5 Ways to Make Any Casserole Taste Like Summer

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

Casseroles are truly comforting, but don’t be fooled — this warm and hearty baked dish is not just reserved for warming up on cold winter nights. Here are five easy ways to make any casserole taste like summer.

1. Include hyper-seasonal ingredients.

Go beyond the seasonal ingredients that are around for the whole summer and hone in on the ones that are here and gone almost in the blink of an eye. Fill your casserole with hyper-seasonal ingredients, like hatch green chiles or heirloom tomatoes.

2. Load up on fresh herbs

Lean on the season’s bounty of fresh and fragrant herbs, like basil, tarragon, chives, and dill. Even if your recipe doesn’t call for it, a handful of any one of these fragrant herbs will bring a light, fresh flavor to the casserole.

3. Rub lemon zest into the breadcrumbs.

For those casseroles finished off with a crispy panko or breadcrumb topping, don’t forget the lemon zest. Mixed into the topping, the zest from a lemon has the power to make any casserole feel light and bright.

Get a Recipe: Summer Squash Gratin

4. Bring in the BBQ.

Summer always leaves us craving the smoky flavors that go with BBQ, but you don’t have to fire up the grill to get these flavors on your table. Incorporate ingredients like a spoonful of smoked paprika, a few dashes of liquid smoke, or even barbecue sauce to bring these flavors into your casserole.

5. Swap canned tomatoes for fresh.

There’s no better time for sweet and juicy ripe tomatoes than summer. Right now is when you’ll find the best-tasting tomatoes of the year. Save those canned tomatoes for the middle of winter and give your casserole a taste of summer with vine-ripe fresh tomatoes.