by Olena

Healthy Green Bean Casserole

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Olena Osipov
5 from 7 votes

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Made from scratch Healthy Green Bean Casserole (with no canned soup or fried onions) using fresh green beans, creamy homemade mushroom sauce and gluten free topping! Low calorie, low sodium, high flavor, and perfect for Thanksgiving.

Enjoy it alongside other healthy holiday side dishes like sweet potato casserole, zucchini casserole, and sauteed Brussel sprouts with bacon!

healthy green bean casserole

This healthy green bean casserole recipe prioritizes nutrients and flavor and is a must-have on your Thanksgiving table. Ditch the canned and processed green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and fried onions for a comforting yet healthy casserole alternative made with fresh ingredients!

By ditching canned ingredients, this ‘upgraded’ homemade green bean casserole is creamy, velvety, flavorful, and FRESH instead of mushy, heavy, and loaded with preservatives and chemicals. This way, you can happily dig in and still have room for a large slice of pumpkin pie for dessert!

This healthy green bean recipe is the perfect side dish to accompany other favorite lightened-up Thanksgiving dishes like roasted parmesan cauliflower, steamed veggies, and Instant Pot mashed potatoes (or sweet potatoes)!

What Makes This Green Bean Casserole Healthy?

  • Comforting casserole: It’s a crowd favorite with a creamy mushroom sauce, fresh and vibrant green beans, and a wonderful caramelized onion, parmesan, and pecan topping. 
  • No processed ingredients: No unhealthy canned soup, crispy onions, or soggy beans. Just fresh and wholesome ingredients like crisp green beans, mushrooms, onion and pecans.
  • Classic flavor, but better: By using fresh mushrooms, a milk based sauce, and caramelized onion, you have the same elements of onion/cream of mushroom but even better flavor!
  • Naturally gluten free: I use crunchy pecans and cornstarch instead of breadcrumbs and flour.
  • Make ahead: Prepare the homemade green bean casserole up to a day in advance or store leftovers for several days for a fuss free holiday dish!

Ingredients for Healthy Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean Filling:

  • Green beans: Use fresh or frozen (and thawed) string beans or French green beans.
  • Mushrooms: Skip the white mushrooms for this healthy green bean casserole. Instead, go for flavorful brown mushrooms like Baby Bellas or cremini mushrooms.
  • Oil: Any neutral cooking oil will work: avocado oil, olive oil, or coconut oil.
  • Cooking spray: For the baking dish (I use Misto).

Healthy Creamy Sauce:

  • Milk: Using 3.25% whole milk makes the creamiest sauce. However, 2% would also work. Check the add-ins section below for dairy-free recommendations.
  • Parmesan: This will add a rich, savory, salty, almost nutty flavor. Use freshly grated rather than packaged/dry parmesan.
  • Herbs: I made the creamy sauce wonderfully flavorful thanks to the addition of dried oregano, basil, and thyme.
  • Cornstarch: Needed to thicken the sauce. Arrowroot would also work.
  • Salt & pepper: Adjust the amount to taste.

Pecan Onion Topping:

  • Onion: I prefer to use a yellow/white onion, though red would work in a pinch. Shallots may also work.
  • Pecans: This homemade green bean casserole uses crumbled/chopped pecans in place of breadcrumbs for a naturally gluten free dish. Slithered almonds or crumbles walnuts would also work. For a nut-free version, use crushed seeds like pepitas and/or sunflower seeds.
  • Parmesan: Once again, use freshly grated parmesan for the best flavor and texture.
  • Seasonings: Oregano and salt will help to infuse the topping with even more flavor.

Keep reading below (after the recipe how-to) for more information on any add-ins and recipe variations!

healthy green bean casserole ingredients

How to Make Homemade Green Bean Casserole

Preparing this healthy green bean recipe is simple and requires just 6 steps (and a little patience!). It may not be as quick to prepare as the traditional version, but the extra time is worth it for your tastebuds (and waistline)!

