12 Underrated Casseroles You Need To Add To Your Dinner Rotation
The word casserole likely brings up various thoughts and images for different people. Some folks might have a vendetta against them, thanks to their childhood memories of eating poorly made oyster casserole. In contrast, some casserole connoisseurs rejoice at the thought of a convenient and tasty meal that feeds a crowd. But what makes something a casserole anyways? Is it just food thrown into a baking dish and cooked?
Let’s set the record straight — not all baked meals qualify as a casserole. Every casserole needs five essential ingredients: Protein (whether meat or plant-based protein), vegetables, sauce, starches, and some type of cheese. Of course, some recipes don’t precisely follow those standards, but that’s the general rule of thumb. Hence, these dishes don’t have to be limited to just pasta or chicken and rice. In fact, there are some types that you never knew existed. On the other hand, there are likely some underrated casseroles you’ve heard of but just haven’t given a chance yet.
The casseroles on this list are outstanding because there is an option for everyone, whether you want casual weeknight meals or dinner party entrées. The high point is that you can modify them to fit your needs, even if you follow a special diet. Trust us — you don’t want to make the mistake of overlooking these savory creations.
Savory custards are a must if you want to switch up your suppers. Not only are they relatively easy to throw together, but there are so many ways to customize them. For example, make a chorizo bread pudding or a pumpkin and sausage strata. Both dishes include bread pieces soaked in a custard base which often contains milk, cream, eggs, and seasonings. You can add other components like meat, cheese, and veggies from there, which makes it more satisfying. Although you might associate egg dishes with breakfast, we can confirm that it is just as delicious in the evening. It is similar to quiche, except you don’t have to go through the hassle of making pie crust; the bread pieces make up for it.
Another great advantage of custard casseroles is that you can make them vegetarian if you omit any meat the recipe calls for. Serve the meal straight from the oven if you prefer it warm, or bake it a couple of hours ahead of time and serve it at room temperature. Once you bake the custard, the eggy mixture turns a gorgeous golden-brown color. To elevate the presentation, sprinkle cheese, fresh herbs, or pepitas atop the casserole.
Sandwich casseroles are clever, especially when you need to cook dinner for a large group of people. If you have never heard of this food, it is essentially a jumbo sandwich you assemble and bake. Once you cook it, use a knife to divide it into individual sandwiches. For instance, with a Cuban sandwich casserole, use plain sandwich bread to line the casserole dish. Once the sandwich elements are good to go, cover it with more bread. A similar approach that folks often take is to use Hawaiian rolls or dinner rolls and keep the bottom buns connected to use them as the foundation. Then, the top buns function as the casserole lid.
This idea works with sandwiches like roast beef, grilled cheese, or baked Italian subs. However, it’s not ideal for sandwiches with fragile ingredients (like lettuce) that don’t do well under high heat. This casserole can be adjusted to fit various diets, such as gluten-free, plant-based, or dairy-free. The sandwiches act as the main dish, so sides like hot soup or a fresh salad are all you need to complete the meal. One thing to remember is that this dish isn’t ideal to make ahead of time because the bread’s texture is best when you serve it immediately after you bake it.
If you’re a pizza fan, casseroles that pay homage to the cheesy delight will be right up your alley. There are many variations of pizza casseroles. Some include crust, and others use a different ingredient as the base, like pasta or vegetables. For example, a flaky biscuit pizza casserole utilizes biscuit dough; you assemble the pizza in a casserole dish. Yet, it is much easier than building an actual pizza because you don’t need to roll out the pizza dough, with the biscuit pieces acting as the bread element. Alternatively, there are dishes like low-carb pepperoni pizza casseroles made from spaghetti squash, marinara sauce, pepperoni slices, and more.
No matter the variation, all the pizza-inspired dishes have the classic pizza ingredients in common (pizza sauce, cheese, and typical pizza toppings like meat and veggies). They are perfect for weeknight dinners but also beneficial for when you host evening gatherings. Since the casserole is already filling, serve it with a lighter side dish like classic Caesar salad. What’s great is that these bakes make your home smell like pizza heaven and satisfy even the pickiest eaters. Not to mention, there aren’t many time constraints around this type of casserole. They reheat well, and you don’t need to rush to serve it quickly as it comes out of the oven.
