Green bean casserole is one of America’s favorite vegetable dishes and it’s easy to see why. It’s simple-to-make, delicious, and nostalgic. It’s an umami bomb of a dish that was invented long before the word umami came to the English language and stood the test of time and food trends.

If you’ve never had green bean casserole before, or only bad versions, you’re probably thinking of some kind of mushy overcooked retro jet-age concoction, but it’s actually amazing. The simple combination of cream of mushroom soup, soy sauce (a must!), french fried onions, and squeaky green beans can’t be beat. It tastes like the lovechild of sausage gravy, mushroom soup, and bright, sweet, and crunchy green beans. For me, it’s better than gravy.

In its original form it’s also a pretty processed dish that we can definitely improve on. This version is so much more mushroom-y, so much more flavorful, and still only about 10 minutes of extra work. This newly updated recipe has been carefully refined: every piece of this recipe is just what you need and nothing you don’t, enhanced with the combined umami powers of caramelized onions, double the mushrooms, soy sauce, fish sauce, and parmigiano-reggiano cheese. I think you’ll agree it tastes way better than condensed soup and canned green beans.

green bean casserole | www.iamafoodblog.com

Who invented green bean casserole?

Dorcas Reilly–who was a recipe developer for Campbell’s–invented green bean casserole back in 1955 in what was probably one of the first examples of #sponcon. She wanted it to be a few simple and affordable ingredients and as little prep as possible while still tasting amazing (and using at least one Campbell’s product). She did an absolutely iconic job: it’s been an American favorite ever since, which is even crazier when you realize it’s basically vegetarian.

How to make green bean casserole

Green bean casserole is super easy to make. No matter what version or recipe, the process is the same:

  1. Prepare your mushroom soup, add fried onions and soy sauce.
  2. Blanch your fresh green beans (or open your can of green beans, you monster).
  3. Assemble and bake until bubbling and toasty.
  4. Top with fried onions and bake a little longer until onions are warmed and extra crispy.
  5. Eat!

Green bean casserole is perfect for 2020

This is a weird year and just about everyone knows that this Thanksgiving won’t be a  normal thanksgiving with lots of friends and family. Some people may be celebrating on their own, or with just one other person. But while you can’t make a mini turkey (yes you can!) or a single mashed potato (maybe?), you can definitely scale this recipe down to make it for 1. It also adds a tiny bit of the feel-good nostalgia and normalcy we probably need this year.

classic green bean casserole | www.iamafoodblog.com

The classic campbells green bean casserole

Before I wrote this post I made a tiny tiny example of the original recipe (pictured above) to refresh my memory and it blew my mind. If you are feeling lazy, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the original recipe as written. Except the canned green beans. I couldn’t bring myself to buy canned green beans, so I blanched fresh ones. We’re better than canned beans now, right?

The original recipe is by Campbell’s, so the version you might have grown up with using a can of mushroom soup and french fried onions is as authentic as it gets. And it’s still really, really good when you switch out the beans.

If you want to make the classic version: it’s 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup, 1 can of milk, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1lb green beans, and a 6oz package of french fried onions. Combine the soup, milk, soy sauce, green beans, salt and pepper, and half the onions. Bake for 25-30 minutes, then top with the remaining onions, and bake another 5 minutes.

Why make green bean casserole from scratch then?

Our grocery stores have better than canned green beans now. And we can do better than super processed cream of mushroom soup too. You don’t have to invest a lot of extra time (just an extra 5-10 minutes of work and another 10 minutes of simmering) and you can have yourself the most amazing, truly beautiful cream of mushroom soup to use as a base for the best green bean casserole ever.

mushroom soup for green bean casserole | www.iamafoodblog.com

This green bean casserole recipe

Why choose this recipe over the hundreds of others on the Internet and TV? Because it’s simple, pared down, and refined, while still being no-holds barred on taste and umami factor, using every tool at our disposal: parmigiano-reggiano cheese, fish sauce, soy sauce, and many mushrooms.

