The Key To Recreating Cracker Barrel's Hash Brown Casserole

Of all the styles of recipes that exist for the home cook, one of the most popular is the restaurant copycat recipe. Most diners aren't headed to their favorite restaurant four or five times a week, but there is a good chance they crave that must-order dish and turn to the internet for tips on how to recreate it at home. There are Reddit communities and Facebook groups dedicated to helping home cooks replicate iconic dishes from places like Olive Garden, Chili's, Panda Express, and more. 

Cracker Barrel's Southern, homestyle dishes are included in that list of sought-after copycat recipes. A quick search for "Cracker barrel recipes" will bring up hundreds of results for everything ranging from the restaurant's famous meatloaf (the third most popular item on the menu) to the sourdough French toast. There's one Cracker Barrel classic, however, that takes just a bit of tweaking to get right.

Cracker Barrel's hash brown casserole made at home

The hash brown casserole at Cracker Barrel is one of those must-order breakfast items for many, and fans of the dish can find dozens of recipes online to recreate at home. Most of these recipes, however, rely on an ingredient that can leave those who eat it feeling a bit, well, bloated.

In order to replicate the casserole's creamy texture, many recipes call for cream of chicken soup. Grabbing a can out of the pantry might be easy, but with a bit of elbow grease, a truly homemade (less salty) version can be whipped up in minutes.

Start by making a roux, a process that sounds complicated but is quite easy. Made from butter and flour, a roux is essentially a paste used to thicken sauces in dishes like mac and cheese. Once the roux has been made, it can be flavored with a low-sodium chicken bouillon — whisk in just enough to replicate that creamy chicken flavor. The easiest way to do this is to taste a bit and add more if needed, remembering that it's always easier to add more flavor toward the end as opposed to taking it away if it's too overpowering. From there, the casserole can be folded together, usually with sour cream as the "liquid," and baked according to the recipe's instructions. 

A little DIY goes a long way

A quick look at the ingredient label on most canned soups reveals sodium content that is off the charts — Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup for instance contains close to 40% of the daily suggested intake of sodium.

Additionally, a lot of the recipes for the hash brown casserole suggest using frozen hash browns as a shortcut, with many of these products already containing salt. Target's Market Pantry frozen hash brown patties contain 280 milligrams of sodium, or 12% of the suggested daily intake. Add that up and this single dish is already at 50% of the suggested daily consumption of sodium, and that's before bacon and eggs. (And who isn't eating bacon and eggs with their hash brown casserole?)

Once the roux base has been made, make it even more healthy by grating potatoes and onions at home rather than using frozen hash browns. Keep to a ratio of about half an onion to three or four potatoes, until enough of both have been grated to meet whatever amount of hash browns a particular recipe calls for.

With the American Heart Association recommending no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day and encouraging most adults to cut back to around 1,500 milligrams per day, finding a way to make the hash brown casserole a little less salty with a homemade "cream of chicken" base is the key to enjoying a healthier version at home.