Seriously, who doesn’t like to sit back, relax, and let the oven do the actual work? Not us, nor our Southern grandmas! Thanks to the revolutionary casserole, we can better keep a tight control of the kitchen quandary.
And very soon, you can too. These healthy casserole recipes are simple, convenient dishes to ease the cooking experience.
Even better, all your non-effort will translate to heaps of flavor, stuffed bellies, and no leftovers. Before you know it, you’ll be churning out casseroles in batches for breakfasts and get-togethers.
So, are you ready to explore the tempting world of casseroles? Great! See if you can resist cooking up an ultra-creamy dish with golden crumb toppings for dinner tonight.
But First, What Is A Casserole?
To be fair, the definition of a casserole is pretty vague. It counts as a casserole if it’s baked in a dish, whether a 9×13-inch pyrex glass or an oblong-shaped ceramic pan.
The process of creating a casserole dish typically requires that you assemble ingredients in a pan, add a sauce, and then bake. However, some casserole dishes can be cooked on the stovetop. But that’s quite the departure from the typical definition, in our opinion, which is why you find that most stovetop casseroles are a derivative of their oven-baked classics. Believe it or not, they’re usually just as tasty!
What Goes Into A Casserole?
As if to counter the fuzzy concept of a casserole, its main ingredients are pretty clear cut and defined. I mean, what’s a casserole without a sauce? And what are you typically covering in sauce, if not meat, vegetables, or a starchy element? Then, of course, there’s the ooeey-gooey effect that has become much sought-after in every casserole dish with the addition of cheese.
In essence, it all boils down to a few pantry staples when you want to make a classic casserole from scratch.
Canned Foods: Love them or hate them; canned foods are a casserole’s best friends. They practically brought the dish into existence. Be it canned pasta sauce, tuna, olives, or corn kernels; they help maintain the “dump and cook” process that makes casseroles easy and convenient.
Of course, it’s up to you if you wish to use fresh ingredients instead. But keep these friends cozied up somewhere in your pantry, and they’ll bail you out when life gets busy!
Frozen Vegetables: We get it. Casseroles seem to employ everything we’ve been warned against. But is it true that frozen veggies are a no-no? No — thankfully, no.
Despite a common misconception, you don’t have to worry about lost nutrients with frozen vegetables. The opposite is true.
The freezing process captures the nutrients while the produce is ripe and fresh. So the vegetables (and fruits) retain their nutrients, and by the time you enjoy them, which is hopefully within six months, they’re still in their prime.
So, fresh is good but isn’t always better. Don’t be afraid to stock up on those vegetables.
Chop them fresh, pack them into Ziploc bags, and store them in the freezer. You’ll recover half your cook time back when you prepare your next casserole.
Meat: You can dump any type of meat into a casserole. Ham, bacon, ground beef, turkey, or whatever’s left over. Whichever meat you choose, it will be succulent and covered in a delicious sauce by the time it’s done.
Grains and Starches: You’ll need something substantial to bind together the sauce and vegetables, so rice, pasta, or potatoes are all perfect. Sometimes you won’t even need them. As you’ll soon see, plain vegetable casseroles are a wonderful thing.
Cheese: Cheese and dairy give casseroles that much-loved thick and gooey texture. Keep some eggs, heavy cream, milk, butter, and cheese around for achieving a mushy, melted effect with an irresistible taste.
With that, here are some crave-worthy comfort dishes to share with your loved ones.
No Need to Wing It. Chicken Casserole Recipes
There’s no guesswork here; these chicken casserole recipes will guide you through each step to produce a carefully made dish. So, whether you use fresh poultry or last night’s rotisserie chicken pieces, you’re going to love the results!
Teriyaki Chicken by Life in the Loft House: Skinless chicken breasts in a ginger, soy, and brown sugar sauce comprise this incredible casserole. One that you can freeze before baking for simple reheating.
Chicken and Rice: Juicy chicken thighs and rice combine to recreate this childhood classic. It includes carrots and onions baked in cream of mushroom soup until tender and melt-in-the-mouth well-cooked chicken.
