Whether you’re accompanying a weeknight dinner or celebrating a small-scale Thanksgiving holiday, you need this small batch fresh green bean casserole for four in your repertoire! The delicious homemade mushroom soup in this recipe is flavored with sherry and thyme and leaves the casserole creamy and flavorful without being soupy! Ready in only 35 minutes!
2020 has been the longest year and yet somehow Thanksgiving still managed to sneak up on me! My husband and I are having a small Thanksgiving dinner with our brand new family — just the two of us and our brand new six month old daughter who is just starting to taste solid foods. And while I’ll be sad not to have a big family gathering with parents and siblings, nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins, I am looking forward to trying my hand at making a complete Thanksgiving dinner on my own.
I’ve got a turkey in the freezer calling to me, and I did a trial run by brining and throwing a couple turkey thighs on the grill a couple weeks ago. I’ll be making my sweet potato casserole topped with some homemade apple pie marshmallows. I’m trying out my in-laws’ southern cornbread dressing. And I’ve been testing out this small batch fresh green bean casserole a few times in the last month.
Green bean casserole is one of my absolute favorite Thanksgiving sides, especially topped with crispy fried onions (those are not homemade in this recipe — I’ll have enough on my hands making multiple sides and a whole turkey!). It’s delightfully creamy without being soupy, as some casseroles are prone to do, and the addition of sherry to the homemade mushroom soup really takes the flavor to the next level!
And while you usually associate green bean casserole with Thanksgiving, I have to say I’ve really enjoyed having it as a regular weeknight side dish along with some of these sweet and spicy baked chicken thighs. I have to say it will probably make multiple appearances throughout the year since it’s not complicated and makes just enough that my husband and I can polish off the whole pan in one sitting (with generous portions, because it’s so good you’ll definitely want seconds!).
So if you’re having a small Thanksgiving dinner for just your immediate family this year or want a small batch of some creamy green bean casserole NOT as a part of a large holiday gathering, you’ve got to try this recipe!
Mostly from scratch
If you don’t love green bean casserole, I’d bet it’s because the traditional recipe that uses canned green beans and condensed soup is usually mushy and soupy, salty and yet simultaneously not super flavorful.
This recipe, on the other hand, uses fresh, blanched green beans, and a homemade mushroom soup so good you’ll want to eat right out of the pan. My only shortcut is the readymade crispy fried onions, although I’d venture if you wanted to take the time to batter and fry your own it would be even better!
Crispy fried onions: not from scratch (but can be if you want!)
This fresh green bean casserole for four is mostly homemade but takes shortcuts where it saves the most time and doesn’t compromise on flavor. You don’t have to worry about battering and frying onions over here. Anyone else feel like a store-bought container of crispy fried onions is so good you have to stop yourself from snacking on it all before it makes its way to the top of your casserole?
That said, if you’d like to make your own fried onions to top this dish please be my guest! I’m sure it would be absolutely delicious. But if you want to save time, especially if you’re making multiple dishes, go ahead and use store-bought.
This recipe uses fresh green beans and homemade cream of mushroom soup though. That really makes a huge difference in the final product!
Fresh green beans: an absolute must
You won’t find any overly salty, dull green overcooked canned green beans swimming in canned cream of mushroom soup in this recipe. Nope. This casserole has tender fresh green beans, blanched for a few minutes and chilled so they stay bright green and perfectly cooked.
Homemade cream of mushroom soup
The homemade cream of mushroom soup is to die for. This recipe uses 12 oz. of green beans and 12 oz. of mushrooms. Before you cook it all it looks like an absolutely shocking amount of mushrooms for such a small quantity of green beans but trust me, it’s correct.
The mushrooms cook down, you make a roux with some butter and flour, and add sherry, chicken broth, milk, cream, and thyme. You can sub half-and-half for the dairy but I always have both milk and cream on hand so I used half of each.
I blend it with an immersion blender until it’s a bit smoother but still has some mushroom pieces in the mix. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can use a regular blender or food processor and don’t blend it completely smooth, just pulse until you get the consistency you want. Or you can skip that step; however, I like when the mushrooms form part of the creamy soup rather than just being in the creamy soup.
And that sherry, man. It really makes this dish! So much sherry, so much flavor. To. die. for.
Minimal dishes, minimal cleanup
Apart from a big pot for blanching your green beans, this whole dish is prepared in one big cast iron or other oven-safe pan. You cook the mushrooms in the pan, add in the other soup ingredients, and then tilt it so the soup pools in one side of the pan to give more depth for your immersion blender. I just pulse the blender around in there until I get a semi-smooth, semi-chunky texture I like.
After stirring in the blanched green beans and topping with the fried onions, the whole casserole goes straight from the stovetop to the oven.
Preparing your fresh green bean casserole in advance
If you want to prepare most of this in advance I’d recommend making the mushroom soup and green beans and storing that until you’re ready to bake the casserole. You’ll want to store it in a separate container rather than in your cast iron skillet to prevent rusting (and to save space in your fridge). You could also move it to a small casserole dish if you’d rather.
When the time comes to bake the casserole, spread out the creamy green bean mixture in either your cast iron skillet or a small casserole dish, top with the crispy onions, and then bake until bubbly around the edges. Either let it come to room temperature first or give it an extra 5 minutes or so in the oven to make sure it’s nice and hot.
Other Thanksgiving side dishes
Like this recipe? Try these other sides to round out your holiday meal!
Small Batch Green Bean Casserole with Homemade Mushroom Soup
- 1.5 qt casserole dish
- Immersion blender
- 12 oz fresh green beans trimmed and washed
- 3 tbsp butter
- 12 oz mushrooms diced
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2/3 cup sherry
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup cream or substitute 1 cup half-and-half for both the milk and cream
- 1 1/2 cups crispy fried onions like French's (a 2.8 oz container should be perfect)
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cut green beans into 1 1/2 inch pieces.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add green beans and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to an ice water bath so the cooking stops and they stay bright green.
- Melt butter in a cast iron skillet or other oven-safe pan over medium high heat. (You can also make this in a pan that is not oven-safe if you transfer the mixture to a casserole dish before adding the fried onions and baking.)
- Add mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes without stirring, then sauté an additional 2-3 minutes. Add flour, stir to coat and cook for about a minute.
- Splash in the sherry and stir well, scraping the bottom of the pan to get up any bits that have stuck. Add chicken broth, milk, and cream, whisking until smooth between each ingredient so it doesn't get clumpy. Add thyme, pepper, and salt to taste (I haven't found it to need salt but if you do now's the time to add it!).
- Tilt the pan and scrape the soup to pool on one side and pulse an immersion blender in the soup until it's semi-smooth but has some larger pieces of mushrooms in the mix. If you don't have an immersion blender you can transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and pulse until you reach the desired consistency, and then transfer it back to the pan. Or, you can skip this step altogether, but I prefer the mushrooms partially blended into the creamy base.
- Mix in the green beans until evenly coated. Top with fried onions and bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly around the edges.
To prepare in advance
- If you're making this in advance, do everything except adding the fried onions. Transfer to a small casserole dish and refrigerate until ready to cook (it is not recommended to refrigerate food in a cast iron skillet as it may increase the chances of your pan rusting).
- Before cooking, let the casserole sit at room temperature while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Top with fried onions and bake for 15-20 minutes or until edges are bubbly and casserole is heated throughout. You may need that extra 5 minutes or so if it still has some chill from the fridge.