Need a quick and easy side dish to prepare? Give these sauteed mushrooms with caramelized onions and fresh herbs a try. Their savory flavor complements various proteins and will elevate your meal to gourmet status.
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Mushrooms may seem unassuming, but once cooked, they unlock abundant savory notes and a meaty texture. Because they’re high in moisture content, I keep the pieces chunky, knowing they will shrink down. To add dimension, I first caramelize onions in the pan to add a hint of sweetness.
To boost and balance the umami state, I use ingredients like soy sauce and vinegar. It only takes a few minutes for the spongy mushrooms to tenderize and absorb the aromatic ingredients. This gourmet side dish using simple kitchen staples is ready in 30-minutes or less.
Brown mushrooms provide an intense umami flavor and heartier texture, similar to cremini or baby portobello. If desired, you can use other mushroom varieties like white button, or a mixture. However, the dish may come out with a less savory flavor. Look for pieces about 1 ½ to 2-inches in size.
Rinse away any dirt from the surface, but don’t soak the fungi. They are very porous and will soak up the surrounding moisture and get mushy if submerged in water too long. Use a damp paper towel to remove any debris from the cap gently.
Make sure to trim the stems as soil may still reside on the surface. I cut them in half. They may seem large going into the pan, but they will shrink into bite-sized pieces. If they are tiny, around 1-inch, keep them whole, or larger than 2 ½-inches cut into quarters.
Cook the onions first
A straightforward way to add more exciting flavors to the mushrooms is to caramelize the chopped onions. This process only takes a few minutes and will add sweetness to the dish. I use yellow onions because they have a pleasant balance of sweet and savory notes.
Yellow onions are also ideal for caramelizing- especially in French onion soup. When you saute them in hot olive oil, their moisture releases. After a while, their natural sugars like sucrose, glucose, and fructose start to brown. This process deepens allium flavor.
Freshly minced garlic provides spice to the sauteed vegetables that mellow out once cooked. Mushrooms have a robust flavor, therefore chopped thyme compliments it with herbaceous aromas. I cook the herb in the hot fat to infuse their fat-soluble flavor compounds into the dish for a more pungent taste.
Saute the ingredients
Add the halved pieces to the hot pan, then season immediately with salt and pepper. The sodium helps to quickly draw out the mushrooms’ moisture while flavoring the vegetable throughout by osmosis. Make sure to stir occasionally to distribute the seasoning.
This process shortens the cooking time to just 5-minutes, which keeps the large pieces from decreasing too much in size. The goal is to keep the mushrooms as the predominant ingredient, with tender and juicy bites.
Add flavor enhancers
Soy sauce contains glutamates, and just a tiny amount enhances the umami taste of the mushrooms. Don’t worry. It won’t taste overpowering. It just boosts the natural savory flavor.
A little bit of balsamic vinegar adds acidity and brightens up the dish for better balance. These ingredients soak into the fungi, making each bite more interesting. At the end of cooking, I coat the vegetables with melted butter for extra richness.
Serve this with
Mushrooms comprise about 85 to 90% moisture, significantly reducing in size when cooked. As the cell walls release the water, the plants’ structure shrinks down. They are done cooking when no longer raw and spongy in the center, yet it still retains some juiciness. Be sure to taste test as you saute. It’s possible to reduce the pieces entirely. You don’t want to end up with dried mushrooms.
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- 1 pound brown mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup yellow onion, ½-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme, or ¼ teaspoon dried
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
- Rinse and dry the mushrooms, or wipe the surface with a damp paper towel. Trim the stems and cut them into halves.
- Heat a large saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil. Once the oil is warm, add the onions. Saute until lightly brown and translucent, about 4 to 6 minutes. Add the minced garlic and thyme, saute for 30 seconds.
- Increase the heat to medium. Add the mushrooms, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute until tender, occasionally stirring, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add the balsamic vinegar and soy sauce, stir and cook until most of the liquid evaporates, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the butter and stir to coat the mushrooms, cook for 1 minute—season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Garnish mushrooms with chopped parsley.
- Recipe Yield: 2 ½ cups
- Serving Size: About ⅔ cup
- Mushroom Substitutions: Cremini or baby bella
- Make it Gluten-Free: Substitute soy sauce with coconut aminos, Braggs liquid aminos, or gluten-free tamari.
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