The Creamy Way To Thicken Mushroom Sauce Without Using Cornstarch

Creating a rich and flavorful mushroom sauce is a culinary art that requires careful consideration of ingredients and techniques. Many recipes call for thickeners like cornstarch or a roux to achieve the desired consistency. However, these can pose a challenge as they can dilute the robust flavors of the mushrooms and other ingredients. To retain, and indeed concentrate, the flavors present, we recommend a two-step method that requires a bit of patience, but is well worth it: Reduce the sauce and introduce a splash of cream.

Mushrooms boast a unique earthy but subtle flavor profile that can be easily dulled by thickening agents. While effective, roux, a mixture of flour and fat, and cornstarch slurry, a blend of cornstarch and water, not only alter the flavor of sauces and gravies, but can leave them with a grainy, gloopy, or gummy texture.

Our alternative involves a more nuanced approach. Reduction means simmering the sauce over medium heat, allowing the liquid to evaporate and the flavors to intensify. By opting for this method, cooks can preserve the essence of the mushrooms while achieving the desired thickness. Heavy cream not only contributes a luxurious texture but also complements the earthy notes of the mushrooms, resulting in a velvety, balanced, and indulgent sauce. This kind of creamy mushroom sauce is great with all kinds of meats, but is also excellent paired with pasta or potatoes.

Patience and a bit of cream pay off

Begin by preparing a savory mushroom base with ingredients like garlic, shallots, thyme, and mushrooms. Depending on your recipe, you can use a selection of mushrooms or just one variety. Once the mixture is sauteed to perfection, add a liquid, such as stock, wine, sherry, brandy, or simply water. Allow the sauce to simmer gently, stirring frequently to promote even cooking and prevent the solids from sticking to the bottom of the pan. As you reduce the sauce, the flavors concentrate and any alcohol cooks off and mellows into a background note. Keep a close eye on the sauce, adjusting the heat to maintain the simmer. Once it is visibly thickened and has reached your desired consistency, it's time to introduce the creamy element that will elevate the sauce to new heights.

Add a few tablespoons of heavy cream, depending on the quantity you're cooking, to the now-reduced mushroom sauce, stirring gently to ensure even incorporation. The creaminess balances the intense flavors and imparts a luscious silky texture. Don't overheat the sauce during this stage to prevent the cream from curdling or scorching.

Continue to simmer the sauce, allowing the cream to meld and thicken with the concentrated mushroom goodness. Adjust the seasoning and when satisfied with the taste and consistency, remove the sauce from the heat. Putting in the time to reduce your creamy sauce will provide a culinary experience that is both satisfying and memorably delicious.