When you think of Thanksgiving and traditions, classic Green Bean Casserole is one of the tops on the list. Ever since I was a kid, we would have it EVERY Thanksgiving.
Love it or hate it, it’s now a staple for the holidays.
History of green bean casserole
In 1955 in a Campbell’s Soup test kitchen, Dorcus Reilly headed the group which came up with the recipe. It contained ingredients that people usually had on hand: green beans, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, and onions which could be breaded and fried.
It took a while for the Campbell’s management to get on board with the recipe, but it was published in free pamphlets, and I suppose they were given out near the soup aisle. People immediately loved the dish and it grew in popularity to become a staple.
Campbell’s says that 40% of their Cream of Mushroom Soup sales go to making green bean casserole. I don’t think I’ve bought a can of that for at least 2o years, so we’re not using cream of anything soup in this recipe.
Also in the 1950’s there were several companies packaging fried onions. So this green bean combination was available “off the shelf.” In the 80’s French’s bought out the other companies and is the major producer of Fried Onions. French’s is now a brand of the McCormick company. If you’re in the southeast US, try the Publix brand French Fried Onions, they’re really tasty. We will be using the French’s brand, however, because it is available everywhere.
I used fresh green beans in this recipe and they are pretty easy to find this time of year. The stem ends get pinched off and the beans are blanched for 5 minutes then cooled in an ice water bath. If you would prefer, quality frozen green beans could be used. Just thaw them and there is no need to blanch them. Add the thawed beans to the mushroom béchamel per the instructions. You would also need to cut back on the time in the oven. 15 to 20 minutes would be enough to heat up the casserole.
I’ve seen green bean casserole recipes that use canned beans. Just don’t go there. They start out limp and kind of funny tasting….and their color is a grey-green which is not appetizing at all. Use fresh or frozen instead.
A Dutch oven is what I used to make the sauce. You could also use a large skillet, big enough to hold the beans and the sauce.
Rather than use Campbell’s soup, we are making our own tasty mushroom sauce. The mushrooms are chopped to about 1/2 inch size and these get cooked in butter and are allowed to give off their water in the skillet. I cooked these for around 10 minutes.
Once the mushrooms are softened, chopped onion is added and allowed to cook for 4 minutes more to get translucent. This is when you add the anchovy paste if you are using it, and I definitely recommend it. Just stir it in to dissolve. You will not taste any fish….this just provides some umami which enhances the flavors that you’re building.
The flour for thickening gets thrown into the pot next along with a few sprigs of fresh thyme for flavor. Stir this in and let cook for 1 or 2 minutes to get rid of the flour taste. Some of the flour will stick to the bottom of the pot but that will be easily removed once the liquids are added.
Whisk in the chicken broth to dissolve the flour and prevent lumps. Use a wooden spoon if necessary to scrape up the flour from the bottom of the pot.
Next, whisk in the half and half and bring to a slow boil. Cook for an additional 3 minutes to thicken and for flavors to develop. Now is when you should taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as desired. I added about 1 teaspoon of salt and 8 or 10 twists of my pepper mill.
Turn the heat off and remove the sprigs of thyme. Then add the green beans, and fold them into the sauce. Pour the mixture into a 9 X 13 baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking oil. Cover with aluminum foil and place into a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.
Take the casserole out of the oven and sprinkle about half of the 6 ounce can of fried onions on top. Use tongs to lift and fold the onions into the casserole then sprinkle the remaining onions on top.
Place it back in the oven uncovered for 5 minutes for the onions to start to brown and get fragrant and crunchy.
This classic green bean casserole can be made a day ahead if desired. Refrigerate the finished dish in a bowl or in the baking pan. Allow the beans to get baked before adding the fried onions. The onions will taste fresher and have a bit of a crunch if they are added at the end of baking.
Leftovers can be reheated in the oven or microwave but they won’t have the same crunchy mouthfeel as the fresh casserole does. The flavors of the casserole will still be great though.
I hope that you’ll give my Classic Green Bean Casserole a try. Perfect for this Thanksgiving or any other Holiday meal.
Like Green Beans? Here’s a couple flavorful recipes:
Thanksgiving Classic Green Bean Casserole
- 1 3/4 lbs. fresh green beans, stems removed you can substitute frozen beans, see notes
- 2 tbsp kosher salt, for the blanching water
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 med. yellow onion, chopped
- 8 oz. button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced into 1/2" pieces I used baby bella mushrooms
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 tsp anchovy paste, (2" of paste)
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1 cup chicken broth, I used Better Than Bouillon chicken base
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 1 6 oz. can French's fried onions
- salt and pepper
- Use a large stockpot, (3 or 4 quarts), filled with water and 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, and bring to a boil. Add the fresh green beans and blanch for 5 minutes. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Use a strainer to remove the beans from the water and place them into the ice water. Once the beans are cooled, remove them from the water, drain well, and reserve until the mushroom béchamel is finished.
- Preheat the oven to 375° F, 190° C.
- Use a dutch oven or large skillet with high sides and melt the butter on medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until their water is released and evaporated, 10 minutes.
- Add the chopped onion along with the anchovy paste if you are using it. Stir to dissolve the paste and cook for 4 minutes until the onion become translucent.
- Sprinkle in the flour and stir to coat the vegetables and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Add the thyme sprigs at this time.
- Pour in the chicken broth gradually while vigorously whisking to prevent lumps. Once fully blended, add the half and half and whisk . Bring to a slow boil and cook to thicken about 3 minutes. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as desired. I added about 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.
- Remove from the heat and fish out the thyme sprigs. Add the green beans and fold together with the sauce.
- Spray a 9 X 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray, then pour in the beans and sauce. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to even out the beans in a layer. Cover with aluminum foil, place in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Take the casserole out of the oven and remove the aluminum. Sprinkle about half of the fried onions on top and use tongs to lift and combine the onions into the sauce and beans. Sprinkle the remainder of the fried onions in an even layer on the casserole. Place back in the oven uncovered for 5 minutes to allow the onions to brown and become fragrant and crunchy. Serve hot.
- Frozen green beans can be used also. Just thaw them. No need to blanch so that step can be skipped. Reduce baking time to about 15 minutes. You want the sauce to be bubbling and hot. Add the fried onions per instructions.
- By all means, don't try to make this recipe with canned beans.
- Add 1 teaspoon of dried thyme to substitute for fresh sprigs.
- Anchovy paste is optional but recommended. The paste will last 18 months in your refrigerator and can be used in lots of other recipes.
- Leftovers can be reheated in the oven or microwave.
- The casserole can be made a day ahead, just don't add the fried onions until heated in the oven.