Hashbrown Casserole

This from scratch Hash Brown Casserole recipe is about to become your favorite easy, cheesy potato anything!

This Hashbrown Casserole is the BEST ever without any canned soups or mayo but SO mega creamy, decadently delicious and the most comforting side dish EVER!  It is always a massive hit whether for casual family dinners, company dinners, potlucks, or holiday dinners such as Easter and Christmas; it’s also a crowd pleaser for breakfast or brunch!  This Hash Brown Casserole recipe is made with tender hash browns enveloped in the most flavorful rich, creamy cheese sauce spiked with melty Gruyere and cheddar all topped with buttery cracker crumbs or crispy corn flakes. This cheesy Hashbrown Casserole is quick and easy and you can prep it entirely ahead of time, refrigerate, then bake until warm and bubbly at dinner time OR freeze for later!  You can make the recipe as written or customize it with all sort of add-ins such as ham, bacon, sausage, veggies, etc. – the possibilities are wildly endless – and so is its deliciousness.

showing how cheesy the hash brown casserole recipe is by scooping up a spoonful

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WHAT IS HASHBROWN CASSEROLE?

Did you grow up on cheesy Hashbrown Casserole?  It was always the one dish I had to have at Christmas and Easter because it’s creamy, cheesy, dreamy and 100% addicting, and of course, it pairs exceptionally well with ham.  I was always hoping for leftovers for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well – three scoops were never enough. 

If you aren’t familiar with Hashbrown Casserole, you might know it as funeral potatoes, cheesy hash browns, party potatoes, Christmas potatoes, Ward party potatoes or simply potato casserole. It is a traditional potato casserole in a rich and creamy cheese sauce, topped with more cheese and baked until hot and bubbly. 

Hashbrown Casserole became extremely popular in America in the 1950s, the era of “cream of soups” and casseroles galore. The first Hash Brown Casserole recipes were made by combining frozen hash browns, condensed cream of chicken soup, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, and cheddar cheese together, spreading in a baking dish, topping with more cheese followed by corn flakes, crushed potato chips or crushed Ritz crackers.

FUNERAL POTATOES

Hashbrown Casserole was served everywhere from breakfast potlucks, to neighborhood potlucks to after-funeral dinners to comfort the bereaved, thus earning the name “funeral potatoes” a tradition that continues today. The casserole is like a warm, comforting hug of sympathy plus they’re easy to prepare, travel well, and feed a crowd. There are not many dishes that can seamlessly transition from breakfast to funeral so gracefully and are always welcomed with satisfied bellies. 

Cracker Barrel™ hash brown casserole

Cracker Barrel™ further popularized Hashbrown Casserole with its mega creamy shredded potatoes enveloped in a rich sauce, all hidden under a golden crust of melted Colby cheese and crispy bacon crumbles.

If you love old school Hashbrown Casserole or Cracker Barrel Hashbrown Casserole, you will fall in love at first bite with my Hash Brown Casserole recipe – indulgently cheesy, creamy, and mega flavorful – no need to make a special trip again or settle for the canned soup versions!

showing how to top easy hashbrown casserole by topping with crushed Ritz crackers

HASH BROWN CASSEROLE RECIPE

There are many variations of Hashbrown Casserole, but unfortunately most of them still rely on outdated condensed soup – even the Cracker Barrel Hashbrown copycats. So, today, I’m so excited to share with you an updated from scratch version without ANY canned soups! 

Why this is the best Hash Brown Casserole recipe:

  • No canned soups!  With Easter around the corner, I thought it was time to bring you a “grown up” updated version of Hashbrown Casserole made from scratch that is 1000X better than any canned soup versions and your memories of Hashbrown Casserole.  Instead, this Hash Brown Casserole recipe is made with a Mornay Sauce – a creamy béchamel sauce with shredded cheddar and Gruyere cheeses.  This from scratch sauce is lusciously creamy without any mystery ingredients – and you can taste the difference!   I think this cheesy Hashbrown Casserole recipe deserves the crown for yumminess – but I’ll let you be the final judge of that. 
  • Flavor!  Of course, even with its irresistibly creaminess, it’s easy for cheesy Hashbrown Casserole to fall into the bland and disappointing category – but not this recipe!  This Hash Brown Casserole recipe is seasoned to perfection with hints of Dijon and Worcestershire sauce, salty chicken bouillon, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley and both sharp cheddar and Gruyere AKA this isn’t your grandmother’s Hash Brown Casserole recipe!   
  • SO CREAMY!  The generous amount of homemade cream of chicken soup is velvety, saucy perfection – no dry hash browns here!  Furthermore, the addition of the consummate melting cheese Gruyere melts and swaddles every nook and cranny for the ultimate flavorful, cheesy, creamy decadence.
  • Pantry friendly. Best of all, this easy Hashbrown Casserole is very pantry friendly.   All of the ingredients except the milk (which you can even sub for evaporated milk) can be kept for months at a time. This means you can stock up on the ingredients and be ready to make this back-pocket dinner side at a moment’s notice or whenever the cravings strike – which will be frequent.  
  • Versatile.  cheesy Hashbrown Casserole walks the delicious line between breakfast and a side dish which means you can serve it any time of day with practically anything!  Serve it with bacon and eggs for a lazy Sunday brunch or alongside chicken or pork for an easy midweek dinner.  It also means you can add virtually anything to it from bacon to ham, to sausage to broccoli, peppers or peas!
  • Make ahead.  You will love that this easy Hashbrown Casserole can be made 100% ahead of time, refrigerated for up to two days, then just popped in the oven to bake to glorious cheesy perfection.  This is exceptionally handy for holiday sides, bringing dinner to a friend or serving at funerals.
  • Freezer friendly.  You can also assemble the Hash Brown Casserole recipe, freeze, then defrost when you need a comforting fix.

LOOKING FOR MORE POTATO RECIPES?

showing how to garnish easy
hashbrown casserole by topping with parsley

WHAT GOES IN CHEESY HASHBROWN CASSEROLE?

This cheesy Hashbrown Casserole recipe is made with pantry friendly and easy-to-find ingredients.  It is not a “light” casserole, but it is a favorite, repeat, crowd pleasing casserole that will have everyone licking their plates.   You will need: 

  • Hash browns:  You will need 30-32 oz. frozen, shredded hash browns for this recipe.  You can purchase two 1-pound bags or a 32 oz. bag.   If you can’t find a 32 oz. bag then the 30 oz. bag will work just fine.  Make sure the hash browns don’t have added seasonings or you will need to adjust the seasonings in the recipe; added onions or peppers are fine.  You can make your own hash browns but you will need to soak the potatoes and dry them extremely well (more on that below).
  • Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup:  I adapted my homemade cream of chicken soup from my Chicken Divan recipe and Tuna Casserole recipe for this Hash Brown Casserole recipe because it is epic. It starts with a roux then you whisk in milk and chicken broth whisked with cornstarch to create a wonderfully thick sauce.  You want the sauce to seem a little on the thick side because it will thin out some in the oven.  To this luscious sauce, we stir in chicken bouillon, Dijon, Worcestershire sauce onion powder, garlic powder, dried parsley, pepper and LOTS of cheese. 
  • Cheese.  I use freshly shredded cheddar for it is sharp richness and Gruyere for its nutty saltiness and its gorgeous melting ability.  Gruyere can be found with the specialty cheese (usually by the deli) in your grocery store.  You can use 1-2 cups shredded cheddar in the casserole but I recommend 2 cups for extra decadent deliciousness.  Please only use freshly shredded cheeses because the pre-shredded varieties don’t melt nearly as well because they are coated with anti-clumping chemicals. 
  • Sour Cream.  Sour cream is a must in my book for its slight tanginess and fabulous creaminess. Full fat sour cream melts easier than nonfat, but you can certainly use nonfat with this knowledge.  For full disclosure, I have not tried this Hash Brown Casserole recipe with Greek Yogurt.
  • Topping.  You can use Ritz, panko or cornflakes mixed with melted butter, or even crushed potato chips.  You can also omit completely and just let the cheese melt into a beautiful crust.

