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.
How to Make Sweet Potato Casserole
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.
- Love marshmallows? Try this version! Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows
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 Too Sweet? Try This
Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet, and in a casserole, there are sweeteners added on top of that. If you want to cut down on the sweet taste of this dish, try these tips.
- Cut the maple syrup in half, or omit it completely.
- Make half the topping. You'll give up a little crunchiness, but the casserole will have less sugar.
Yams vs. Sweet Potatoes
We often call both yams and sweet potatoes yams, but they are not interchangeable. A real yam is dry, starchy, and white inside. They are not easily found in U.S. supermarkets. Sweet potatoes are orange-fleshy tubers that are easy to find in the market, although they are sometimes mislabeled as yams. (And, to make it more confusing, there are white sweet potatoes as well as purple sweet potatoes.)
One explanation for the two different root vegetables both being called yams is that in the 1930s, Louisiana sweet potato growers wanted to make their sweet potatoes stand out from those of other states, so they called them yams. However, a true yam will not work well in this recipe because its texture is not the same and it is not sweet.
Make-Ahead Sweet Potato Casserole
To do most of the work ahead, but still keep the crunchiness of the topping, make the whole casserole ahead of time but leave the topping off. Refrigerate the unbaked casserole up to 2 days ahead of time. To bake, bring to room temperature. Make the topping, add it to the casserole, and pop in the oven.
Another way to get a jump on the casserole is to cook the sweet potatoes ahead of time and puree them. Refrigerate the puree up to 3 days.
How to Store and Reheat Sweet Potato Casserole
Refrigerate: Cover leftover sweet potato casserole and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Reheat at 350°F until just warmed through, or microwave individual portions. The topping will be less crunchy, but the casserole will still be delicious.
Freeze: Freeze leftover sweet potato casserole in a freezer-safe container. Defrost in the refrigerator. Reheat at 350°F until just warmed through or microwave individual portions.
Sweet Potato Casserole: Side Dish or Dessert?
Sweet potato casserole is a side dish, but it often tastes like a little bit of dessert on your dinner plate. And, while it's a great side for Thanksgiving dinner, there's no shame in eating in reheated or cold as a dessert later that night or over the next few days. Feel free to top it with a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
More Great Thanksgiving Side Dishes
- Classic Green Bean Casserole
- Cranberry Sauce
- Perfect Mashed Potatoes
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Baked Acorn Squash
Sweet Potato Casserole With Pecans
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 nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher 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
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Food processor
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Butter a 2-quart baking dish and set aside.
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.
Blend the sweet potatoes:
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.)
Make the sweet potato filling:
Add the sweet potato puree into a large 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.
Make the 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.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the topping is a nice golden brown.
Let the casserole cool for 10 minutes before serving.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 8 to 10|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 11g||15%|
|Saturated Fat 4g||19%|
|Total Carbohydrate 46g||17%|
|Dietary Fiber 5g||17%|
|Total Sugars 24g|
|Vitamin C 23mg||114%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|