Buffalo Chicken with Cauliflower by Erin Lives Whole: The secret to this fantastic casserole is ranch seasoning with hot sauce that enriches the cauliflower rice’s flavor. Don’t bother lingering around for any leftovers; this will disappear in one go.
Chicken Broccoli by Recipes to Nourish: You can’t go wrong with this classic. A grain-free bake that glorifies tender florets in a cheesy yogurt and sour cream sauce. Outstanding!
Go-Tos for Gatherings: Ground Beef Casserole Recipes
Ground beef is among our favorite go-to ingredients for casseroles. With its abundance of natural fats it’s the perfect meat for adding succulence. Plus, most ground beef casserole recipes are ideal for creating low-budget meals and excellent for replacing more expensive casserole meats like turkey. Thankfully, the results are just as tasty.
Keto Ground Beef by Lara Clevenger: Low-carbers can get their fill with this keto bake that is tasty enough to serve the whole family. It uses cubed zucchini to replicate the chewy starch texture while controlling carbs.
Ground Beef Casserole: There’s a reason why this combination of ground beef, pasta, and cheese is timeless. It captures the essence of a comfort dish, where each forkful melts away in your mouth along with your worries. We just can’t get over it!
Dump-and-Bake Ground Beef with Rice by The Seasoned Mom: Most will agree that replacing pasta with rice creates an even better casserole. The starchy, long grain rice marries so well with ground beef, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese that, once you try it, you’ll question why you never tried it sooner.
Mexican Ground Beef by My Everyday Table: This fancy dinner proves that everything tastes better with onions and sour cream. It’s all the familiar taco flavors in one bite, and it’s incredible.
All Love, No Beef: Squash Casserole Recipes
Another irrefutable attribute of casseroles is how they effortlessly convert bland vegetables into mouthwatering specialties. The following squash casserole recipes will show you how to do that whether you use winter or summer squash.
Cheesy Spaghetti Squash by Detox Inista: A gooey bake made with goat cheddar and goat’s milk yogurt, this dish is truly unique. Plus, it saves on calories and easily doubles for a main.
Butternut Squash: This casserole dish is perfect for showcasing fall produce. It plays on sweet and savory butternut squash and mushroom flavors and is finished with a cheddar and mozzarella cheese melt that masterfully ties the ingredients together.
Yellow Squash by Nums The Word: Get crafty with your summer squash and make a warm, buttery dish that even kids will love. Don’t leave out the crackers and cheese for an exciting, texture-varied center.
Southern Yellow Squash by The Seasoned Mom: What makes this treat so Southern? The creamy base, buttery crumb topping, cheese, and bell pepper-cooked squash. They all come together to create this surefire crowd-pleaser.
Scrumptious Summer Squash by Food Babe: There’s nothing like squash covered in a delectable cheese sauce then topped with breadcrumbs. Simple while delivering extraordinary flavors.
Rise and Shine! Breakfast Casserole Recipes
Breakfast casserole recipes are a much-needed innovation. They can include bacon, eggs, cheese, and potatoes in one flavorful bite! Plus, you can wake up to a premade casserole that simply needs reheating or leave one cooking in the oven while you prepare for the day. So while most love these recipes for their fabulous flavors, you can note their convenience too.
Cheesy Hashbrown: A hearty dish that couples potatoes and cheese, this hashbrown casserole is not for the light eater. Be prepared to dig in for heavy spoonfuls that make every moment of cheat day worth it.
French Toast: This dish is a labor of love, a one-hour prep meal that brings instant joy to any diner. Its base is a vanilla and cinnamon-soaked baguette with apple chunks and nuts for texture-rich bites.
Eggplant Parmesan: Breaded and fried eggplant and marinara sauce are baked together in this nutritious dish. It’s delicious at breakfast, brunch, or lunch and is a satisfying meatless meal.
Scalloped Potatoes: One of our favorite ways to prepare potatoes is to slice them and bake them. Once cooked through, they melt in your mouth, and the accompanying white sauce in this recipe gives the potatoes a savory edge.
