Green bean casserole is one of the classic American side dishes and is a Thanksgiving favorite in many households. As with any traditional dish, there are often variations from family to family, but most consist of the same basic ingredients. Whether you want a more exciting version of the dish or want it to taste just like it did when you were a child, here are some of the best spices to use in green bean casserole.
While black pepper may seem like an obvious ingredient, it is essential to the flavor of green bean casserole since the dish is traditionally light on spice.
As with any dry spice, you will want to grind your black peppercorns fresh to maximize the flavor that they will provide. Most people making this dish will use pre-packaged and pre-ground black pepper.
The prepackaged pepper adds very mild heat with a little bitterness and a savory, woodsy quality. The fresh ground peppercorns will intensify the flavor by bringing stronger heat with a lemony complexity that will enhance both the creamy sauce and the green beans.
Onions are globally popular members of the Allium family. While multiple forms of onion may be used in a green bean casserole — including green onions and onion powder — the most popular seems to be standard yellow onions.
The yellow onions may be added raw to the sauce component of the dish. The raw onions provide an herbaceous, intensely pungent flavor that complements the taste of the green beans while enhancing the umami qualities of the overall dish.
Even more important to the flavor and mouthfeel of green bean casserole are fried onions, which are usually sprinkled on top. The traditional, basic form of the casserole is made with canned fried onions.
Known for its intense sulfurous and earthy flavor profile, garlic is not a universal favorite for all versions of green bean casserole. Many recipes opt for less seasoning, so garlic will only be added via a soup base or omitted entirely. It is another Allium like onion and is popular worldwide for its use in enhancing savory meat and vegetable dishes.
You probably won’t find nutmeg in the most basic versions of green bean casserole, but it is not an uncommon ingredient either. In the United States and some other parts of the West, nutmeg is most commonly associated with desserts and other sweet dishes. Still, it shows up in many savory dishes from the Mediterranean region and the Middle East.
You often see it in recipes that feature a dairy element and a green vegetable like the spinach and feta combination in Greek spanakopita. Nutmeg will bring a sweet and nutty flavor that perfectly complements the savory and creamy elements in the casserole and the vegetal flavor of the green beans.
Cream of mushroom soup
Canned cream of mushroom soup is arguably not a spice, but in reality, it is a collection of them. It is seasoned when it is prepared at the factory. In many green bean casserole recipes, it is the main source of salt and other seasonings, including garlic.
One of the most important ingredients it provides is monosodium glutamate, which enhances the umami properties of the whole dish. In addition to the flavor benefits, it enhances mouthfeel with its rich and creamy consistency.