Hashbrown Casserole Isn't Complete Without This Soup

Breakfast casseroles are a great time-saver, since they're one of the few ways you can have a classic breakfast meal complete with eggs, meat, and hash browns all in one dish. With other foods, as Mashed developer Erin Johnson points out, "It can be difficult to get everything ready at the same time," particularly because "you have to juggle a lot of different cook times for all different kinds of foods." With a casserole, however, you just throw a bunch of ingredients in a baking pan, stick it in the oven, and voila! Everything is done all at the same time. What makes Johnson's hashbrown casserole recipe extra special, however, is the fact that it's extra cheesy.

Johnson, a fan of potatoes and cheese, calls cheesy hash browns "food royalty." So much respect does she have for this king of food combos that she won't even adulterate it with cream of mushroom soup. While some casseroles do call for using it as a binder without using actual cream, Johnson prefers to use condensed cheddar soup instead because, as she explains, it "does both of those things without diminishing the flavor of the [shredded] cheddar and Colby Jack" that also feature in the casserole. If you're counting, that's a triple dose of cheese for the win.

What can you substitute for canned cheese soup?

If you're making this hashbrown casserole in a hurry and don't have time to go out shopping for cheddar soup, you can always use condensed cream of mushroom or chicken as a substitute. Yes, they won't make the casserole quite as cheesy, but sometimes sacrifices must be made in the name of expediency. You could also add an extra cup of sour cream, an ingredient that Erin Johnson already calls for in her recipe. Again, not cheesy, but it is a dairy product, so that makes it cheese-adjacent, at least.

The best substitute for canned condensed cheddar soup, though, is a thick cheese sauce. This isn't nearly as difficult to make as it might sound, since you're basically creating a white sauce with a roux of flour and butter, then thinning it out with milk and stirring in shredded cheese until it melts. Flavor the soup base with salt and perhaps a pinch of dried mustard since its pungency will complement the cheddar's natural tang.

You can then use it to make your easy, cheesy breakfast casserole or any of these other must-try recipes made with cheese sauce. Hot tip: Make up a few batches of this cheese soup and freeze them in 1 ¼-cup portions. (This is the approximate equivalent of a standard 10 ½-ounce can). That way, you won't need to rely on canned cheddar soup, since you'll have a stash of the homemade stuff on hand at all times.