The Food Lab: The Ultimate Homemade Green Bean Casserole

The Food Lab

Unraveling the mysteries of home cooking through science.


[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

The classic Campbell's Green Bean casserole is a staple on many Thanksgiving tables. But there are easy ways you can upgrade the out-of the can version. If you're intimidated by the length and number of steps, bear in mind that you don't need to use the entire recipe. Try canned fried onions instead of frying your own. Or, to make it even easier, stick with two cans of cream of mushroom soup instead of making your own creamy mushroom sauce.

Here's the deal: If the only thing you do is substitute real blanched green beans for the canned variety, you're giving your casserole a major upgrade. Make your own mushroom sauce out of real mushrooms (chicken stock and a splash of soy add a big umami boost to the dish) instead of canned Cream of Mushroom Soup, and you can proudly say goodbye to Sandra Lee and proclaim that semi-homemade is a thing of the past.

Go the whole nine-yards and make the fried shallots yourself. Then the beans will be competing with the gravy and stuffing as the best dish on the table. My fried shallots are inspired by Thai-style fried shallots, something that you should have on-hand in your kitchen all the time. I make mine in batches of a couple pounds (to cook more than what's called for in this recipe, just increase the amount of oil so that the shallots are just barely poking out of the surface). Add them to sandwiches, soups, as a garnish for cooked meats, or just eat 'em out of hand straight out of the jar.