The often cheesy, creamy DNA of a good casserole is deliciously comforting, plus a single pan can feed a crowd of hungry loved ones in one fell swoop. What’s not to like about that? All of that being said, a lot of casserole recipes are reserved for special occasions simply because they use heavy cream liberally and require what seems like mountains of shredded cheese. Those recipes have their place, but what about the average weeknight when you’re craving something cozy and nutritious for dinner? The selection of recipes here aims to deliver that balance through fresh takes and clever swaps that breathe new life into the humble casserole.
Ahead, you’ll find hearty, plant-based dishes like the Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie shown here, where lentils and extra vegetables replace the usual ground meat. There are also all vegetable casseroles that can deftly switch from co-star to leading role for the vegetarians at the table (and would make fabulous options for Meatless Mondays for all). Meaty classics like enchiladas and lasagna aren’t left behind—they receive healthy makeovers that hold on to their best features, like gooey cheese.
We think one of the best uses for casseroles is for using up the bits and bobs of extra usable produce and leftover meat in the fridge, so look out for new favorites that make ingenious use of easy ingredients like cooked rice and rotisserie chicken. Last but not least, not all casseroles are homely by nature—for dishes that are meant to impress, look no further than our Tian Provençal, a gluten-free stunner of a side where fresh vegetables like zucchini and tomatoes are beautifully arranged atop a bed of fluffy polenta and roasted. Looking for something both easy and beautiful to serve on the side of a big holiday roast? This gratin drapes a lighter bechamel sauce over tender cauliflower florets and vibrant slices of earthy sweet potatoes and bakes up into a dish that looks and tastes as indulgent as ever.
Whichever mood you’re in—from spectacular sides to hearty mains—keep reading to discover new lightened up casseroles that are both wholesome and delicious enough to please the whole family.