Green beans are some of the healthiest (culinary) vegetables around and unlike a lot of other "superfoods," they are common enough to be affordable by just about anyone. In the West, green bean casseroles are a staple of family gatherings and holiday feasts. But what if you want to enjoy this iconic dish without consuming the animal products that casseroles usually contain? Why, check out our vegan green bean casserole recipe, of course!
We'll go over how great green beans are and why you should include them in your diet regularly. We'll also break down the casserole so that you can understand which parts traditionally come from animal products. We'll show you how to swap those out and make a tasty green bean casserole that will win over even the most stubborn meat eaters in your life.
Green Beans: Tasty, Affordable, Nutritious
There's a reason that your mom always tried to get you to eat your greens. The green bean is one of the healthiest vegetables for you there is, despite it not technically being a vegetable (then again, what is?). Due to their seedy nature, green beans are considered, botanically, to be a fruit while used in the kitchen as a vegetable all over the world due to their low cost and ease of cultivation.
Regardless of what you call them, green beans promote health in many different ways including:
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- Boosting Immunity Function: Green beans are stuffed with antioxidants, which neutralize harmful compounds in your body called free radicals. These compounds damage cells and cause or contribute to a mind-boggling array of diseases and health problems. Higher levels of the many antioxidants found in green beans will reduce your rate of illness and can even reduce the severity of strokes.
- Eye Health: Green beans also contain carotenoids, which reduce the stress on our eyes and makes them stronger. These compounds will reduce the risk and slow the progress of macular degeneration, the decrease of eye function and vision.
- Regulating Diabetes: Several studies have demonstrated that a definitive hypoglycemic influence on patients with diabetes was brought about by ingesting green beans and the compounds that they contain. Very few foods are natural regulators of diabetes symptoms as green beans do.
- Bone Health: Calcium, vitamin K and silicon are all important vitamins and minerals for keeping bones strong and preventing bone loss diseases. Green beans have high levels of all three.
- Improving Digestive Function: Like many other vegetables, green beans are high in fiber, which has numerous benefits for your gastrointestinal system. Constipation, hemorrhoids, ulcers, and acid reflux disease are all kept in check by high fiber consumption. It also helps you lose weight by activating your metabolism and preventing too many sugars from being absorbed into your system. There are also links between high fiber diets and reduced rates of colon cancer.
- Lowering the Risk of Heart Disease: One of the antioxidants contained in green beans is called a flavonoid. These flavonoids reduce inflammation and blood clots, reducing your risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular maladies.
Making the Casserole Vegan
Now that you’re sold on green beans, its time to find a hearty and tasty way to get them into your diet. Traditionally, casseroles are decidedly not vegan. They contain meat such as tuna or chicken and in some cases eggs. Also, the cream of mushroom soup that often accompanies the casserole is made with, of course, cream.
By making a few omissions and substitutions, it's easy to make a green bean casserole vegan without sacrificing taste or texture. Fortunately, green bean casseroles are not as animal product heavy as other casserole types, so it isn't a huge departure.
First, we cut out all of the meat products. Easy enough, no canned tuna, chicken strips or stuff like that. We'll make up for the hearty taste with onions, the flavor of which will pair nicely without the faux cream of mushroom soup and green beans.
Speaking of the cream of mushroom soup, we can replace the heavy cream with plain soy milk. Alternatively, it is possible to use unsweetened almond milk if you have a soy allergy or just prefer something else.
That’s about it. We don’t use expensive vegan substitutes because we like to keep it simple and low cost. There are a lot of premium vegan substitutes out there like vegan sour cream and the like. Honestly, though, we aren’t sold on a lot of them, at least not for the price.
Let's get to the recipe for our vegan green bean casserole! First, you will need:
- 2 ½ cups of plain soymilk: Remember, you can substitute unsweetened almond milk here if you want. You can try experimenting with other dairy substitutes, but these two are the ones we have experience with and like. No guarantees that this will work with other substitutes like coconut milk.
- 1 ½ cups mushrooms: You can use your favorite mushrooms here. We like to use baby portobello mushrooms but just about any common kind should work.
- 4 cans (14 oz.) cut green beans: Fresh green beans are great, but unlike many fruits, the canned variety of green beans don't lose much of their nutrition. They also don't have harmful additives like syrup so don't feel too bad for using canned green beans.
- 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch: If for some reason you cannot use cornstarch, garbanzo flour is an acceptable substitute, just not our first choice.
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder: Feel free to cut this down if garlic isn’t your thing. We don’t recommend going below one teaspoon, however.
- 15 ounces french fried onions: If you really don’t want to use french fried onions, it can be acceptable to substitute caramelized onions. Just be aware that caramelizing a whole onion (what we recommend) will take some time.
- Black Pepper: Freshly ground is ideal.
If you chose to go with caramelized onions instead of french fried onions, then go ahead and caramelize a whole onion beforehand. Make sure it is all nice and brown. Then we can get started.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Put a medium pot on medium heat.
- Add 2 cups of soymilk, the mushrooms, garlic, and black pepper to your taste.
- Slowly raise to a boil. Make sure you are stirring to avoid burning.
- Reduce heat to a simmer after boiling for a few seconds.
- Add the cornstarch to the remaining soymilk and mix until dissolved.
- Add the cornstarch and soy milk mixture to the post and stir it in.
- Stir well while simmering for about five minutes, then remove from heat.
- Put the green beans in your casserole dish. If they are canned, make sure you drain them completely first. Don’t add too much excess moisture.
- Add about 1 cup of the onions and the soy milk and mushroom mixture to the dish with the beans and toss together.
- Place the casserole dish in the oven on the middle rack and let sit for 35 to 45 minutes depending on how dry and crunchy you want it.
- Remove the dish from the oven, then put the remaining onions onto the green beans.
- Return the casserole dish to the oven and let sit for another 5 minutes or so. Longer if you want a crispier top.
- Remove the casserole from the oven and let it sit for 10-15 minutes to cool off.
As odd as this sounds, there are actually some points of contention when it comes to pairings with green bean casserole. We’ll try to cut through the “controversy” and give you some of our recommendations that you can try and see for yourself.
Wine connoisseurs and sommeliers sometimes have arguments over what to pair with green bean casserole. Mostly because they enjoy arguing, but also because they believe that there is no good pairing with such a creamy, crunchy and vegetable-y dish.
However, one wine has shown to be a decent pairing that is still relatively unknown in the United States. One of Argentina's white wines, torrontés (pronounced tor-ron-tays), pairs well with green bean casserole because the bright acidity of the lemons used in its creation balances well with the taste of the food. Give it a shot if you're a wino; it's even pretty affordable, so you have little to lose on an experiment!
Most of the side dishes that pair well with green bean casserole are Thanksgiving and holiday meal staples. Mashed potatoes are a quick and easy way to add more starch and heft to the meal, and you can even mix the casserole with them on your plate for a more complex experience (or just for fun if you are a kid).
As far as smaller dishes go, garlic bread, cranberries and squash are all good choices. The garlic bread goes with just about anything, and the opposing flavors of the cranberries and the squash rounds out the meals flavors. Just don’t forget to find yourself a vegan garlic bread recipe!