Champiñones al ajillo or Spanish garlic mushrooms is a classic Spanish tapas dish served all over Spain. It’s a simple recipe to make but is packed with flavour. White button mushrooms are sautéed in olive oil and garlic and further flavoured with glazed onions, Spanish pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.
This sauteed garlic mushrooms recipe has a delicious mix of traditional Spanish flavours. Mushroom in Spanish is champiñones and garlic in Spanish is ajo, so in other words, ‘champiñones al ajillo’ is what they call this dish in Spain.
Traditional Spanish tapas mostly highlight one main ingredient which is then flavoured with an enticing mix of garlic, olive oil, parsley and fresh lemon juice or some other local produce. Some examples of authentic Spanish tapas dishes are chorizo a la sidra, chorizo in red wine, grilled Spanish Padrón peppers and cold salmorejo soup.
Which ingredients to use
All the ingredients needed to make these mushrooms in garlic sauce are very easy to source. You most probably already have them in your pantry.
- Mushrooms: Use white or brown button mushrooms, quartered or sliced. If they are very small you can leave them as they are, no need to cut them.
- Olive oil: No Spanish recipe is complete without a good splash of olive oil. The mushrooms in this recipe can be seared and caramelised to perfection in it.
- Garlic: Depending on the size and strength of the garlic, and your personal taste for it, you can use more or less. I use 2 cloves for this recipe.
- Onion: Not all garlic mushroom recipes call for garlic, but I think it adds extra flavour to this dish. I use a sweet white onion so as not to overpower the garlic flavour.
- Chilli pepper (cayenne): I use a whole dried cayenne or Spanish chilli pepper and I do not cut it up, otherwise the heat will be too much. Leave the pepper to cook with the mushrooms, it will release just enough heat to add a flavourful twist.
- Lemon juice: Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the sautéed mushrooms before serving to lift up the flavours and to give them some extra freshness.
- Parsley: Serve with fresh parsley, roughly chopped.
Tips to make the best garlic mushrooms
This garlic mushrooms tapas recipe calls for beautifully seared mushrooms, with perfect caramelisation. So what is the best way to achieve this?
- Clean the mushrooms: First, slice off a thin part of the bottom of the stem. Use a dry paper towel or slightly damp cloth to rub all the dirt and sand off the mushroom. But most mushrooms aren’t very dirty when bought at the supermarket so giving them a quick dry clean should be enough. If they are very dirty, just rinse them briefly under cold running water. Make sure they are properly dried before cooking, otherwise they will release lots of moisture while cooking, making them soggy.
- Cut in equal sizes: Whether you slice, quarter or leave the mushrooms whole, make sure they all have more or less the same size to allow equal cooking.
- Use enough olive oil: Mushrooms are like sponges and will soak up any oil immediately. Make sure to use just enough to give them a nice caramelisation but not too much so as to make them too oily. Balance is key here!
- Use a large enough pan: It’s important that every mushroom is in contact with the heat of the pan, so don’t overcrowd it in there.
- Make sure to give it some heat: The olive oil must be hot enough when adding the mushrooms to the pan so they immediately start evaporating any moisture and sear in the pan until caramelised.
- Don’t stir too much: Allow the mushrooms to get crispy and golden brown on one side before turning and sautéing them. If you stir too much they won’t have time to get that crusty edge.
How to serve?
These Spanish garlic mushrooms are usually served as a Spanish tapas dish. You can serve these champinones al ajillo in combination with other small plates of tapas and always with some bread, like a rustic farmers’ loaf, baguette or ciabatta. They go really well with a refreshing glass of chilled Spanish wine, white or red, with sangria, or a glass of beer.
Or you can serve these mushrooms in garlic as a side dish as they go really well with a whole range of other dishes, from chicken to beef, pork and any vegetarian meal.
Frequently asked questions
These mushrooms are best when served immediately after cooking, but yes, you can also make them ahead of time. Leave to cool and store in a sealed container in the fridge. I would not keep them for longer than 1 day as they will lose their taste. Either serve them cold or reheat in the microwave or in a pan on the stove.
Yes, you can also use a splash of sherry vinegar or white wine.
If you don’t have a pepper at home, you could also use a small pinch of ground cayenne pepper. Make sure not to use too much as you don’t want to make the mushrooms too spicy.
More appetizer recipes
- Spicy grilled pineapple spears
- Crispy oven roasted chickpeas
- Oven baked beef nachos
- Eggplant dip or baba ganoush
- Homemade mango salsa
Champiñones al ajillo
- ¼ pound (or 125 grams) button mushrooms sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ onion finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic sliced
- 1 chilli pepper
- freshly ground black pepper & salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Clean and slice the mushrooms. Finely dice the onion and slice the garlic.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Fry the onions, garlic and chilli pepper for 2 minutes. Turn up the heat to medium-high, add the mushrooms and sauté until they are cooked and have a nice golden brown caramelisation. Add the lemon juice over the mushrooms at the end of the cooking.
- Serve with freshly chopped parsley.
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