As fashionable lives get busier, the attraction of all-in-one meals turns into better. Casseroles are one such dish that has all of the makings of a hearty, comfort dish. And imagine it or not, regardless of the cheese and meat-filled casseroles of previous, you may really discover a myriad of plant-based and vegan casserole recipes.

Why Casseroles?

Imagine that you simply’re a peasant in Medieval Europe. You toil from daybreak to nightfall, and once you come residence on the finish of the day, you don’t have any vitality to organize a hearty, filling meal. On high of that, you’re actually poor. And there are not any drive-thrus to cease by in your method residence. You don’t have a microwave or a pizza takeout magnet in your fridge. And you don’t even have an oven. So what do you do?

For many peasants, the reply was easy: take the most cost effective meals they may discover (often dried beans of some type, root greens, or previous bread), taste it with herbs and no matter meat they may scrounge up, toss in a hunk of cheese if that they had it, and throw all of it right into a clay or earthenware pan generally known as a “casserole.” Then, they might convey it to the city baker, who would pop it within the oven till it was cooked to style.

The fashionable casserole fills lots of the similar wants. It could be straightforward to make, very forgiving of variance in recipe and components, an awesome use of leftovers, cheap, and really hearty and filling. And regardless that casseroles have been appeared down upon by cooks and foodies for the previous 70 years, they’ve by no means gone out of style as a result of they’re so economical and satisfying.

Of course, we’d not need to make casseroles that includes floor meat, dripping with cheese, and topped by crushed potato chips. Luckily, there are lots of methods to healthify casseroles and make them plant-rich and nutrient-dense.

What is a Casserole?

Casseroles are so widespread, I by no means stopped to consider an precise definition till I began engaged on this text. But right here’s what I’ve give you: a one-dish, oven-baked meal.

That easy definition implies that plenty of our hottest heritage dishes are casseroles: lasagna, potato and noodle kugel, stuffed peppers, mac n’ cheese, zucchini gratin. Clearly, there’s one thing very primal and satisfying about tossing a bunch of components right into a deep-sided pan and letting the magic occur slowly in a scorching oven.

The origin of the phrase “casserole” is among the most contentious points within the area of gastronomic etymology. I’ll spare you the painstakingly researched and defended opinions of the linguistic consultants who’ve weighed in on the subject, besides to say that they seem like burning quite a lot of energy asserting and enhancing their claims. So I hope they eat as many casseroles as they argue over. For our functions, let’s simply assume that “casserole” is French for saucepan. And the identify of the pan then transferred to the identify of the dish cooked in it. It’s associated to the French phrase cassoulet, which refers to a standard dish consisting of meat and white beans that’s cooked and served in a small dish generally known as a ramekin.

A Brief History of the Modern Casserole

Casserole historians — sure, that’s an precise career, though admittedly not an enormous job market — level out that whereas casserole dishes have been ready and eaten since people found out the entire fireproof and waterproof cookware factor, the fashionable historical past of the casserole started with a technological breakthrough within the early 20th century.

The story goes that method again in 1913, Bessy Littleton needed to bake a cake, however couldn’t as a result of she had dropped and damaged her clay casserole pan. Luckily, Bessy’s husband labored as a scientist at Corning Glass Works. She had the brilliant thought to ask him to convey residence the sawed-off backside of a battery jar, which turned out to supply an exquisite cake. And that was the origin of the Pyrex firm, which makes casserole pans and lids that many people use to this present day.

While Pyrex was an enormous leap ahead for casseroles (heat-absorbing, imparting no taste to the meals, straightforward to wash, and in a position to go from oven to freezer and each temperature in between), you may argue that the meals improvements that popularized the American casserole have been much less great. In 1940, Jay’s Potato Chips printed the primary casserole recipe printed on meals packaging, a tuna casserole topped with (after all) crushed Jay’s Potato Chips.

The greatest casserole recipe marketer was (and nonetheless is) Campbell’s Soup. In 1955, they unleashed the inexperienced bean casserole recipe on cans of Cream of Mushroom soup. While thousands and thousands loved this and comparable recipes impressed by industrial meals, the culinary elites appeared on with horror on the debasing of the American palate by what they noticed as “instant leftovers.” The aesthetic of comfort over high quality meant that casseroles have been struggling the identical destiny that was to befall a lot of Western delicacies for the reason that second half of the 20th century: poor-quality components hidden by the addition of big quantities of salt, fats, and sugar. What had been wholesome “peasant food” was become disease-producing, industrial delicacies for the lots.

