Hash brown potato casserole is made with cheesy potatoes and a crunchy panko bread crumb topping. The cheese sauce is made entirely from scratch - no canned soups needed! Perfect for serving at your next holiday gathering like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.
You may know hash brown potato casserole by its nickname - funeral potatoes. Hash brown casserole got this name because it was often brought to the homes of the bereaved after a funeral. It's comforting, easy to make, and keeps well for several days in the refrigerator. Plus, it can feed a crowd.
My version is made entirely from scratch using simple ingredients. No need for canned soups here! You'll start by browning onions in a pan on the stovetop, then making a simple roux. By adding milk and shredded cheese, you'll make a creamy cheese sauce for your shredded hash browns.
The panko bread crumb crust is arguably the best part. By using a combination of panko and melted butter, the topping browns up perfectly in the oven and makes a crunchy, buttery crust.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Shredded hash browns - Frozen shredded hash browns can be substituted with fresh shredded potatoes. You'll need 30 ounces of shredded potatoes for this recipe.
- Unsalted butter - Can be substituted with salted butter (reduce the salt listed by ¼ teaspoon).
- All-purpose flour - Thickens your sauce and makes a roux with the butter.
- Broth - Chicken broth or vegetable broth are best. Broth adds depth of flavor to your cheese sauce.
- Milk - Whole milk makes the creamiest sauce, but lower fat milks will also work.
- Seasoning - Paprika, salt, and pepper add depth of flavor to your casserole. For more of a kick, add a tablespoon of your favorite hot sauce, like in my creamy baked mac and cheese recipe.
- Sour cream - Makes your cheese sauce extra creamy and rich.
- Shredded cheddar cheese - Sharp cheddar cheese is best for this recipe. However, you can also use monterey jack, pepper jack (for an extra kick of flavor), or gruyere cheese with good results.
- Onion - Adds depth of flavor to your casserole. Can be omitted if desired. Once they're cooked down, they don't add any obvious texture to the casserole.
- Panko bread crumbs (not shown) - Used to make a crunchy crust on top of your casserole. Can be substituted with crushed cornflakes or butter crackers (like Ritz).
Should I thaw hash browns for casserole?
Yes, your hash browns should be thawed before adding them to the casserole. Otherwise, ice crystals and liquid from the thawing potatoes can make your casserole watery.
To thaw your potatoes before assembling your casserole, place your bag of hash browns on the counter at least 30 minutes before starting the recipe. If they're very watery after thawing, drain them in a colander before adding to the cheese sauce.
Or, spread your frozen shredded hash browns into a thin layer on a sheet pan and place in a 300 degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes to thaw quickly. Make sure not to bake them too long - eventually they'll begin to cook.
Can I use fresh hash browns instead of frozen?
Yes, fresh hash browns (which you can find in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, or freshly shredded potatoes will work in this recipe.
To make your own hash browns from potatoes:
- Wash and dry your potatoes.
- Optionally, peel your potatoes (if desired, not required).
- Using the large side of a box grater, or a food processor with a grating blade, shred your potatoes.
- If needed, drain in a colander and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Add your shredded potatoes to the cheese sauce as directed in the recipe card below.
I like panko bread crumbs because they make a crispy, crunchy topping that adds a nice texture to the casserole.
However, panko bread crumbs can be substituted with crushed corn flakes (like old fashioned funeral potatoes), crushed butter crackers (like Ritz), or with traditional bread crumbs.
Optionally, top your baked casserole with a green garnish like fresh chopped parsley, green onions, or chives just before serving. This adds brightness and visual appeal to your finished dish.
Want to make your casserole ahead of time? Assemble as directed, but leave off your panko topping. Cover the casserole and refrigerate for 1-2 days.
When you're ready, set your casserole on the countertop while the oven preheats to help bring it to room temperature. Top with panko bread crumb topping and bake as directed.
Unfortunately, potatoes and dairy-based sauces do not freeze and thaw well, so I do not recommend freezing hash brown potato casserole. The texture of potatoes can get grainy when thawed, and cheese sauces can get watery and break.
Casserole leftovers will keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
Hash Brown Potato Casserole
- 30 ounces shredded hash browns, if frozen, thaw
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, diced
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup chicken broth
- ¾ cup milk
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 8 ounces sour cream
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, freshly shredded
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- If using frozen hash browns, set bag on countertop and allow to thaw for 30 minutes beforehand. If hash browns are watery, drain in a colander to remove excess liquid.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 9x13 casserole dish and set aside.
- In a stock pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until softened and edges begin to lightly brown. Add flour and stir to combine, creating a paste. Cook for 1 minute. Add milk and chicken broth, whisking to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until sauce thickens.
- Remove from heat and add salt, pepper paprika, sour cream, and shredded cheddar cheese. Stir to combine. Add thawed hash browns and stir to coat.
- Pour hash browns into prepared 9x13 pan and spread into an even layer. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine melted butter and panko bread crumbs. Sprinkle over the top of your casserole in an even layer.
- Cover casserole with foil and bake for fifty minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional twenty minutes, or until top has lightly browned. Remove from oven and enjoy.
- To thaw hash browns quickly, preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread frozen hash browns onto a baking sheet and place in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until just thawed. Do not bake too long, as potatoes will begin to cook.
- Want to make your casserole ahead of time? Simply assemble as directed, but leave off your panko topping. Cover casserole and refrigerate for 1-2 days. When ready, set on counter top while oven is preheating, top with panko topping, then bake as directed.
- Leftovers keep for 3 to 4 days in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator and reheat well.
- I do not recommend freezing this recipe - potatoes and dairy-based sauces do not freeze well and tend to get grainy when thawed.