I’ve replaced every component of the classic dish with an upgrade:

  • Mushroom soup + milk: make our own, even more mushroom-y. Mushroom++
  • Soy sauce: I recommend a 1-2 punch of dark mushroom soy sauce + fish sauce.
  • Canned green beans: switch out for very briefly blanched farm fresh green beans.
  • French’s fried onions: Actually you can’t improve this, more on this later down.

Fresh vs canned vs frozen green beans

But what if you somehow can’t get fresh green beans, like if there was a pandemic and supply lines collapsed? Hopefully that never happens, but if it does, you’re better off with frozen than canned. Frozen vegetables are flash frozen and retain all their nutrients and taste, and 80%ish of their texture when cooked properly.

blanched green beans | www.iamafoodblog.com

The mushrooms

This is the mushroomiest mushroom sauce for green beans you can get. It’s almost 1:1 mushrooms to green beans. If you don’t like mushrooms, you shouldn’t make this recipe.

For these photos, I spent a good 20 minutes slicing mushrooms. Don’t be me, buy presliced mushrooms and save yourself a lot of time and effort, even if they’re more expensive than buying mushrooms in bulk, or not as pretty as picking out the smallest, most perfect mushrooms you can find.

sliced mushrooms | www.iamafoodblog.com

Pictured: hand chosen, hand sliced. Not pictured: 20 minutes of life, lost.

Soy sauce vs fish sauce

Believe it or not, soy sauce was integral to this recipe right when it was invented in the 50s. I’m personally in shock that it was a popular enough ingredient back then that they included it, but it sure adds a deep layer of flavor you can’t get otherwise. It blows my mind how way ahead of her time Dorcas was with her use of soy sauce, which she chose over celery salt. Was soy sauce just that common in the 50s?

But you know, even though things can be too salty, sweet, sour, or bitter, I’ve never heard anyone say something was too umami. So I included fish sauce in my version to really boost that umami off the umami chart.

If you are really well stocked (or just shopping for a fresh bottle), I recommend mushroom dark soy sauce for extra mushroom flavor. It goes great with anything else you’d ever want to use soy sauce for too.

Wine vs milk vs stock

When making green bean casserole from scratch, a lot of people use chicken or vegetable stock. I’m guessing the reason for this is that kids eat this dish a lot. But this year, depending on you, this might not be a factor, so it’s a perfect year to upgrade to the complex flavors of wine and see how much better it is.

It can be a little annoying if you don’t drink wine and a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of wine, so feel free to switch back to stock, and if you do drink wine I’m pretty sure you know what to do with the rest of the bottle. Milk is an optional choice based on how thick you want your casserole to be. I like mine on the thick, chewy side, so milk is not a default choice for me.

green bean casserole sauce | www.iamafoodblog.com

Parmigiano-Reggiano vs Cheddar

Does green bean casserole need cheese? No. Is everything better with cheese? Yes.

I like Parmigiano-Reggiano for just about everything. If you have grown up with cheddar in your green bean casserole and you want an easy upgrade to the cheddar route, my go-to cheddar replacement is red leicester (esp red fox).

The onions

I firmly believe that you should not go homemade just for homemade’s sake. Every recipe deserves at least one easy store-bought component, and in this recipe, that’s fried onions. Unless you own tens of thousands of dollars of commercial dehydration and deep fry equipment, you likely can’t match the quality of commercially fried onions.

  • But what if I don’t live in a place where they sell fried onions? Almost all asian supermarkets sell fried onions or shallots. So does IKEA, although both of these are unseasoned fried onions compared to classic supermarket fried onions. And of course, Amazon.
  • But they’re really expensive where I live. It’s worth it and the cheapness of green beans offsets it. Don’t think of them as onions, think of them as American truffles.
  • I just really want to make them myself. Ok, but don’t do the panko baked onions that’s going around. Ideally, dehydrate sliced onions in the fridge for 24 hours, then quickly soak in buttermilk, dredge in 1 cup flour + salt and pepper, then deep/shallow fry until crispy, and finally toss with 1 tbsp onion powder + 1 tbsp garlic powder while still hot.

