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This sweet potato casserole with pecan topping is a fun twist on the classic Thanksgiving side dish! Mashed sweet potatoes are lightly sweetened with pure maple syrup and orange juice, then topped with a buttery pecan crumble that can easily be made gluten and refined sugar-free. Your whole family will rave over this dish this holiday season!
Sweet Potato Casserole
Growing up, I was always a fan of sweet potato casserole. After all, between the mashed candied yams and the marshmallow topping, it was really just dessert! Then, one year, my aunt brought over a new version of sweet potato casserole. Instead of marshmallows, she’d topped it with a crunchy pecan crumble. It was a game-changer. From then on, sweet potatoes became one of the stars of the Thanksgiving show and we always opted for the pecan version.
Sweet Potato Casserole Ingredients
There are thousands of sweet potato casserole recipes on the internet, but this one stands out thanks to the pecan topping, the fluffy mashed sweet potatoes sweetened with pure maple syrup, and the hint of orange in every bite. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- Sweet Potatoes – For this recipe, we recommend using 2 pounds of fresh sweet potatoes.
- Butter & Cream – For a truly indulgent casserole (there’s no better time for it than Thanksgiving, after all!), we recommend using 1/2 cup of heavy cream or butter. For dairy-free, full-fat coconut milk is a great substitute, and if you’d like to lighten it up you can replace the heavy cream with regular milk.
- 1 Orange – To add just a hint of orange flavor and a bit of sweetness to the potatoes, you’ll add the juice of an orange along with a teaspoon of zest.
- Pure Maple Syrup – Maple syrup adds just the right amount of sweetness and a deliciously rich flavor.
- Eggs – The eggs in this recipe help transform the sweet potatoes from an everyday mash to a casserole by making them a bit sturdier and helping them hold together.
- Flour – For the pecan topping, you can use regular all-purpose flour or this flour for a gluten-free version.
- Pecans – The pecans in the topping add the perfect toasted, festive flavor to this casserole!
- Brown or Coconut Sugar – The topping works with both brown sugar or coconut sugar if you’re looking to make a refined sugar-free version!
Can you use yams in this sweet potato casserole recipe?
Yes! In fact, most of the time, yams are actually mislabeled and are really just orange sweet potatoes. A true yam has a dark, almost black skin and is white inside. If you happen to come across a true yam, it can’t be substituted for sweet potatoes, but know that it is fine to use the orange varieties here!
What is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?
As mentioned above, true yams have really dark skin and are white on the inside. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are orange on the inside. Yams are typically starchier and higher in fiber, while sweet potatoes are slightly sweeter and creamier.
How to Make Sweet Potato Casserole
Here’s how you’ll make this easy sweet potato casserole recipe:
- Boil the sweet potatoes – The quickest way to cook the sweet potatoes is to cut them into one-inch cubes and boil them. If you have extra time though, you can absolutely bake them in advance instead.
- Mash the sweet potatoes – Once the sweet potatoes are tender, you’ll mash them and stir in the butter, cream, maple syrup, and orange juice and zest. Taste the potatoes for seasoning, adding more salt if needed, then stir in the eggs.
- Make the pecan topping – To make the pecan topping, you’ll simply stir together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, butter, and pecans until a crumbly mixture forms.
- Spread into a casserole dish – Next, you’ll spread the sweet potatoes into the bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish, then top them with the pecan crumble.
- Bake – Finally, you’ll bake the casserole at 350 F for 30 minutes, until the top is browned and crisp. Let it cool slightly, then serve!
How do you know when sweet potato casserole is done?
Good question! You’ll know that your sweet potato casserole is done when the pecan topping is browned and crisp.
Can sweet potato casserole be frozen?
Yes! This sweet potato casserole freezes great. If you have leftovers, we recommend packaging it up into individual servings then freezing. You can reheat it in a 350 F oven for 15-20 minutes or microwave it for 2-3 minutes.
Can I make this mashed sweet potato casserole in advance?
Yes, you can make this sweet potato casserole in advance. Here are two methods we recommend:
- Freeze the sweet potato mash – If you’d like to really knock out some of your Thanksgiving prep in advance, you can freeze the sweet potato mash – just leave out the eggs. You can either transfer the sweet potato mixture from the freezer to the fridge 2 days in advance or reheat it on the stove or in the oven. Once it is thawed, stir in the eggs, put it in the casserole dish, and top with the crumble.
- Make the full casserole – You can assemble the full casserole up to 2 days ahead of time, then bake it on the day of. If you do this, add an extra 10 minutes to the cook time since it will be cold from refrigeration.
We hope this sweet potato casserole is a hit at your Thanksgiving table this year!
For the sweet potatoes:
- 2 pounds sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt divided
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream or milk*
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 eggs whisked
For the Crumble
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour we used this one for gluten-free
- 1/4 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons butter melted
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Place the potatoes and 2 teaspoons salt in a pot and cover with one inch of water, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, then drain out the water.
- While the potatoes are boiling, make the crumble. Whisk together the flour, sugar, and cinnamon, then stir in the butter until a crumbly mixture has formed. Stir in the pecans and set aside.
- Mash the potatoes until smooth and stir in the butter, cream, orange juice, maple syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if needed, then stir in the eggs.
- Spread the mixture into the bottom of a 2 quart 8×8 baking dish, then spread the crumble over top. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes, until the top is browned and crisp.
- This can be assembled up to two days ahead of time then baked. If you bake this after refrigerating, add an extra 10 minutes to the cook time.
- For dairy-free, use full-fat coconut milk in place of the cream and substitute ghee or your favorite vegan butter for the butter.
- For a Paleo crumble, use the crumble in this paleo apple crisp.
So yummy! Made this without sugar, maple syrup, and subbed coconut flour for the all-purpose. SO GOOD! Ate it for breakfast today and probably every day this week.
Can this be “baked” in a crock pot? Limited oven options this year.
Brandi Schilhab says
Good question, Jaime! The reason it goes into the oven once assembled is to crisp it — I don’t know that the slow cooker will get it crispy, but if missing that crispy texture is okay with you, I say go for it! It’s certainly a great place to keep your casserole warm!
Dara Saunders says
I would like to make this dish so my vegan family members can enjoy it as well. Do you have a suggestion for the best egg substitute? I wasn’t sure if flax egg, or possibly Bob’s Red Mill Egg Substitute would work well? Thank you!
Melissa Guevara says
Hi Dara! You can omit the egg completely if you want (it will just have a little less structure – this is actually how we prepped it in the office because we forgot the egg, and it turned out just fine!). Or we’ve done extensive research on egg substitutes that you can find here. I hope that’s helpful! -Team FF