Instant Pot casseroles
Did you know you can make casseroles in your Instant Pot? Since the Instant Pot has several settings, it’s possible to use the appliance this way. The sauté mode allows you to include elements like onion, bell pepper, jalapeños, and garlic. It also cooks meat like ground beef. So, if you have components that you need to cook before you incorporate them into the casserole, you can do so with that setting. Meanwhile, throw softer ingredients in before you turn the pressure cook setting on so as not to overcook them.
It is easiest to accomplish a casserole with this gadget if you have a recipe to follow. Instant Pot bacon casserole is just one example of an easy-to-follow recipe; add it to your dinner rotation as a delectable side dish. It contains vegetables, bacon, sweet potatoes, and seasonings. However, you can also use more complex recipes like the beef enchilada casserole if you want to make an entrée. It has tortillas, cheese, vegetables, meat, and more. These meals are beneficial because they cook quickly and allow you to have dinner on the table within half an hour of when you start it.
Have you ever made a cornbread casserole? It certainly falls under the category of comfort foods. Some casseroles have cornbread as the foundation with a mixture of other ingredients on top. Different versions of this dish have cornbread on both the top and the bottom with other components in between, similar to a pot pie. Tomato-based fillings are common, but you can also experiment with other sauces, like gravy or cheese sauce.
Aside from the saucy components, folks also include different types of vegetables, meats, and beans. For instance, Mexican cornbread casserole has corn, beef, tomatoes, peppers, shredded cheese blend, and spices. Meanwhile, vegan chili and cornbread casserole has soy chorizo, kidney beans, bell peppers, corn, tomato sauce, and more. Both are incredibly savory and hearty enough to serve as a main course. However, it also works great as a side dish.
Make ahead casseroles
Make-ahead casseroles are a dream for busy bees. Assemble and bake them on days when you have ample free time. Then, you have a stock of ready-to-heat dinner meals for busy work days. There are specific types you can make that reheat well — unfortunately, not every casserole does. It is best to research make-ahead casseroles for your freezer because other recipes that contain a lot of dairy ingredients don’t have the best texture after you freeze and heat them again.
Additionally, meals with large amounts of ultra-watery vegetables like celery, zucchini, or tomatoes don’t work well because the casseroles turn mushy. If you plan to make one of these dinners, you should know the quickest way to cool a casserole before freezing it. First, put the cooked casserole in an ice bath which speeds up the cooling process. Next, wrap the casserole tightly to avoid freezer burn. We’ve got you covered if you don’t know where to start with these casseroles. Try a sausage, chicken, and white bean gratin casserole, which makes a whopping 10 servings.
Some folks might stray from plant-based casseroles because they think these foods won’t fill them up, but there are many hearty vegetarian and vegan dishes to make. For example, some plant-based meals include meat replacements, which are excellent stand-ins for those who like the texture and taste of meat. Additionally, many veggie-based dishes contain soy products like tofu and hefty vegetables like broccoli and potatoes, which makes them more satisfying. Pasta, cheese, and rice also do a fantastic job of giving them substance.
Vegetarian baked ziti casserole is just one example; it has tomatoes, ziti, fresh herbs, and multiple kinds of cheese. The cheese, of course, doesn’t make it vegan-friendly, but if you don’t consume dairy products, throw in some cheese replacements, which are equally scrumptious. Another example is a creamy green bean and tofu vegan casserole that functions as a side or main dish. It has mushrooms, onions, tofu, green beans, and more. Although the thought of a vegetable-based meal might sound odd to meat lovers, once you give them a chance, you’ll see how these casseroles can be just as pleasing.
Cassoulets are hearty dishes that involve vegetables, duck, pork, beans, and more. They are typically slow-cooked and take several hours — if not days — to complete, unlike the usual casserole we speedily put together. So, you might wonder if casseroles and cassoulets are different. The truth is that cassoulets are still considered a casserole type; they just have a unique process. Depending on the exact recipe, this meal takes between two and five hours to cook, and that doesn’t include preparation time. Regarding preparation, many recipes require you to marinate the meat overnight, which produces deep flavors in the dish.
One example of a fantastic recipe is the award-winning cassoulet which involves garlic, onion, celery, carrots, and herbs. It also has bacon, pork sausage, duck, and cannellini beans. This dish requires plenty of time to plan and make. Although you have to put in effort to make this supper, the outcome is undoubtedly worth it. The meal is quite heavy since it has multiple types of meat, so if you serve it with dinner rolls, it is sufficient. However, if you wish, another terrific way to present it is with rice. Scoop the cassoulet atop a bed of rice in a shallow bowl and you won’t regret it.
