A Cozy Thanksgiving: Savory French Green Bean Casserole, And Hold The Cans

Green Bean Casserole

I suspect that it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving Day without the classic green bean casserole as part of the festivities, now would it? Green bean casserole is a familiar character in the pageantry of Turkey Day, a staple representative of good ol’ comforting Americana-style food. The recipe for green bean casserole really hasn’t changed since the 50’s; it still calls for green beans out of the can, mushroom soup out of the can, and crispy fried onions—you guessed it—out of the can. And though I’ll admit that I tend to be a predominantly whole-foods-based purist (always with a few exceptions, but of course!), I fell really hard for this particular little morsel of a casserole ever since my husband and I have been together, and he took on the role of making the classic “out of a can” recipe, each and every year for Thanksgiving. Truly, it is delicious. That being said, I’m of the mindset that there’s a way to capture those wonderfully creamy and savory flavors of this warm and cozy dish, all without using a single can, and even jazz it up a touch, to boot. Ya dare me?

Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean Casserole

Though I would never ever dream of arguing with anyone that the taste of the classic green bean casserole is absolutely amazing (I’ve been known to stuff myself on it, and fight my husband for the last bit of it), I tend to always come back to the idea that if a dish can be replicated using whole foods, and be made to have the same scrumptiousness as the original, except using from-scratch and whole ingredients you can feel good about eating, then that’s even better. Using “Haricots Verts”, or thin, French-style fresh green beans, and making a creamy, herb-infused parmesan-mushroom sauce from scratch to bathe them in, can make a convert out of even the most adamant “classic” green bean casserole connoisseurs. Top the whole thing off with home-made, seasoned crispy-fried onions, and you have a really happy crowd on your hands.

Green Bean Casserole

Savory green bean casserole is a must for the much-anticipated Thanksgiving holiday; without it, something special would truly be missing. If you’re wanting the deep flavors and the creamy, saucy-ness of the traditional, but with a modernized style with a slight twist, and whole-food based ingredients, then this little goody is all yours to enjoy with your loved ones. And you’ll even be able to gleefully say, “Look Ma, no cans!”

(Sorry. That was cheesy.)

Taste what’s good and pass it on.


Green Bean Casserole

Savory French Green Bean Casserole with Parmesan-Mushroom Cream Sauce and Seasoned, Crispy-Fried Onions
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(Serves about 8)

(*This dish is ideal for doing ahead of time, and actually makes things super easy if you do it this way; simply prepare the components a day or two in advance, keep them in the fridge, and then combine them and bake on the day you want to serve it.)


• Parmesan-Mushroom Cream Sauce (recipe below)
• Seasoned, Crispy-Fried Onions (recipe below)
2 lbs. (32 oz) Haricots Verts (thin, French green beans), cut into 1” pieces
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, for garnish


-Begin by preparing the Parmesan-Mushroom Cream Sauce, and set it aside to cool. (If doing ahead, prepare the sauce and cool it completely, then cover with plastic wrap and place into the fridge to keep until ready to assemble for baking.)

-Prepare the Seasoned, Crispy-Fried Onions, and place them into a paper-towel lined dish to hold. (If doing ahead, just prepare and allow them to cool, then add them into a paper towel-lined ziplock bag kept at room temp until ready to assemble for baking.)

-To cook the cut green beans, place a large pot filled with water over high heat; add enough salt to the water so that it tastes like the ocean (this will help season the green beans), and bring the water to the boil; once the water boils, add in the cut green beans, and simmer them for about 6 minutes, or until crisp tender; once cooked, drain them in a colander, and immediately plunge them into an ice water bath to stop them from further cooking; drain them once again, and place them into a bowl lined with paper towel to dry them as much as possible. (If doing the recipe ahead, you can at this point put the green beans into a container lined with a little paper towel, cover them with plastic wrap or a top, and keep in the fridge until ready to assemble for baking.)

-To prepare the dish, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare a large baking/casserole dish by lightly buttering it.

-To assemble, add the cooked green beans into a large bowl; next, add the Parmesan-Mushroom cream sauce to the green beans, along with about 1/3 of the Seasoned, Crispy-Fried Onions, and toss gently to combine; turn the green bean mixture out into the buttered baking/casserole dish, sprinkle over the top the ½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese, and place the dish into the oven to bake for about 30 minutes, until bubbly and warmed through; after the 30 minutes, remove the casserole from the oven, sprinkle on the remainder of the Seasoned, Crispy-Fried Onions, and place back into the oven for another 5 minutes to crisp up the onions a little more; finish by sprinkling the fresh thyme leaves over top, and serve while hot.

