The best Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole copycat recipe

At most restaurants, hash browns are firmly located on the breakfast menu. Unless you're at Cracker Barrel, you wouldn't think of ordering them as a side dish for chicken fried steak or meatloaf. It's not that potatoes don't belong on the dinner table — we love a good side of mashed potatoes and gravy or a loaded baked potato — but you just don't see hash browns as an option at most restaurants. Cracker Barrel must know something that other restaurants don't know: Hashbrown casserole can taste every bit as lunch- or dinner-worthy as other potato side dishes.

This hashbrown casserole is legendary. It's creamy, cheesy, warm, and comforting. After taking a bite, we absolutely understood why Cracker Barrel fans love this dish. So we took on the challenge to see if we could recreate it for ourselves. There are tons of copycat recipes out there, but we wanted to make one that was as authentic as possible. After a few test runs (and several bellies full of potatoes), we found a recipe that absolutely nails it. There's no need to get take-out again when you're armed with this Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole copycat recipe!

Gather the ingredients for your Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole copycat recipe

Before we got started making our Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole copycat recipe, we took a peek at Cracker Barrel's website to see if they listed the ingredients. They don't, unfortunately, so we had to do quite a bit of guesswork in developing this recipe. Cracker Barrel does have an allergen guide, which confirms the casserole contains milk, wheat, soy, and gluten, so we used that as a starting point.

We knew the casserole contains hash browns, so we picked up a bag of frozen hash browns. No need to tire out our arms by shredding russet potatoes from scratch! From our taste test, we assumed the casserole got its tangy flavor from sour cream, so we added that to the list, too. And we definitely tasted some cheese in there, so we picked up a cheddar and Monterey Jack blend cheese. The final component was the ingredient that includes wheat, soy, and gluten. Most copycat recipes we found used condensed cream of chicken soup — which contains all three of those allergens. We could have used the canned product, but we decided to make a homemade version instead using butter, flour, half-and-half, and spices.

You” find a complete list of ingredients, including quantities and step-by-step directions, at the end of this article.

Is our Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole copycat recipe vegetarian?

We had a heck of a time trying to figure out which items on Cracker Barrel's menu are vegetarian and which contain meat. There isn't a resource on their website, so we took a peek at their menu. Under Country Sides (where the hashbrown casserole is listed), Cracker Barrel specifies that they prepare their vegetables the "traditional country way," which means some of the sides may include meat seasonings. On Reddit, one user complained that the only vegetarian breakfast options are applesauce, fresh fruit, and oatmeal, so we can only assume that the hashbrown casserole contains some form of meat.

We mentioned earlier that most copycat recipes use cream of chicken soup, although some Redditors claim Cracker Barrel's prep cooks actually use cream of mushroom soup. Without the ability to confirm it either way, we decided to make a vegetarian version for our Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole copycat recipe. Since we were making a faux condensed soup for our sauce, it was easy to leave out the meat ingredients.

What do you use to bake a Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole copycat recipe?

Restaurants usually use an industrial-sized casserole dish called a hotel pan. Although they can vary in size, a full-sized pan is usually 12-inches by 20-inches and can hold about 8 quarts of food. There's no way we would be able to eat that much hashbrown casserole (even if we threw a brunch party), so we scaled our recipe down to feed about four people.

A 2-quart casserole pan (8x8 or 7x11) was the perfect size to fit our four-person recipe. If you're doubling the recipe, you should be able to fit it into a 3-quart (9x13) casserole pan. Although we didn't try it, you could absolutely make this recipe in a tall-sided cast-iron skillet. We like the square and rectangular pans for making perfect square-shaped servings, but scooping the casserole out of a cast iron would create an impressive tableside presentation.

No matter which cooking vessel you choose, make sure to grease it well with butter or cooking oil before getting started. There's no oil in the recipe itself, so the casserole will stick very badly if the pan isn't properly greased.

Do you need condensed soup for the perfect Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole copycat recipe?

We decided to make our own faux condensed soup instead of using canned cream of chicken soup for our recipe. It was super easy to make, it only required a handful of ingredients, and it came together in about five minutes. That said, if you want to speed up the cooking process for this recipe, feel free to swap-in a half can of prepared condensed soup. You can choose any flavor you like — cream of chicken works well, but cream of celery, mushroom, or cheddar cheese soup would all work wonderfully.

If you do decide to give our version a try, you'll be thrilled to know you can use this base recipe to make any flavor of condensed soup at home. To turn this recipe into cream of chicken soup, use a mixture of chicken broth and half-and-half. Or make it as-is and add finely minced celery for cream of celery soup. Doubling the recipe will make a full can of condensed soup, and you can store it in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it.

Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole copycat recipe starts by making a roux

Now that we've reviewed all the ingredients and cooking options, it's time to get started. We began our Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole by making a roux — a thickening mixture made from flour and butter. Our faux condensed soup will be a sauce that's similar to a gravy, but significantly thicker. In fact, it's so thick that we questioned whether we should add extra liquid after we made it the first time. But we resisted the urge and it turned out to be the perfect consistency for our hashbrown casserole. Compared to the real canned stuff, it wasn't actually that much thicker.

Start by melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When it starts to bubble and turn a light tan color, reduce the heat and add the flour. You'll want to stir constantly as the flour cooks, otherwise it can burn and create an off-flavor. After two to three minutes, the mixture should be very bubbly and turn a light golden brown color. Congratulations! You've successfully made a roux.

