Do you have a “from scratch” alternative to canned cream of mushroom soup that’s just as convenient to use in recipes?

Beth asked Lauren:

Dear Lauren,

I have your books and have watched you on television and I really admire your “from scratch” stance, when it comes to many of the dishes that you cook and teach. I have a question about recipes that call for “canned cream of mushroom soup.” My mother always made, each Thanksgiving, the green bean casserole with canned cream of mushroom soup and, although I always enjoyed it when young, I hesitate making it for my children. (That stuff in the can looks gross, don’t you think?) Anyway, I was wondering if you have some kind of “from scratch” alternative to canned soup, that’s just as easy (convenient) to use, in recipes that call for that kind of thing. I’ve never seen a “homemade” version and I don’t know if there is such a thing. Thanks for taking time to answer my (what I fear) is a silly question.

Lauren says:

Beth, you’ve asked a perfectly legitimate question for which I have an absolutely delectable answer! YES, I have written a recipe for a really fabulous cream of mushroom soup “concentrate” that can be used instead of the canned version. Actually, I created this recipe recently, after watching three different television cooking show hosts use canned cream of mushroom soup in their recipes. After that, I knew it was finally time to provide a delicious, homemade version.

This was the plan: When I first set out to make this mushroom soup “concentrate” I was determined to come up with an extra delicious recipe that, once it was made and stored, could be as easy to use as opening up a can, thus could be used in any recipe calling for the canned version. I also thought it made sense to make a mixture that could be reconstituted and used as delicious gravy for roast chicken, meatloaf and/or mashed potatoes. So, in order to make a mushroom soup “concentrate” with the earthiest flavor and the deepest color, I decided to use a large amount of dried porcini mushrooms (also called “cepes“), because the liquid left after reconstituting them gave the “concentrate” the most intense mushroom flavor. (Although dried porcinis are on the pricey side, you’ll get more mushrooms for your money at a place like Costco. There, you’ll be able to buy a large bag, enclosed in a see-through plastic cylinder, for a very fair price.) Then, for the freshest texture, I used coarsely chopped fresh mushrooms. And, even though this recipe is called “cream” of mushroom soup,” I wanted to be able to make it with either nonfat milk or light cream, which I did, and both worked great.

The results: My husband, Jon, a self-proclaimed mushroom soup lover (he even likes the canned kind) he said that this concentrate made best mushroom soup he’d ever had! To make gravy was as easy as making soup. I just stirred enough stock (you can use water) into the thickened mushroom soup concentrate while gently reheating it, until I was satisfied with the texture. And, it was perfect with our roast capon! Plus, since the recipe doubles perfectly, you can make a large batch, divide it into 1 ¼ cup increments (the size of a standard can) and store it in the freezer. Then, all you’d do is thaw it out and reconstitute it, as directed, in the recipe I’ve provided.

The point: If you love mushroom soup, mushroom gravy, or any of those casserole dishes that ask for “canned cream of mushroom soup,” my homemade version, which is thick, intensely flavored and generously textured with mushrooms, will prove to be well worth the small investment of time required to make it. So, now that you know you can finally say “farewell” to canned mushroom soup forever, click on Mushroom Soup Concentrate to taste the delicious difference!

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