Keep It Classy: Tuna Noodle Casserole Recipes
These tuna noodle casserole recipes will help you whip up nostalgic meals. Dishes you’ll love and relish not only for their classic flavors but for the memories they evoke. Like grandma prying open a can of cream of mushroom soup, which, thankfully, you can now prepare at home and do away with any nasty additives for a much healthier casserole (sorry grandma!)
Classic Tuna Noodle Casserole: Tuna served in a noodle casserole is among the best ways to enjoy it. In this recipe, we added mushrooms and peas for a chunky homemade soup and finished it with a baked, buttery breadcrumb topping.
Instant Pot Tuna: This instant pot version takes only 30 minutes, half the time of the traditional one. Yet, it still scores an irrefutable ten for its hearty substance and deliciousness.
Creamy Tuna by The Real Food Dietitians: Switch up your usual tuna bake with a creamy cashew sauce of lemon juice and almond milk. A healthy, delicious casserole that’s wonderfully easy.
Stovetop Tuna by Unbound Wellness: If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. And if there’s a more delicious way to make a tuna casserole, don’t pass it up! With this recipe, you achieve even better flavors than with some oven-made classics, thanks to coconut milk and some innovative rice pasta.
No Buns Intended. Hamburger Casserole Recipes
A hamburger casserole is the epitome of easy dishes. Incorporating ground beef and noodles as its base, it uses basic ingredients like pasta sauce and cheese to give it a lift while also leaving room for some of your favorite additions.
Healthy Hamburger and Potatoes by Our Oily House: All your favorite casserole flavors are in this hamburger and potato bake. Even kids will love it. It’s a versatile treat you can serve for the family at any time!
Healthier Cheeseburger Macaroni by Celebrating Sweets: This no-bake casserole keeps things simple with a stovetop method. Sauteed ground beef, celery, and carrots are cooked in a creamy tomato broth with pasta. When the pasta is ready, sprinkle on a generous topping of cheese and serve.
Low Carb Cheeseburger with Bacon by Buns in My Oven: Although lighter than the typical cheeseburger casserole, this bake is hearty and fulfilling. The ground beef smothered in yellow mustard, reduced sugar ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce is a game-changer that places this dish well and truly on the comfort-food spectrum.
Protein-Packed Cheeseburger by Fresh Fit Kitchen: This delightful casserole combines ground beef, tomatoes, mustard, and cheese. Enjoy it with quinoa pasta, Barilla Plus pasta, or your preferred type of high-protein pasta.
For zucchini lovers, these casserole recipes will come as a welcome relief. They showcase fresh produce in a way that will leave you itching to dig in. Whether you prefer a vegetarian bake or a classic meat casserole, you’re sure to find something to suit your tastes here.
Healthy Zucchini Casserole by Healthy Seasonal Recipes: Starting with a simple base of six ingredients, this bake transforms the humble squash into a tender, creamy cheese-layered treat. Layers of corn tortillas accompany the flavors and add substance to each bite.
Ratatouille: This ratatouille showcases an elegant way to celebrate your produce. It features green and yellow zucchini, roasted bell peppers, and eggplants baked in a fiery tomato sauce. Plus, this light, beautifully displayed dish easily converts into a main meal for vegetarians — convenient!
Skinny Zucchini by Give Recipe: Start with a first bake of grated zucchini, eggs, and cheese before sprinkling cornmeal and breadcrumbs for a second bake. You’ll get a delightful, low-calorie dish that’s crispy on the top, creamy in the middle, and thoroughly delicious.
Crunchy-Topped Zucchini by Our Salty Kitchen: This zucchini bake doesn’t shy away from a thick and buttery breadcrumb topping, and you know what—we love that! It features onion, yellow squash, and tomatoes with a creamy helping of cheese.
Meaty Zucchini by Kitchen Divas: There’s nothing wrong with a little meat to go with your zucchini. Ground beef, mushroom, and peppers cooked in a tomato sauce marry well with the cheesy zucchini and are baked to a warm casserole in this main course dish.
Take A Day Off With These Super Easy Casseroles
Finally, some easy casserole recipes to revive a lackluster menu. Sure, casseroles are typically easy, but who’s to say they can’t get easier? Note, though, that easy doesn’t always mean quick. Especially when the ingredients need a good simmer in the oven to achieve the deeper flavor that you’ll find in each of these.
