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Mushroom sauce

Wed, 27 January, 2021

Cup mushrooms for the body, dried porcini for the flavour. A spoonful of cream and a thimble of wine. Thyme and parsley – et voilà! An all-purpose mushroom sauce.

mushroom sauce

Mushroom sauce is the multicultural, interracial, gender-neutral, polylingual specimen in the condiments world. It is universal and universally liked.

Mushroom sauce goes with pasta, and it goes with rice. You can ladle it onto meat or onto fish. Chicken and mushroom sauce? Heaven. Beef and mushroom sauce? Oh yes. In fact I have no idea why it isn’t made more often as an accompaniment to a Sunday or holiday roast. After all, who really likes bread sauce?

Creamy mushrooms or mushroom sauce?

There is a fine line between the two: you can’t have the sauce without chunks of ‘shrooms in it and the more you whack in the merrier. Except at some point it stops being sauce and becomes a side dish. A pile of creamy mushrooms sitting on top of the steak.

And very well too – that line may stay fine forever. I like my mushroom sauce thick and chunky anyway.

creamy mushroom sauce

What mushrooms?

Yes, you can use bog standard mushrooms, the cheapest closed cup ones, but if you think the sauce is going to have fantastic flavour, think again. Any brownish ones will serve you better: chestnut, oyster, shiitake.

But the ultimate sauce is made with the ultimate mushrooms: wild porcini, ceps or penny buns as they are variously known. And the fact that they are only available on the Continent is not as relevant in this instance: dried wild mushrooms make beautiful sauce. And you can buy them from your supermarket.

They are pricey, but you don’t need much to get the flavour. You can bulk the sauce out with cultivated ‘shrooms and I’d recommend closed cups. Oysters are a little too limp and shiitake a tad too slimy.

porcini and cup mushroom sauce

Rehydrate dried porcini mushrooms

Whatever you plan on doing with dried mushrooms further – unless grind them to a powder – they need to be rehydrated. Porcini especially respond very well to the treatment. No, they won’t taste like fresh but will present a passable approximation.

Simply pour boiling water over them to cover and leave to soak until cool. You can then fish them out onto butter foaming in a skillet and sauté, but keep the soaking liquid. Add it gradually back to the mushrooms cooking energetically in the butter and wait till it’s completely absorbed each time except the last; it’s a bit like cooking risotto. There - that will make the porcini almost like cooked from fresh.

mushroom sauce for pasta steak and chicken

Cream or no cream?

Sauce, even chunky, must be partly liquid. The soaking liquor in combination with a little wine, that’s what I like. If you don’t want to add wine (I know, far more sensible to just drink it!), replace it with light stock.

But without a little bit of cream the sauce won’t be quite right in my view. So yes – I’m all for cream in my mushroom sauce.

If you’re avoiding dairy, you can substitute double cream with soy milk or a little Greek yoghurt. I shouldn’t use coconut cream – mushrooms with coconutty flavour? Eeew.

versatile mushroom sauce

What to spoon your mushroom sauce on?

Pasta or noodles. I love it on mashed potatoes. The same goes for jacket potatoes. Savoury pancakes, crepes or galettes. It’s beautiful with steak. It turns bland roast chicken fillet into a feast. Likewise roast pork fillet. Whole roasted cauliflower – that’s a great idea. And meatballs – not everything is always about tomato sauce.

Mushroom sauce

Servings: yields 2 cupsTime: 40 minutes


  • 10g (1 tbsp.) dried porcini mushrooms
  • 500ml (2 cups) boiling water
  • 200g (7 oz.) cup mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • salt and black pepper
  • 120ml (½ cup) dry white wine (optional)
  • 1 tsp flour
  • a pinch of dried ground thyme
  • 2 tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp. double cream


1. Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl and pour over boiling water. Leave to soak and cool to room temperature.

soaking dried mushrooms

2. When cool, drain the porcini reserving the soaking liquid and chop finely. Chop up the cup mushrooms.

mushrooms for sauce

3. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the porcini and the cup mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for about 5 minutes.

4. Pour in the soaking liquid in 2 or 3 additions. Continue cooking over high heat to reduce the liquid. Add the wine, if using, and cook down to boil off the alcohol.

how to cook mushroom sauce

5. Mix the flour with a little water into slurry; stir it into the sauce and turn down the heat. Add the thyme, parsley and stir in the cream.

cooking mushroom sauce

6. Check for seasoning and for thickness: add some water or cook the sauce down so it thickens, whichever necessary.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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