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This easy, creamy mushroom sauce is quick to make and perfect with pasta, chicken, spaghetti squash, lasagna, and more. No heavy cream!
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One recipe every home cook should have in their repertoire: A really, really good creamy mushroom sauce.
A great mushroom garlic sauce feels luxurious, but (spoiler!) it’s actually deceptively easy to make. Also? Easy to CUSTOMIZE.
There are a million (well, okay, at least a few dozen) ways to make this white sauce. So your favorite variation might be a little bit different than ours – and that’s okay.
Start with our base recipe (you’ll find it in the recipe card at the end of this post!) and read through our riffs & substitutions section to help you tweak, adjust, and make this cream sauce your own.
How to make mushroom sauce: Our basic order of operations.
- Sauté the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms in a single layer in a large pot for best results, and don’t add salt just yet: this helps the mushrooms get browned and slightly crispy for the best texture.
- Add onion & garlic. Cook until everything is soft, then add salt and pepper!
- Make a roux with a bit of flour to help thicken the sauce.
- Add milk, stir to work out any lumps of flour, and cook until thickened.
- Stir in some parmesan, pour your mushroom sauce over pasta/chicken/etc., and enjoy!
A few notes for great sauce:
- Use a wide pot. This sauce works best in a pot with a lot of surface area – at least 10″ in diameter – so the mushrooms can cook without steaming and getting soggy. We like a wide, shallow sauté pan or a large enameled cast iron pan.
- Cook the mushrooms in a single layer, and don’t add salt right away. There’s a fine line between sautéeing mushrooms and steaming them – and we want to avoid steaming since it can give mushrooms a rubbery, soggy, not-so-great texture. Start with very dry mushrooms, and give them plenty of space in a hot pan. Don’t add salt right away: it draws out moisture, and if the mushrooms release all their water right away they’ll steam and get soggy instead of browning. Let them crisp and brown for a few minutes before you add seasoning!
- Shred your own cheese. Store-bought shredded cheeses are often coated with preservatives that prevent them from melting smoothly. For best results (and to avoid a clumpy sauce), shred your own parmesan here!
- Salt is your friend. This is a relatively simple sauce, so don’t skimp on the seasoning! Once your sauce is assembled, give it a taste and add salt if the flavors aren’t quite “popping” yet. If you need to stay away from salt, you can also build flavor with herbs or lemon.
Riffs & substitutions
There are a ton of different ways to make (and personalize!) this mushroom cream sauce! If you haven’t made mushroom sauce before, we recommend starting with our base recipe as written below and coming back to this section when you’re ready to riff.
Customize the sauce itself
This garlic mushroom sauce is made without cream: instead, we use a roux (flour + olive oil, but you can also use butter) to help thicken the sauce made with milk. But you can mix up the liquid here!
- To use heavy cream, omit the flour from this recipe and use heavy cream (or half and half) in place of all of the milk. The cream will thicken considerably on its own (it doesn’t need flour to help it along!)
- Use 1/2 cup white wine or chicken/vegetable stock in place of 1/2 cup of milk for a lighter sauce and an extra boost of flavor.
- Sneak some veggies in! Use our favorite (vegan!) Magic Cauliflower Cream Sauce in place of the flour & milk in this recipe.
- Use butter or avocado oil in place of olive oil if you like.
- Use white button or cremini mushrooms in place of some or all of the portobellos.
- Use shallots, leeks, garlic scapes, or green onion in place of some or all of the garlic & onion.
- Instead of a roux, you can omit the flour and thicken your sauce with a cornstarch slurry at the end of cooking.
Additions & Mix-ins
- Add some veggies. Add broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, corn, asparagus, tomatoes, or another favorite vegetable to this sauce! Add heartier veggies (those that take longer to cook) when you add the onions & garlic or when you add the milk (depending on size & cook time) so they have a chance to cook while the sauce thickens. Stir green peas or leafy greens like kale, spinach, or arugula right at the end of cooking.
- Add your favorite protein. Add chicken, shrimp, bacon, or Italian sausage to this sauce. If you’re adding sausage or bacon, cook the meat first, then transfer it to a separate bowl and use the leftover fat instead of olive oil to cook the mushrooms! This sauce is also great over grilled or baked chicken or salmon.
- Add a flavor boost. Add 2-3 Tablespoons fresh herbs or 1/2 teaspoon dried herbs (sage, thyme, and rosemary are all great here). Add a pinch of nutmeg for an extra dose of warm-and-cozy. Finish the sauce with a squeeze of lemon juice or a few drops of fish sauce for some extra brightness.
Vegan & Vegetarian diets
If you’re vegetarian: Look for parmesan cheese made without rennet.
To make this recipe vegan: Use almond milk or coconut milk and replace the parmesan with a little bit of nutritional yeast (or omit it entirely). This sauce is also great with our Magic Cauliflower Cream sauce!
How to use this sauce (hint: pasta)
We’d be remiss not to mention the obvious choice for this sauce: a big, hearty bowl of creamy mushroom pasta (insert allllll the heart-eye emoji). But it’s also great with:
- Gnocchi. Toss this sauce with cooked potato gnocchi (store-bought or homemade!)
- Serve over grilled or baked chicken, salmon, or a hearty steak.
- Lasagna. Build a cozy white sauce lasagna! Layer lasagna noodles with this sauce and add some spinach, kale, or chicken with a few handfuls of mozzarella.
- Serve a scoop of this sauce over roasted spaghetti squash for a veggie-forward option.