4 Mistakes That Ruin Green Bean Casserole (and How to Fix Them)
Thanksgiving and green bean casserole and go hand in hand. There was a time when making green bean casserole meant opening a can of beans, a can of mushroom soup and a can of fried ovens and throwing it all in the oven. Admittedly, that version tastes pretty good, but it's also loaded with sodium and some other not-so-wholesome ingredients. Your best bet? Making it from scratch. Yes, it will take a little more elbow grease (but not much, we promise). Here are a few a few mistakes to avoid when you're making green bean casserole from scratch, and tips to fix mistakes if they happen.
Related: How to Cook Fresh Green Beans
Mistake to Avoid #1: Forgetting the Stovetop
Related Recipe: Skillet Green Bean Casserole
Traditionally, green bean casserole is an oven-only dish. With recipes that have you opening a few cans of beans and some mushroom soup, that's just fine. But if you're making a green bean casserole with fresh ingredients then you are going to have to get started on the stovetop. Cooking ingredients like mushrooms and onions in the skillet improves their taste and texture. Plus, cooking everything together on the stovetop gets the flavors melding and cuts down on the time needed in the oven—an added bonus on Thanksgiving when oven space is limited. And with some recipes, you can skip the oven all together. But if you are baking it, your casserole should have the flavor and texture you want before it hits the casserole dish. All you're doing in the oven is giving it a little more heat and crisping up the topping, a process that shouldn't take more than 15 to 20 minutes and can be done while your turkey is resting.
Mistake to Avoid #2: Your Topping Isn't Crispy
Pictured Recipe: Slow-Cooker Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Onions
Whether you're making your onion topping from scratch or you're just opening a can of the premade onions, you want it crispy, not soggy or—even worse—burned. If your topping is soggy, it's probably because the casserole itself is too wet. Before you add your topping try to thicken the casserole up with flour or cornstarch so the topping sits on top and doesn't sink to the bottom. If you're freeing up your oven by making your casserole in a slow cooker or a pressure cooker (like an Instant Pot), don't add your topping until it hits the serving dish. Both of these appliances use moist heat, which will never give you that signature crispy topping that makes green bean casserole so special. On the other side of the spectrum, if your topping burns your oven is either too hot (keep it around 400°F or less) or your topping has been in the oven for too long. If your casserole needs to cook for more than 15 minutes in the oven, wait to add the topping until the last 15 minutes of cooking.
Mistake to Avoid #3: Mushy Green Beans
Pictured Recipe: Healthy Green Bean Casserole
The green beans in green bean casserole should be tender but not mushy. Classic green bean casserole calls for "French cut" green beans, or green beans that have been thinly sliced lengthwise. Unless you've spent the time to cut them yourself (and most people don't) they come either canned or frozen. Green beans from a can have already been cooked to death right in the can, and harbor plenty of sodium that could make your casserole too salty. Frozen French cut green beans are a better option. They hold their texture better than canned, and you can cook them straight from their frozen state. And of you're using fresh green beans? You'll need cook them first by roasting, steaming or boiling them. Cook them until they are tender-crisp. If you're steaming or boiling them, cooling them down in a water bath filled with ice or just cold running water will stop them from overcooking while they sit.
Mistake to Avoid #4: Your Casserole is Watery
Pictured Recipe: Instant Pot Green Bean Casserole
Green bean casserole should have a nice thick sauce that coats the green beans—it should not resemble soup. One common cause of a watery casserole is not adding enough thickener, such as flour or cornstarch, to your sauce. If you are preparing your casserole on the stovetop, you can sprinkle your thickener of choice over the vegetables as they cook or you can make a slurry (a combination of a small amount of liquid, such as broth, and thickener that gets added to a larger volume). Another reason your casserole might be too wet is that you might not have cooked the ingredients long enough on the stovetop first and during the casserole's time in the oven the vegetables continued to leach out water (see Mistake to Avoid #1). So what happens when the casserole is finished and it's swimming in a pool of liquid? Your best bet is to remove the onion topping and return it to the stove to cook it longer or add more thickener.
Now that you know how to save your green bean casserole, you can plan the rest of your menu by browsing all of our Thanksgiving recipes.