Growing up, green bean casserole was so not a thing at Thanksgiving dinner in my family. In fact, I didn’t even set eyes on the stuff until the early 2000s, when we started having Thanksgiving dinner with my brother-in-law’s family.
Suddenly, a bubbly casserole dish with green beans, crispy onions, and all the cream sauce appeared on our table. I was…hesitant…to dive in. I finally did serve myself some a few years later, and my thoughts were—oh, this is interesting! It’s creamy and rich, and…I can totally make this better. Ha!
Out went the canned, highly-processed, condensed soups that are a cornerstone of most green bean casserole recipes, and in came a creamy, fresh, homemade mushroom sauce. Out went the stale fried onions from the pantry, and in came fresh crispy Parmesan onions on top.
The end result? A healthy and fresh Thanksgiving green bean casserole that has all the creamy goodness of the regular recipe, but with a brighter, from-scratch, homemade flavor and a healthy dose of added nutrition. It’s a Thanksgiving miracle!
What can you use in place of cream of mushroom soup for green bean casserole?
This is the question that sparked the entire basis of me testing this recipe! I knew that canned, condensed cream of mushroom played a big role in the traditional recipe, but I long ago nixed condensed soups from my pantry. Traditional condensed soups are highly processed and lacking in many nutrients. There are some organic and natural brands of condensed soups on the market nowadays, but even those are zero-sum—they might not be bad for you, but they certainly aren’t nourishing to your body either. Plus, they be EXPENSIVE, guys. And when you’re making green bean casserole for a Thanksgiving party of 20, you don’t want to spend $50 on speciality soup, am I right?
So what do you substitute for the cream of mushroom soup instead? Easy. A simple mushroom cream sauce that you make using fresh ingredients like baby bella mushrooms and garlic. Don’t be intimidated! The mushroom cream sauce is a breeze to make, and oh mylanta, does it taste so much brighter and more flavorful than anything you can get from the can. You won’t be sorry!
Can you mix up green bean casserole the day before? Or even freeze it uncooked?
Yes, you absolutely can make green bean casserole ahead! This green bean casserole can rest unbaked in the fridge for up to 48 hours before baking off. I love it whenever you can take shortcuts with Thanksgiving meals (like my Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes), so I’m all about prepping dishes early where I can. And this Fresh Green Bean Casserole can definitely be prepped ahead.
As far as freezing uncooked, I actually don’t recommend that, because the structure of the beans will change—they end up much mushier and release more water. You’re better off making it a day or two in advance and letting it rest covered in the fridge until it’s time to bake.
Speaking of the freezer, can you use frozen green beans instead of fresh?
Yes, but just understand that your resulting beans might be a little softer/mushier. I much prefer the crisp-tender texture you get from fresh beans here, but frozen will do in a pinch. Just make sure to completely defrost the beans before adding to the casserole mixture. I actually prefer to defrost them in a colander in the sink so some of the water from the defrosting beans can drain as well—no one wants watery green bean casserole.
How do I make this gluten-free?
It’s a BREEZE to make this gluten-free, because unlike the canned condensed soup, my mushroom cream sauce doesn’t use flour as a thickener. There is only one ingredient you need to swap if you’re wanting to make this gluten-free—Panko breadcrumbs. I’ve been able to find really high-quality gluten-free Panko at my regular supermarket, but if you’re having trouble tracking it down, you can also find them online.
What about vegan?
You can easily make this recipe vegan by leaving out the Parmesan cheese and using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. I do recommend adding back in a little nutritional yeast to give the mushroom sauce and fried onions a bit of richness.
How do you reheat green bean casserole? And how long does it last?
Cooked green bean casserole will easily last in the fridge for up to a week. To reheat, I suggest stepping away from the microwave—which can turn the green beans rubbery and the crispy fried onions…well…not crispy. Instead, I prefer to reheat it in the oven or toaster oven. I cover the casserole tightly with foil and bake at 350°F until warmed through, and then I remove the foil and put the pan under the broiler for a minute or two to crisp up the onions.