DO I HAVE TO USE GRUYERE?

If you are tempted to substitute a different cheese for Gruyere – it just won’t be the same!  Gruyere is the consummate melting cheese and one of my favorite cheeses to use in casseroles such as Tuna Casserole, Au Gratin Potatoes, Scalloped Sweet Potatoes and Frittata recipes just to name a few and of course, it’s the star of French Onion Soup. 

Gruyere cheese is sweet, slightly salty, creamy, nutty – in short, it belongs in this Hash Brown Casserole recipe.   It boasts enough flavor to cut through the richness of the sauce and melts seamlessly for additional luxurious creaminess. 

That being said, I understand most of us don’t keep Gruyere on hand, so you may substitute it with ½ cup finely, freshly grated Parmesan instead – but go Gruyere if you can!

DO I HAVE TO USE BOUILLON? 

Please do not skip the bouillon!  It is the secret ingredient that adds tons of flavor. It is essentially dehydrated vegetables, meat stock, a small portion of fat, salt, and seasonings AKA it is salt with flavor!  You can use chicken bouillon, bouillon powder or better than bouillon – all in equal amounts.  If you are using bouillon cubes, just mash them up a bit before you add them to the sauce – don’t dissolve in water first. 

How do you make hash brown casserole from scratch?

This Hash Brown Casserole recipe is easy to make without any chopping! Here’s how with step by step photos and instructions:

Step 1 – Make Sauce:  Melt butter in a very large skillet or Dutch over medium heat (something that can fit all ingredients). Whisk in flour then cook, while stirring for 2 minutes. Turn heat to low then gradually whisk in milk and 1 ½ cups chicken broth. Whisk cornstarch with remaining chicken broth and add to skillet followed by Dijon, Worcestershire sauce, chicken bouillon and all spices/seasonings.

showing how to make hashbrown casserole without canned soup by making a roux and whisking in chicken broth and milk

Step 2 – Thicken Sauce:  Bring sauce to a simmer, whisking constantly, until thickened.

showing how to make easy hashbrown casserole without canned soup by simmering sauce until thickened

Step 3 – Add Cheese: Remove from heat and whisk in cheddar until melted followed by Gruyere cheese until melted. Whisk in sour cream until blended. 

showing how to make hash brown casserole recipe by whisking in cheddar cheese

Step 4 – Add Hash Browns: Stir in defrosted hash browns until completely combined.

showing how to make cheesy hashbrown casserole recipe by stirring in hashbrowns until combined

Step 5 – Transfer to Dish: Transfer hash browns to prepared baking pan and spread into an even layer. Evenly top with 1 cup shredded cheddar.  Combine Ritz with melted butter and stir with a spatula until evenly coated.  Sprinkle evenly over cheese.  

Step 6 – Bake: Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, uncover and bake an addition 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly and cheese is melted.  Turn oven to broil (without moving pan) and broil until topping is golden.

Should I thaw frozen hash browns before cooking?

YES!  The hash browns must defrosted before you bake them for three reasons:

  1. Thawed hash browns combine with the sauce much easier so you aren’t left with dry clumps of potatoes.
  2. Frozen hash browns will not cook in the allotted time and you will end up with crunchy potatoes.
  3. Thawing the hash browns allows you to drain any excess moisture otherwise you could end up with a soggy/wet casserole.

How do you thaw frozen hash browns?

You can thaw hash browns three ways:

  • Microwave – the quickest way to prep your hash browns:  Remove the hash browns from the package and place them in a large microwave safe bowl.  Microwave using the defrost setting for 4-5 minutes OR until completely thawed, stirring half way through.  Drain any excess moisture.
  • Fridge – the most even way to prep your hash browns:  Place the bag in the refrigerator to defrost for two days.  If your hash brown aren’t completely defrosted by the time you’re ready to use them, finish in the microwave.  Drain any excess moisture.
  • Counter – the easiest way to prep your hash browns:  Place the bag on your counter and let defrost for 1-2 hours.  Drain any excess moisture.

Are frozen hash browns just shredded potatoes?