Parmesan-Mushroom Cream Sauce ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
¾ teaspoon black pepper, plus a pinch, divided use
½ teaspoon salt, plus a pinch, divided use
3 cups milk
2 cups half and half
2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
1 tablespoon all-natural chicken base (I use “Better Than Bouillon” low-sodium)
1 ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
4 ½ tablespoons butter
8 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon soy sauce
• Pinch nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves


-Place a medium-large, non-stick pot over medium-high heat, and add the olive oil; once the oil is hot, add in the sliced mushrooms, the pinch of salt and pinch of black pepper, and saute for a few minutes until the mushrooms are golden-brown; remove the mushrooms from the pot and place into a small bowl, reserving them for a few minutes; also, reserve this pot as you will use it to prepare the cream sauce in, in a moment.

-Into another large pot, add the milk, the half and half, the remaining ¾ teaspoon of black pepper, the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, the garlic, the chicken base and the Italian seasoning, and whisk gently to combine; place this pot onto medium-high heat, and allow the milk mixture to come to a gentle simmer; once simmered, turn off the heat.

-Next, place the first medium-large, non-stick pot that you sauteed the mushrooms in, back onto medium-low heat; add in the butter, and once the butter is melted, sprinkle in the flour and stir the two together to form a “roux”, or your thickening agent for the sauce; cook the “roux” for only about 30-45 seconds, just long enough to cook out the raw taste (you want the color to remain very pale), and then slowly begin adding the hot milk mixture into the “roux”, whisking all the while to prevent lumps from forming; once all of the milk mixture is added in, continue to gently whisk the sauce for a moment to ensure that it is well combined, and allow it to gently simmer for another 2 minutes to thicken up a bit; after the sauce has slightly thickened, turn off the heat, and finish the sauce by adding back in the reserved sauteed mushrooms, the grated Parmesan cheese, the soy sauce, the pinch of nutmeg and the fresh thyme leaves, and stir to combine (at this point, you can either leave the sauce as is with the slices of sauteed mushroom, or puree it using a hand-held immersion blender, which I did); next, pour the sauce into a clean bowl/container, and set aside to allow to cool (completely cool, if making ahead), until ready to assemble the dish.

Seasoned, Crispy-Fried Onions ingredients:

• Vegetable or peanut oil for frying (about 3-4 cups)
1 large yellow onion, quartered and sliced as thinly as possible
1 ¼ teaspoon salt, divided use
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika


-Add the vegetable oil to a medium-large pot, and place it over medium heat to slowly bring up to 350 degrees (it’s best to use a clip-on thermometer, if you have one).

-While the oil slowly heats up, add the sliced onion into a bowl, and add a ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and toss to coat; next, into a large ziplock bag, add the flour, the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, the cracked black pepper and the paprika, and toss to combine; next, add in the sliced onions, close the ziplock bag up, and toss the onion slices in the seasoned flour until very well coated; next, remove the onions, gently shaking off any excess flour from them, and place them back into their bowl to hold until the oil is hot for frying.

-Once the oil reaches 350 degrees, take about 1/3 of the flour-coated onion slices and begin frying them (you’ll work in 3 batches), gently stirring occasionally to move them around in the hot oil, for a few minutes or until golden brown; remove from oil and drain the crispy onions on a paper towel-lined platter/bowl; repeat until all onion slices are fried, then set them aside and allow them to cool until ready to use in assembly of dish. (If making ahead, store them at room temp in a paper-towel lined ziplock bag.)

{ 27 comments… add one }

  • tamara November 14, 2012, 1:10 am

    This probably tastes better but it is way too much work, especially on Thanksgiving.

    • The Cozy Apron November 14, 2012, 7:50 pm

      Hi Tamara, I understand not wanting “extra” work on Thanksgiving Day, completely; however, the reason I really wanted to share this recipe is because it is actually perfect for prepping the individual components ahead of time (even 3 or 4 days ahead and keeping in fridge) and then simply combining everything in a casserole dish on T-Day, and baking. The flavor and texture far exceeds the “canned” version – well worth the extra elbow grease, especially since you really don’t have to do all the work the day of.

  • Peggy November 14, 2012, 12:02 pm

    The green bean casserole is always my favorite part of Thanksgiving. I made it sans-can a few years ago, and have been making it that way ever since! Definitely will have to try this succulent version too =)

    • The Cozy Apron November 14, 2012, 5:22 pm

      Peggy, that’s great – and I promise you, you won’t be sorry!

  • Jenny November 16, 2012, 1:15 am

    Not celebrating Thanksgiving, I’ve never heard of this dish before – but it sounds amazing!

    • The Cozy Apron November 16, 2012, 6:29 am

      Hi Jenny, truth be told, I’d make this dish whether it was T-Day or not, it’s that tasty.

  • Gini November 16, 2012, 8:47 am

    Can you use something else besides chicken stock? Im cooking for some vegetarians!

    • The Cozy Apron November 16, 2012, 4:35 pm

      Hi Gini, absolutely! The brand that I mentioned that I use also makes a delicious, all-natural “no-chicken” base, as well as veggie base. Just sub out a veggie stock, and you’re great to go!

