Sweet Potato Casserole

Side DishThanksgivingComfort FoodSweet Potato

Sweet Potato Casserole with crunchy pecan nut crumble topping. Classic Thanksgiving side dish.

Photography Credit: Lisa Lin

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.

Pecans, No Marshmallows

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.

Sweet Potato Casserole with pecan topping

Orange Zest … Try It!

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 Recipe

  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 8 to 10


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

Special equipment:


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.

Sweet Potato Casserole

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.)

Sweet Potato 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.

Sweet Potato Casserole Sweet Potato Casserole

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.

Sweet Potato Casserole Sweet Potato Casserole

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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Sweet Potato Casserole with pecans on top

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Lisa Lin

Lisa Lin is the writer and photographer behind Healthy Nibbles & Bits, where she shares simple, gluten-free recipes. She grew up in San Francisco and spent time living in China and Washington, D.C. before moving back to California. Her recipes are often inspired by her time in China and travel throughout Southeast Asia.

More from Lisa

14 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Barb Larson

    I’m trying things out before the big day, and this is a hit. My family always made sweet potato casserole with OJ instead of milk, but I don’t think any of us had ever heard of ‘zest’. I agree, the marshmallows are just too much, and the pecans are such a nice touch.


  • Bridgett

    This sounds amazing. Going to cook it. Can you tell me about how much sugar carbs calories. I really have to watch my sugar Really trying to eat healthy and cutting sugars and carbs

  • yippyyea

    We tried this for Thanksgiving, and it was delicious! Loved it!


  • Rene Lynn

    Do you think this would reheat well? I’d like to make it Wednesday night to travel to Thanksgiving dinner with family. I need something that can be warmed back up in the oven without losing texture etc.

  • Mary King

    This is a good recipe for the but topping but my husband and I still love the marshmallow topping. If someone is allergic to nuts the marshmallow topping is the best. Put mini marshmallows on the sweet potatoes and bake at 350degress for about 20 to 25 minutes or until sweet potatoes are cooked. I have found that I can cook potatoes for about 20 minutes and then add marshmallows and cook about 15 to 20 minutes more. Since I can no longer stand and cook I use the sweet potatoes that you can find all ready mixed up then add more splenda and spices and gthden cook 20 to 25 minutes.

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