The excellent news is, we are able to reclaim the casserole as a utilitarian, scrumptious, and nutritious meal. We can ditch the hyper-processed components in favor of contemporary ones. And even improve the standard of the unique dishes by making them plant-based and nutrient-rich.

Casserole Dishes

empty glass casserole dishes
iStock.com/Tetiana Rostopira

To make a casserole, you want a casserole dish. There are a number of widespread configurations and dimensions, which is beneficial as a result of cookbook authors and bloggers can point out a specific measurement for every recipe. You need your casserole to be the “right” depth, which implies utilizing an applicable casserole dish for the amount you’re making ready.

Typical sizes are 9”x13” rectangles (Pyrex calls them “oblongs” due to their rounded edges), and eight”x8” and 9”x9” squares. Fancier dishes could be absolutely rectangular, and even spherical.

In addition to the glass dishes invented by Pyrex (and likewise offered by Anchor Hocking), you will get casserole dishes manufactured from ceramic, stoneware, and enameled forged iron. All have totally different benefits and downsides, like weight, evenness of cooking, ease of cleansing, and aesthetics. If you’re simply beginning out exploring the world of casseroles, I like to recommend beginning easy and cheap, with this basic, glass two-piece set: Pyrex Basics Clear Oblong Glass Baking Dishes, 2 Piece Value Plus Pack Set. When you’re prepared for fancier and better high quality, together with a heavy lid to seal in warmth and juices, and when you’ve got a bit cash to spend, deal with your self to this one: Staub Ceramics Square Covered Baking Dish, 9×9-inch, Dark Blue.

What’s So Great About Casseroles?

creamy vegan pumpkin mac and cheese in oven
iStock.com/lll0228

1.  They’re time-savers

Just like our medieval counterparts, we make casseroles at present as a result of they save us time. Not essentially cooking time, relying on the dimensions and components. A family-sized casserole can prepare dinner for 45-60 minutes within the oven, and even longer, however prep time, since throwing in all of the components all of sudden saves a number of steps.

2. They’re cheap

Casseroles are and have at all times been nice methods to stretch a meals greenback. The base ingredient — beans or a starch — could be very cheap. And when mixed with flavorings and binders, can go an extended method to satisfying a crowd. And they’re a good way to make use of up leftovers, avoiding meals waste.

three. They’re flavorful

Casseroles typically style a lot better than you’ll predict based mostly solely on their ingredient listing. That’s as a result of all that point within the oven turns them right into a literal melting pot, the place all of the flavors can develop, mature, and work together to supply a dish that’s better than the sum of its components.

four. You can eat them any time

Casseroles are versatile. In addition to the wealthy and heavy meal varieties, you may serve a casserole as an appetizer or a facet dish. You may also render numerous breakfast and dessert meals in casserole kind, which might flip an extended means of short-order cooking right into a one-and-done affair that everybody can take pleasure in directly, scorching out of the oven.

5. They permit for creativity

Since casseroles are the final word vacation spot for leftovers, they’re additionally stomping grounds for creativity. You can invent new casserole recipes just by seeing what’s left in your fridge, which in all probability gained’t get eaten by itself.

6. They can feed a crowd (or present leftovers)

Another beauty of casseroles is how crowd-friendly they’re. A single 9”x13” rectangular casserole pan holds over three quarts of meals, which might feed lots of people. Even in the event you aren’t charged with cooking for a gaggle, in the event you make a big casserole, you’ll have scrumptious and easy-to-transport leftovers for the following few days. Nothing like rolling as much as work with a spinach artichoke pasta bake (recipe hyperlink under) which you could microwave for 3 minutes and luxuriate in whereas your coworkers are consuming unhappy desk lunches.

7. They’re straightforward to make

Most casseroles are straightforward to make, with only a few easy components. Of course, you will get as fancy as you need, however that’s an choice, not a requirement. As with any meals of peasant origin, casseroles are right here to make our lives simpler, no more sophisticated.

The Anatomy of a Casserole

An straightforward method to establishing a casserole is to consider three major parts: a base, an extender, and a binder. The base is historically a meat or grain, like beef or tempeh in an enchilada and broad noodles in lasagna. The extender serves so as to add quantity and thicken the dish; potatoes and breadcrumbs are typical examples. Finally, there’s a binder, usually a sauce or a liquid, that holds the entire thing collectively.

