Sweet and creamy, hot and buttery, crunchy and nutty...an irresistible blend of flavors and textures makes this the world's best sweet potato casserole recipe!
Win Over the Sweet Potato Critics
Every holiday season I bring this amazing sweet potato casserole to potluck dinners and inevitably I get the "Eww, I don't like sweet potatoes" comment. I respond "I don't either," and then verbally spar back and forth attempting to persuade the offended party to just try it. Finally, just to shut me up they will take a spoonful. And then another. And then another!
This classic sweet potato casserole recipe is SO GOOD, whether or not you like sweet potatoes. It has been a family favorite for a long time, exclusively as a November/December dish. The first thing I do when I'm making Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner is reach for this recipe card!
What You'll Love About This Recipe
- You can prepare it a day or two in advance of your holiday meal and refrigerate it. Just leave off the streusel topping until right before you're ready to put it in the oven. Getting a little head start on the big day is always helpful!
- The vibrant orange color of this classic Thanksgiving side dish looks beautiful on your holiday table.
- The topping is easy to make with or without marshmallows (instructions are included for both), so you can adjust according to your preference.
Sweet Potato Recipe Ingredients
This easy recipe consists of two parts. First, making the sweet potato base, then making the crunchy pecan streusel topping.
Sweet Potato Mixture Ingredients:
- Fresh sweet potatoes - You'll need 4 pounds of large sweet potatoes or yams (about 5 whole sweet potatoes) -- peeled and diced.
- Milk - ½ Cup. For cooking I always prefer whole milk, but reduced fat milk is fine.
- Vanilla extract - I like a high quality pure vanilla extract -- the Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon is my favorite.
- Butter - Salted butter at room temperature is preferred, but you can use unsalted butter, too. (You want soft butter but not melted butter.)
- Kosher salt - You'll need 1 teaspoon - Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt is the restaurant industry standard for cooking & baking.
- Sugar - One cup of granulated sugar.
- Eggs - 3 large eggs; you'll use the whole egg.
Pecan Topping Ingredients:
- Flour - ¼ cup all purpose flour is what you'll need.
- Brown Sugar - 1 cup -- I prefer dark brown sugar for its more intense flavor, but either light or dark brown sugar will work in this recipe.
- Chopped Pecans - Chop ½ cup of your own, or buy them chopped.
- Butter - 2 tablespoons -- should be cold for cutting into the flour mixture.
- OPTIONAL - 2 cups of mini marshmallows if you want a marshmallow topping.
Steps to Prepare
Prepare Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil.
- Peel and cube sweet potatoes. Place potatoes in boiling water, making sure there's enough water to cover them completely. Boil 20-30 minutes until fork tender.
- Drain cooked sweet potatoes from large pot into a colander, then transfer to a large mixing bowl and mash with a potato masher.
Mix Up the Sweet Potato Filling
- In the large bowl with the warm mashed potatoes, add sugar, milk, butter, salt and vanilla.
- With an electric mixer (a hand mixer is fine), beat on low until fully combined.
- Add one large egg at a time, mixing well after each addition.
- Grease a 2 quart casserole dish with butter or cooking spray (I prefer butter for the added flavor.)
- Add the sweet potato mixture to the buttered baking dish. (If you have prepared it in advance, cover it with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator, leaving the pecan crumble topping off until you are ready to bake.)
Make the Crunchy Topping
- In a small bowl, mix the flour and sugar together. Cut in the cold butter, then mix in the pecans. This step does not require a lot of effort, so a food processor is not necessary. (If you're not baking the casserole right away, store the mixture in a plastic bag or airtight container and refrigerate. Take out an hour before bake time and bring to room temperature before sprinkling on top of the casserole.)
- When it's time to bake, sprinkle the topping over the casserole, then bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Now it's ready for your Thanksgiving table!
Alternative Marshmallow Topping
For the perfect balance of gooey marshmallows and crunchy pecans, try this topping:
- Bake the sweet potato casserole with no topping at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.
- Remove partially baked sweet potato casserole from oven. Make the topping as described in the original recipe above. Layer ½ the pecan topping over the sweet potatoes, then layer a cup of miniature marshmallows on top. Repeat the layers. Return to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the marshmallows are golden brown. (If you prefer the sweet marshmallows without the pecans, then simply add 2-3 cups of marshmallows on top for the last 20 minutes of baking time.)
This is the most amazing and easy sweet potato casserole recipe. The best part is that it tastes like pumpkin pie without the whipped cream! It's the perfect side dish for Thanksgiving Day or any other special occasion.
There's a short and a long answer to this. The short answer is that in the United States, there is virtually no difference between the sweet potatoes and yams found at your grocery store, and you can use either for this recipe.
The long answer is that in other countries, sweet potatoes and yams are actually quite different from each other in plant species, color and flavor. For a detailed explanation, see this article by Southern Living.
Yes! Cinnamon is a powerful spice, so a little goes a long way. If you would like to add a bit of warm cinnamon flavor to the casserole, you can add ¼ teaspoon to the sweet potato casserole, and again to the brown sugar streusel topping.
Yes, it's a great way to add maple flavor to the sweet potato layer! When making the sweet potato filling, eliminate the granulated sugar and add ¾ cup of maple syrup. For best results remove a little milk from the ½ cup -- about 2 tablespoons. For detailed instructions on substituting maple syrup for sugar, see these instructions from the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers.
Sweet potato casserole can be kept covered in the refrigerator for 3 days. To reheat it, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 25-30 minutes until it's warm inside.
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2) In a large mixing bowl, beat sweet potatoes, sugar, milk, butter, eggs, salt and vanilla until smooth. Place in the greased casserole dish.
World's Best Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping
Sweet Potato Casserole
- 4 lbs plain mashed sweet potatoes About 5 large sweet potatoes.
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup milk
- 4 tablespoons butter softened
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- 2 tablespoons cold butter
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 2 quart casserole dish with butter.
- Peel and cube sweet potatoes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add sweet potatoes and cook at a low boil for 20-30 minutes until fork tender.
- Drain in colander. When drained, place hot sweet potatoes in a large mixing bowl.
- Beat sweet potatoes, sugar, milk, butter, eggs, salt and vanilla with a hand mixer until smooth. Place in the greased casserole dish.
- In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, chopped pecans, and flour. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over potato mixture.
- Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, until top of casserole is golden brown. Serve immediately.
- Bake the sweet potato casserole with no topping at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.
- Remove partially baked sweet potato casserole from oven. Make the topping as described in the original recipe above. Layer ½ the pecan topping over the sweet potatoes, then layer a cup of miniature marshmallows on top. Repeat the layers. Return to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the marshmallows are golden brown.