy margin, and shallow, ridge-like gills that are conspicuously decurrent. Unfortunately for mycophagists, it often grows well protected in a thick understory of Toxicodendron diversilobum (poison oak). Collectors should be aware that other yellow mushrooms are occasionally mistaken for the chanterelle, notably Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca (false chanterelle), Ompahlotus olivascens (jack o'lantern fungus), and Gomphus floccosus (wooly chanterelle). Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca is a less fleshy, buff to orangish, probably edible species that grows on rotting wood or wood chips; an important field character is its dichotomously branched, brightly colored, true gills. Omphalotus olivascens, a toxic species, usually has an eccentric stipe, a yellowish-olive color, true gills, and grows either on rotting wood or at the base of hardwoods. Gomphus floccosus is a chanterelle relative which can cause stomach upsets. It also has a vase-like shape, but can be distinguished by a cap which has a hollow center surrounded by orange scales. Also in California is Cantharellus subalbidus, an excellent edible species that differs from C. cibarius in being pallid to almost white in color and having white spores.