Food Musings, Sides and Breads
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The Sautéed Mushrooms of Poland and Germany

giant cast iron pan holding sauteed mushrooms

The enormous cast iron pans used to sauté mushrooms and other foods in Krakow, Poland

Food is always on my mind but never more so than when I’m traveling. What local specialties can I try? What cool ingredients can I track down? What can I eat that won’t kill me or make me insanely ill? (It took only one meal in Delhi, after which I had an emergency doctor’s visit, IV drip and 3 days bedridden, to add that question to my list.) Since I’m a pescetarian, I also wonder whether I can order dishes without meat. On a recent trip to the meat-loving lands of Poland and Saxony Germany I found that last criteria surprisingly easy to meet. Along with bratwurst, kielbasa, pork knuckle and hunter’s stew, restaurants, bars and food stalls served sautéed mushrooms.

pan of sautéed mushrooms

Sautéed mushrooms, ready to be served in Wrocław, Poland

Since at least the Middle Ages mushrooms have played a part in Poland’s cuisine. In the past people went out into the surrounding forests and gathered as many edible mushrooms as they could find. Once at home they brushed them off and started cooking. Mushrooms made their way into soups, sauces, dumplings and stuffed cabbage. They were paired with meats and fish or served on their own.

Centuries may have passed but the passion for mushrooms remains. Along with the above dishes they appear in Polish pierogies and the pizza-like zapiekanki and across the border in German rye bread bowls.

sautéed mushrooms served in a bread bowl

Mushrooms and garlic-dill-sour cream-sauce in a rye bread bowl in Dresden, Germany

On this recent trip I usually went for a simple plate or bowl of sautéed mushrooms. That might sound a bit dull but every town and holiday market had a different approach on how to cook mushrooms. In Krakow they were simmered in a broth of water, onion powder, salt and dried dill or fried in butter alongside minced onions. In Dresden, Germany they were sautéed in oil with salt and pepper and then topped with a garlic-dill-sour cream sauce. Meanwhile, cooks in the German border town of Görlitz added paprika, ground mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper to their mixtures. The results were all amazing.

sautéed mushrooms from Gorlitz, Germany

Mushrooms sautéed “Görlitz-style” in Görlitz, Germany

Although I gorged on mushrooms for two weeks, as soon as I returned home, I set out to recreate my favorite sautés. Eventually I landed upon a combination of several recipes, the result of which is below.

To make this a vegetarian offering, replace the butter with olive oil.
Serves 4

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup minced onion
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
9.5 ounces white mushrooms, cleaned and halved
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon granulated onion
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons water, or more as needed

In a large frying pan melt half the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and half of the salt and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until the onion has softened but is not browning.

Add the mushrooms, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and 2 tablespoons water. Stirring periodically, cook until the mushrooms have softened and released some of their juices, about 10 minutes. If the pan and mushrooms become too dry, add more water. You want a small amount of sauce in the pan but you do not want a soupy mixture.

Mushrooms almost finished cooking

Sautéed mushrooms with a smidgen of sauce, about ready to be removed from the pan.

Once the mushrooms have softened and browned slightly, remove the pan from the heat. Place the mushrooms in a large bowl or on individual plates. Serve warm.


  1. Elizabeth says

    Great inspiration! I bought a bunch of mushrooms yesterday so I can try some of your recipe today.

  2. Lydia Jones says

    I don’t like white mushrooms and am thinking of using shitakes in your recipe. They have a lot of flavor and are more interesting.

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