Creamy, delicious and topped with the perfect amount of crunch, you will want to add this Southern Squash Casserole to your regular dinner rotation served as an entree or side dish.
Some folks call it a summer squash casserole because their summer garden is so abundant with the veggie during the summer months, but honestly, it is made mostly during the holidays with winter squash. It’s a delicious way to get the kiddos to eat their veggies.
The layers of freshly sliced yellow squash and zucchini with cheese and a buttery cracker topping in this the squash side dish you having been searching for.
Why You’ll Love This Squash Casserole
This squash casserole is a great way to get kids to eat their veggies without a fight! Here are a few other reasons why you’ll love this perfect side dish.
- Cheese- Who doesn’t love cheese? Well, some people don’t, but I am not one of them.
- Buttery Crunchy Topping– I am a sucker for any type of crunchies. I used better crackers, but salty or even cheesy crackers, like Goldfish, can be used.
- Make Ahead– We all lead busy lives and need the perfect dish for potlucks and other events, even if they are just are own for a busy weeknight meal. This dish is fantastic as a make ahead casserole, cooked or uncooked.
What You’ll Need
Use these simple ingredients to create a mind-blowing old-school squash casserole recipe. All easily found at your local grocery store.
- Neutral Oil– Vegetable oil, canola oil or a blended oil work best. You only need a small amount to lubricate the squash.
- Fresh squash– Using two different colors makes it more pleasing to eye- eat the rainbow!- but feel free to use only yellow squash or green squash.
- White Onion- For flavoring. Sweet or red can also be used, as can shallots or even leeks!
- Cheddar Cheese– Please use freshly shredded cheese instead of pre-shredded cheese, which commonly has been tossed with some type of starch to prevent clumping. Freshly shredded will melt better. Get funky by using a blend of cheeses and using up odds and ends in the cheese drawer.
- Large Egg– The binder for the whole mix.
- Whole milk– Reduced fat milks or alternative milks can be used, but I really like the richness that a full-fast provides. If you must, make a blend of lower fast with heavy cream or half and half.
- Unsalted Butter– Using unsalted allows you to control the salt profile. If you opt for salted butter, omit the additional salt.
- Sour Cream– Sour cream helps to balance the flavors and add a bit of zing while also making the dish super creamy. Plain Greek yogurt can be swapped. Regular yogurt is a little too runny.
- Coarse kosher salt- This has the least sodium so you get the benefits of salt without it tasting overly salty. Fine sea salt can be used, but reduce the volume by at least half.
- White pepper– A milder peppery flavor, freshly cracked black pepper can also be used.
- Garlic Powder– Double this ingredient if you really love garlic!
- Butter Crackers– Buttery crackers can be any type of buttery cracker, such as Ritz, Club crackers or buttery round crackers. Crackers don’t have to be perfectly crushed into crumbs, in fact, I like it best when there are varying sizes to make it a little more interesting.
- Parsley Flakes– I did use dried parsley flakes, which honestly have very little flavor, but do give a nice green speckle. These can omitted or top the finished dish with chopped fresh parsley.
Cutting the Squash
The first step is slicing the squash. I’m giving this it’s own section because of the importance.
I will mention this several times, but this dish works best if the squash is evenly sliced. If the pieces are different widths, they will also cook at different rates and then you’ll end up with some that are overcooked and soggy, while others are still crunchy and raw.
How to Make Squash Casserole
One of the things I learned along my journey was to not initially overcook the squash. Since they are made of so much water, the difference of one minute can take your squash slices from nice and taut to a soggy mess. They will be cooking even more in the oven, so don’t over do it, you want a little snap when you transfer them.
- Prepare oven and pan. Preheat the oven and coat casserole dish with cooking spray. You can use a different size baking dish, but it is is shallower, then the cooking time might also reduce.
- Cook squash and onion. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat and cook the sliced squash and onion. Do this in two batches to not overcrowd the pan. Ideally, you want to sweat out excess moisture so the casserole isn’t watery. The squash slices will be par-cooked, slightly soft, but still hold their shape.
- Drain liquid. Remove from the heat and drain to remove any excess liquid with paper towels, remember, lots of liquid is the enemy. Transfer the squash mixture to a large mixing bowl.
- Combine remaining ingredients. Whisk together the egg, whole milk, melted butter, sour cream, salt, pepper, garlic powder and ½ cup of the cheese.
- Toss squash. Gently toss the wet ingredients with the cooked squash so the squash slices don’t break apart. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish. I am also a little type A, so I layered mine all nice and flat. You can just dump them in if that doesn’t bother you. It all tastes the same.
- Top with crackers. Top the squash casserole with crushed crackers, remaining ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese and dried parsley.
- Bake. Bake it up so it is warm, cheesy and gooey and golden brown on top.
- Allow to rest. Lastly, don’t skip the step of allowing it to sit. If you carve it too early it just goes all limp and doesn’t give the ingredients time to set up.
There are plenty of ways you can make the best squash casserole your own. Here are a few ideas:
- Cheese – Other cheeses I would use are low-moisture mozzarella, Swiss, gruyere, provolone or even asiago. A hard cheese like parmesan cheese or romano can be add to the top after cooking for an ultra cheesy casserole dish.
- Without crackers – If you do omit the buttery cracker crumbs, I would add more cheese on top. There are so many squash casserole recipes out there, this topping is what sets ours apart. Panko or seasoned bread crumbs are other options.
- One color – I like to “eat the rainbow” so I added both, but feel free to use just one or the other, either all yellow or all green squash.
Make Ahead & Freezing
Make ahead: You sure can! I would get all the way to step #7, cover with a lid, plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate up to a day ahead of time. When you are ready to serve, add the crackers and bake to heat.
Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave or eat at room temperature. My husband would tell you it is better leftover the next day.
Freezing: Technically, yes you can freeze squash casserole but that darn water is going to get you again! It will most likely defrost to be a little soggy and limp.
How to Serve Squash Casserole
This can be a main meal for your vegetarian friends or a side dish. If you are looking for a main, here are a few dinner ideas.
This is such a versatile dish, it really goes with anything, but here are a few of my favorites:
Frequently Asked Questions
Winter squash has a slightly thicker skin. You can peel yours if the skin is too tough. It will soften as it cooks. Patty pans are another good option.
You can really use any crackers you’d like, but most people tend to like Ritz crackers or Club crackers. Panko bread crumbs can also be used.
- Parmesan Crusted Yellow Squash
- Creamy Brie Spaghetti Squash
- Roasted Butternut Squash
- Roasted Yellow Squash
Cheesy Squash Casserole Recipe
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 4 cups green and yellow squash* , cut into thin slices
- ¼ cup white onion , chopped
- 1 cup cheddar cheese , shredded and divided
- 1 egg , lightly beaten
- ½ cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter , melted
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 1/2 cups buttery crackers , crushed*
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 3 quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat. Cook the sliced squash and onion in 2 batches, until it starts to soften. This will take about 5 minutes per batch. The ideal texture is slightly soft, but not falling apart.
- Remove from the heat and drain to remove any excess liquid. Transfer the squash mixture to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, whole milk, melted butter, sour cream, salt, pepper, garlic powder and ½ cup of the cheese.
- Gently toss the wet ingredients with the cooked squash. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish.
- Top the squash casserole with crushed crackers, remaining ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese and dried parsley.
- Bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes until cheese has melted and top is bubbly and brown.
- Remove and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the star ratings or comments.
Crackers don’t have to be perfectly crushed into crumbs, in fact, I like it best when there are varying sizes to make it a little more interesting.