Frozen hash browns are not just shredded potatoes and that is why you can’t simply swap them with shredded potatoes in this Hash Brown Casserole recipe. Frozen hash browns are steamed, shredded, blanched in water or oil and then individually flash frozen.  This multi-step process removes excess moisture from the potatoes and makes them superior to use in this Hash Brown Casserole recipe than freshly shredded potatoes.

Can I use fresh potatoes instead of frozen hash browns?

Frozen shredded potatoes are very dry so you can’t simply swap them for shredded potatoes but you CAN make your own hash browns that are soaked and dried (instructions below).

How to Make hash browns

  • Shred the potatoes (you’ll need a total of 32 oz. once the water is removed).
  • Immediately transfer shredded potatoes to a large bowl of cold water so they are completely submerged.
  • Let them soak for about 5 minutes. Soaking the potatoes helps to remove some of the excess starch which results in drier potatoes.
  • Remove the potatoes from the water onto a clean tea towel, fold up and squeeze out any excess water, changing towels if needed – make sure they are super dry!  Drying out the potatoes will ensure they don’t make the casserole soggy and will also help them not stick together.

At this point, you can proceed to use the potatoes in the Hash Brown Casserole or you can freeze them for later.  To freeze:

  • Transfer dried potatoes to two cookie sheets and spread into a thin, even layer.
  • Freeze until solid, about 1–2 hours.
  • Transfer frozen potatoes to a large freezer bag(s).
  • Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
showing the crunchy corn flakes topping with an up close scoop of  easy hashbrown casserole

WHAT ELSE CAN I TOP EASY HASHBROWN CASSEROLE WITH?

There is really no right or wrong way to top this easy Hashbrown Casserole. Most recipes include some element of buttery crunch while other recipes skip it altogether and just rely on the cheese. Here are a few popular topping ideas:

  • Ritz crackers:  melt 3 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan.  Add 1 sleeve crushed Ritz and stir to combine.  Sprinkle mixture over the casserole and bake as instructed. 
  • Cornflakes:  combine 2 cups crushed cornflakes with ¼ cup melted butter and stir to combine; top casserole with crushed cornflakes before baking. Take care to gently crush the corn flakes – you don’t want tiny crumbs, but larger pieces so there’s more crunch.
  • Potato chips:  crumble desired amount of potato chips, preferable flavored potato chips such as salt-and-vinegar, onion or jalapeno, and top the casserole before baking.
  • Panko:  melt 1 tablespoon butter in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add panko and stir to coat. Continue cooking until crumbs become golden brown. Browning the panko first will give you the most spectacular crispy panko once baked like in my Million Dollar Mac and Cheese.
  • Bacon:  cook bacon until crispy while the casserole is in the oven. Crumble bacon and then top casserole before serving.

TIPS FOR BEST HASH BROWN CASSEROLE RECIPE

This Hash Brown Casserole recipe is pretty straightforward, but here is a summary of tips and tricks for the Best Hashbrown Casserole: 

  • Thaw hash browns.  Don’t use hash browns straight from frozen they must be thawed!
  • Drain hash browns. Drain thawed frozen hash browns of any excess moisture otherwise it can make your casserole soggy. 
  • Don’t use just shredded potatoes.   You can make your own hash browns but you must soak the shredded potatoes and dry them very well (see instructions in post). Still, frozen hash browns are optimal because they are drier.
  • Low sodium chicken broth.  Take care to use low sodium chicken broth or your casserole will be too salty.
  • Cook flour for two minutes.  Two minutes can seem like a long time but don’t cut it short – you want to make sure to cook out the raw flour taste. 
  • Simmer sauce until thick.  The sauce should seem a little on the thick side because it will thin out once baked with the potatoes. 
  • Thin sauce if needed.  The sauce can become too thick if its simmered at too high of heat or for too long.  But don’t worry, it’s SO easy to fix!  Simply stir in a little milk or chicken broth until it reaches desired consistency.
  • More or less cheese.   You can use 1 or 2 cup cheddar cheese in the actual casserole (plus the addition one cup for topping).  The Hashbrown Casserole is still delicious with 1 cup cheddar if you’re trying to save calories, but for the BEST, splurge worthy, company casserole, use two cups in the casserole (plus 1 for topping).
  • Half casserole. This casserole makes a good amount and the leftovers are fantastic!  If you don’t want leftovers, however, use the arrows in the recipe card to half the recipe and make it in an 8- or 9-inch square pan.

