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Dishing It Up: History of the Green Bean Casserole

green bean casserole
Campbell Soup test kitchen manager Dorcas Reilly developed the recipe for the popular green bean casserole in 1955. Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

With Thanksgiving on the horizon, many Americans are beginning their great Google search for dishes and casseroles to adorn their holiday tables. Sure you'll have turkey and pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce.

And those sides! What Thanksgiving spread is complete without a myriad of piping hot side dishes on the table? And if there's one traditional dish that's managed to stand the test of time with its easy-to-follow instructions and delicious taste it's the green bean casserole. But who came up with this simple mix of green beans, condensed cream of mushroom soup and fried onions?

It was developed by the late Dorcas Reilly back in 1955 when she was a Campbell Soup Company test kitchen manager. Her green bean casserole has made a name for itself as a go-to Thanksgiving side for more than 60 years.

"Dorcas Reilly was a member of our home economics department at the time," says vice president of communications for Campbell Meals and Beverages division, Beth Jolly. "It wasn't necessarily designed to become a Thanksgiving staple, but she worked in the kitchen and was tasked to find an everyday side dish. The premise of the recipe development was that she needed to use ingredients that most Americans at the time would have."

Of course, in the '50s, most Americans actually had green beans in their freezers, and Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup had been around since 1934, though it was mostly used as a casserole filler. It was Reilly's idea to mix the soup and beans and top them with the fried onions for texture and color. Jolly says Reilly originally named the dish Green Bean Bake.

"There were no exotic ingredients, it wasn't hard to cook, and it was hard to make a mistake," Jolly adds. "People tried it and liked it, and it became a staple. [Dorcas] wasn't sure if it was going to take off. [She] developed hundreds of recipes, frankly; she was always amazed at how it became such a household favorite."

Campbell officially put the green bean casserole recipe on the Cream of Mushroom Soup label in 1955, giving way to a slow burn that would soon cement the dish as a Thanksgiving must-have. Jolly says the easy instructions and simple ingredients are the main reasons it's managed to stay so popular.

The dish itself is crazy easy to make, and includes just six ingredients. Here's Campbell's original recipe:

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Ingredients

  • 1 can (10½ ounces) Campbell's Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 dash black pepper
  • 4 cups cooked cut green beans
  • 1 1/3 cups French's French Fried Onions

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Preparation

  1. Mix soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cup of onions together in a 1½-quart casserole dish.
  2. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until the bean mixtures bubbles.
  3. Stir the bean mixture and sprinkle with the remaining onions.
  4. Bake for 5 more minutes or until the onions are golden brown. Serve immediately.

Naturally, the brand has a ton of different recipes that give people the chance to flex their cooking skills and utilize leftovers at the same time.

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