  • Chop the ingredients: First, peel and thinly slice the onion in half moon slices. Then, trim the ends from the green beans and chop them into even pieces (around 2-inches), and thinly slice the mushrooms. At the same time, spray a casserole dish with cooking spray.
  • Prepare the pecan onion topping: First, lightly toast the pecans in a dry, large skillet until fragrant, stirring often (3-4 minutes). Then, transfer them to a bowl and add 1 tbsp oil to the pan. Once hot, add the thinly sliced onion and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until they’re golden-brown/almost charred, stirring occasionally. Then transfer them to the bowl with the pecans.

For extra flavor, lightly deglaze the pan with a splash of vegetable/chicken stock and stir. That way, the onions will pick up all the extra flavor at the bottom of the pan.

  • Cook the beans and mushrooms: Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and then add the green beans with a splash of water. Stir and cover the pan with a lid, cooking for 10 minutes, stirring once halfway. Then transfer them to a bowl. Next, add another tablespoon of oil and sauté the mushrooms until they release their excess water and begin to brown. Only stir them occasionally, to encourage browning.
  • Prepare the creamy sauce: As the mushrooms cook, combine the milk, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, herbs, seasonings, and cornstarch in a medium bowl and whisk until there are no cornstarch lumps. Then add it to the skillet with the mushrooms. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sauce thickens (around 4-5 minutes). At the same time, preheat the oven to 375F/190C.

To avoid lumps, first, create a slurry with the cornstarch and a few tablespoons of the milk. Whisk until lump-free, then add that to the bowl.

  • Combine and assemble: Add the cooked green beans back into the pan and mix well. Then transfer the green bean mixture to your prepared casserole dish. Then, finish the onion topping by adding the remaining ingredients (salt, oregano, and parmesan) to the bowl with the pecans and onions. Finally, transfer that to the healthy green bean casserole, spreading it over the top.
  • Bake to perfection: Transfer the green bean casserole to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Then serve while hot and enjoy!

Optional Add-Ins and Variations

  • Breadcrumbs: For a more traditional crunchy topping, add some whole wheat panko breadcrumbs (or gluten-free breadcrumbs) to the top of the green bean casserole alternative and optionally broil at the end of the cooking process.
  • Spice: Add a little heat with a pinch of red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to the creamy sauce.
  • Broth: Use vegetable, mushroom, or chicken broth/stock to replace some milk, for an even lighter yet slightly more fragrant sauce.
  • Nutmeg: Just a small pinch added to the mushroom gravy/sauce will add depth of flavor.
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic or garlic powder would be a welcome addition to the creamy sauce.
  • Extra cheese: To keep the recipe light, only add ¼ cup of flavorful cheese like blue cheese, mature cheddar, or even gruyere into the creamy sauce. Alternatively, some light cream cheese would work.
  • Mashed potato/cauliflower: Combine two classic holiday dishes by topping the green bean filling with a layer of mashed potato or mashed cauliflower before topping with the onion pecan topping.
  • Bacon: Crisp, cooked bacon will add texture and more savory flavor (method in FAQs). Pancetta would also work well in this healthy green bean recipe.
  • Dairy free: You can use any non-dairy milk like unsweetened almond milk. Please keep in mind the sauce won’t be as creamy, and the taste/texture will vary.
  • Vegan green bean casserole: Along with the above dairy free milk, use nutritional yeast (and a little lemon) or another vegan parmesan replacement in the topping and sauce.

Tips for Best Results

  • Use flavorful mushrooms: Avoid regular white mushrooms for this healthy green bean casserole. Instead, Baby Bella or Cremini will add tons more flavor and ‘body’. You could even add some mushroom powder to the sauce. 
  • For a crispy topping: If you want a more traditional crispy onion topping, sauté a portion of the onions until crisp to sprinkle over the top of the casserole.
  • Adjust the green bean texture: If you prefer a crisper texture, then simply boil the beans for less time. Likewise, if you prefer them mushier, increase the time. 
  • Using frozen green beans: Make sure they’re fully thawed and drained before using. You may also need to adjust the cooking time, as they’ll have been pre-blanched.
  • If the sauce is watery: Add a little more cornstarch slurry and heat until thickened.

FAQs

Why is traditional green bean casserole unhealthy?

Traditional green bean casserole usually contains high-sodium canned mushroom soup, canned green beans, and a fat heavy fried onion topping. Resulting in a dish that’s high in fat, sodium, and calories (and lacking in nutrients).

