How to stream with ASP.NET Core

To stream a response that should appear to the browser like a downloaded file, you should use FileStreamResult:

[HttpGet]
public FileStreamResult GetTest()
{
  var stream = new MemoryStream(Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes("Hello World"));
  return new FileStreamResult(stream, new MediaTypeHeaderValue("text/plain"))
  {
    FileDownloadName = "test.txt"
  };
}

It is possible to return null or EmptyResult() (which are equivalent), even when previously writing to Response.Body. It may be useful if the method returns ActionResult to be able to use all the other results aswell (e.g. BadQuery()) easily.

[HttpGet("test")]
public ActionResult Test()
{
    Response.StatusCode = 200;
    Response.ContentType = "text/plain";
    using (var sw = new StreamWriter(Response.Body))
    {
        sw.Write("something");
    }
    return null;
}

@Developer4993 was correct that to have data sent to the client before the entire response has been parsed, it is necessary to Flush to the response stream. However, their answer is a bit unconventional with both the DELETE and the Synchronized.StreamWriter. Additionally, Asp.Net Core 3.x will throw an exception if the I/O is synchronous. This is tested in Asp.Net Core 3.1:

[HttpGet]
public async Task Get()
{
    Response.ContentType = "text/plain";
    StreamWriter sw;
    await using ((sw = new StreamWriter(Response.Body)).ConfigureAwait(false))
    {
        foreach (var item in someReader.Read())
        {
            await sw.WriteLineAsync(item.ToString()).ConfigureAwait(false);
            await sw.FlushAsync().ConfigureAwait(false);
        }
    }
}

Assuming someReader is iterating either database results or some I/O stream with a large amount of content that you do not want to buffer before sending, this will write a chunk of text to the response stream with each FlushAsync(). For my purposes, consuming the results with an HttpClient was more important than browser compatibility, but if you send enough text, you will see a chromium browser consume the results in a streaming fashion. The browser seems to buffer a certain quantity at first.

Where this becomes more useful is with the latest IAsyncEnumerable streams, where your source is either time or disk intensive, but can be yielded a bit at at time:

[HttpGet]
public async Task<EmptyResult> Get()
{
    Response.ContentType = "text/plain";
    StreamWriter sw;
    await using ((sw = new StreamWriter(Response.Body)).ConfigureAwait(false))
    {
        await foreach (var item in GetAsyncEnumerable())
        {
            await sw.WriteLineAsync(item.ToString()).ConfigureAwait(false);
            await sw.FlushAsync().ConfigureAwait(false);
        }
    }
    return new EmptyResult();
}

You can throw an await Task.Delay(1000) into either foreach to demonstrate the continuous streaming.

Finally, @StephenCleary 's FileCallbackResult works the same as these two examples as well. It's just a bit scarier with the FileResultExecutorBase from deep in the bowels of the Infrastructure namespace.

[HttpGet]
public IActionResult Get()
{
    return new FileCallbackResult(new MediaTypeHeaderValue("text/plain"), async (outputStream, _) =>
    {
        StreamWriter sw;
        await using ((sw = new StreamWriter(outputStream)).ConfigureAwait(false))
        {
            foreach (var item in someReader.Read())
            {
                await sw.WriteLineAsync(item.ToString()).ConfigureAwait(false);
                await sw.FlushAsync().ConfigureAwait(false);
            }
        }
        outputStream.Close();
    });
}