14 Surprisingly Healthy Casseroles Everyone Is Sure to Adore
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.
Chicken and Spinach Casserole
Baked Shells with Winter Squash
Store bought winter squash purée from the freezer aisle steps in as a silky, flavorful swap for heavy cream in this comforting baked pasta recipe. Sautéed onions, rosemary, and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese all contribute to the alfredo-like flavor profile.
Ground Turkey Shepherd's Pie
Far from ordinary, this crowd-pleasing potato-topped pie uses lean ground turkey and aromatics like chipotle powder and thyme. Between the moist meat sauce and the creamy cloud of mashed potatoes on top (that sneaks in parsnips), it tastes rich and is sure to have everyone asking for seconds.
Mushroom and Black Bean Tortilla Casserole
Layers of canned black beans, mushrooms, corn tortillas, and jarred salsa come together in this tortilla pie to make a satisfying meatless meal. Mushrooms provide plenty of richness, which leaves us with plenty of room for a generous topping of shredded Monterey Jack cheese.
Tuna Noodle Casserole with Cauliflower
Potato, Zucchini, and Tomato Gratin
This recipe demonstrates how you can cut the richness of a traditional potato gratin by studding it with thinly sliced veggies like zucchini and tomatoes. It's a great side to make in late summer or early fall, when there's still a glut of summer produce around.
Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole
Rotisserie chicken and precooked rice are the stars in this simple and homey old-fashioned casserole. To keep it light, the recipe uses broth thickened with flour (instead of the usual cream) to bind the ingredients together. Reduced-fat sour cream stirred in before baking ensures that this casserole still tastes creamy and delicious.
Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Gratin
Healthier Meat Lasagna
This recipe is all about demonstrating the cumulative power of smart ingredient swaps and thoughtful additions: Low-fat cottage cheese stands in for whole milk ricotta much better than skim ricotta does, while adding chopped eggplant to the ragu helps to keep the lean ground beef from tasting dry.
Tian Provencal with Polenta
Hearty and naturally gluten-free, this dish would be the perfect accompaniment to roast chicken, but it's also filling enough to stand on its own as a meatless main. Packed with vegetables that are layered inside and beautifully arranged on top, it still feels like an indulgent scoop on account of the creamy polenta and Gruyère cheese that sit underneath.
Chicken Enchilada Casserole
Butternut Squash and Kale Gratin
Butternut squash is packed with vitamin A, fiber, and potassium, while kale boasts essential vitamins A, C, and K. There are so many nutrients in this elegant-looking casserole, that the bit of heavy cream and Parmesan cheese that go into this dish seem positively harmless!
Summer Beef and Rice Casserole
Have leftover meat sauce in the freezer? This recipe puts it to good use; mix it with a little rice, transforming it from pasta sauce to casserole darling in no time. After topping it with sliced summer squashes, it bakes until the rice is perfectly tender.