A Vegan Green Bean Casserole This Nutritionist Loves

Registered dietitian and plant-based diet specialist Cynthia Sass shares her recipe for a vegan version of her favorite comfort food. Find out why this satisfying green bean casserole is also incredibly good for you.

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Comfort food

Since childhood, green bean casserole has been one of my very favorite comfort foods. I always made an effort to achieve the perfect ratio of crisp onion topping to tender creamy filling in every forkful.

However, the versions I enjoyed as a kid were made with dairy-based canned soup and butter. As a grown-up, one of my top culinary goals was to recreate this can’t-live-without dish with 100 percent plant-based ingredients and healthier add-ins. I’m excited to say, I believe I nailed it. Even my hubby, who tends to be skeptical of vegan versions of traditional favorites, voted this recipe his very favorite of the holiday season. Here’s how it’s made, and how the ingredients can help protect your health. (Try pairing it on your holiday table with vegan mashed potatoes.)

Bursting with nutrition

Fresh green beans provide just 31 calories per cup, yet they supply 13 percent of your daily fiber needs, 27 percent of the immune-supporting vitamin C you need every day, and smaller amounts of A and B vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. (Read more about the health benefits of beans.)

The superfood veggies that co-star in this recipe are onions, shallots, and mushrooms. Onions and shallots, members of the allium family, are rich in flavonoid and polyphenol antioxidants and are linked to the prevention of several types of cancer, according to research published in Food Science & Nutrition.

In a review of mushrooms, published in the journal Nutrients, researchers note that this veg is the only plant source of vitamin D, a nutrient needed for bone density, muscle function, and immune health, that’s also linked to the prevention of several chronic diseases. Additionally, mushrooms have been shown to protect brain health and aid in weight management; plus, they supply anti-inflammatory compounds, antioxidants, vitamins, and key minerals.

To further up the nutritional value of this dish, I opted for almond flour in the topping and brown rice flour in the filling, in place of all-purpose (white) flour, which has been stripped of its nutrients and fiber. Just two tablespoons of almond flour provide 4 grams of plant protein, along with 6 grams of healthful fat, and a few grams of fiber. The whole grain brown rice flour provides energy-supporting B vitamins, and bonus health-protective antioxidants. (Find out more about how almond flour is healthy.)

Even the topping is gluten-free

To make the topping gluten-free, I used crushed potato chips rather than panko bread crumbs. The latter is made from wheat flour, a source of gluten. The only gluten-free version I could find replaced the wheat with gluten-free tapioca and potato flours, but added egg, which isn’t vegan. Potato chips may sound like a surprising choice in a dietitian developed recipe. But, the Kettle brand I love is made simply from just three high-quality ingredients: potatoes, avocado oil, and pink Himalayan salt, so they’re a perfect fit. (Side note: They’re one of my go-to snacks when I need a crunch and salt fix.)

My vegan version also includes oat milk in place of cow’s milk and extra virgin olive oil instead of butter. These trades increase the antioxidant content of the recipe, and replace saturated fat with monounsaturated fat, the type linked to heart protection.

The finished dish is nutritious and energizing, but also incredibly soothing and satisfying. While it’s best served straight from the oven, it’s delicious even cold the following day or reheated. But, at least in our kitchen, there are never any leftovers!

vegan green bean casseroleCourtesy Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, CSSD

Vegan Green Bean Casserole

serves 4

Topping ingredients:

1/2 of a medium yellow onion, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons almond flour

1/4 cup panko bread crumbs, or crushed kettle-style potato chips for a gluten-free version

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Extra virgin olive oil nonstick spray

Filling ingredients:

1/2 pound fresh green beans, washed and trimmed, sliced lengthwise

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

8 ounces white button mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons brown rice flour

1/2 cup low sodium vegetable broth

1/2 cup unsweetened oat milk

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 475 F. Combine the onions, almond flour, panko or crushed potato chips, and salt in a medium bowl and toss to combine thoroughly. Generously coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the onions evenly on the pan. Bake until golden brown on the middle rack about 15 minutes. Toss every 5 minutes or so during cooking to prevent burning. Remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 400 F.

While the onions are cooking, prepare the filling. Fill an 8-quart saucepan with 6 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil. Add the beans and blanch for 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or tongs remove the green beans and plunge into a large bowl of ice water. Quickly drain and set aside.

In a sauté pan set over medium heat combine the olive oil, mushrooms, shallots, remaining salt and the pepper. Sauté, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine, for about 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Decrease the heat to low and add the oat milk. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, for approximately 5 to 6 minutes.

Turn off the heat and the green beans. Transfer the mixture to casserole dish and top with the onions. Place into the oven and bake until bubbly, about 10 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

Next up, try these other vegan comfort food recipes.

Sources
  • Food Science & Nutrition: "Allium vegetable consumption and health: An umbrella review of meta‐analyses of multiple health outcomes"
  • Nutrients: "A Review of Mushrooms as a Potential Source of Dietary Vitamin D"
  • Journal of Alzheimer's Disease: "The Association between Mushroom Consumption and Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Community-Based Cross-Sectional Study in Singapore"
  • Appetite: "Lack of energy compensation over 4 days when white button mushrooms are substituted for beef Author links open overlay panel"
  • Food Chemistry: "Anti-inflammatory properties of edible mushrooms: A review"
  • Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders—Drug Targets: "Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Cardiovascular Diseases: Benefits for Human Health"

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD
Cynthia Sass is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, writer, recipe developer, and practitioner, with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. One of the first registered dietitians to become a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, she has consulted for five professional sports teams in the NBA, NHL, and MLB. In her private practice Sass counsels a wide range of clients. She has worked with Oscar, Grammy, and Emmy winners, professional athletes across a variety of sports, Fortune 500 CEOs, executives, entrepreneurs, and many other high-performance people. She is also the nutrition consultant for UCLA's Executive Health Program. Sass has appeared on numerous national TV shows, including The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Rachael Ray Show, The Martha Stewart Show, The Dr. Oz. Show, The Biggest Loser, Nightline, and many others. In addition to her degrees, Sass has formal training in plant-based, organic culinary arts and mindfulness meditation. She is also a Certified LEAP Therapist and is working toward certification through the Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy. She specializes in high performance nutrition and plant-based eating, and is based in Los Angeles.