When I think of my must-have Thanksgiving recipes, green bean casserole—the kind made almost entirely with canned ingredients—comes to mind before almost anything else. The thing is, I love it mostly for the gloopy cream of mushroom soup and the crispy fried onions—the bland, mushy green beans are the least important part.
No disrespect to the casserole I grew up on, but this year I'm going to try to prepare green beans in a way that highlights their flavor rather than covering it up. I could cryo-blanch them to preserve their crunch, braise them until tender, sauté them with mushrooms and onions, or even broil them and serve with a Sichuan sauce. Or, more likely, I'll stick with the casserole but make it with fresh beans and other less-processed ingredients. Whichever way you want to go, keep reading to find out how to prepare green beans for Thanksgiving without opening up a can of soup.
The Ultimate Homemade Green Bean Casserole
Upgrading green bean casserole means starting with fresh ingredients—we ditch the canned or frozen green beans in favor of tender-crisp blanched fresh ones and make an earthy homemade mushroom sauce to use instead of cream of mushroom soup. You can also fry up shallots to top the casserole, but to be honest I love French's fried onions too much to not use them.
Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole
Another reason to skip the canned cream of mushroom soup is that people with gluten intolerances can't eat it. This totally gluten-free green bean casserole replaces the soup with a white sauce made with milk and sautéed button mushrooms and thickened with cornstarch. Finish the casserole with Parmesan and fried onions for extra flavor and some crunch.
Sautéed Green Beans With Mushrooms and Caramelized Cipollini Onions
With all the heavy dishes on the typical Thanksgiving table a creamy green bean casserole might feel like overkill. This recipe takes the same flavors and transforms them into a lighter, fresher side dish by mixing together caramelized cipollini onions, browned mushrooms, and blanched green beans.
Haricots Verts Amandine (French-Style Green Beans With Almonds)
This classic French side deserves a place on your table—it looks and sounds fancy enough to impress, but comes together in just 20 minutes. To make it we blanch green beans and mix them with toasted almonds and a browned butter sauce flavored with garlic and shallots.
Haricots Verts With Sauce Ravigote
Our last recipe called for regular green beans, but haricots verts are actually longer and thinner than the beans you might be used to. Fortunately, either variety will work in this dish of poached green beans served with a vinaigrette-like sauce made with red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and olive oil.
Cryo-Blanched Green Beans
Fans of our gazpacho recipe already know that cryo-blanching—rapidly freezing and thawing—is a great way to bring out the fresh flavor of vegetables. Here we use the technique on green beans before quickly sautéing them so that they come out perfectly green, brightly flavored, and just crunchy enough.
Bacon-Braised Green Beans
Despite what current trends might lead you to believe, vegetables don't have to be served barely-cooked. This recipe takes green beans and braises them in stock and vinegar until they're practically melting. We flavor the beans with bacon, but for a vegetarian alternative, use olive oil and mushrooms instead.
Garlicky Oven-Roasted Green Bean Salad With Hazelnuts and Blue Cheese
This salad pairs roasted green beans with two ingredients that you probably wouldn't expect to see together: crumbled blue cheese and hazelnuts. The funky cheese and crunchy nuts give the salad the contrast it needs to be interesting, and a simple balsamic vinaigrette ties everything together without being overwhelming.
Green Bean Salad With Pickled Peppers and Anchovy Dressing
There's a time and place for complicated salads, but you can do very well by sticking to just one main ingredient and a few assertive secondary ones. Here that means blanching green beans and tossing them with pine nuts, shallots, and peperoncini, plus a creamy Caesar-style dressing.
Easy Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans (Gan Bian Si Ji Dou)
Thanksgiving dinner only needs to be as traditional as you want it to be—I like using the holiday to introduce my friends and family to flavors they might not be used to. This not-so-classic side gives Thanksgiving so Sichuan flair by coating blistered green beans in a fiery peppercorn-infused oil.