What is a grated cheese casserole?

Strong cheddar cheese is often used in cheese bean casseroles.

Cheese bean casserole is a traditional southern dish that often appears in family meals, potluck dinners, and restaurants. The main ingredients are cheese and grains, a ground corn food somewhat similar to oatmeal or cream of wheat. Various seasonings and additional ingredients can be added to vary the flavor and texture. Unlike traditional beans, which are usually cooked on the stovetop, a casserole of cheese beans is usually baked in the oven and served in a casserole.

A grain cheese casserole recipe might call for pepper.

The basic ingredient in a grain cheese casserole is, of course, the grains. The origin of this food is believed to be Native American, although other Native peoples across the world have a history of similar dishes. The kernels are usually made by grinding white or yellow corn to produce white or yellow kernels. The food is sometimes made with hominy and is then called “hompy grits”. The beans are commercially available in instant or traditional forms.

Cheese bean casserole is sometimes prepared with hominy beans.

Each variety of beans offers a slightly different flavor. A cheese bean casserole can use either variety, although many cooks find instant beans unacceptable for casseroles. Recipes may call for a combination of white, yellow and hominy grits to deepen the flavor palette and vary the dish’s texture.

The beans are usually cooked on the stove before being placed in the casserole. They need significant amounts of liquid to cook properly. A cook can choose a traditional water base or use broth or other creative liquid options to add flavor.

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The cheese selection also varies significantly from dish to dish. White and yellow cheddar cheese are probably the most commonly used. Recipes can, however, call for virtually any relatively hard cheese, from pepper jack to Colby to American. Some cooks prefer to use a combination of cheese varieties and may vary the cheese based on the other additives they plan to use. Very soft or crumbly cheeses are usually used sparingly and in combination with other cheeses.

Eggs, salt, pepper, butter, and milk also appear in many grain cheese casserole recipes. Cooks can add jalapeños or other hot peppers, and bacon and sausage are also popular. Common additional seasonings include garlic, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. This casserole can be served alone or with shrimp, chicken, vegetables, pork or beef.

The beans themselves are traditionally a breakfast food, and a casserole of cheese beans might as well be served at this meal. These casseroles are, however, commonly served with dinner and also in buffet style meals. It’s not uncommon to see a casserole of cheese grains at a Southern-style buffet event.

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