  • Bridget November 18, 2012, 11:32 am

    It is my first Thanksgiving as a married lady and we are hosting my in-laws. My parents are out of town for the holiday and so it is my first time really cooking by myself for my husband’s family. I can not wait to make this recipe! I just know I will impress my mother-in-law…as long as I pull it off!!

    • The Cozy Apron November 18, 2012, 4:01 pm

      You’ll pull it off beautifully, Bridget! Just add lots of love, and you can’t go wrong.

  • selle November 18, 2012, 11:37 am


    I made these last night for an early celebration for Thanksgiving and it turned out fantastic!!

    • The Cozy Apron November 18, 2012, 4:02 pm

      Hi Selle, so thrilled that you tried this out and enjoyed the recipe! Hard to beat homemade, isn’t it?

  • kathryn November 20, 2012, 3:54 pm

    hi! this looks absolutely fabulous and i’ve basically been chomping at the bit to make it for thursday! just wondering, how big of a casserole dish do you think i’d need, in terms of size? would 2 quarts be enough?

    i’ll report back on my results! haha (:

    • The Cozy Apron November 20, 2012, 4:20 pm

      Hi Kathryn, that sounds about right – I used a baking dish that was about 12x9x2. What I would say is that I’d always rather go bigger than not big enough, if you’re not sure; better to have a little room at the top than not enough room and spillage! I truly hope you enjoy this dish, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Stephanie November 21, 2012, 10:39 am

    I am so excited for this! I looked at several sans cans recipes, but this one is the winner. Thanks for sharing! I hope the non-foody in-laws appreciate it. If not, I know I will :0)

    • The Cozy Apron November 21, 2012, 3:09 pm

      Hi Stephanie, so glad this’ll be your recipe choice! I know you’ll thoroughly enjoy this, and rest assured that this casserole has even more “oomph” and savor than even the canned version (I made sure of it), so I think even your non-foodie in-laws will have happy bellies. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Noreen November 23, 2012, 1:09 pm

    I made this for Thanksgiving and it was a HIT! Delicious recipe and well worth the little bit of extra work…though it was easy to make ahead and then just warm up. Thank you!

    • The Cozy Apron November 23, 2012, 2:13 pm

      Thank you so much for coming back to share with me your experience with the recipe, Noreen – so glad it was a hit! Also, it’s good that you took the tip about making it ahead; it makes a difference, doesn’t it?

  • crystal December 23, 2012, 7:44 am

    Glad you posted this. We are gluten free and I am planning to make my own french fried onions for my casserole for christmas day. I persoanlly think this is what makes thanksgiving and christmas food more special….it’s lil extra work and a big pay off.

    • The Cozy Apron December 23, 2012, 10:24 am

      Hi Crystal, so very eloquently put. I truly hope you all enjoy this recipe – Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  • Christine Hart November 24, 2013, 10:48 am

    A silly question.. does this taste like the original “can” recipe? I have a large family, and they are usually hesitant to try anything “new” especially around the holidays! Thanks!

    • The Cozy Apron November 24, 2013, 3:59 pm

      Hi Christine, I love your question, because it’s a really honest one! :-) All I can tell you is that my husband and I love the flavor of this from-scratch version much more than the canned – and he’d been making the canned for years in the past. In my opinion, you just can’t beat the intense flavors of fresh ingredients and good seasoning. So though you know your family best, I feel absolutely confident that the taste of this side dish is scrumptious. And hey, perhaps you could just serve it without mentioning that it’s a little different or “new” – wait until after they eat it to share that!

  • Sheryl November 27, 2013, 12:00 pm

    This looked so great, I am doing this year. Making all the seperate components today (day before Thanksgiving) and I will finish it off tomorrow. The sauce is fantastic….can’t wait to bake it off tomorrow. As to any comments about it being too time consuming, well good things take time!

    • The Cozy Apron November 27, 2013, 3:47 pm

      Hi Sheryl! I absolutely loved the last line of your comment, and am glad that you, as a reader (and preparer of the recipe), said that! There definitely is a difference in taste/texture with this homemade version. And the fact that you’re making the components ahead of time is really ideal. Hope you and your family enjoy this recipe tomorrow, and please have a wonderful, joyous and delicious Thanksgiving!!

  • Rebecca December 25, 2013, 11:46 am

    I’m trying this out this afternoon for our big Christmas feast tonight and I am soooo excited! I’ll report back how it turned out :)

  • Kirstin December 28, 2013, 9:48 am

    I made this for Thanksgiving and it was a HUGE hit, even amongst those who don’t like green bean casserole. it was hard not to eat all the onions before they made it to the casserole and I’ve used the mushroom sauce in my tuna casserole and it sure kicked it up a notch! I’m sharing about it on my blog today. I am linking back to your blog and this recipe. I really enjoy your blog.

    • The Cozy Apron December 28, 2013, 2:42 pm

      Well thanks for that, Kirstin – I appreciate it! Glad to read that even the not-so-big-fans of green bean casserole enjoyed it, and that the sauce has been of good use in other dishes! Thank you for your kind comments and readership.

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