Loaded Cauliflower Casserole Recipe: You haven’t had cauliflower like this! Looking like something straight out of a five-star restaurant, it boasts a mouthwatering golden-yellow crust with crispy bacon pieces. The perfect side dish to add character to your meal.
Sweet Potato Casserole: Admittedly a guilty pleasure, this treat carries a naturally sweet essence and then some. To offer some relief from its bold brown sugar and marshmallow flavors, we added pecan nuts and cinnamon.
Cauliflower Lasagna: This easy bake with a cauliflower twist gives the original lasagna a run for its money. The addition of sauteed mushroom, homemade tomato sauce, and a delicious roux makes it incredibly satisfying. Perfect when you’re in the mood for trying something different.
Twice-Baked Cauliflower: In just 40 minutes, you can have this creamy casserole of blended cauliflower baked in bechamel sauce. It’s an improvement on the usual low-carb comfort food, and just as indulgent.
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese: Tired of plain old mac and cheese? This rendition with cauliflower strays away from the original to give you a lighter, no-pasta mac and cheese that tastes just as delightful.
Lasagna: This meal is a weeknight lifeline: Lasagna sheets, ground beef, tomato sauce, and cheese are layered and baked to create this hearty casserole. It’s the perfect Italian classic for your hectic days.
How to Freeze A Casserole
The first step is to assemble the casserole like you would when you’re about to cook it. If you’re making batches to go, line your cooking pan with foil paper, and once the dish has frozen, simply lift it out of the pan and pop it back in the freezer. Just like that, you have another pan free for use!
Next, the prep begins. Casseroles are known to be incredibly freezer-friendly, but you have to be extra careful with those that aren’t and require a bit of TLC.
Before Freezing, Take Note of These
Crumb toppings – There’s nothing like a soggy crumb topping to strike at the heart of an appetite. Don’t make the mistake of adding crackers, chips, crispy fried onions, or any crunchy toppings before freezing your casserole. Otherwise, when you thaw them, they’ll hold the water and turn to mush. Instead, freeze crunchy toppings separately and wait to add them just before baking so that you retain that delightful crunch.
Dairy products – Freezing milk, mayonnaise, yogurt, cream cheese, or sour cream can cause them to separate, leaving you with an uneven texture that’s unappealing. However, if added in small amounts to a casserole, you may not notice any change in texture. So we’ll let you be the judge of this one.
Starchy elements – Take extra care to cook pasta, rice, potatoes, or beans to a firm touch — just al dente. You want to avoid overcooking them since the baking process will tenderize the starch even further after freezing. If not, you could wind up with an inconsistent watery goop for a dish!
Baked Pastry Dough – Like starches, previously baked pastry dough tends to turn mushy after thawing. Assemble then store the pastry dough unbaked and save the baking for when you intend to eat the casserole to enjoy a fresh, firm pastry treat.
Should You Freeze A Casserole Before or After You Bake It?
It all depends. After taking the above precautions, wrap your dish in foil or parchment paper, then go ahead and freeze it before putting it in the oven.
Make sure your dish doesn’t contain raw meat. If the meat is cooked already, you can go ahead and freeze the casserole before baking it. If not, cook the meat first, let it cool down, add it to the mix, then freeze it.
Don’t freeze it before baking if it contains baked pastry dough. As previously mentioned, baked pastry dough won’t live up to the firm, appetizing texture of freshly-baked pastry dough if rebaked after freezing.
Ensure that all hot ingredients have cooled down to room temperature before freezing the casserole.
How Long to Freeze A Casserole
Casseroles are best eaten within two months of freezing. After that, you risk losing that fresh flavor you were so eager for while preparing it.
When you’re finally ready to enjoy it — the kids have been begging you for that gooey pasta dish with loads of cream again — simply leave it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Or, you can even bake it frozen, but it may take double the time.
Finally, once the casserole has been cooked, avoid refreezing it. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to three days; they should still be in good condition if they haven’t been wiped out already. (Good luck with that!)