Meet the Woman Who Invented the Thanksgiving Classic Green Bean Casserole

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On Thanksgiving, you likely see some incredibly nostalgic and classic dishes such as roasted turkey, cranberry sauce (bonus points if it still looks like a can!), sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, buttery rolls, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole. Many of these recipes are simple, hearty dishes that make you think about gathering together and giving thanks with your family and friends. Have you ever stopped to think about who invented some of these recipes or why they are so often served during this holiday?

Green bean casserole is generally made of just six basic ingredients: one can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, green beans, milk, soy sauce, pepper, and those crunchy fried onions. It has been a staple for over 60 years for American families and we can thank a woman named Dorcas Reilly (1926–2018) for bringing it to our tables.

Dorcas worked as a supervisor at the home economics department of Campbell’s test kitchen in Camden, New Jersey. In 1955, she was given a job to create a dish for a story in the Associated Press using ingredients that many families would have ready on hand including Campbell’s mushroom soup and green beans. She wanted to create something easy for anyone to make at home, with cheaper ingredients. It was post-War America after all.

green bean casserole

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Dorcas and her team made a few versions including one with ham and celery salt but ultimately landed on the recipe you know and love. It was originally called Green Bean Bake and began surging in popularity when Campbell’s printed the recipe on its mushroom soup cans. She admitted that she was shocked that the dish became so well-known. She said, “We all thought this is very nice, etc., and then when we got the feelings of the consumer, we were really kinda pleasantly shocked. I’m very proud of this, and I was shocked when I realized how popular it had become.”


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Her handwritten recipe card now resides in the archives of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Now tell us, do you love or hate green bean casserole? What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

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November 2023

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