The genus Cryptococcus is characterized by globose to elongate yeast-like cells or blastoconidia that reproduce by multilateral budding. Pseudohyphae are absent or rudimentary. On solid media the cultures are generally mucoid or slimy in appearance. Red, orange or yellow carotenoid pigments may be produced, but young colonies of most species are usually non-pigmented, and are cream in color. Most strains have encapsulated cells with the extent of capsule formation depending on the medium. Under certain conditions of growth the capsule may contain starch-like compounds which are released into the medium by many strains. Within the genus Cryptococcus, fermentation of sugars is negative, assimilation of nitrate is variable and assimilation of inositol is positive. The genus Cryptococcus is similar to the genus Rhodotorula. The distinctive difference between the two is the assimilation of inositol, which is positive in Cryptococcus.
Descriptions for the following species are available: