This Make-Ahead Green Bean Casserole recipe incorporates fresh green beans and a homemade cream-of-mushroom soup that is delicious enough to be eaten on its own.
In my mind, green bean casserole is to Thanksgiving Dinner what fruitcake is to Christmas.
Like fruitcake, green bean casserole can be good…but it can also be really, really bad.
The most egregious BAD cases involved canned, concentrated cream-of-mushroom soup and canned green beans.
That isn't happening here.
I'm going to show you how to make homemade cream of mushroom soup that is so good that you can eat it by itself.
Also, nothing can substitute fresh green beans for this casserole.
The best news is that most of this can be done a day or two in advance, which saves you time on the big day.
Check out how easy it is to impress your family and friends with this holiday favorite!
The perfect recipe for Make-Ahead Green Bean Casserole
Green bean casserole is a dish that I have explored in-depth.
I've tried it all.
I've used canned, frozen, and fresh green beans, as well as canned and homemade cream-of-mushroom soup.
I’ve topped with breadcrumbs, French’s fried onions, and homemade fried onions.
After all that, I’ve settled what I believe is the perfect green bean casserole recipe.
It's not as simple as dumping together cans of this and that, but boy is it worth it!
More importantly, you can make most of it ahead of time so that all you have to do is pop it in the oven when the turkey comes out to rest.
I've found that homemade cream-of-mushroom soup is a must.
The soup comes out so delicious that you'll have to restrain yourself from eating it all. It's not even in the same universe as that canned cream-of-nasty stuff that many of us grew up with.
I prefer to leave the mushrooms chunky.
But you can chop yours up fine—or even pureé the soup—if you have chunk-averse, fussy eaters in your gathering.
Fresh green beans are the other absolute must.
I like to use the thin French green beans (a.k.a. haricots verts).
I prefer their flavor and find them easier to work with.
Costco always seems to have 2-lb. bags of these in stock.
I've discovered that homemade fried onions are messy to make, a general pain in the...you know, and too fussy for true green bean casserole aficionados.
French’s fried onions, which I mix with buttery breadcrumbs, are now our required topping.
Can you make green bean casserole ahead of time?
Absolutely! (You might have noticed the title)
It's totally OK to make green bean casserole ahead of time.
I've made the casserole as much as a month in advance.
I've also prepared the casserole 2 days in advance, in which case I keep it in the refrigerator, wrapped as I've explained above.
I explain the details of how to do this later in the post.
Work-ahead steps for green bean casserole
Preparing the beans
Blanch the green beans by boiling them 3-5 minutes, until still crisp-tender. Drain and plunge them into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
When the beans are cooled, drain and pat them dry with paper towels.
You can actually do this step a month in advance and freeze your green beans in a freezer bag, although I recommend starting with fresh beans if you plan to freeze your casserole.
Making the sauce
To start the delectable sauce, rehydrate dried mushrooms in hot water for at least 30 minutes.
Next, strain the mushroom rehydrating liquid into a measuring cup and mix it with some chicken broth (or water) to bring the total amount to 1 ½ cups.
Keep those rehydrated mushrooms!
They're packed with earthy, umami goodness. Simply rinse them and chop finely. Add all the mushrooms (fresh and rehydrated) to a large, heavy bottomed pot with butter, salt and pepper. Cook until the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated.
Add the garlic and thyme and cook for an additional minute.
Now it's time to make the roux. Sprinkle flour over the mixture in the pot and stir to combine.
It's important to cook the raw flour flavor, so stir the flour in and keep stirring for about a minute.
Next, slowly stir in the rehydrating liquid and broth mixture. Always wait until the liquid is completely absorbed before you add more. Yes, it's a bit tedious, but it prevents lumps, so it's worth it!
Stir in the cream and wine, and bring to a boil. Then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened (~15 minutes).
Last, add the marsala wine (if using); stir and let simmer for 2 additional minutes.
Assembling the casserole
While the sauce simmers, toss the green beans with the cornstarch.
Now taste your sauce and adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
Since we haven't added any salt to the green beans, we do want the sauce to be on the salty side.
And the cornstarch-bean mixture to a 9x13 baking dish. Pour the sauce over the beans and push them down so that they’re completely covered with sauce.