Finish the sauce for Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole copycat recipe

Once the flour is fully cooked in the roux, it's time to add liquid to finish the sauce. You can use any liquid you like in this step — milk, half-and-half, heavy cream, chicken stock, or (in a pinch) regular water. If you want, you can even use a mixture of chicken stock and milk (which is what we would do for cream of chicken soup). We chose half-and-half for our Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole copycat recipe because it's more flavorful and rich than milk, but it's not quite as thick as heavy cream.

Add the half-and-half to the roux in a slow, steady stream, whisking as you add. The mixture is going to thicken much more quickly than soup or gravy because we're using a fraction of normal liquid to make the sauce "condensed." Don't be concerned if it looks too thick, just keep whisking until you've added all the half-and-half and there are no large clumps of roux. After about a minute, the sauce is finished. Stir in the salt, onion powder, black pepper, and celery salt to season the sauce and let the mixture cool slightly.

Combine the remaining ingredients for Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole copycat recipe

At this point, all the ingredients are prepared. All you need to do is put them together and bake them to perfection. We chose to use frozen hash browns because we never think ahead far enough to defrost them first. If you're a planner, you can absolutely thaw the hash browns in the refrigerator overnight. Keep in mind that you won't need to bake the casserole as long if the hash browns aren't frozen.

From there, simply mix together the remaining ingredients: the frozen hash browns, sour cream, shredded cheese, and the cooled sauce. If you're using frozen hash browns, be sure to break up the large clumps with your hands as you add them to the bowl. Otherwise, you'll end up with pockets of unseasoned potatoes in the casserole. After a quick stir, turn the mixture out into a well-greased casserole dish. You can pat the mixture down lightly so it fits in the casserole dish, but don't pack it in too tightly. If the casserole is too dense, it will take longer to cook all the way through.

Bake your Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole copycat recipe

From here, it's all about setting the timer and waiting. In a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven, the casserole should take about 30 to 45 minutes. If you like extra crispy edges, let it cook a little bit longer, but take care not to let any of the browned edges turn black. If you're impatient, you can cover the casserole with aluminum foil, but the potatoes won't crisp up as well.

When the casserole is finished baking, let it rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing into it. For restaurant-quality slices, you'll want to let it cool to close to room temperature before slicing it. Cooled potatoes slice more cleanly than warm potatoes, which tend to flake more easily. This casserole tastes great at room temperature, but you can also reheat the slices in the oven. And if you want to take Cracker Barrel's hashbrown casserole to the next level, read on to learn how to make it loaded.

Turn this Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole copycat recipe into loaded hashbrown casserole

It might clock in at twice the calories as the regular hashbrown casserole, but we can't get enough of Cracker Barrel's loaded hashbrown casserole. According to their website, what sets the loaded casserole apart from the original is the addition of sliced Colby cheese and bacon crumbles. It's also finished on the grill, giving it a slightly smoky flavor.

We didn't want to fire up the grill to load up our hashbrown casserole, so we found a few ways to make it happen indoors. The easiest way is to add the cheese and bacon before you slice the portions. While the hashbrown casserole is cooking, cook two pieces of bacon. When the casserole is finished, sprinkle a layer of cheese over top and crumble on the bacon pieces. Bake the loaded casserole for an additional 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the bacon is warmed through. If you've already sliced the casserole into servings, you can easily add the cheese and bacon to each individual slice. At that point, it's very easy to put the pieces under the broiler and cook for two minutes to melt the cheese.

How close did we get to the original Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole?

This casserole is everything we love about hash browns, and more. It's perfectly tangy, cheesy, and creamy, with the slightest bit of crunch around the outsides. Overall, it tasted a bit like a loaded baked potato (especially when we added the extra cheese and bacon on top). It was delicious with two fried eggs and a side of bacon, but it worked equally well as a side dish for a steak or pork chop dinner.

The thing we loved the most about this recipe was how easy it was. It's just a matter of mixing the ingredients together and popping them in the oven. The leftovers held up really well in the refrigerator, too, and they were simple to reheat in the oven or microwave. All in all, this recipe is definitely going in our back pocket. It's a good one to pull out anytime you want to impress your guests at a brunch or dinner party. Just be prepared to hand out the recipe, because people will likely ask for it!

Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole copycat recipe directions

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

(For the sauce)

If you don't want to make the sauce from scratch, you can use 1/2 can condensed cream of chicken soup instead.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Pinch celery salt

(For the casserole)

  • 1 pound frozen hash browns
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack blend cheese, plus extra for topping (optional)
  • 2 slices bacon, cooked and chopped (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8x8 casserole pan with butter or cooking oil and set aside.
  2. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it starts to bubble.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the flour to make a roux. Cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the mixture turns a light golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add the half-and-half in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly to prevent any clumps from forming. The sauce will thicken very quickly, but resist the urge to add more liquid. Continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the sauce resembles condensed cream of chicken soup.
  5. Season the sauce with the salt, onion powder, black pepper, and celery salt and stir to combine. Set aside and allow the sauce to cool slightly.
  6. In a large bowl, combine the frozen hash browns, sour cream, shredded cheese, and cooled sauce. Break up the frozen hash browns with your hands as you add them to the bowl, preventing any clumps of unseasoned potatoes. Stir to combine.
  7. Place the hash brown mixture into the prepared casserole pan. Pat the mixture lightly to fit the casserole dish, but don't pack it in too tightly or it will take too long to bake.
  8. Bake the hashbrown casserole for 30 to 45 minutes, until it's browned on top and warmed through.
  9. If desired, cover the top of the cooked casserole with the extra cheese and chopped bacon. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the bacon is heated through.
  10. Let the casserole rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing it. If you have the time, it will slice more cleanly if you let it cool completely.
  11. Cut the casserole into four pieces before serving.