EASY HASH BROWN CASSEROLE RECIPE VARIATIONS

This easy Hashbrown Casserole is SO good as-is but it also makes an excellent springboard for all sorts of add-ins such as protein or veggies.   Here are just a few ideas:

  • Add protein:  you can make this Hash Brown Casserole recipe the main course by adding 1 ½ cups cooked sausage, ground beef, ground turkey, chorizo, cubed ham, crumbled bacon or diced chicken.
  • Veggies: you can add about 1 ½ cup any pre-cooked veggies such as bell peppers, peas, corn, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, carrots, mushroom etc.
  • Cheeses: you can mix up the cheeses with any other favorite melting cheeses to create a different flavor profile:  mozzarella, Asiago, Gouda, smoked cheddar, Monterrey, Pepper Jack, Havarti, Colby etc.
  • Add ins:  jalapenos, pickled jalapenos, artichokes, green chiles, pimientos, olives, roasted bell peppers, etc. add a fun variety.
  • Seasonings: you can swap the seasonings out for Mexican spices or Cajun spices to mix things up.  If going Mexican, consider adding green chilies, jalapenos and chorizo.
  • Make it gluten-free:  to make this Hash Brown Casserole recipe gluten free, use your favorite gluten free flour.

CAN I MAKE HASHBROWN CASSEROLE AHEAD OF TIME?

Absolutely!  Easy Hashbrown Casserole is the perfect make-ahead casserole:

  • Assemble the casserole according to recipe instructions but don’t add the topping.  Cover with foil and store in the refrigerator for up to two days.
  • Transfer topping to a separate sealable bag/airtight container and store on the counter otherwise it will soften in the fridge
  • When ready to bake, sprinkle the casserole with the topping and let sit on the counter for 30 minutes before baking. 
  • Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly and cheese is melted.  Turn oven to broil (without moving pan) and broil until topping is golden.

HOW DO YOU REHEAT CHEESY HASHBROWN CASSEROLE?

To reheat Hashbrown Casserole in the oven, cover the casserole with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  You can also reheat individual servings of in the microwave with excellent results but the topping may lose some of the crunch. 

scooping how creamy and cheesy  hashbrown casserole

HOW TO FREEZE HASHBROWN CASSEROLE

This cheesy Hashbrown Casserole is super convenient to double when making so you can serve one for dinner now and have one for later. It is best frozen before it is baked.

  • Make and assemble according to directions up to the point of baking. You can add the topping if you want the casserole 100% assembled OR for crispier topping, store it separately and add right before baking.
  • Let casserole cool completely (not from baking but from the warm sauce).
  • Wrap casserole securely with plastic wrap, then with aluminum foil.
  • Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to eat, defrost casserole in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours until completely thawed.
  • Let casserole stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes, uncover, and bake an addition 15-20 minutes or until hot and bubbly and cheese is melted.

WHAT SHOULD I SERVE WITH HASH BROWN CASSEROLE RECIPE?

This cheesy Hashbrown Casserole is always a huge hit and pairs fabulously well not only with ham, but practically everything!  Think potato side, and think this casserole! Since this Hash Brown Casserole recipe is a holiday worthy side, here are some holiday worthy main dishes, but it pairs just as well with everyday fair such as Lemon Pepper Chicken or Honey Mustard Chicken.

