The Creator of the Green Bean Casserole Has Died

But Dorcas Reilly’s impact on culinary Americana will live on.

Green bean casserole - a traditional Thanksgiving side dish. Green beans mixed with cream of mushroom soup and topped with french-fried onions.


Green bean casserole - a traditional Thanksgiving side dish. Green beans mixed with cream of mushroom soup and topped with french-fried onions.

Photo by: DreamBigPhotos


You may never have heard of Dorcas Reilly, who died on October 15 of Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 92, but she has left a lasting impact on the Thanksgiving tables of millions.

Reilly was the woman credited with inventing the green-bean casserole – that quintessentially mid-century American family side-dish, the specialty of grandmas across the nation – in 1955, when she worked as a kitchen supervisor at Campbell Soup, the Associated Press reports.

The dish, a combo of green beans, canned cream-of-mushroom soup and crispy fried onions, was Campbell Soup’s most popular recipe ever, garnering millions of page views last holiday season alone. The recipe card on which it was originally recorded now sits in the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Reilly, although she claimed not to have recalled creating it, always kept the ingredients for the green-been casserole on hand, lest someone request she make it, according to the AP.

“She took a lot of pride in it,” her husband, Thomas H. Reilly, told the New York Times. “She was delighted when anybody said they liked it, and most everybody liked it.”

Campbell’s, for whom Reilly worked, although not continuously, for nearly 40 years, hailed her as “an incredible woman, whose legacy will live on for years to come.”

As for her legacy, green-bean casserole was far from the only Reilly-overseen recipe to become an American staple. She was also a driving force behind, among other things, a canned-soup-featuring tuna noodle casserole that, back in the day, was in frequent rotation in my own mother’s repertoire and was (I’m maybe a little abashed to confess) one of the first dishes I learned to cook on my own.

I haven’t eaten – let alone cooked -- it in decades, but I would happily scarf down an entire Pyrex platter of it right this very second. I am sure I am not alone in feeling grateful to Reilly for creating the taste of my childhood.

Photo: iStock


120 Years of Iconic Dishes (Tuna noodle casserole makes the cut.)

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