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What is a Saffron Milk Cap?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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The Saffron Milk Cap, formally known as Lactarius deliciosus , is a type of edible mushroom found widely distributed in Europe and parts of the United States. The mushroom is considered a delicacy in many European nations including Spain, where it is also known as Robellons, and Great Britain. The mushroom is not as popular in the United States, although some regions prize it due to its high population of European immigrants. Like other fungi in the Lactarius genus, the Saffron Milk Cap oozes a white, milky material when cut.

Usually found under conifers, the Saffron Milk Cap has a yellow to orange cap, depressed in the middle and rolling up along the edges. More mature mushrooms will form an almost funnel like shape, revealing the clearly defined gills and pale yellow stem. The mushrooms are the most flavorful at approximately three inches (eight centimeters) in diameter, and should be firm and evenly colored. When bruised, the mushroom will turn green.

In Europe, the Saffron Milk Cap can be found fresh at markets in the early fall, when the mushroom is in season. Kept in a cool place wrapped in brown paper, these mushrooms can last up to one week. The mushrooms also take well to drying, and can be found dried in many specialty stores. The Saffron Milk Cap often commands a high price when wild harvested, because the mushrooms are elusive and have a limited season.

The Saffron Milk Cap has a nutty, woodsy flavor which is delicious both raw and cooked. The texture of the mushroom is faintly crunchy, and this quality will be retained even after cooking, which makes it a popular addition to a variety of dishes. Many European nations serve the mushrooms sauteed in butter, but these mushrooms can also be used in salads, on pasta dishes, and in stuffings and stews. The mushroom also pairs well with cream sauces and rich reductions, making it very popular in French cuisine.

Because the Saffron Milk Cap often grows on sandy soil, the mushrooms should be gently brushed and washed before cooking. Brushing can be carried out at any time, but the mushrooms should only be washed when they are going to be used immediately. If the mushrooms have been colonized by flies, they can be soaked in a salt water solution for thirty minutes to force the insect invaders out.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon303959 — On Nov 17, 2012

They are very common in the Catalan cuisine. Catalan cuisine tends to appreciate the whole ingredient much more than the techniques applied to them. As we say in Europe, French cook like Chinese, in that it's all about elaboration and techniques, the Spanish cook like the Japanese since it is all about getting the best ingredients and make them shine. None of the philosophies is bad; they are just different.

This is probably the most popular mushroom around Barcelona and it grows in the forests of the region in vast quantities.

My recommendation is to put olive oil, garlic and persil in the food processor. Put the mushrooms on the grill and pour the oil over them. Reserve a bit of the oil and warm it, and once they are cooked just put a bit more of the oil on and they are a perfect side.

They are also used in omelets, but Porcini are way better or other mushrooms. Some make a cream with them but just grilled, they are amazing.

I wonder where in the USA they grow. Would I find them in Maryland or nearby?

By JaneAir — On Sep 28, 2011

@Monika - You probably don't have to go all the way to France for these mushrooms. There may be somewhere in your area that sells them. Internet searches are your friend for these kinds of problems!

Or, you may want to check and see if you have any authentic French restaurants nearby where you live. You would probably have a good chance of finding one that serves saffron milk cap on the menu.

By Monika — On Sep 28, 2011

Okay, I like mushrooms. But I have to say, if I bought some mushrooms that were colonized by flies like the article says I wouldn't soak them and eat them. I'd throw them out. I like a good delicacy and all, but that's just too much for me!

That being said, I would really like to try these mushrooms. I'm a pretty big fan of mushrooms, but I know for sure I've never seen a saffron milk cap mushroom at any store near my apartment. Maybe if I ever go to France!

By turquoise — On Sep 27, 2011

I went on a mushroom hunt in the forest yesterday and picked pounds and pounds of saffron milk caps. I have a couple of recipes in mind that I can make in the next few days but it will be impossible to finish them all.

I'm wondering, aside from drying them, what other options do I have to preserve them for the long term? Do they do well when frozen?

How about preserving them in jars? Is that possible? What would I preserve them in? Oil?

I'd appreciate any suggestions!

By bear78 — On Sep 27, 2011

@simrin-- I enjoy saffron milk caps in simple recipes, and usually sautee them with garlic or onion and add on other ingredients like your friend did. They are great in a creamy mushroom soup and also fried.

I agree that they are unique mushrooms, but believe me I've seen much uglier wild mushrooms. Their appearance doesn't say much about their taste though, some of the ugliest mushrooms are the most delicious ones.

A tip for the next time you see some saffron milk caps in the market, try and pick ones which have little or no greenish spots. These generally appear when they wait too long after being picked. The mushrooms also turn green naturally while they are in the ground if they are never picked. But it's not recommended to eat them after they have started turning green in the ground.

The tastiest and freshest saffron milk caps will be yellow or orange, with no marks.

By SteamLouis — On Sep 26, 2011

I've had this mushroom once in France, where it's called "safrane." My friend was cooking for us and picked some saffron milk caps from the market.

I have to say, they didn't look very tasty at first sight. They were slightly orangish with some greenish, bluish areas in the center of the caps. They felt much harder than most mushrooms I had seen. I didn't say anything about my friend's choice of mushroom since I know that she is a good cook.

I really was surprised about how the saffron milk caps came out. They were mush more tastier than I expected and became softer when they cooked. My friend cooked it for a long time over low heat in olive oil and then added cheese and other ingredients to make an appetizer. It tasted really good with fresh bread.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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