Really, you can’t beat commercial french fried onions. Especially considering how many of them you’ll use, and how many more you’ll snack on.

french fried onions on green bean casserole | www.iamafoodblog.com

Butter vs olive oil

When I make this, I use a mix of butter and olive oil because it’s a little healthier and I enjoy the adult-er tastes of olive oil, but for pure comfort food richness, you can (and should) go with all butter. And of course, if you are truly an adult, you can go all olive oil for the healthiest green bean casserole ever. If you do this, you’re also way more mature than either me or Steph.

Presentation vs Reality

In these photos the thyme is in whole sprigs, because it’s prettier that way. But in reality, digging out or eating whole sprigs is not that fun. You know what is fun? Unzipping thyme. Form or Fun-ction, it’s your choice.

green bean casserole | www.iamafoodblog.com

How long to bake green bean casserole

Green bean casserole is completely cooked before it ever goes into the oven, so how long it stays in there is up to you too. The reason we bake it is to meld all the flavors together and caramelize the mushrooms and onions in the soup. Although I give a time of 30 minutes here (plus 5 for finishing the onions), you can easily go as little as 15 minutes.

Make ahead green bean casserole

Can you make this ahead? Yes! If you want zero stress and you’re making it within 24 hours, you can put the entire thing together, cover it, and store it in the fridge. Just add 10-20 minutes cooking time and you’re as good as gold. The best version though, or if you want to make it ahead beyond 24 hours, trim the green beans and make the mushroom stock, but don’t blanch the beans until you are ready to assemble.

green bean casserole | www.iamafoodblog.com

Did I really spend days of my life and thousands of words on green beans? Yes, because this dish is so good. You have to try it to believe it.

Green Bean Me Up, Scotty!
Mike

Green Bean Casserole Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Green Bean Casserole Recipe

A super mushroom-y, freshly made update on classic green bean casserole
Serves 4
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 1 hr

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp butter or olive oil, or mix of the two
  • 4 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1/2 medium onion sliced
  • 1 lb mushrooms pre-sliced cremini preferred
  • 4-8 sprigs thyme or other herbs
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white wine or beef/chicken/vegetable stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 0.5-1 cup milk optional, see notes
  • 1 tbsp dark mushroom soy sauce or regular soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fish sauce optional
  • 1/2 cup french fried onions

Assembly

  • 1.5 lb green beans ends trimmed
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese or Cheddar
  • 1 cup french fried onions or more, to finish

Instructions

  • Melt the butter over medium heat, being careful not to burn it. Sauté onions for 2-3 minutes, then add garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are toasty brown, about 7 minutes. Add flour, salt, and pepper, and stir for another 2 minutes until the flour is thoroughly incorporated.
    mushroom soup base for green bean casserole | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Add wine and reduce by half, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low, then add cream, soy sauce, fish sauce, milk (If using) and fried onions. Stir, season, and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
    mushroom sauce for green bean casserole | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • While you are waiting for your sauce to thicken, blanch your green beans in boiling salted water for 3 minutes, then drain and cool. If you like your green beans on the squeaky crunchy side, use an ice bath. Preheat your oven to 375ºF too.
    blanched green beans | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • To assemble: make a bed of green beans in a large oven proof dish. Ladle the mushroom sauce over top of that, and top with parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes at 375ºF.
    green bean casserole before baking | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Remove from oven, carefully toss the green beans a little, then top with more onions. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes or until onions are crispy.
    green bean casserole | www.iamafoodblog.com

Notes

Add milk if you prefer your casserole on the saucier side, leave out if you prefer your casserole thicker. Pictured with no milk added.

Estimated Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Green Bean Casserole Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 513 Calories from Fat 306
% Daily Value*
Fat 34g52%
Saturated Fat 15.8g99%
Cholesterol 79mg26%
Sodium 574mg25%
Potassium 880mg25%
Carbohydrates 36g12%
Fiber 5.3g22%
Sugar 5.2g6%
Protein 10.2g20%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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