Green bean casserole is a staple side dish for Thanksgiving celebrations. However, traditional versions use canned cream of mushroom soup and are topped with those crispy onions that come in a tin. So, what to do when you’re craving the childhood comfort of green bean casserole, but you want it without all the junk?
Make your own, of course, from scratch!
About This Green Bean Casserole Recipe
Green bean casserole was actually created in the 1950s by the Campbell Soup Company as an easy recipe to use their canned Cream of Mushroom Soup. A look at the ingredients on the can is less than ideal:
WATER, MUSHROOMS, VEGETABLE OIL (CORN, COTTONSEED, CANOLA, AND/OR SOYBEAN), MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, WHEAT FLOUR, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF: SALT, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, DEHYDRATED CREAM (CREAM [MILK], SOY LECITHIN), YEAST EXTRACT, FLAVORING, DEHYDRATED GARLIC.
So, naturally, the first task for homemade green bean casserole is a homemade cream of mushroom soup. While the task may seem daunting, cream of mushroom soup is actually an easy soup to create from scratch. If you’ve ever made gravy or a white sauce for pasta, all you need to do is add mushrooms!
Oh crispy onions in a tin. There’s something SO wrong about you.
Have you ever tried to make crispy onions? Outside of battered and deep fried, onions don’t naturally become (or stay) that crisp. Trust me. I’ve tried.
I’ll admit, even after avoiding them for quite a few years, I still had this built-up impression of them. I didn’t eat them because I knew there was something not right about “onions” that would stay that crisp. But, it was more of an “I shouldn’t” avoidance, not a “I don’t want them.” Until, one holiday after not eating them for years, I was faced with an open tin. And out of curiosity, I tried one. (Don’t hate me. You know you would have too.) What I discovered shouldn’t have been as much of a revelation as it was: THEY TASTE FAKE. Like, nothing remotely onion-y about them. Why people love them, I don’t know, but for me, the temptation was no longer an issue.
If you’re curious, here’s the ingredient list for the most popular French’s French Fried Onions:
ONIONS, PALM OIL, ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), SOY FLOUR, SALT, DEXTROSE.
So, we have to let go of the beloved crispy onions when it comes to a truly homemade green bean casserole. But, don’t go pulling out the tissues and wiping your teary eyes yet. Because, there is still hope. (So much hope, that when my crispy-onion casserole loving husband tried this green bean casserole, even he proclaimed it a very close replica.)
What we love about the onions is their salty, onion-y flavor and crisp texture. And, a bread crumb topping can do the trick. But, not just any breadcrumb topping. I’m talking about one that has been toasted in an onion-infused butter. This gives us the flavor and the crispness we crave, without all the fake. (And, yes, this bread crumb topping is so good that you might be tempted to eat it with a spoon, just the way you may have been tempted by those crispy tinned onions.)
The result of our homemade sauce and onion-infused bread crumb topping is a green bean casserole that will rival any memories of the canned and tinned version. Yes, it does take a bit longer to make. But, if needed, it can be prepared ahead of time. And the result is well worth it.
Green Bean Casserole Recipe
Prep time: 15 min | Cook time: 40 min | Serves: 6-8
- 1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed and halved
For the Topping
- 1 Tbsp butter, divided
- ¼ onion, diced (you’ll use the rest later)
- ⅓ cup fresh bread crumbs
- ¼ tsp salt
For the Sauce
- 2 Tbsp butter
- ¾ onion, diced
- 8 oz mushrooms, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp dried thyme, or 1 Tbsp fresh (find organic dried thyme here)
- ¼ tsp ground mustard seed (find organic ground mustard seed here)
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper (find organic black peppercorns here)
- 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth (find organic chicken bone broth here, organic veggie broth here, or learn to make your own)
- 1 cup milk
- ½-1 tsp salt (find unrefined sea salt here)
- Preheat your oven to 400°F.
- Boil 4 cups of water in a large saucepan. Add green beans and blanch for 1-2 minutes, until vibrant in color. Remove the beans and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop their cooking. Drain beans and place them in an 8×8 baking dish.
- In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp butter over medium high heat. Add ¼ diced onion and sauté over medium heat until soft, 2-3 minutes. Add the bread crumbs and salt. Continue to sauté 1-2 minutes, or until bread crumbs are fragrant and toasted. Transfer breadcrumbs to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
- In the same (now empty) sauté pan, heat 2 Tbsp butter over medium high heat. Add the onions and sauté 1-2 minutes, until soft. Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté 1-2 minutes, until they begin to soften.
- Reduce the heat to medium low. Add the flour, thyme, ground mustard, and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
- Add the broth and milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, and simmer 10-12 minutes, until the gravy has thickened.
- Pour the mushroom gravy over the green beans in the baking dish, and mix to coat. Top the beans with the seasoned bread crumbs. Place the dish in the oven and bake 15-20 minutes, until bubbly to the center.
*Need to serve a crowd? This recipe can easily be doubled to fill a 9×13 baking dish. Just add 5-10 minutes on to the baking time.
**To prepare the dish ahead of time, store the cooled topping mixture in an air-tight container on the counter. Mix the sauce and blanched green beans in the baking dish. Cover them and store in the refrigerator. Remove the baking dish from the refrigerator a hour or two before you want to cook it, to let it come to room temperature. Bake the green bean mixture, covered for 10-15 minutes. Remove it from the oven and top it with the bread crumbs. Then return it to the oven, uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until bubbly to the center.