You may not have heard of a sushi bake before. If you haven’t, then trust us when we say that you’re missing out. This type of casserole is one of the TikTok food trends you need to try because of how unexpectedly delicious it is. There are many ways to customize the dish to your liking, but no matter which rendition you make, it is essentially a deconstructed sushi roll. They often contain rice, seafood, vegetables, cream cheese, and sesame oil. Meanwhile, California sushi bakes have sushi rice, crab meat, seaweed, sesame seeds, and seasonings. Since avocado and cucumber are better fresh than when you bake them, most people sprinkle them on after the food comes out of the oven.
Another variation of this dish, as displayed in a TikTok video by user @myhealthydish, contains different elements. Specifically, jasmine rice, salmon, imitation crab, green onions, cream cheese, Kewpie mayo, and seasonings. As with many other casseroles, you can assemble this meal in layers that create a more pleasant mouthfeel than if you just mix everything together. The soft, chewy, and crispy levels of the dish are irresistible. This meal is phenomenal to serve at dinner parties because the preparation for it is pretty easy, and the presentation is show-stopping. Serve this casserole with edamame, Miso soup, or vegetable tempura to truly impress your guests.
Rice and pasta casseroles are typical, yet quinoa casseroles don’t get the appreciation they deserve. Quinoa pairs well with all sorts of foods, so quinoa casseroles can include veggies and beans, cheese, meat, and sauce. For example, you can create a quinoa caprese casserole with red peppers, tomatoes, mozzarella, quinoa, and more. The combination of juicy tomatoes, rich cheese, and earthy quinoa doesn’t sound too bad, does it? On the other hand, a Mexican quinoa bakes boasts black beans, spinach, quinoa, and chili peppers, and is also guaranteed to satisfy.
Some casseroles are essentially dump-and-bake in which you mix or layer everything in the baking dish and cook it from raw. However, with quinoa casseroles, this isn’t the case; you must cook the quinoa on the stovetop first before you put it in the casserole. Luckily, quinoa only takes between 10 and 20 minutes to cook, so it isn’t too much of a hassle.
Not only are these dinners tasty, but quinoa also has several health benefits. Specifically, it contains high amounts of antioxidants, fiber, and protein, which positively impact the body. Antioxidants prevent diseases, and fiber improves digestion. Iron, magnesium, and zinc also present themselves in large amounts, so your body receives tons of nutrients when you eat quinoa. So, next time you get the urge to make a rice casserole, think about substituting it for quinoa.
Cabbage casseroles are succulent, and the good news is that you can make variations of them in many ways. At their simplest, they usually contain cabbage shreds and some type of meat (ground beef or sausage). What’s great is that cabbage contains vitamins C and K, as well as folate. It also positively impacts gut health, so it’s a superb vegetable to include in your diet.
We recommend a cabbage sausage casserole, which has butter, Italian sausage, green cabbage, and seasonings. It is a simple yet lovely addition to your supper lineup. Serve it with roasted chicken or meatballs. Many other recipes have all of those components plus a creamy mixture of cream, milk, and cheese that you incorporate into the dish with rice. This makes it richer and more fitting to be an entrée. Once the casserole is ready to bake, it is topped with breadcrumbs to give it a nice crunch.
Casseroles made from leftovers
One of the most underrated casseroles is the kind you craft with ingredients you already have. You might think there’s no way to use leftovers in a new meal and produce excellent results, but you can bring your leftovers back to life when you use them correctly.
There are some foods that we recommend you don’t reheat, such as leftover potatoes, rice, and fish. This is because some foods can become toxic when you reheat them. However, plenty of other foods are safe to put in your casserole. For example, cooked plain pasta, unprocessed veggies, ground beef, beans, and sauces are all outstanding options. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that when you heat already cooked liquids such as soups or gravy, you need to bring them to a boil. This makes them safe to consume. It is a clever idea to use any extra sauce you have for your custom casserole because it ensures the filling doesn’t become dry when you bake it.
Furthermore, the USDA states that you shouldn’t have the oven temperature too low because it is not food safe. Set the oven temperature to a minimum of 325 degrees fahrenheit when you bake the food, and don’t serve the food until it meets or surpasses 165 degrees fahrenheit. Perhaps the best thing about this approach to making a casserole is that it reduces food waste, which is never a bad thing. But, trust us, it can also be very tasty. Follow a casserole recipe and replace some of the elements with leftovers or assemble a custom by getting a little creative.