To this trinity, I’d like so as to add a fourth staple element: greens! Whether you toss in chunks of summer season squash in a summer season casserole with a tomato-sauce binder, or add broccoli or cauliflower florets to a winter casserole with potatoes and a cashew-cream binder, there’s at all times a method to get extra veggies into your casserole for well being and taste.

7 Healthy Plant-Based/Vegan Casserole Recipes

If you’re hankering for a scrumptious plant-based or vegan casserole recipe to strive, you might have seven totally different ones with very totally different flavors to select from. No matter what you’re within the temper for, one in all these vegan casserole recipes are certain to fulfill your longing for a fast, straightforward, and wholesome, all-in-one meal.

Vegan Spinach Artichoke Pasta Bake by It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken

vegan spinach artichoke pasta bake

This recipe is what occurs to mac n’ cheese when it grows up. The spinach and artichoke lend diet, shade, and class. And the tacky taste will get subtle by way of a combo of lemon juice, dietary yeast, chili powder, and garlic. Plant-based milk and uncooked cashews function a wholesome binder with creaminess to spare.

Vegan Enchilada Casserole with Homemade Sauce by Sweet Simple Vegan

Enchilada casserole seems to be straightforward to make, because of this recipe and tutorial. Tortillas drenched in sauce kind the layers, simply as noodles do in lasagna. And corn and beans take part to create a filling base. The enchilada sauce is actually tomato sauce cooked with Mexican spices. The requisite cheesiness comes from their wholesome and dairy-free Chipotle Cheddar Cheese Sauce.

Vegan Shepherd’s Pie by Yup It’s Vegan

vegan shephards pie

If you ever puzzled what a plant-based Thanksgiving dinner would seem like as a single casserole, surprise no extra. This shepherd’s pie breaks the mildew by way of the substitution of meat with lentils. And as soon as your serving utensil breaks the crusty high layer of garlic-chive mashed potatoes, you’ll uncover extra layers of carrots, apples, shallots blended in with the lentils.

Broccoli Quinoa Casserole by ElaVegan

This is mac n’ cheese’s elegant second cousin, with quinoa serving as the bottom, and a creamy vegan cheese sauce holding all of it collectively. Broccoli and chickpeas add phytonutrients and protein galore, and the gluten-free “bread crumb” combination on high provides enjoyable and crunch.

Layered Eggplant and Zucchini Casserole by Oh She Glows

Oh She Glows created this recipe with the intention to take care of leftover chili sauce. Eggplant and zucchini be a part of forces with spinach and navy beans to create a easy peasant dish that smacks of eggplant parmesan minus the cheeses. The trick to getting the feel proper is to pre-bake the eggplant rounds till they get type of shriveled. That method, they take up all of the tomatoey goodness of the chili or pasta sauce (no matter you might have left over).

Buffalo Cauliflower & Chickpea Casserole by From My Bowl

buffalo chickpea casserole

This recipe sounds fancy, and it’s, but it surely’s additionally nearly embarrassingly easy to place collectively. In reality, Caitlin of From My Bowl, touts this characteristic in her description of the dish: “Dump and Bake.” Basically, because of this you layer chickpeas, veggies, and raw brown rice one on high of the opposite, after which add the liquid to the entire thing and bake. The buffalo scorching sauce, dietary yeast, and garlic powder give the dish a game-day vibe.

Sweet Potato Green Curry Quinoa Casserole by Fit Foodie Finds

This dish stuffs the essence of Thai meals right into a casserole. The coconut milk anchors the binder, and candy potato serves because the extender for the quinoa. Green and purple peppers, onions, and candy peas are the vegetable stars of this present. Green curry paste and inexperienced dragon or sriracha sauce (type and quantity rely on what number of alarms you need to set off with this recipe) transport you to Bangkok (or your native Thai restaurant) with each chew.

Are You Ready to Embrace the Humble Casserole and Give It New Life?

Casseroles are among the many most egalitarian of dishes, offering cheap nourishment in a kind that may feed dozens. And when you perceive the essential constructing blocks of a casserole, you may assemble your individual wholesome, plant-based model from no matter you’ve received within the kitchen and pantry. Here’s to your subsequent hearty one-dish bake!

Tell us within the feedback:

  • Do you want casseroles?
  • What’s your favourite casserole from childhood? Have you ever tried making a wholesome model of it?
  • What vegan casserole recipe will you strive subsequent? Where will you be serving it?

Featured Image: iStock.com/vkuslandia

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