One of my top three Thanksgiving guilty pleasures is green bean casserole—that delightful concoction of canned beans, canned mushroom soup, and, yep, canned fried onions. Sure, there's so much "canned" in the formula that it barely counts as homemade, but its mild savory flavor and effective combination of soft-and-gloppy with crispy-and-crunchy just hits the nostalgic spot. Even so, if you think the classic green bean casserole recipe is good, do yourself a favor this holiday and try our upgraded, truly homemade version, featuring snappy blanched fresh green beans, a rich mushroom sauce in place of the condensed Campbell's, and golden-brown fried shallots straight from your own wok. You won't believe the difference.
Want to branch out a little? Green beans don't have to be casserole'd to feature in your Thanksgiving feast, especially if you're planning to serve other creamy, rich baked dishes. You could try a make-ahead stovetop dish of beans sautéed simply with sweet cipollini onions, tender and moist braised green beans with smoky bacon, or—if you really want to get a little out there—a completely nontraditional side of bright, numbing-hot Sichuan-style beans in a chili oil–based sauce. Here are eight recipes to make sure your Thanksgiving green beans are much more than an afterthought.
The Ultimate Homemade Green Bean Casserole
The first step to a vastly improved green bean casserole: Replace the usual canned or frozen green beans with a batch of tender-crisp blanched fresh ones, for a brighter, fresher flavor overall. While you're at it, ditch the cream of mushroom soup, too, opting instead for the rich, earthy flavor of a homemade mushroom sauce. Keep the French's fried onions if you like—I have my own soft spot for them—or go all out and top the casserole with freshly fried shallots. Ours are inspired by Thai-style fried shallots, and they're great for adding texture to sandwiches and soups as well.
Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole
If gluten isn't part of your diet, then canned cream of mushroom soup isn't either. Take that as a cue to whip up a Thanksgiving green bean casserole that not only tastes better but is completely gluten-free, using a white sauce thickened with cornstarch instead of flour. Sautéed button mushrooms lend a nice chunky texture to the sauce, while a topping of Parmesan and fresh-fried onion strips adds a solid dose of extra flavor.
Sautéed Green Beans With Mushrooms and Caramelized Cipollini Onions
This recipe is like a stovetop deconstruction of the typical casserole, and its lighter, fresher flavor makes it a perfect counterpoint to the more rib-sticking fare that usually dominates the Thanksgiving table. The small, sweet cipollini onions, before they're mixed in with the snappy green beans and tender sautéed mushrooms, do take a good 45 minutes to turn a deep shade of brown. But here's the good news: You can caramelize those onions, blanch the green beans, and brown the mushrooms ahead of time, then toss the three ingredients together and reheat just before serving.
Bacon-Braised Green Beans
The current trend of serving firm, crunchy, just-barely-heated vegetables is an understandable reaction to the woefully mushy broccoli and carrots many of us grew up on. Still, we feel there's a place in this world for the soft, melting texture of thoroughly cooked, nearly overcooked vegetables, as long as they're well seasoned. Here, we braise green beans slowly in an acidic blend of stock and vinegar until they're fully moist and tender, with just a hint of snap left. We add bacon for extra flavor, but olive oil and mushrooms would be just as tasty if you want to keep the dish vegetarian.
Haricots Verts With Sauce Ravigote
Haricots verts isn't just a fancy name for green beans; the French ones are noticeably longer and thinner than their American counterparts. But don't worry too much about the distinction here, since either variety will work in this easy dish. Much like the beans themselves, the ravigote sauce sounds more intimidating than it should—it's nothing more than a vinaigrette-like blend of red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and olive oil, flavored with shallots, capers, and parsley.
Garlicky Oven-Roasted Green Bean Salad With Hazelnuts and Blue Cheese
Salads are at their best when they bring together a variety of contrasting flavors and textures, and this one is no exception. Here, we roast the green beans until they're just tender, then combine them with two unexpected ingredients that work remarkably well: funky crumbled blue cheese and crunchy hazelnuts. Tossing the beans in a simple balsamic vinaigrette before roasting provides enough of a dressing to tie the three main ingredients together without stealing the spotlight.
Green Bean Salad With Pickled Peppers and Anchovy Dressing
A good (and super-quick) approach to a successful salad is to stick to a relatively modest ingredient list: one main component and just a couple of powerful accents. This one is based on crisp blanched green beans, which we pair with rich pine nuts and pungent shallots. Sliced peperoncini add a healthy bite, as do the extra anchovies in the creamy Caesar-style dressing.
Easy Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans (Gan Bian Si Ji Dou)
If you're in the mood to really stray from the conventional Thanksgiving menu this year, these fiery Sichuan-style blistered green beans are a great way to add a little intrigue without elbowing out the centerpiece dishes. We start by broiling green beans until they're lightly charred outside, then coat them in an oil infused with numbing-hot Sichuan peppercorns, scallions, garlic, ginger, and chopped preserved mustard root—you can find the latter in a well-stocked Asian grocery or online.