Better than Cracker Barrel Hash Brown Casserole
Actually that was one of my reviews. And my family has declared,
“This IS Better than Cracker Barrels Hash Brown Casserole!”
I was really flattered by the compliment my family gave me. If you’ve read about my critics and testers, they are my family & friends.
And when they don’t like something it feels harsh & it stings my ego. It’s hard not to take it personal. But they do not cut me any slack just because it’s me.
However, when they love something, they rave- it disappears and the request are made often. Those are the times I feel like I’ve won Chopped on the Food Network.
Have you watch Chopped before? Are you a fan like I am?
If they ever had a casting call for food bloggers to compete on that show I think I would apply.
Cracker Barrel seems to be a restaurant we visit more when we travel rather than a local spot we would frequent.
They have great food that is consistently good, served quickly and it gives us a chance to stretch our legs and take our mind off of a long drive.
Have you ordered the hash brown casserole at a Cracker Barrel restaurant before?
No matter how many times I’ve eaten at a Cracker Barrel over the years, I always end up ordering breakfast. I love their pecan pancakes and the Sunrise Sampler platter. And it’s SO much food I could split that with my kids.
Their hash brown casserole is SO good that if I split my breakfast I ask for a side of my own casserole. It is great!
It’s this creamy cheesy potato-y baked goodness. And it IS delicious!
We all enjoy the hash brown casserole here-and I do mean all of us.
Even my picky eater who hates onions says they don’t care that there are onions in this dish.
Not a Copy Cat Recipe
This is not a copy cat version of Cracker Barrel’s recipe but this is my take on it.
There are many copy cat versions floating around the internet and I’ve tried a few. They taste good too but it’s not the same.
I even had insider scoop from a former employee tell me what they did. But the portions were for large trays so I couldn’t scale it down to taste the same.
Eventually I gave up trying to make it a home because I wasn’t successful-it was good but not the same.
Until I came up with this version a few months back.
What really had me excited about the reviews I received for my take was knowing the version I created is not as heavy as the original.
And maybe even healthier?
Okay, that might be a stretch!
What sets my recipe apart from the copy cat recipes is I don’t have a ton of condensed soup in mine. But I do have a couple of key ingredients that makes mine taste similar to the original.
How this came together
On a lazy weekend a few months ago, I had wanted to make my family a big breakfast spread but I was being lazy. I mean totally lazy!
Nothing was getting done and I didn’t care, kind of lazy. I just wanted to drink more coffee and lounge.
No one had eaten breakfast (we snacked) but it was boarding brunch time at that point. The natives were getting restless and hungry (and very cranky). So my family suggested we go to Cracker Barrel.
I really wanted us to go-no cooking, no cleaning up and good Eats!- but none of us were ready to walk out the door (I was being lazy).
And let’s be real, it would have taken us about 30 minutes (or more) to be ready to walk out the door. Plus drive time, probably some waiting and we were looking at an hour before we ate whether we stayed home or went out.
So (I can’t believe) I talked everyone out of going (boooo!) and I decided to stop being lazy and jump into making us a huge breakfast.
And to my surprise, that is where I first came up with my ‘Better than Cracker Barrels Hash Brown Casserole.’
Since we wanted to eat at Cracker Barrel but didn’t, I decided to make it feel like a Cracker Barrel experience. I made pancakes, grits, eggs, bacon, toast, and this hash brown casserole.
I even broke out our peg game while they waited-I don’t know what the really name of this is. Do you? Does it make you feel like “an idiot” when you have 3 pegs left?
When my family finally got to eat they were all happy and agreed that this breakfast (really it was lunch at that point) was worth the wait.
I immediately wrote everything down that did with my hash brown casserole. And I tested this a second, a third and now many times since.
This recipe is perfect for us and I’m sharing it today.
No Condensed Soup
I decided not to use condense soup because I typically don’t buy it or have in my pantry. It’s pretty easy to make condensed soup at home and it taste better with less sodium.
I didn’t have chicken stock so I used a chicken bouillon cube and dissolved it in a cup of hot water. And I made a roux with butter and flour.
The roux comes together quickly because the hot water bouillon mix.
These are my key ingredients that give a similar taste to the restaurant version: dehydrated onions, onion powder, a little bit of garlic powder and S&P in the roux.
I have tested this recipe many times with a couple of baking potatoes as well as using a frozen shredded unseasoned hash browns.
Both kinds come out delicious! You just need to allow more time to cook when using baking potatoes. The shredded potatoes do cook a lot faster.
I have played with several cheese combinations from a sharp cheddar and gruyere cheese mix. A colby jack & sharp cheddar and some Parmesan.
All of the cheese combo’s work well but the key is always use a sharp tasting cheese.
Bake for about 30 minutes (if using frozen hash browns) or until bubbly around the sides just before your cheese gets too brown.
A Side Note: when I tested this with a couple of baking potatoes, it’s important to make small cubes (but not super small). And I needed to add more salt to them and this bakes longer -about 60 minutes.
I have tested this recipe a lot and it is also consistently delicious. It may not be the exact way the restaurant makes it, but it taste closer to any recipe I’ve tried so far.
Do you make a big breakfast over the weekend? I typically make a hot breakfast a couple of times during the week. But over the weekend I go all out (when I’m not being lazy!) and usually make this recipe.
I hope you will give this recipe a try for your next breakfast, brunch or even for dinner! It is rare that we have leftovers of this. But it does reheats well.
Please feel free to share this recipe on Pinterest, too!
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Nova Little Kitchen Big Eats