Green beans are one of my favorite vegetables. They’re versatile and delicious, whether freshly steamed or sauteed or oven roasted. Of all the delicious green bean preparations, I think Mom’s Green Bean Casserole might be my favorite. Maybe it’s because I associate it will family holidays, or maybe it’s just the crispy fried onions on top. Whatever the magic touch is, this casserole will continue to appear on all my holiday menus.
This casserole has become a holiday classic all over the United States, but I especially love my mom’s version. She always uses heavy cream to make it extra luxurious and rich. That creaminess is balanced with the addition of water chestnuts. The crunch really makes every bite that much better, in my opinion. Her other trick was always to add a bit of onion powder to really raise the onion profile throughout.
I’ve added a couple of my own tweaks to this version. Mom always used soy sauce, but I add quite a bit more than she does. I think the soy sauce brings out an umami flavor that pairs well with the onions and the earthy green beans. I also add a healthy couple of pinches of black pepper. I think the extra little kick from the pepper sends this dish over the top.
Mom always mixed everything in a large mixing bowl and poured it into a casserole dish. I’m lazy, so I just mix everything in the casserole dish itself. I try to spare myself a dish to wash as often as I can in holiday meal prep. This dish is very easy to prepare anyway, but that extra little step really makes this a must-have for holidays. You can even assign your older kids to follow the recipe and whip it up, because anyone who’s old enough to open a can and do a little measuring and stirring can make this recipe (although I usually do the onion sprinkle step myself).
Before you ask, yes I have tried homemade versions of this casserole. I’ve made a mushroom soup by sauteeing some cremini mushrooms in butter and making a thickened stock with some flour and milk. Yes, I’ve cooked fresh green beans, steaming them to just fork tender before adding them to the recipe. Believe it or not, I’ve even homemade the little crispy onion bits (the trick is to soak them in buttermilk before your coat them in heavily seasoned flour and fry them off).
While all the homemade versions of this dish I tried were delicious, they weren’t exactly the same as my mom’s. I missed the canned soup and the canned beans and especially the canned fried onions. Feel free to try a homemade version of your own, but if you want the authentic taste of childhood, this is one of those times it’s best to just reach for a can opener and do it the way your mom or grandma did!