The only thing better than a good recipe? When something’s so easy that you don’t even need one. Welcome to It’s That Simple, a column where we talk you through the dishes and drinks we can make with our eyes closed. This edition: a corn casserole dubbed “that creamy, cheesy corn thing” by those in the know.
Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday—the parade on TV, friends and family joining forces in the kitchen, and bottles of wine opened a little too early in the day. But the truth is, I didn’t grow up celebrating the holiday: I was adopted into the Turkey Day fun after moving to the US from Australia in 2000.
Over the years, I’ve squeezed tons of guests into various tiny New York apartments and tried to master heaps of turkey recipes, sides, and pies. I once cooked a 24-lb. turkey that ended up being the only thing I could fit in my oven (due to time and space constraints; thankfully, my upstairs neighbors let me cook the sides in theirs). I’ve made countless iterations of classic green bean casserole—my favorite has haricots verts, wild mushrooms, and a Parmesan béchamel. And I’ve done my fair share of riffing on my grandma’s stuffing.
But one particularly perfect side dish has stood the test of time more than any other. It’s the one that repeat visitors to my Thanksgiving soirees request year after year—a few friends go so far as to request it anytime I host them for dinner or venture out to a potluck.
What’s the comfort food in question? It’s an easy corn casserole recipe that’s an unparalleled combo of creamy and salty, and it’s easy to put together. Is it fancy? Nope. Is it absolutely delicious? Of course. Is it something you’ll want to reheat and eat straight from the Pyrex while wearing your pj’s, binge-watching holiday movies, and nursing that post-Thanksgiving hangover? Hell yes. And it doesn’t even require a box of regionally available cornbread mix to put together.
My friends call it the “creamy, cheesy, corn thing,” which fits in nicely with all the usual stars of the Thanksgiving show. Once it hits the table, and that first gooey spoonful hits their plates, everyone’s suddenly very thankful for good friends and even better carbohydrates.
How to make Cheesy Corn Casserole:
Start by sautéing 1 jalapeño, chopped (take out the seeds if you don’t want the green chile’s heat), and 2 cloves garlic, chopped, in a medium saucepan until they’re fragrant and just starting to soften. Add two 15-oz. cans whole-kernel corn (not creamed corn), 8 oz. cream cheese, 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, a large handful of grated cheddar cheese (½–¾ cup), and about ¼ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese. Stir until it’s melty. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. At this point, I can’t help but taste-test—if I determine it needs more cheese, it gets more cheese. Pour the corn kernel mixture into a buttered 13×9″ casserole dish, then sprinkle the top with ½ cup breadcrumbs (fresh or dried), another ½ cup finely shredded parm, and a handful of chopped fresh herbs (I usually use a mix of thyme and sage, or whatever I have on hand after cooking the turkey). Bake at 375° until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the breadcrumbs are a crispy golden brown—cook time, about 15 minutes. If you are feeling extra fancy, you could toss a handful of chopped green onions or chives on top to garnish, but it doesn’t need it.
You can totally prep this ahead of time: Choose a baking dish with a lid (or cover the dish with plastic wrap) and refrigerate the casserole for up to three days, so it’s lying in wait for bake time. But do hold the breadcrumb topping until you’re ready for the oven.
It’s not the only corn casserole out there. If you’re in it for the version found on the back of a box of Jiffy corn muffin mix, which one BA staffer thought was a treasured family secret, we’ve got the deets on that too. (Spoiler alert: Hers has a ton of extra melted butter.) We also have a hominy-bolstered corn pudding enriched with sour cream and laced with poblano chiles and Cotija cheese, and a creamed corn soufflé made with grated ears of fresh corn. All this to say: options abound. Still, I keep coming back to this creamy, cheesy corn thing.