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Jan 9, 2008 06:02 AM

Is there an easy substitute for canned cream of mushroom soup?

There are a few recipes that I like which call for canned cream of mushroom soup, but I would rather use a fresher substitute. Is there an easy recipe to replicate the flavor without having to make a pot of soup? Can I use half and half with diced mushrooms? Any ideas?

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  1. Make a thick roux (2 tb flour, 2tb butter) and add a can of evaporated milk and some mushroom stock (or any stock, really) and it would make for a tastier, fresher substitute.

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    1. When making the green bean casserole (hubby expects it at Thanksgiving), I sautee mushrooms and set aside. Then, I make a a behcamel-type sauce starting with a roux, adding milk, salt, white pepper and a touch of nutmeg. Thicken and stir in mushrooms. Much better than the canned stuff!

      12 Replies
      1. re: Honey Bee

        I did this recently to make tuna noodle casserole for the first time in a million years, but I didn't set the mushrooms aside, just sauteed diced mushrooms in butter, stirred the flour right into them, and gradually added milk etc. Looked EXACTLY like the condensed cream of mushroom soup, but tasted ever so much better. (Because BUTTER, duh.)

        1. re: BostonCookieMonster

          This is how I make tuna casserole but I go a step further and add cheese, too. Sometimes onions at the beginning before I brown the mushrooms. Much better than the canned soup tuna casserole of my childhood.

          1. re: BostonCookieMonster

            I just tried your recipe for Cream of Mushroom as written. It is delicious! Best mushroom soup I've ever tasted. I was looking for a substitute for canned cream of mushroom to use in Beef Stroganoff. Let me tell you, it's a hit!

          2. re: Honey Bee

            The basic step if you want to move away from canned cream soups is to learn to make a cream sauce - the light roux made with a fat like butter and flour, and liquid like milk or stock. It's essentially the same thing as a pan gravy. From that base you can go all kinds of directions - cream of chicken, chicken ala king, mushroom sauce/soup, asparagus, creamed celery, cheese sauce/mac n cheese, to name a few.

            It is also useful to learn how to thicken as sauce with a slurry, most commonly using corn starch. Even a flour slurry works if there is time to let it cook to get rid of the raw flour taste. Slurry thickening allows you to tweak the thickness of a sauce at the last minute.


            1. re: paulj

              I've sifted cornstarch into sauces to thicken before, but have never heard of a slurry--is it basically just whisking the starch with liquid before adding it so it doesn't clump? Because that sounds so simple and brilliant I'm ashamed I've never thought of it before...

              1. re: thursday

                Right, mix the starch with a small amount of cold liquid so it dissolves completely. Then add this to the hot liquid. The starch settles out fairly quickly, so I stir the slurry right be adding. If the slurry doesn't have enough water (paste like), it actually gets stiffer when you stir it.

                You can use the slurry approach with a many thickeners - arrowroot, corn masa (to thicken chili), wheat flour.


                1. re: paulj

                  The starch does not dissolve in cold water. Stirring results in a suspension that is necessary if you don't want lumps (that result from tossing cornstarch directly into a sauce). Again a bit of microwave and the slurry converts into a gel.

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    You are right. I was sloppy in my use of 'dissolve'. And considering that I once studied geology that is inexcusable. :) In fact one definition of slurry is 'a thick suspension of solids in a liquid'.


                  2. re: paulj

                    In discussing thicking sauces in Cookwise, Shirley Corriher only talks about using cornstarch in the slurry method. (She doesn't get into masa, only cornstarch vs. flour.) For flour, she recommends either buerre manie or roux. The explanation goes on for quite a few pages about the chemical differences between the starches and how they accept the liquids to which they are added and expand to thicken the sauce rather than simply get coated by it and remain in suspension. I've never thought that flour/water slurries lost the uncooked flour taste. Always seem to stay starchy, separate and unsuccessful. But then I am from Louisiana - serious roux country - so maybe I can taste that.

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      I haven't used the buerre manie (kneaded butter) method in a long time. In part it's because I never got into the habit of making up a batch before hand and keeping it in the fridge. Since I keep my butter in the fridge, it is too hard to quickly knead with some flour for a last minute use. It is much easier to use the corn starch (or arrowroot) slurry if I need to make a last minute adjustment to the thickness.