This healthy green bean casserole alternative provides all the flavor but with just a portion of the sodium and fat by using fresh ingredients from scratch, with nothing ‘processed.’

Is this homemade green bean casserole gluten free?

Yes, by using cornstarch in place of flour to thicken the creamy mushroom sauce, this dish is 100% gluten-free.

Could I add bacon to this green bean casserole?

Absolutely. Fry the bacon (3-6 strips) in a skillet/pan until crisp, and then chop or crumble and add to the casserole dish. I recommend using lean bacon. You can even use a little of the leftover bacon grease to cook the green beans/mushrooms for more flavor.

Is it possible to make green bean casserole without mushrooms?

It’s possible. However, you will probably need to rely on more cheese, seasoning, and potentially broth/stock, to compensate for the lack of flavor.

Are green beans high in nutrients?

Green beans contain several important nutrients and health benefits. For example, they contain several vitamins and minerals (vitamins A, C, K, iron, folate, and potassium), antioxidants, and fiber (beneficial to heart and gut health). For the most nutritional option, use fresh or frozen green beans (not canned).

However, it’s important to note that green beans may lead to digestive upset (particularly those with digestive disorders like IBS), as the fiber can cause bloating and discomfort. More so, green beans contain phytic acid (an anti nutrient), so are best eaten in moderation.

Can I use canned beans?

I prefer not to use those, as it makes the casserole mushy. However, if you want to, use low sodium canned green beans and rinse them well. Then, simply skip the bean cooking step and add them directly to the cooked mushroom gravy/sauce.

Can I use frozen green beans?

Allow them to thaw and drain excess liquid, then continue with the healthy green bean casserole alternative recipe as written.

How to Serve Homemade Green Bean Casserole?

This healthy green bean Thanksgiving casserole is a classic holiday side dish, meaning it pairs perfectly with all your other holiday favorites, like:

Sometimes, we’ll even double up on healthy green bean recipes by also serving garlic green beans. You can also check out this list of 50 healthy thanksgiving dishes for a ton more holiday recipe inspiration!

Can You Prepare the Green Bean Casserole Alternative in Advance?

Make ahead: Begin the prep for this healthy green bean casserole alternative a day in advance. First, cook and assemble the mushroom/green bean layer in your casserole dish covered tightly with foil. Also, cook and store the onion and cheese topping in a separate container (plus one more for the nuts). When you’re ready to bake, allow it to come to room temperature for 20 minutes, combine the nuts with the onions, top the casserole, and bake.

You may be able to assemble the entire casserole apart from the nuts, adding them just before baking, to reduce the number of containers needed. I haven’t tried, so I can’t guarantee results.

Store: Allow the healthy green bean casserole to cool and then store, covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

I don’t recommend freezing the homemade green bean casserole, as the beans and nut topping will become mushy once thawed.

Reheat: Use a microwave OR place in the oven at 350F/176C until heated through (about 15-20 minutes, no need to preheat)!

More Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

green bean casserole in a baking dish with a spoon
Healthy Green Bean Casserole

Healthy Green Bean Casserole {Gluten Free}

Made from scratch Healthy Green Bean Casserole (with no canned soup or fried onions) using fresh green beans, creamy homemade mushroom sauce and gluten free topping! Low calorie, low sodium, high flavor, and perfect for Thanksgiving.
5 from 7 votes
Print Save Rate
Course: Casserole
Cuisine: North American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 234kcal
Author: Olena Osipov

Ingredients

Healthy Green Bean Casserole:

  • 2 lbs green string beans trimmed and cut into 2″ pieces
  • 10 brown mushrooms, sliced ~8 oz
  • 1 tbsp + 2 tsp oil for frying
  • Cooking spray I use Misto

Pecan Onion Topping:

  • 1 cup pecans finely chopped or crushed
  • 2 large onions thinly sliced in half moon shapes
  • 1/2 tsp oregano dried
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated

Healthy Creamy Sauce:

Instructions

  • Pecan Onion Topping: Preheat large non-stick skillet on medium heat and add pecans. Cook until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a large bowl. Return skillet to the stove and swirl 1 tbsp oil to coat. Add onions and cook for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown/almost charred, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a bowl with pecans.
    Healthy Green Bean Casserole
  • Green beans: Return skillet to the stove and swirl 1 tsp oil. Add green beans and a splash of water, stir, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring once. Transfer to another large bowl.
    Healthy Green Bean Casserole
  • Mushrooms: Return skillet to the stove and swirl remaining 1 tsp oil. Add mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.
    Healthy Green Bean Casserole
  • Creamy Sauce: While mushrooms are cooking, in a medium bowl add milk, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, oregano, basil, thyme, salt, pepper and cornstarch. Whisk together. Add to the skillet with mushrooms. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened a bit, about 4-5 minutes. In the meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F and spray medium baking dish with cooking spray. Turn off the heat, add green beans and stir to coat.
    Healthy Green Bean Casserole
  • In a bowl with onions and pecans, add remaining Pecan Onion Topping ingredients: salt, oregano and 1/2 cup Parmesan. Stir well.
    Healthy Green Bean Casserole
  • Transfer green beans to previously prepared casserole dish and sprinkle with the topping. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Serve hot.
    Healthy Green Bean Casserole

Make ahead: Follow the recipe and assemble the casserole. Allow it to cool. Don't bake. Cover tightly with plastic and refrigerate until next day. Bake as per recipe.

    Store: Refrigerate leftovers tightly wrapped for up to 3 days. Do not freeze.

      Reheat: Place in a 350 degrees F oven until warmed through. Honestly I don't even preheat the oven. It doesn't matter. Or utilize the microwave if you have transferred leftovers into a container. Easy-peasy.

        Notes

        • Dairy free milk: You can substitute regular milk with almond milk etc., just be prepared for a slight change in taste, if you don’t mind.
        • Vegan green bean casserole: Along with the above dairy free milk, use nutritional yeast (and a little lemon) or another vegan parmesan replacement in the topping and sauce.
        • Breadcrumbs: For a more traditional crunchy topping, add some whole wheat panko breadcrumbs (or gluten-free breadcrumbs) to the top of the green bean casserole alternative and optionally broil at the end of the cooking process.
        • Spice: Add a little heat with a pinch of red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to the creamy sauce.
        • Broth: Use vegetable, mushroom, or chicken broth/stock to replace some milk, for an even lighter yet slightly more fragrant sauce.
        • Nutmeg: Just a small pinch added to the mushroom gravy/sauce will add depth of flavor.
        • Garlic: Fresh garlic or garlic powder would be a welcome addition to the creamy sauce.
        • Extra cheese: To keep the recipe light, only add ¼ cup of flavorful cheese like blue cheese, mature cheddar, or even gruyere into the creamy sauce. Alternatively, some light cream cheese would work.
        • Bacon: Crisp, cooked bacon will add texture and more savory flavor (method in FAQs). Pancetta would also work well in this healthy green bean recipe.
        See recipe post for more tips and FAQs.

        Nutrition

        Calories: 234kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 485mg | Potassium: 551mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 944IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 261mg | Iron: 2mg
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        12 comments on “Healthy Green Bean Casserole

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        1. 5 stars
          My husband LOVED this recipe!! Will be making it again for sure. A great way to use up all my garden beans. Wonderful!

        2. 5 stars
          This recipe was fantastic!! It had the same consistency and flavor of a traditional green bean casserole but much better and far healthier. It is very time consuming though so I would recommend making it the day before. I loved the crunchy pecan and onion topping! What a great substitute for the canned fried onions!

        3. I can’t wait to make this for Thanksgiving. I love green bean casserole but hate all of the over processed ingredients. Thank you for sharing!

        4. 5 stars
          I found this recipe laat night and we bought the ingredients at the grocery store.. My boyfriend made this for us today and it was delicious! !! Thank you!

        5. 5 stars
          I made this for my family’s Thanksgiving this year and it was amazing! I will never go back to the traditional recipe. The onion topping was so good too, and it tasted so similar to French’s onions but I like this recipe much better. Thank you so much for the recipe–I’ll be making this many times in the future.

        6. 5 stars
          We just had this wonderful side for Thanksgiving dinner. It was absolutely delicious! Great recipe, thank you for sharing 🙂

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