MAIN DISHES: 

SIDES:

To complete the feast, cheesy Hashbrown Casserole is also delicious alongside:  

HELPFUL TOOLS TO MAKE Hashbrown Casserole

  • 9x 13 Rectangular Baking Dish:  glass dishes are an easy, inexpensive go-to but they are not broiler-safe or conduct heat evenly. Instead, ceramic is the way to go.  I love this Staub 9×13 because not only is it elegant enough to seamlessly transition from oven to table, but the beautiful glass porcelain-enamel finish is highly scratch resistant, and most importantly, it diffuses heat gently and retains heat exceptionally well for even cooking.  Note that different colors vary in price.  This less expensive Modern Classics 9×13 is also extremely quality.
  • Quality Knives: a chef’s knife will be your most used kitchen tool by far!  Quality knives make prep time much quicker and are important for safety as well.  If you’re concerned about moola, please remember that your best chef knives, depending on how hard you use them and how well you take care of them, can easily last 25 years or more. I love my Wusthof but there are hundreds of less expensive knives with great reviews such as this one.
  • Cutting Board:  I use my big solid cutting board daily so it’s worth the investment.  This extra-large cutting board allows you to prep all your veggies on one surface and the bamboo is easier on knives than plastic.
  • Cheese grater: I use this kitchen tool constantly because FRESHLY grated cheese as opposed to bagged shredded cheese is always the way to go!  Using freshly grated cheese also saves money, tastes better, and MELTS better. 
up close of a scoop of cheesy hashbrown casserole with Ritz cracker topping showing how creamy it ts

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Hashbrown Casserole

This Hashbrown Casserole is the BEST ever with no canned soups or mayo but SO mega creamy, decadently delicious and the most comforting side did EVER! It is always a massive hit whether for casual family dinners, company dinners, potlucks, or holiday dinners such as Easter and Christmas; it’s also a crowd pleaser for breakfast or brunch! This Hash Brown Casserole recipe is made with tender hash browns enveloped in the most flavorful rich, creamy cheese sauce spiked with melty Gruyere and cheddar all topped with buttery cracker crumbs or crispy corn flakes. This cheesy Hashbrown Casserole is a quick and easy and you can prep it entirely ahead of time, refrigerate, then bake until warm and bubbly at dinner time OR freeze for later! You can make the recipe as written or customize it with all sort of add-ins such as ham, bacon, sausage, veggies, etc. – the possibilities are wildly endless – and so is its deliciousness.
Servings: 10 -12 servings
Total Time: 1 hr 20 mins
Prep Time: 25 mins
Cook Time: 55 mins

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Ingredients

  • 30-32 oz frozen shredded hash browns defrosted, patted dry
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter may sub half olive oil
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or 2 tsps dried
  • 2 tsp EACH chicken bouillon, dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tsp EACH onion powder, garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 oz. (1 packed cup) freshly shredded Gruyere cheese (may sub ½ cup Parm)
  • 1 cup sour cream

Topping

  • 1 cup freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers crushed

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
  • Melt butter in a very large skillet or Dutch over medium heat (something that can fit all ingredients). Whisk in flour then cook, while stirring for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low then gradually whisk in milk and 1 ½ cups chicken broth. Whisk cornstarch with remaining chicken broth and add to skillet followed by Dijon, Worcestershire sauce, chicken bouillon and all spices/seasonings.
  • Bring sauce to a simmer, whisking constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat and whisk in cheddar until melted followed by Gruyere cheese until melted. Whisk in sour cream until blended. Stir in defrosted hash browns until completely combined.
  • Transfer hash browns to prepared baking pan and spread into an even layer. Evenly top with 1 cup shredded cheddar. Combine Ritz with melted butter and stir with a spatula until evenly coated. Sprinkle evenly over cheese.
  • Cover casserole with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly and cheese is melted. Turn oven to broil (without moving pan) and broil until topping is golden, 1-2 minutes, watching closely it doesn't burn.

