Green bean casserole is one of those dishes pretty much every American family has on the table for Thanksgiving dinner. Supposedly first introduced in 1955, it's a fairly simple, crowd-pleasing food, but working from a great recipe can mean the difference between a tired standby and something that will wow the guests.
Many families across the U.S. still follow the typical rules when concocting their versions of green bean casserole: cook the beans in a casserole dish, drench them with a can of cream of mushroom soup, slather them with French-fried onions and walnuts and throw them in the oven. But a wide range of variations on green bean casserole have brought the dish from an afterthought to a full-fledged culinary experience for many Thanksgiving feast hosts, and here are some of the best recipes to have the guests reaching for seconds:
1. Green bean poutine -- Thanksgiving is seen as an all-American holiday, but Canadians also love to celebrate the holiday, so what better way to spice up a dish than to look to the neighbors to the north for guidance. Perhaps the best-known food Canada has added to menus across the globe is poutine, made by covering a pile of French fries with gravy and white cheese. This green bean poutine recipe takes that time-tested concept and replaces the fries with fried green beans, then adds healthy servings of mushrooms, cheddar cheese, cream and other yummy ingredients. Though it's not technically a green bean casserole recipe, diners won't care about breaking the orthodoxy in favor of this Northern treat.
2. Green bean deluxe -- The name of this multifaceted recipe really sums up what has to be one of the boldest approaches to the usually underwhelming side dishes out there. Featuring water chestnuts, little-used spices like Jane's Crazy Mixed-Up salt, and Emeril's Essence and Worchestershire sauce, it packs a punch and hits flavor notes that most veggie dishes simply can't. As one online commenter wrote: "My family swore they hated green bean casserole, that I love. So made very small 1 for Thanksgiving and it was gone!" Sounds like it's worth the risk.
3. Light green bean casserole -- Many people believe that to make a truly tasty green bean casserole, one has to fill it with all manner of fatty ingredients. But this recipe proves a low-fat take can taste just as good, if not better than, the traditionally indulgent variety. By relying on skim milk, nonfat buttermilk, and dry Ranch dressing mix, much of the fattening stuff has been stripped from this recipe, while fresh mushrooms, thyme and plum tomatoes make for a particularly flavorful and interesting accompaniment.
4. Vegan green bean casserole -- Nearly everyone's got a vegetarian in the extended family nowadays, and vegans are taking up more and more spaces around Thanksgiving dinner tables every year. But just because cream, bacon and cheese are off-limits in vegan dishes doesn't mean flavor is. This inventive take on the staple uses shallots, white button mushrooms, herbs and cashews to liven up the taste in a way that will probably leave diners wondering why they hadn't thought to make a vegan version of this vegetable dish themselves.
5. Boxed green bean casserole -- Taking a different approach to a classic side dish doesn't necessarily mean breaking out the culinary skills. Even the laziest, most inept cooks can whip up a perfectly passable version of this Thanksgiving Day delight simply by purchasing a green bean casserole "starter kit" that provides time-crunched hosts with almost everything they need to crank out a side that will please everyone. At more than $10 plus shipping on Williams-Sonoma's website, the box doesn't come cheap, but it includes French-fried onions, champignon and porcini mushrooms and sauce mix. All that's needed is cream and the green beans.