The Surprising Spice That Your Green Bean Casserole Is Missing

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Za’atar Green Bean Casserole Recipe

Classic green bean casserole gets a new-school twist with lemony za’atar and nutty tahini.

Serves6 to 8

Prep40 minutes

Cook45 minutes to 55 minutes

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A zaatar green bean casserole in a baking dish with some scooped out.

Credit: Photo: Ryan Liebe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Classic Thanksgiving recipes will always have a place in my heart, but I love a good twist — especially when it makes the dish even more delicious than the original. Enter: za’atar green bean casserole. Here, adding za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend, to the filling for creamy green bean casserole brightens up the rich dish with an herbaceous and lemony flavor. Also, stirring tahini into the homemade mushroom cream sauce adds that little extra something. Top it off with a generous layer of crispy homemade fried shallots, and it’s sure to become your new classic.

Za’atar Is the Secret Ingredient Your Green Bean Casserole Needs

Traditionally, za’atar is made with the dried leaves of the za’atar plant, origanum syriacum, rather than dried thyme or oregano, but many jars you’ll find stateside use them as a substitute due to availability. While no two jars of za’atar are the same (the spice mix varies regionally), most contain a mixture of dried herbs, sumac, and sesame seeds. You can find blends with traditional za’atar leaves from brands like New York Shuk and Burlap & Barrel. Regardless of the brand you use, the spice blend is herbaceous, nutty, and bright.

Credit: Photo: Ryan Liebe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Ingredients in Za’atar Green Bean Casserole

  • Green beans. Blanch fresh green beans for a crisp-tender texture and bright green color.
  • Mushrooms. Browning sliced cremini or button mushrooms in butter boosts the creamy sauce with umami flavor. 
  • Butter. Use unsalted butter for browning the mushrooms and garlic and to toast the flour for thickening the sauce.
  • All-purpose flour. Thicken the sauce with a little flour or a gluten-free all purpose blend.
  • Milk. Opt for whole or 2% milk to give the mushroom sauce its creamy flavor. 
  • Tahini. Stirring tahini into the sauce gives it body and a rich, nutty flavor.
  • Za’atar. Boost the flavor of classic green bean casserole with the tangy, fragrant spice blend.
  • Shallots. Cook some into the sauce and fry the rest for a crispy crunchy topping.

How to Make Za’atar Green Bean Casserole in Advance

It’s easy (and helpful!) to prepare your green bean casserole in advance. Assemble the casserole, but leave off the fried shallot topping. Cover and refrigerate the casserole for up to 1 day. Remove the casserole from the refrigerator while the oven heats. Uncover and bake, adding an additional 15 to 20 minutes to the original bake time. You can still fry the shallots in advance, just store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.

Classic green bean casserole gets a new-school twist with lemony za’atar and nutty tahini.


  • 1 1/2 pounds

    green beans

  • 5

    large shallots

  • 1 pound

    cremini or button mushrooms

  • 3

    cloves garlic

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, plus more for blanching and as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup

    plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided

  • 2 1/2 cups

    whole or 2% milk

  • 1/2 cup

    well-stirred tahini

  • 1 tablespoon

    plus 1/2 teaspoon za’atar, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground turmeric

  • 1 cup

    neutral oil, such as canola

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with ice and water. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9×13-inch or other 3-quart baking dish with unsalted butter.

  2. Trim the stem ends from 1 1/2 pounds green beans. Thinly slice 5 large shallots (about 3 1/4 cups). Thinly slice 1 pound cremini or button mushrooms (about 5 cups). Thinly slice 3 garlic cloves. Juice 1 medium lemon until you have 1 tablespoon.

  3. Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and transfer to the ice bath to stop the cooking. When cool, drain again and let sit in the colander while you make the sauce.

  4. Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 of the sliced shallots (about 2/3 cup), mushrooms, 1 1/4 teaspoons of the kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook until the moisture is released and the mushrooms begin to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

  5. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the all-purpose flour evenly over the mushroom mixture and stir to combine. Cook until the flour is no longer dry and the film on the bottom of the pan turns golden, about 1 minute. While whisking constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, slowly pour in 2 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk and 1/2 cup tahini.

  6. Bring to a boil. Cook, whisking frequently, until the sauce thickens, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the za’atar, and stir to combine. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed.

  7. Add the green beans and toss to coat in the sauce. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and spread into an even layer. (Alternatively, leave the mixture in the skillet if it is ovenproof, spread it into an even layer, and bake directly in the skillet.) Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the green beans are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, fry the shallots.

  8. Line a plate with paper towels. Place the remaining shallots, 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, and 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric in a medium bowl and toss to coat. Heat 1 cup neutral oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the shallots and fry, stirring frequently, until golden and crisp, 4 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to the plate and season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon za’atar.

  9. Sprinkle the green bean casserole with the fried shallots before serving.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The fried shallots can be made ahead up to 1 day in advance. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container at room temperature. Assemble the casserole without the shallot topping, cover, and refrigerate up to 1 day ahead. Let the casserole sit at room temperature while the oven heats. Uncover and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Sprinkle with the fried shallots before serving.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

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