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Five Variations of (Not Your Grandmother's) Thanksgiving Green Bean Casserole

Five Variations of (Not Your Grandmother's) Thanksgiving Green Bean Casserole

By Tina Popowski
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Photo Courtesy: Lisa Cherkasky/The Washington Post/Getty Images

What's on your menu for Thanksgiving dinner this year? If yours is like around 20 million other American homes, the venerable green bean casserole is likely making an appearance on your table. While this savory side is a time-honored classic, it’s not always the most exciting selection in the Thanksgiving smorgasbord. But that’s all about to change.

This year, you’ve got some great options for taking your green beans to new heights in flavor, healthfulness and variety. We’ve rounded up five fresh and fun takes on this signature Thanksgiving dish that might just be the best you and your guests have ever tried — and might just see you shoving Grandma’s old recipe card to the back of the family cookbook.

The Big Bean Debate: Fresh, Canned or Frozen?

When it comes to the green beans you add to your casserole, you may be surprised to see that your options run the gamut from fresh to frozen to canned — and this list features recipes that use all three different types. But you might have a preference for one over the other, and it’s not necessarily a decision to take lightly; the beans are the bulk of the casserole, the main attraction, after all.

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Photo Courtesy: PeopleImages/E+/Getty Images

The beans you choose really all come down to what you like best. It’s recommended that you follow these recipes as closely as possible for the most delicious results, but if, for example, you don’t have time to pick out the highest-quality fresh beans from the produce section, you can certainly substitute one type for the other. The measurements won’t change — cup for cup is the best way to go — but you might want to hold back on the salt or rinse the beans if you’re using canned.

Planning to purchase fresh green beans? Look for firm, bright beans that snap in half when you bend them. Avoid beans with blemishes if possible, but don’t worry about the tough, stringy ends; you’ll trim those off before adding the beans to your recipe.

Best Classic Green Bean Casserole

Sometimes, you just can’t beat an original. If your Thanksgiving shopping list has included those telltale red-and-white cans of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup since before you can remember, you’re sure to love this nostalgia-inducing, classic casserole preparation thanks to the one and only Campbell’s itself.

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Photo Courtesy: Campbell’s

This comforting dish comes together quickly with canned green beans, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce and pepper. For the easiest preparation possible, you can stir everything together right in the same casserole dish and pop it directly into the oven — after topping it with French’s fried onions, of course. Bake it long enough to get it bubbling, and be prepared for guests to request heaping servings. If you want to err on the side of caution (and stay on the good sides of hungry guests), you can easily double or triple this recipe.

Best Fancy Spin on a Green Bean Casserole

When you think about wowing your guests on Thanksgiving, your mind probably jumps to the typical piece de resistance — the turkey— right away. But who says humble green beans can’t be equally impressive with a few upgrades? Satisfy your guests’ hunger and their appreciation for the finer things with this fully fancified take on green bean casserole...or would that be classerole?

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Photo Courtesy: Alex Lau/Bon Appetit

Straight from Bon Appetit comes an elegant recipe that takes this classic up a notch with the addition of Parmesan cheese, cremini mushrooms, thyme, garlic and indulgent heavy cream — not to mention an artfully rustic presentation. First, trim beans with a chef’s knife and cutting board before boiling them in batches. Brown mushrooms, butter and thyme, and prepare a fresh béchamel sauce with rich cream that’s amped up with garlic, Parmesan, salt and pepper. After placing the beans and mushrooms in a baking dish, blanket them in the béchamel sauce and bake before topping them with more onions. Thanksgiving just got lavish.

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The Best Healthy Twist on Green Bean Casserole

Thanksgiving might not always be the most waistline-friendly holiday, and you’d certainly be forgiven if you and your guests didn't worry too much about eating healthily during the big meal. Who doesn’t love a little indulgence? But a few tweaks here and there can help sneak some healthiness into green bean casserole, and believe us when we tell you your loved ones won’t miss a thing. It’s a great workaround if you’re planning a more wholesome menu overall this year — or if you want to save the indulging for dessert.

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Photo Courtesy: Delish

This recipe from Delish is our go-to choice for a lower-fat green bean casserole thanks to its use of skim milk and sauteed, panko-dusted onions. And using fresh green beans instead of canned means you’ll skip out on some of that pesky added sodium, too. To start, cook sliced onions for the topping in a skillet, and then toss them with toasted panko crumbs, salt and pepper. For the main casserole, trim and boil the green beans until they’re crisp-tender and add them to a baking dish.

Next, it’s time for the sauce. Using a cheese grater, shred mushrooms and saute them with garlic and even more onions (which you can also grate for a smoother sauce). Create a roux with flour, skim milk and chicken stock in the same pan and, after it’s thickened, stir it into the green beans. After 20 minutes in the oven and 10 more minutes baking with the fried onions sprinkled on top, you're good to go — and healthily so.

Best Easy-to-Make Green Bean Casserole

Have you ever struggled to find a way to cook everything you need with four burners and just one oven? If there’s any time of year when you’re likely to run into this culinary roadblock, it’s probably Thanksgiving. But one dependable countertop appliance — your slow cooker — can save the day (and a spot on your stove) when you prep this hands-off green bean casserole recipe from The Magical Slow Cooker. As an added bonus, it serves up to 20 people — or maybe 10 diehard fans of this Thanksgiving staple.

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Photo Courtesy: The Magical Slow Cooker

Green bean casserole doesn't get much easier than this. Place drained green beans and half of the recipe’s fried onions into the bowl insert of a slow cooker or an Instant Pot (which has a handy slow-cook function) that you’ve coated with non-stick cooking spray. Then, stir together mushroom soup, milk, pepper and onion powder and pour this blend over the green beans. Cook the beans on the appliance’s high setting for 2.5 hours, and then sprinkle browned fried onions over the contents of the crockpot.

If desired, you can use fresh, trimmed green beans in place of the canned variety in this recipe. You’ll need about 10 cups of them, and you’ll want to add an hour or so to the cooking time to get them nice and tender.

Dietary Restrictions? Here Are the Best Gluten-Free and Vegan Green Bean Casseroles

Accommodating different dietary preferences and requirements is a great way to make guests feel more welcome in your home, and that feeling is what Thanksgiving should really be about. By choosing some key ingredients and taking a few extra steps during prepping, you’ll be able to whip up some fresh takes on green bean casserole that’ll delight the gluten-free and vegan friends and family around your table.

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Photo Courtesy: Betty Crocker

Perennial holiday favorite Betty Crocker actually has a terrific gluten-free green bean casserole that even boasts the essential crunch of crispy fried onions. You’ll prep those tasty onions first by slicing them and coating them with a fluffy batter made of buttermilk, gluten-free Bisquick mix, salt and pepper. After soaking the onions in the milk, drain them in a colander, coat them with the batter and deep-fry them to golden perfection. Once you set aside the crispy onions, putting together the casserole is as easy as stirring up some cooked frozen green beans, cream of mushroom soup, tamari (a gluten-free type of soy sauce) and pepper and baking it, topping the dish with the onions during the last five minutes of baking.

Vegan pals will love this recipe from Minimalist Baker, which forgoes the dairy-heavy cream of mushroom soup in favor of a homemade white sauce with almond milk as its base. It also uses fresh green beans, which you can substitute with canned to save a little time. This vegan Thanksgiving recipe comes together as you saute olive oil, shallot, onion and mushrooms for the base of the "cream" sauce before creating a roux with flour and almond milk. Thin it out with a bit of vegetable stock, add your green beans and voila — you’ll have a casserole that even the omnivores at the party will enjoy.

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