                      I've wondered about this 'uncooked flour' taste. I not sure I can readily identify it. It seems to me that this would be a problem with buerre manie, except that it is rarely used as the main thickener, and rarely used with a lightly flavored sauce like a Bechamel.

                      Corriher also talks about cooking the sauce after thickening to get rid of the raw flour taste (at least 5 minutes according to one source).

                      Wondra flour is a processed flour that's supposed to be easy to use as a thickener. I've never used it myself.


                      1. re: paulj

                        I've used Wondra for years, and it's wonderful! The ONLY flour you can whisk directly into a boiling liquid and NEVER get lumps! When first introduced thirty or forty years ago, it was available in 5 pound bags just like any other flour. For the last decade or more I've only seen it in round shaker containers, and many stores seem only stock it during the holidays for thickening gravies. Guess I'd better stock up!

                        My experience is the "raw flour taste" varies from type of flour to type of flour, as well as from bag to bag. It may be my imagination, but I don't detect the raw flour taste as much when I use buerre manie, and it seems to thicken faster as well. But then I usually only use buerre manie for finishing sauces unless they're for steaks when I just remove the sauce from heat and melt in some butter as a thickener. For pots of stew and such, it's easier to either coat the meat well with flour before proceding, or use a slurry to thicken as buerre manie increases the fat content of the finished dish.

                        I don't use arrowroot as much as I used to as it will thin again if you overheat it and sometimes my phone seems only to ring while I'm cooking. And I'm a woman... I CANNOT ignore a rigning telephone!

                        Okay. Gotta go add Wondra to my shopping list before the shelves are bare.

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          --I don't use arrowroot as much as I used to as it will thin again if you overheat it and sometimes my phone seems only to ring while I'm cooking. And I'm a woman... I CANNOT ignore a rigning telephone! --

                          I love to ignore the phone (but then again, I don't like to shop either) ;-)

            2. The above are right. Start with a roux and make a bechemel (i.e., use milk).

              For a less-fat version use corn starch. I microwave the slurry a bit so that the white sauce then thickens quickly and smoothly.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                OP askedd for a fresher tasting substitute for cream of mushroom, so I would add some butter-sauteed fresh mushrooms to Sam's bechamel.

                1. re: Caroline1

                  Exactly. I assumed that sauteed mushrooms would be a part of the sauce.

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    Of course if the sauce doesn't have to be white, you can use mushrooms with more flavor than the common white button ones.

                2. I shudder at the thought of whatever you might be making, that would require canned cream of mushroom... but in any case most nicer supermarkets carry fresh, decently credible soups... and I have found creamy mushroom soups to be one of the most popular & common (even the version at Safeway is decent).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    I think those are too rich to use as ingredients in other things. A friend of mine tried this once and it was a disaster, even though the soup was delicious on its own. They have too much liquid to be good substitutes in sauces.

                  2. This is actually easy because you are seeking a substitute for something that started out being used as a substitute.
                    Canned condensed soups were introduced by Campbell's in 1897 and became wildly popular as soups before people discovered that they could be used as shortcuts in cooking. By the late 20s there were all kinds of recipes in magazines and this practice took firm hold.
                    Cream of mushroom soup was first made available in the 30s and became one of the most popular recipe helpers as a substitution for veloutés and bechamel sauces. So if you're in a real hurry, a good quality soup isn't the end of the world. Cream of celery or golden mushroom are actually fairly decent. Cream of shrimp is expensive but a pretty darn good base.

                    I have better luck using a homemade velouté than a bechamel, adding chicken, seafood or vegetable stock to a blond roux when I want to make a white sauce for recipes calling for canned soup. The dairy versions (bechamels) never seem to have as much flavor as I want. In either case, I always add a shot of Tabasco - never enough to notice the heat but it makes a difference.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: MakingSense

                      Hello, I am a 73 yo fairly good cook looking for a substitute for canned mushroom soup. In your blog you stated that the bechemel dairy version was not as flavorful, therefore I ask is there a substitute for milk or cream. I dont know what a veloutes is either. Thank you for your help.

                      1. re: SandyGram

                        A velouté is a starch-thickened sauce made with a stock (chicken, seafood, vegetable...) rather than milk.