This simple recipe for sautéed milkcaps is inspired by my grandfather, who loved fishy milkcaps (Lactifluus volemus) sautéed in butter with some salt and caraway seed. Enjoy them with some delicious bread as an afternoon snack.
Milkcaps (Lactarius sp. and Lactifluus volemus)
Milkcaps are popular edible mushrooms that are known to exude latex when bruised. Left is Lactarius lignyotus, or as I have decided to call it the chocolate brown milky, and on the right is Lactifluus volemus, aka the fishy milkcap. Both are photographed in South Bohemia, Czech Republic.
Milkcaps are medium-sized meaty mushrooms with firm, brittle flesh that exudes latex, a white milk-like fluid, when bruised. They mostly fall into two genera: Lactarius and Lactifluus, and some of the species are edible. They are closely related to Russulas and just like them, they have a tougher texture so they don't get mushy when cooked. However, the slightly granular texture may not be appetizing to everyone, but my family and I have always loved milkcaps.
Two species that I commonly find and I am most familiar with are the two pictured above: Lactarius lignyotus, which doesn't have a common English name as far as I know, so i made one up: chocolate brown milky, and Lactifluus volemus, commonly known as the voluminous-latex milky or the fishy milkcap.
Growing under conifers in Europe and eastern North America, this chocolate brown milkcap has a velvety cap, a dark stem, and fairly well-spaced light cream gills. It exudes clear white milk that turns yellow and then red when in contact with the white flesh. Its smell is inconspicuous and its taste is mild, slightly nutty.
It was first described by Elias Fries in 1855, and the European species has remained fairly stable for over 150 years. However, as Michael Kuo notes, the the European versions of this milkcap do not demonstrate the substantial variability in features that have been observed in North America. So, in eastern North America, this mushroom is most likely a species complex. I've only found it in the Czech Republic, so I can't compare.
This mushroom is always such a special find. Whenever I do find one, it never gets mixed with other mushrooms during cooking, because it's too good to get lost among the other ones. I think it's because my grandfather loved those mushrooms and even though he passed away before I was born, I always think of him when I find them.
These apricot orange to tawny brown mushrooms have creamy gills that stain brown from the white, sticky latex that oozes out when bruised. They are widely distributed in the northern hemisphere, in temperate regions of Europe, North America and Asia as well as some subtropical and tropical regions of Central America like Mexico, forming mycorrhizal relationships with both deciduous and conifer trees, growing from June to October.
Even though they have a fishy smell when raw, which can be unappetizing to some, they tastes mild and nutty when cooked and the smell disappears as well. Unlike most mushrooms, this milkcap is edible raw, though I have never tried it.
My grandfather loved finding fishy milkcaps (Lactifluus volemus) and when he went mushroom hunting, he knew exactly where to go. He wasn't roaming the forest, hoping to find some. So when the weather and season was right, he always came back with some and he always ate them this way: sautéed in butter with salt and caraway, along with with some delicious bread.
In this recipe, I use both fishy milkcaps (Lactifluus volemus) and Lactarius lignyotus, but you can substitute any type of edible milkcap such as saffron milkcap (Lactarius deliciosus) or indigo milkcap (Lactarius indigo).
Please be extremely careful cooking and eating foraged mushrooms. Never eat a mushroom that you are not 100% sure of its ID. The best way to learn how to identify and forage for edible mushrooms in your area is to join a local mushroom club or go with a trusted mushroom identifier or a mycologist. Then, even if you are 100% sure of its ID and know it's an edible mushroom, always try small quantities of a new mushroom first before eating a large batch to make sure it sits with you well.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- 8-10 medium-sized milkcaps
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tsp caraway seed
- salt to taste
- fresh parsley or chives for garnish (chopped) optional
Fishy milkcaps (Lactifluus volemus) exude sticky white latex that stains the flesh brown.
Slice the milkcaps into thin stripes or leave the caps whole for extra effect, but allow more time to cook.
Clean the milkcaps. Brush off any dirt. Separate caps from stipes and slice to about 3 mm thick slices. Leave smaller caps whole if you'd like, but allow more time to cook.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tbsp butter.
Add milkcaps in a single layer, caps facing up first, so they can absorb back any juices. Season with salt and caraway seed. Sauté for about 3-5 minutes per side without stirring, until slightly browned. After both sides are browned, stir and sauté for another 2 minutes. Depending on the size of your pan and the amount of milkcaps, you might need to sauté in batches.
Season with more salt to taste and top with parsley or chives before serving, if desired. Serve with some delicious bread. Enjoy!
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