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My recipe upgrades this Thanksgiving staple to make a sweet potato casserole with pecans that’s deliciously sweet and spicy – perfect for a holiday dinner table.
If you’re not from North America and don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, a recipe for sweet potato casserole may not be common in your recipe book. Outside of the US and Canada, this much beloved side dish doesn’t get much attention – but it’s so worth it.
Deliciously sweet, sticky, and spicy, my easy sweet potato casserole is the perfect dish for the colder months thanks to its comforting flavors and texture. Its vibrant orange flesh and soft marshmallow topping (which I’ve upgraded using caramelized pecans) bridge the gap between sweet and savory and make a festive addition to any dinner table – whether you’re celebrating the Holidays or not.
Besides – there aren’t many dishes that can’t be improved by soft mini marshmallows and caramelized pecans, right? It gives this soft and creamy dish that all-important crunch. Still it doesn’t take away from the sweetness, but will give a beautiful texture to this familiar favorite.
Sweet Potato Casserole Ingredients
- Sweet Potatoes: This sweet potato dish is a great way to use up any leftover potatoes you might have. And it’s a good variation from traditional sweet potato recipes. In a real pinch, you could use frozen or canned sweet potatoes. But I find fresh ones give the best flavor and are a lot easier to work with.
- Brown Sugar: Light or dark works best for this recipe as it’s used to caramelize the nuts. If you use white sugar, it could add more cooking time to the recipe, so go for brown for the best taste.
- Butter: You can use a dairy-free alternative. I prefer unsalted butter for this recipe, but if you use salted, leave out the extra salt.
- Vanilla Extract: Vanilla essence also works fine.
- Spices: I love ground cinnamon and nutmeg for a warming touch. Plus a pinch of salt to balance out the sweetness.
- Pecans: I’d recommend buying them without any extra flavorings, as we’ll be giving them a delicious flavor in the recipe. You can give them a little toast before using them if you prefer. But I find this recipe handles the taste just fine.
- To Top: The key ingredient for a sweet potato casserole with marshmallows – marshmallows! White ones are the most common and have the best taste and appearance. I recommend using mini ones, though regular or jumbo can work in a pinch (you can cut them into smaller pieces with buttered or greased kitchen shears).
How to Make Sweet Potato Casserole
Preheat oven to 375ºF/190ºC. Grease a 9×13-inch casserole dish.
Cook Sweet Potatoes
Peel and roughly chop the sweet potatoes. Add them to a large pot, sprinkle with salt, and just about cover with water. Bring the potatoes to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes or until they’re fork-tender. Drain them.
Caramelize Pecans with Butter and Sugar
While the sweet potato is cooking, melt the butter with the sugar in a small pot or pan. Then caramelize the pecans for a few minutes over medium-low heat.
Chef’s Tip: For me, this is what truly elevates this sweet potato casserole recipe – so don’t skip this step! I use half to mix with the sweet potato and half to top over the marshmallows, but you can alter the ratio based on your pecan preference. If you have any leftovers, these can be frozen – they make a delicious, easy snack or can be reused in other recipes.
Mash and Season the Sweet Potatoes
In a large bowl (you can also reuse the pot the potatoes were cooked in), mash the sweet potatoes until chunky. A potato masher works best, but you can also use a fork if you don’t have one. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla extract. Mash again to your desired consistency, then add half the caramelized pecans and stir until fully incorporated.
Assemble and Bake
Spread the mashed sweet potato mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Top with the rest of the pecans and the marshmallows.
Bake at 375ºF/190ºC for 25 minutes or until the marshmallows are golden brown and the potatoes are heated through. If your marshmallows need a little more browning, you can use a blowtorch to add more color but not cook the potatoes anymore. I find the oven does a good enough job, but you can cook further (or use broil them for a couple of minutes), depending on your preference.
This dessert-like sweet potato casserole is a classic Thanksgiving side dish, often served alongside mashed potatoes, roast turkey, candied yams, green beans, and stuffing, but it doesn’t have to be confined to just one holiday.
I like serving this at Easter, Christmas, or even just as part of a regular Sunday dinner to switch up my side dishes. I recommend serving it with more savory dishes so the sweetness can speak for itself – roasted vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprouts are great compliments to this casserole, as are other potato dishes – especially roasted potatoes.
Can Sweet Potato Casserole Be Prepared Ahead of Time
One of the best parts of my sweet potato casserole is that it can be easily made ahead of time – perfect if you’ve got a lot to cook around Thanksgiving! To make ahead, make the filling and topping separately, but don’t bake them. Cover the baking dish and store the topping in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble and cook.
Can You Freeze Sweet Potato Casserole
Allow the sweet potato to casserole to cool completely before transferring your leftovers to a freezer-safe bag or air-tight container. This will stop the potatoes from getting freezer burn. In the freezer, the casserole should keep for up to four months.
To Reheat: I find it’s best to thaw dishes like this in the fridge – it’ll stop things from getting too watery. Leave it in the fridge to thaw for at least six hours, preferably overnight so that it thaws completely. To reheat, place the leftover casserole in a dish – you can reuse your casserole dish or use any oven-safe container – and bake in the oven as you would the raw dish until it’s cooked through and the top is still golden. Keep an eye on the oven as it can burn easily.
More Thanksgiving Side Dishes
If you try this sweet potato recipe, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
Easy Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe
- Casserole dish 9×16 inch
- 3.3 lb sweet potatoes 3[/adjustable ]large
- water enough to cover the sweet potatoes in your pot, with 2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar packed; light or dark work best, white sugar can work in a pinch
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup pecans roughly chopped or whole
- 2 cups marshmallows miniature; regular or jumbo can work too if cut into smaller pieces with buttered or greased kitchen shears.
- Preheat oven to375ºF/190ºC. Grease the casserole dish.
Prepare the ingredients
- Peel and roughly chop the sweet potatoes. Add them to a saucepan, sprinkle with salt and just about cover with water. Bring the potatoes to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes or until they're fork-tender. Drain.
- While the sweet potato is cooking, melt the butter with the sugar and caramelize the pecans for a few minutes over medium-low heat.
Mash the potatoes
- In a large bowl (you can also reuse the pot the potatoes were cooked in), mash the sweet potatoes until chunky. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla extract.
- Mash again to your desired consistency, then add about half the caramelized pecans and mix until fully incorporated.
Assemble and bake
- Spread the sweet potato mash into the prepared casserole dish. Top with the rest of the pecans and the marshmallows.
- Bake at 375ºF/190ºC for 25 minutes or until the marshmallows are golden brown and the potatoes heated through.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.