Notes

TIPS AND TRICKS 

This Hash Brown Casserole recipe is pretty straightforward, but here is a summary of tips and tricks for the Best Hashbrown Casserole:
  • Gruyere substitute.  Gruyere is the consummate melting cheese and is sweet, slightly salty, creamy, nutty – in short, it is AMAZING and elevates this Tuna Noodle Casserole recipe. If you need to substitute it, replace the 1 cup Gruyere with ½ cup finely, freshly grated Parmesan (like powder) instead.
  • Bouillon.  Please do not skip the bouillon!  It is the secret ingredient that adds tons of flavor. It is essentially dehydrated vegetables, meat stock, a small portion of fat, salt, and seasonings AKA it is salt with flavor!  You can use chicken bouillon, bouillon powder or better than bouillon – all in equal amounts.  If you are using bouillon cubes, just mash them up a bit before you add them to the sauce – don’t dissolve in water first.
  • Thaw hash browns.  Don’t use hash browns straight from frozen they must be thawed!
  • Drain hash browns. Drain thawed frozen hash browns of any excess moisture otherwise it can make your casserole soggy.
  • Don’t use just shredded potatoes.   You can make your own hash browns but you must soak the shredded potatoes and dry them very well (see instructions in post). Still, frozen hash browns are optimal because they are drier.
  • Low sodium chicken broth.  Take care to use low sodium chicken broth or your casserole will be too salty.
  • Cook flour for two minutes.  Two minutes can seem like a long time but don’t cut it short – you want to make sure to cook out the raw flour taste.
  • Simmer sauce until thick.  The sauce should seem a little on the thick side because it will thin out once baked with the potatoes.
  • More or less cheese.   You can use 1 or 2 cup cheddar cheese in the actual casserole (plus the addition one cup for topping).  The Hashbrown Casserole is still delicious with 1 cup cheddar if you’re trying to save calories, but for the BEST, splurge worthy, company casserole, use two cups in the casserole (plus 1 for topping).
  • Half casserole. This casserole makes a good amount and the leftovers are fantastic!  If you don’t want leftovers, however, use the arrows in the recipe card to half the recipe and make it in an 8- or 9-inch square pan.

TOPPING VARIATIONS 

  • Cornflakes:  combine 2 cups crushed cornflakes with ¼ cup melted butter and stir to combine; top casserole with crushed cornflakes before baking. Take care to gently crush the corn flakes – you don’t want tiny crumbs, but larger pieces so there’s more crunch.
  • Potato chips:  crumble desired amount of potato chips, preferable flavored potato chips such as salt-and-vinegar, onion or jalapeno, and top the casserole before baking.
  • Panko:  melt 1 tablespoon butter in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add panko and stir to coat. Continue cooking until crumbs become golden brown. Browning the panko first will give you the most spectacular crispy panko once baked like in my Million Dollar Mac and Cheese.
  • Bacon:  cook bacon until crispy while the casserole is in the oven. Crumble bacon and then top casserole before serving.

MAKE AHEAD

  • Assemble the casserole according to recipe instructions but don’t add the topping.  Cover with foil and store in the refrigerator for up to two days.
  • Transfer topping to a separate sealable bag/airtight container and store on the counter otherwise it will soften in the fridge
  • When ready to bake, sprinkle the casserole with the topping and let sit on the counter for 30 minutes before baking.
  • Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly and cheese is melted.  Turn oven to broil (without moving pan) and broil until topping is golden.

HOW TO FREEZE 

  • Make and assemble according to directions up to the point of baking. You can add the topping if you want the casserole 100% assembled OR for crispier topping, store it separately and add right before baking.
  • Let casserole cool completely (not from baking but from the warm sauce).
  • Wrap casserole securely with plastic wrap, then with aluminum foil.
  • Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to eat, defrost casserole in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours until completely thawed.
  • Let casserole stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes, uncover, and bake an addition 15-20 minutes or until hot and bubbly and cheese is melted.

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28 Comments

  1. bc in edmond says

    Ritz crackers are listed twice – do we need 1 sleeve or 2? This recipe looks amazing – thanks!

    • Jen says

      Sorry, my recipe plugin is acting up and won’t let me fix it! It is just one sleeve, enjoy!

  2. marcia says

    Just what the Doctor Ordered during a pandemic! Thank you Jen!

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome Marcia! It’s the ultimate comfort food!

  3. Sandy Moffett says

    I don’t see arrows to cut the recipe in half, and when I tried to change the serving size all of the ingredient
    measurements went away. Could it be that I’m looking at this on my iPad?