Then add chopped fried onions (if you like these in your sauce!) and mix thoroughly into the casserole.
Let the sauce cool, then press plastic wrap over the surface of the casserole. You don't want any air pockets.
Finally, cover the baking dish tightly with foil, then refrigerate for up to two days or freeze for up to a month. If freezing, allow three days in the refrigerator to thaw.
ON SERVING DAY: make the topping and bake
To make the topping, mix melted butter with panko bread crumbs, fried onions, salt, and pepper.
Unwrap the dish and throw away the plastic wrap.
Sprinkle the topping evenly over the top of the casserole and re-cover with foil.
Allow the casserole to sit at room temperature for about an hour before it goes in the oven.
If you're serving your green bean casserole as part of a traditional turkey dinner, the perfect time to bake it is while the turkey rests.
Bake the casserole at 350° for 20 minutes with the foil on, then remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes or until your topping is golden-brown (the casserole should be 165 ºF).
In my many years of making this green bean casserole, it continues to be the family favorite every year.
I hope it becomes a favorite on your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table as well. Happy Holidays!
Want a separate recipe for Cream of Mushroom Soup? Check out my easy Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup: I include instructions for regular-consistency and condensed so you can use it in casseroles and sauces!
FOR THE SAUCE
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 6 cloves garlic, minced (don’t skimp on these!)
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ cup flour
- ½ cup dried mushrooms, preferably porcini, rehydrated
- 1 ½ cups of mushroom-rehydrating liquid, strained; you can mix with chicken stock (the proportion to make 1 ½ cups is up to you)
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 ½ cups cream
- 1 tablespoon sweet marsala wine, optional
- Additional kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, if needed
FOR THE GREEN BEANS
- 2 pounds fresh green beans, preferably haricots verts, stems trimmed, snapped into bite-size pieces
- ¼ cup cornstarch
FOR THE TOPPING
- Rehydrate dried mushrooms in 1 ½ cups of scalding water for at least 30 minutes. Strain the mushroom rehydrating liquid into a measuring cup and mix (as needed) with chicken stock or water to make 1 ½ cups. Remove the rehydrated mushrooms and rinse. Chop finely.
- Blanch the green beans by boiling them 3-5 minutes, until still crisp-tender. Drain and plunge into a large bowl of ice water. When cooled, drain and pat dry with paper towels.
- Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have given up their liquid. Continue cooking until liquid is evaporated. Add the garlic and thyme; cook for ~1 minute more. Sprinkle flour over the mixture; stir to combine. Slowly stir in the rehydrating liquid (about ½ cup at a time), allowing each addition to absorb completely before adding more. (This will prevent lumps, so be patient!) Stir in the cream and wine; bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened (~15 minutes). Add the marsala (if using); stir. Simmer for 2 additional minutes.
- While the sauce simmers, toss the green beans with the cornstarch. Add to a 9x13 baking dish.
- Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning as needed with S&P. (NOTE: you want the sauce to be on the salty side, since the green beans are not salted.) Pour the sauce over the beans and push the beans down so that they’re completely covered with sauce (see Recipe Note #1). Press plastic wrap over the surface of the casserole, making sure there are no air pockets. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil. Refrigerate or freeze (see below).
- You can do all of the above and freeze the dish; thaw three days before serving. Otherwise, make the dish up to two days before serving and keep in the refrigerator.
ON SERVING DAY
- Make the topping by mixing the melted butter with the panko, fried onions, and S&P. Unwrap the dish, discard plastic wrap. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the casserole; re-cover with foil. Allow the casserole to sit at room temperature for about an hour before it goes in the oven. Bake the casserole at 350° for 20 minutes, covered. Remove foil; bake an additional 10 minutes or until topping is golden-brown (see Recipe Note #2).
- If you'd like, you can chop up an additional cup of the fried onions and mix them in with the beans and sauce to kick the flavor up even more. However, I don't recommend this strategy if you're planning to freeze the casserole.
- The finished casserole should read 165 ºF on an instant read thermometer inserted into the middle of the dish.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 406Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 56mgSodium: 647mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 6gSugar: 7gProtein: 8g
Nutrition data provided here is only an estimate: if you are tracking this information for medical purposes, please consult a trusted external source. Thanks!
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