How Green Bean Casserole Became A Thanksgiving Staple

Everyone has their essential Thanksgiving dish that the meal isn't complete without. For some, it's cornbread stuffing and for others, it's green bean casserole. For green bean casserole aficionados, it may come as a surprise that the side dish wasn't always a Thanksgiving dinner staple. 

Green bean casserole was developed at the same time that tuna noodle casserole became a national favorite — the 1950s, according to Campbell's. The year was 1955 and Campbell Soup Company employee Dorcas Reilly was working in the company's Home Economics Department (later named Campbell Test Kitchen) when she invented the recipe for green bean casserole. The original recipe called for canned or fresh green beans, Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, soy sauce, black pepper, milk, and French-fried onions (the same ingredients to this day). What has changed is the casserole's name. Campbell's recounts that the recipe was first called "Green Bean Bake."

Updated recipes for green bean casseroles, such as the recipe by Alton Brown for Food Network includes thinly sliced onions, panko breadcrumbs, mushrooms, and nutmeg. But based on how many recipe results for green bean casserole mention "grandma" and "classic" in the name, it's clear people still love the original recipe.

The evolution of a holiday classic

With more than 20 million green bean casseroles made every Thanksgiving, per Campbell's, it's hard to picture a time when it wasn't part of the holiday meal. However, the recipe was intended for a simple weeknight side dish. It didn't become synonymous with Thanksgiving until the 1960s when Campbell's printed the recipe on its Cream of Mushroom soup can label. 

The recipe combined a couple of ingredients that a lot of Americans had on hand when it was developed, such as frozen green beans and cream of mushroom soup, according to How Stuff Works, making it an accessible dish. Nowadays on Thanksgiving, the Campbell's Green Bean Casserole recipe is viewed about 4 million times, according to the company, reinforcing just how popular the dish has remained. In fact, the green bean casserole recipe that Dorcas Reilly first created has become so iconic that Reilly's original recipe card was donated to the National Inventor's Hall of Fame (via The American Table). 

Whether enjoyed on Thanksgiving, a different holiday, or just for a weeknight meal, you can't go wrong with a classic green bean casserole.