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I still remember the day when I tried sweet potato casserole for the first time. It was in Washington, D.C. at a Friendsgiving gathering during law school.
My friend topped his sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, and while I gamely gave it a try, I just couldn’t get past how overly sweet and mushy the marshmallows made the dish. To me, melted marshmallows belong in s’mores and rice krispies treats.
When I started making sweet potato casseroles for my own Thanksgivings, I decided to skip the marshmallows altogether and topped my casserole with a nutty pecan crumble instead. I love how this adds a crunchy contrast to the creamy sweet potatoes in this classic holiday dish.
For the sweet potato casserole I’m sharing today, I ended up adding orange zest to the filling. This was a suggestion from Elise when she tasted one of my test batches, and her instincts were spot on. The orange zest gives a wonderful brightness to the casserole.
I used the zest from an entire orange, but if you feel skeptical about orange flavors in your sweet potato casserole, feel free to leave it out or use half of the zest instead.
Sweet Potato Casserole RecipePrint
For the filling:
- 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Zest from 1 medium orange
For the crumble topping:
- 3/4 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 2-quart baking dish and set aside.
2 Cook the sweet potatoes: Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 2-inch chunks. Place the chunks in a large pot and fill it with enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring everything to boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, or until the sweet potato chunks can be easily pierced with a fork. Drain the sweet potatoes and let them cool for 5 minutes.
2 Working in batches, transfer sweet potatoes to a food processor and blend to make a smooth puree. Makes about 4 cups of puree. (At this point, the puree can be refrigerated for several days until you're ready to make the casserole.)
3 Make the sweet potato filling: Scoop all of the sweet potato puree into a bowl. Mix in the milk, maple syrup, egg, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and orange zest. Pour the sweet potato puree into the prepared baking dish and spread to an even layer.
4 Make the crumble topping: In a separate bowl, mix the pecans, flour, brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon together for the crumble topping. It should form large floury clumps. Sprinkle crumble over the sweet potatoes.
5 Bake the casserole for 30 to 35 minutes, until the topping is a nice golden brown. Let the casserole cool for 10 minutes before serving.
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