Cream of mushroom soup is a cherished comfort food for people across the globe. With its rich, earthy flavors and velvety texture, this soup satisfies cravings and warms bellies on cold days. But what exactly is cream of mushroom soup, and how did it become such an iconic dish?
In this article we’ll explore the history of cream of mushroom soup, break down how it’s made, look at popular variations, provide recipes, and give tips for preparing it perfectly at home. From its humble canned origins to modern gourmet riffs, get ready to become a cream of mushroom expert!
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A Brief History of Cream of Mushroom Soup
Cream of mushroom soup originated as a canned convenience product in the 1930s and really took off post-World War 2. Campbell’s condensed cream of mushroom hit the market in 1934 and quickly became a staple pantry item across America. Its popularity was driven by several factors:
- Shelf-stability – Canned soup could last for years without refrigeration.
- Convenience – It was quick and easy to prepare.
- Affordability – Canned soup was budget-friendly.
- Versatility – It could be used in cooking or served as a soup.
- Comfort – Its rich flavors provided a sense of comfort.
Brands like Campbell’s capitalized on these advantages with advertising that positioned cream of mushroom soup as an essential part of home cooking. It became a beloved convenience food across America and beyond.
How Cream of Mushroom Soup Is Made
Authentic cream of mushroom soup has a few key components:
- Mushrooms – Often a blend of white, cremini, and/or portobello provide deep, earthy flavor.
- Roux – Equal parts fat and flour are cooked into a paste for thickness.
- Milk or cream – Dairy provides velvety body and texture.
- Chicken or vegetable stock – Adds savoriness without overpowering the mushroom flavor.
- Aromatics – Onions, garlic, herbs and spices round out the flavors.
The mushrooms and aromatics are cooked until the mushrooms are softened and browned. The roux is whisked in and cooked a bit longer. Then milk and stock are added and everything simmers until thickened. The soup is finished with salt, pepper, and extras like sherry or parsley.
Variations and Riffs on Cream of Mushroom
While traditional canned and homemade cream of mushroom soup is beloved, many new variations have emerged:
- Lighter versions – Made with alternative thickeners like puréed cauliflower or low fat milk.
- Meat additions – Bacon, chicken or other meats add richness.
- Garnishes – Truffles, herbs, croutons or crackers on top.
- Global flavors – Coconut milk, spices, lemongrass, etc.
- Whole mushrooms – Pieces of sautéed mushrooms in the soup.
- Mushroom varieties – Wild mushrooms or mushroom blends.
- Vegan – Plant-based versions without dairy.
- Gluten free – Using GF thickeners like arrowroot or tapioca.
The basic formula lends itself well to creativity. Chefs have whipped up gourmet versions for fine dining while home cooks add new twists.
Classic Cream of Mushroom Soup Recipes
For many, nothing beats the original. Here are two classic recipes to try:
- Classic Stovetop Cream of Mushroom Soup
Sauté mushrooms, onions, garlic and herbs in butter. Make a roux then whisk in chicken stock and cream. Simmer and purée until velvety smooth. Finish with sherry and parsley.
- Slow Cooker Cream of Mushroom Soup
Combine mushrooms, aromatics, roux, stock and cream in a slow cooker. Cook on low heat for 3-4 hours. Blend or serve chunky.
Tips for Perfect Cream of Mushroom Soup
- Use a mix of mushroom varieties. Portobello, white button, cremini and oyster all work well.
- Don’t rush the sautéing. Browning the mushrooms builds maximum flavor.
- Whisk the roux thoroughly so no lumps remain before adding liquid.
- Add cream slowly while whisking to fully incorporate.
- Finish with a splash of sherry, pepper, or fresh herbs.
- Garnish with extras like truffle oil, croutons, or cracked black pepper.
For over 80 years cream of mushroom has remained a favorite pick-me-up soup. Mushrooms deliver earthy umami flavors while velvety dairy provides comforting richness. From the original canned version to modern elevated riffs, this soup continues pleasing palates. The next time you need warming, familiar flavors, whip up a batch of this classic soup.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the key ingredients in cream of mushroom soup?
A: The key ingredients are mushrooms, a roux (butter and flour), milk or cream, chicken or vegetable stock, and aromatics like onion and garlic.
Q: What types of mushrooms work best?
A: A blend of white, cremini and portobello mushrooms provides an ideal flavor and texture, but you can experiment with other varieties as well.
Q: Is it better to use milk or heavy cream?
A: Heavy cream or half-and-half provide a richer, more decadent texture, while milk yields a lighter soup. Use your personal preference.
Q: What recipes can I make with cream of mushroom soup?
A: Popular recipes include casseroles, chicken/tuna/eggplant over rice,pastas, lasagna, dips, vegetables like green beans, and mushrooms dishes.
Q: What’s the best way to thicken the soup without a roux?
A: You can blend in cauliflower, soaked cashews, or soaked bread to thicken instead of a roux. Starchy starches like arrowroot and tapioca work too.