    • Jen says

      Hi Sandy, I’m sorry I’ve never had this problem before – it could definitely be the iPad or possibly your browser?

  4. jette says

    Such a comprehensive recipe! You’ve anticipated and answered so many questions, yet here I am with another lol. Can I use diced hashbrowns?

    Thanks in advance for your time. I’m enjoying your site.

    • Jen says

      LOL! You can certainly use diced hash browns but they change the texture from the signature casserole.

  5. Jennifer says

    We have a gluten allergy and a corn allergy in our family, any suggestions as to what to thicken with? Flour and corn starch are off the table.

    • Jen says

      Hi Jennifer, how about gluten free flour? Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 is excellent.

  6. Dawn L says

    How much Panko should be used if substituting for ritz crackers? Am making this tomorrow! 🙂
    Thank you!

    • Jen says

      Hi Dawn, I would use 3/4 cup panko, enjoy!

  7. Dawn L says

    Jen, the casserole was fantastic! Made it for three other families for our annual New Year’s dinner which had to be virtual this year. Best new recipe in the 14 years it’s been a part of our menu! I love Gruyere cheese, so was drawn to the recipe because it was an ingredient, as well as no cream of anything soup or mayonnaise on the list! It was full of flavor and so delicious, and the panko topping was to die for! Thank you for sharing this!
    Happy New Year!

    • Jen says

      Thank you for your wonderful comment Dawn! I am thrilled this is the best new recipe in 14 years – wowza! Happy New Year!!!

  8. Paige Babikian says

    Looks amazing! Can I use skim milk?

    • Jen says

      Yes! You will just need to simmer a little longer to thicken. Enjoy!

      • Paige Babikian says

        Thanks so much for the reply!

  9. Greg says

    Hey Jen, great website and the HBC is in the over now and I’m sure it will be fantastic. I always made the soup based version – this article must have 20,000 words on HBC.. who would’ve thought? One nitpick (two I guess now that I think about it). You have dried parsley in the recipe to add with the other spices, but its clearly either in the Ritz mixture or sprinkled on top. Sorta the same thing with the chives… where are they? In photos there should be some green but clearly chives aren’t anywhere to be found. Should they be omitted?

    Can’t wait to eat it..
    Thanks and Happy Easter

    • Jen says

      Thanks Greg, I’m excited for you to try it! The parsley and chives are added with the rest of the spices in step 2. I use fresh herbs as a garnish afterwards to brighten up the photos for aesthetic reasons – you are welcome to add the extra garnish or not, either is delicious – enjoy!

  10. Laura says

    If I want to serve this with Honey Baked Ham, can I cook them both in the 325 degree oven and just give it a little more time? Or would it be better to make the hash brown casserole ahead of time and just reheat it? I really love your recipes and can’t wait for these both on Christmas day!

    • Jen says

      Hi Laura, it is fine to bake them at the same time. Merry Christmas!

  11. M says

    I’m waiting for this meal to cook in the oven as I type! The sauce smells and tastes great. I can see that I didn’t get it thick enough in the step before adding the cheeses. I didnt realize this until I saw the thickness of your mixture in the pictures you provide on each step.
    Oh well : ) something to tweak next time I make this!

  12. Carrera says

    Summer the sauce for how long? I tried to let it thicken to where it coated the whisk like in your picture. But after adding the rest of ingredients, it didn’t look near as thick as your final picture.

    • Jen says

      Hi Carrera, the simmering time will depend on your actual pot and temperature, so anywhere from 5-10 minutes or longer if needed. It doesn’t need to be super thick, just so it nicely coats and clings to the hashbrowns.

  13. Kailey says

    Do you melt all 6 tablespoons of butter in the skillet in the beginning step?

    Otherwise how much butter do you melt for the “topping”? (Crackers) also would it to be better to make the topping day of so it’s fresh? As opposed to the night before?

    • Jen says

      Yes the 6 tablespoons butter is for the casserole – used to make the roux. In the topping, there is listed another 3 tablespoons. Yes, it is best made the day of but is still tasty if made the night before. Enjoy!

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