Though the creator of the original green bean casserole (aka hot dish in Minnesota) — found at church potlucks and Thanksgiving dinners alike — died recently, her recipe lives on.
If you’re of a certain age — or your mother is — the instructions for this dish are probably on a recipe card in the kitchen, or on the back of a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup in the cupboard.
Dorcas Reilly, who in 1955 worked in the home economics department of Campbell’s Soup Co., developed the classic recipe for what was originally called “Green Bean Bake” in an effort to tap into what most Americans had in their kitchen at the time: cans of green beans and Campbell’s condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup.
The original recipe included only five ingredients and took 10 minutes to prepare (it still takes 10 minutes to prepare, unless you make the dish fancier or from scratch, as shown in the recipe here; the classic version on labels of soup cans now includes soy sauce). The original recipe contained one can of condensed mushroom soup, milk, black pepper, two cans of drained green beans and French’s French Fried Onions, truly a model recipe for the era of convenience foods.
Campbell’s mushroom soup had already been around since 1934 and had earned its reputation as a “binder” for hot dish, particularly in the Midwest. Among Reilly’s other memorable recipes were the tuna noodle casserole (so that’s where it came from!) and a Sloppy Joe souperburger (a variation made with tomato soup).
The original recipe card for the green bean dish now resides in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio.
The 17th edition of Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book goes several steps further in this updated version of the recipe (skinny fresh green beans! shiitake mushrooms and garlic! wine and homemade crispy shallots!). Even with the fresh ingredients, it’s still comfort food.