Canned cream of chicken soup is a popular and convenient way to bind ingredients together in a casserole, but it has distinct disadvantages. Canned soups are often high in fat, and even low-fat varieties are high in sodium and preservatives. Casseroles are versatile one-pot meals composed of a starch, vegetables, protein, a binder and a topping, such as bread crumbs or cheese. There are alternatives that are just as simple to use and far healthier.
Plain, fat-free yogurt provides calcium as a binder in a casserole without the calories and sodium of canned soup. Use Greek yogurt, which is thicker than regular yogurt, or put yogurt in a strainer that is lined with paper towels and placed over a bowl. Let most of the liquid drain for 30 minutes to thicken the yogurt. Use the yogurt to bind casseroles with rice and lean chicken or seafood. Zucchini, tomatoes, scallions, fresh dill and basil are all enhanced by yogurt in a casserole.
Sour cream is a binder for pasta or bean-based casseroles that incorporate cheese to help thicken them and create a creamy filling. Use it as is with casseroles that have lots of ingredients or thicken by placing in a strainer lined with paper towels to drain some of the liquid. Mix with Parmesan or cheddar cheese and a lightly beaten egg. Stir the mixture with the rest of your ingredients. Chopped broccoli, zucchini and mushrooms are ideal casserole ingredients to use with sour cream.
With only 40 calories in a 1/2 cup serving, tomato sauce is a healthy, non-fat binder that works with a wide range of ingredients and flavors. Bind whole-grain pasta, chopped onions, zucchini, bell peppers, garlic and herbs with tomato sauce for a Mediterranean-inspired casserole. Tomato sauce, which is also a healthy source of vitamins A and C, may be combined with rice, fresh tomatoes, lean chicken and jalapeno peppers to create a Mexican-inspired dish. Tomato paste thinned with a little water or broth also works well.
Eggs and Milk
Create your own creamy low-fat binder with a white sauce made from a little heart-healthy olive oil, flour and skim milk. Season with pepper, herbs and spices and use it in any casserole where you would use canned soup. Eggs and milk together create a custard-like consistency in casseroles. Beat them together and pour over a dish based on chunks of bread and sauteed vegetables to create a simple strata. Mix beaten eggs with mashed potatoes and a little milk to provide a firmer texture to a casserole made by layering the potatoes with sauteed mushrooms and spinach.