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Green bean casserole turns 55—time for a makeover?

By Hilary Meyer, November 9, 2010 - 11:42am

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Green Bean Casserole was never part of my traditional Thanksgiving lineup. Which is odd since it’s been a Thanksgiving icon for 55 years. Yes, this year marks the 55th anniversary of the green bean casserole, invented by Campbell Soup Company in 1955 to prompt happy housewives to buy more cream of mushroom soup.

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I always thought that my Thanksgiving dinner covered all the bases—ample side dishes, casseroles, two kinds of stuffing, dessert and of course the turkey. But apparently, I’d been cheated out of this Thanksgiving icon my whole life. So I decided on a whim to see what I was missing. I bought the whole shebang—the condensed cream of mushroom soup, the French-cut green beans and the French’s original French Fried Onions in a can. I whipped it up and it was delicious. I’m not going to lie. But it was also high in calories, sodium and saturated fat. Since Thanksgiving is already somewhat of an overindulgence, I wanted to scale back on the processed ingredients and make a healthier, fresher version to enjoy at my Thanksgiving table.

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We developed a healthier version of green bean casserole in the EatingWell Test Kitchen a few years back, so I made that recipe the following week to see how it compared flavorwise. I liked it better. Sure, it’s easier to open up a few cans of soup and throw on prepackaged fried onions, but I found that our version had more depth of flavor and, nutritionally, it was better for me.

Here’s what we did and how our version compares to a traditional version. See our recipe below:

  EatingWell Recipe Traditional Recipe
Calories 212 276
Fat 10 21
Saturated Fat 2 10
Fiber 3 2
Sodium 533 649
  • We cut the sodium by taking out the canned soup. Instead, we made our own white sauce and used fresh mushrooms.
  • Butter adds richness, but also adds saturated fat. So do full-fat milk and sour cream—all ingredients you can find in traditional versions of green bean casserole. We call for low-fat milk and reduced-fat sour cream. We also use buttermilk powder, which adds tang. You get tons of flavor and 8 grams less saturated fat than traditional versions.
  • We cut calories by skipping the canned fried onions and sautéing our own. Tossing fresh onion slices with flour and seasoning and pan-frying them in just a small amount of oil gives you the texture and flavor of the canned version without all the calories.

Get the Recipe: Green Bean Casserole

What Thanksgiving side dish would you like to see made healthier? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Hilary Meyer, Food Blog, Entertaining, Holidays, Recipe Makeover

Hilary Meyer
Hilary Meyer develops and tests healthy recipes in the EatingWell Test Kitchen. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.

Hilary asks: What Thanksgiving side dish would you like to see made healthier?

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