One memorable summer, my neighbor out in the Kananaskis asked me if I could use some mushrooms she had found in the woods, stating that they were “just too ugly” for her to consider eating.  She presented me with a bag full of morels, the darling of chefs everywhere, and I tried not to faint dead away.  She had frozen them, so I made them into soup, and mighty fine soup it was!  Wild mushrooms tend to surface two days after the rain, no matter the season. They should be eaten cooked, and in small quantities. Knowledgeable foragers keep their wild mushroom locations secret for good reason — they are a delicacy, appreciated for their unique flavor.

Most of us are grocery-store foragers, though, and have learned to seek out mushrooms of a more domestic sort.  Mushrooms contribute “umami” flavor to every dish they grace.  “Umami” is the savory “fifth flavor” you experience when glutamate hits your palate, magnified by nucleotides. Mushrooms have both in spades, which may explain why I crave mushroom soup from time to time.  Not the kind in a can – I always have to doctor that up so much, I might as well have started from scratch.  Home-made Cream of Mushroom Soup has so much more flavor than canned soup could ever provide, mostly because it contains more mushrooms. Do not fear the “Cream of” part of this recipe — it doesn’t take very much cream to make it a cream soup and you need the calcium anyway, right?

I have used rice flour as a thickener in my recipe for a couple of reasons.  Corn starch doesn’t do well in the freeze/thaw department.  While thickening could be handled with a flour-based roux, rice flour is quick and easy by comparison, and ever-so-easy to digest.  Try to find a nice, fine rice flour (I get mine from the Chinese grocery store when I’m buying dried shitakes), or buzz yours in your spice grinder if you find it to be a bit gritty.

Mushroom Notes

You can use any kind of mushrooms to make mushroom soup.  The most flavorful mushrooms that are reasonably priced and readily available are shiitakes.  I find their flavor so robust that it falls into the realm of “an acquired taste” (like over-roasted coffee), so I like to use brown-skinned cremini mushrooms as a base, adding a few shiitakes for oomph. You can use those wonderful, expensive, specialty mushrooms (like chanterelle, morel, shimeji, oyster, or maitake) for garnish, unless your neighbor gifts you with a bagful, or you are a skillful forager yourself. If you ever find you have more mushrooms than you need, you can simply slice them up and freeze them in a zipper bag, using them the next time you make soup or stew or braise something tasty.

Dried mushrooms of any kind are an excellent flavor addition to home-made soup.  You can soak them in boiling water for 20 minutes to soften them.  Strain the soaking liquid through a coffee filter (it may be sandy) and use it as part of the stock.  Chop the soaked mushrooms finely and add them at the sautéeing step, or hold them back for the garnish.  Gourmet dried mushrooms are expensive, but if you’re feeding someone special, you may feel they’re worth it.

You can, of course, dry your own.  I like to slice or quarter extra mushrooms, spread them on a baking rack, and pop them in the oven at its lowest setting (150°F in my case) until they are crisply dry, which doesn’t take very long (4 – 6 hours I would say). Keep them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place (not the fridge).

You can pulverize your dried mushrooms to powder in a food processor or spice grinder, or sometimes you can buy shiitake powder or porcini powder if you’re an adventurous shopper. Add the powder to whatever you are preparing a teaspoon at a time, tasting as you go, at the simmering stage.  Shitake powder has a reputation for more flavor boost than porcini powder, but I have no experience with porcini powder so I couldn’t say (maybe someone will source this out for me for my birthday….).

Truffles have the most exotic flavor, like mushrooms on steroids.  Truffle oil can be added to appropriate dishes SPARINGLY just before serving for a special treat.  If someone should give you a fresh truffle, PLEASE don’t squander it:  plan carefully, use wisely, value highly.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

I have kept this recipe small — two servings.  Leftovers freeze, or you can have a friend over for dinner.  Feel free to double it if you want to have a nice supply in the freezer.


  • 2 Tbsp butter (or oil)
  • 1 shallot, finely diced (about 1 really generous tablespoon)
  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms (or more, but probably not twice as much)
  • 2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 1 Tbsp rice flour (or more, if needed) and 1 – 2 Tbsp water
  • ¼ cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • Salt or Soy sauce (another source of glutamate) and black pepper to taste
  • Optional:  dry sherry, fresh herbs like Italian parsley or tarragon, also to taste.



Sweat the shallot in butter over medium low heat (that means cook it until it’s transparent but not brown)




Add the mushrooms.  Raise the heat a bit and cook them until they go past wet to dry again.


Take out about a third of the mushrooms and set them aside to add back later for textural interest.

A couple of my kids don’t mind the taste of mushrooms, but they are not big fans of cooked-mushroom texture (“nuru nuru” is one of the two words I learned in Japan — “slimy” is a close equivalent).  If the texture of mushrooms is unpleasant for you, leave them all in the soup so you can puree the texture right out of them later.



Add the stock.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes to extract flavors.



Puree the dickens out of the mixture with an immersion blender, a regular blender, or a food processor.  A good blender will give you the smoothest soup.


Return pureed soup to the saucepan, and bring it back to a low simmer.

Make a slurry by adding water to the rice flour.


Add half the slurry to the soup; cook and stir for 30 seconds – it works pretty quickly.  Assess the thickness.  If you want it thicker, add more slurry and cook for another minute.  If it’s good, stop here.

Add the reserved mushrooms back to the pot.

Add the cream.

Taste, and season as you like it with soy sauce or salt, black pepper, and the optional sherry and/or herbs.

You can invite a friend to join you for dinner, or you can keep the second serving in the fridge for up to a week.

On your behalf, I froze and reheated this soup relentlessly and uncompromisingly.  Some of my sources suggested that this would result in disaster (curdled cream mostly), but I’m happy to report that it worked JUST FINE.  Rice flour doesn’t go gummy or lose its ability to thicken in the freeze-thaw process, and it stabilizes the cream.  You can even boil it – nothing bad will happen (except it might burn – watch that).  So if you want to make a big batch, you can portion it up for freezing with confidence.

If you really like to play with your food:

I used to make “super soup” out of canned mushroom soup to make it more of a meal.  I would finely dice some potato (those little potatoes are great to have around because one or two is just the perfect amount for this) and some ham and simmer them in the soup along with extra mushrooms, until the potato was tender. When you make your soup from scratch, add the extras along with the broth, and use your immersion blender to break the solids up just a little, leaving a chunky soup. Thicken, and add cream. Yum.

Alternatively, seasoning with Montreal Steak Spice (I use a no-salt brand) gives the soup a slightly different twist.  The dill seed adds an interesting flavor.  We made “steak house” mushroom soup by adding a good dollop of veal glace (which is very reduced veal stock — you could use a teaspoon of gravy mix), some leftover thinly sliced steak, and a little garnish of sour cream.  Pretty up-town, if you’re entertaining.

Of course, bacon is never a bad idea… just sayin’.  You can add some bacon at the beginning when sweating the shallots, or you can add some, crispy and crumbled, at the end as garnish.  Pancetta is especially tasty, and if you don’t know what that is, this is a good place to begin your education — check it out at the deli counter.

Make some mushroom soup for an umami blast — it’s tasty comfort food that will make you feel better about everything.