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So, what are the essential parts of any green bean casserole?
The green beans, the cream of mushroom soup, and the french-fried onions, right?
This beloved casserole has earned a place of honor on our Thanksgiving table each year, but up until a few years ago, it consisted of opening cans of green beans, opening cans of soup, and yup – opening a can of french-fried onions to whip up and bake to perfection.
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But as my family has been on our whole foods journey in the last few years, Green Bean Casserole put me in a conundrum – what to do with our beloved favorite?
Well, as long-time readers of this site know, I have a love of reverse engineering, so as I was writing my cookbook – The DIY Pantry – I made sure there were solidly good recipes for all of the above-mentioned convenience foods so that my family and yours could once again indulge in this classic holiday side dish.
So let's take a quick look at each of the ingredients so you can pull this together in a jiffy:
The Green Beans
Beans are pretty straightforward – simply use your favorites! Whether you have fresh beans available, frozen beans, or choose to use canned, french-style beans, use whatever green beans you love.
The only caveats I have are that fresh and frozen beans will need to be boiled or steamed first so that they don't release their water into the casserole (rendering it more watery than you may desire) and if you use canned beans, try – if possible – to use a brand that uses a BPA-free lining or packs their beans in glass.
The Cream of Mushroom Soup
The cream of mushroom soup is, admittedly, the reason we make a homemade version of green bean casserole, as most store-bought cream of mushroom soups contain a long list of additives and preservatives that make it anything but nourishing.
And thankfully, a thick, condensed, homemade cream of mushroom soup isn't difficult to make, although you have to decide whether you want a quick version or a more-like-store-bought version, which uses evaporated milk.
Now, if you're up for a (simple) adventure, you'll want to make the evaporated milk, but a word to the wise – making homemade evaporated milk takes a while. (You can see the recipe and all the details here.)
If you want a much quicker version (like I do 99% of the time I make this), feel free to use canned evaporated milk OR simply substitute in one part cream to three parts milk when making the cream of mushroom soup. It's not perfect, but is still gorgeously yummy, so I find it a worthwhile substitution to save the time.
So, to sum up, the cream of mushroom soup itself is quick to make, but decide ahead whether you're going to make homemade evaporated milk, purchase evaporated milk, or use a cream-and-milk substitute.
The French Fried Onions
The crowning glory of green bean casserole is the fried onions. When I originally wrote this back in 2013, store-bought french-fried onions without hydrogenated oils and preservatives were few and far between. Now, they're much easier to find, so they're a decidedly decent option.
However, making homemade ones isn't difficult – they just take a bit of time. They're also delectable for snacking and super-inexpensive, so if you've got the time, I recommend making a double batch. 🙂
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Real Food Green Bean Casserole
For the casserole
- 2 pounds fresh or frozen green beans, snapped into 2-inch pieces
- a dash of traditionally-fermented soy sauce
- a dash of Worcestershire sauce
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
For the cream of mushroom soup
- ½ of an onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch or tapioca starch
- 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups evaporated milk OR ½ cup heavy cream and 1 ½ cups milk
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon smoked paprika, optional
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley, optional
- 16-20 large mushrooms, any variety, coarsely chopped
For the topping
- 2 cups French fried onions, (see link to homemade recipe below or see notes below)
- Make the soup base. First, prepare the cream of mushroom soup. Place all ingredients except for the mushrooms in a blender and combine until the mixture is fairly smooth. Add the mushrooms and pulse until well blended but still a bit chunky. Pour the entire mixture into a large saucepan and bring to a very gentle simmer over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until thickened, 6–7 minutes, whisking often.
- Prepare the ovens and pans. Preheat the oven to 350°F. See a 9" x 13" casserole dish at the ready.
- Cook the beans, if necessary. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add the beans. Cook until tender but still bright green, 4-6 minutes. Drain well.
- Mix all ingredients. Place the beans in a large bowl and add the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and the cream of mushroom soup. Mix well. Scrape into the prepared casserole dish.
- Bake the casserole. Bake until bubbly, 15-25 minutes. Add the French fried onions on top and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the onions are crispy and golden. Serve hot.