Easy Sweet Potato Casserole – Healthy Seasonal Recipes

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by Sil Pancho

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11.14.2023


Comin’ atcha, with a brand new Easy Sweet Potato Casserole recipe with orange and pecans that is totally comforting and classic tasting, but so easy to make entirely from scratch. Don’t worry it doesn’t have any marshmallows, just delicious candied pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter on top to make these ultra-creamy sweets irresistible on your Thanksgiving plate! And the best part is, it can be made a day ahead so it’s one less thing to worry about on Thanksgiving.

Sweet Potato Casserole in a white dishSweet Potato Casserole in a white dish

This Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe was originally published on November 8th, 2019. I have updated some of the text and photography to share it with you again today.

Why Try This Sweet Potato Casserole

Our Thanksgiving series continues and today I have this brand new 20 Minute Sweet Potato Casserole made with a crunchy sweet pecan topping instead of marshmallows!

As the name implies, this Easy Sweet Potato Casserole is really easy to prepare. It can also be made ahead of time! If you have time the day before Thanksgiving, I recommend adding this simple Candied Yam Casserole to your prep list. It will make the day of Thanksgiving so much smoother. And you’ll be so much calmer knowing that your sides are ready to pop in the oven when your (gorgeous, juicy, brined) turkey comes out.

Ingredients for Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping

the ingredients for the casserole with text overlaythe ingredients for the casserole with text overlay
  • Sweet potatoes: Of course, this dish would be nothing without the main ingredient sweet potatoes! You can use any color or variety, but we like orange varieties (not white) for traditional color. If you’re wondering about the difference between sweet potatoes and yams, check out our FAQ section. In a pinch you could used canned yams for this recipe and skip the mashing step.
  • Orange Juice and Zest: Orange pairs well with sweet potato, so I used both orange zest plus orange juice. It adds so much flavor and helps to soften up the mashed sweet potatoes so that they are not too thick or gluey.
  • Cinnamon and Nutmeg: To season the sweet potatoes
  • Butter and Brown Sugar: For the sweet potato mash you’ll need melted unsalted butter. You’ll also need some to mix into the pecan topping. You’ll also need brown sugar for the nut topping. If you prefer an unrefined sweetener, you can use granulated maple sugar.
  • Pecans: Any type of chopped nut will do if you don’t like pecans.

How To Make Easy Sweet Potato Casserole

cook and mash the sweet potatoescook and mash the sweet potatoes

Step 1: Cook The Sweet Potatoes

  • First start off by prepping the sweet potatoes. Peel them entirely, and cut off the fibrous tips. Then cut them into 2-inch chunks.
  • Next steam the sweet potatoes until they are very tender. This takes about 20 minutes. You can test to see if they are done by pressing your fork into the sweet potato and if the fork slides in and then out easily you know they are completely soft. That will give you the creamiest result.

Step 2: Mash The Sweet Potatoes By Hand Or In A Food Processor

  • You can mash the sweet potatoes by hand with a potato masher, or you can puree them in a food processor. I actually prefer the ultra smooth texture when they’re pureed. But if you like a more rustic texture, you can mash them up by-hand in a minute flat.
  • You’ll want to add the orange juice mixture as you mash.
  • Note: my food processor is large so I was able to puree the entire batch of sweet potatoes (about 7 cups) in one go. However, if you have a smaller food processor, you’ll have to do it in two batches. Try your best to divide the orange juice mixture between the batches, and then stir them together well at the end.
the nut topping and assembling the casserolethe nut topping and assembling the casserole

Step 3: Make Pecan Topping

Instead of topping this sweet potato casserole with predictable marshmallows we made a pecan topping with brown sugar and butter.

  • Chop Pecans: To make the topping, simply chop ¾ cup of raw unsalted pecans. (I like to buy them in bulk and then store them in my freezer. They keep longer that way.)
  • Add Butter and Brown Sugar: Then toss the pecans with a little melted butter, brown sugar (or you could use granulated maple sugar), Spice Hunter nutmeg and cinnamon.

Step 4: Top and Bake the Candied Yam Casserole

  • Add The Topping: Top the mashed sweet potatoes mixture with the topping.
  • Bake Until Nuts Are Candied and Toasted: You can either stop at this point and follow our Make Ahead Instructions, or you can bake it immediately. If you are putting it right into the oven it will only take about 35 minutes. If you refrigerate it overnight, the casserole will be cold, so it will take longer (50 minutes.)
  • When is it done? Whether you are baking it straight after assembling or you refrigerate your candied yam casserole overnight, to ensure it is totally done. You’ll want to make sure it is hot all the way through and the pecan topping will start to brown, which means it’s ready. The brown sugar and butter mixture will coat the nuts and make them crispy in the best, most magical way possible.
A close up side view of sweet potato casserole with pecans on topA close up side view of sweet potato casserole with pecans on top

Make Ahead Instructions

  • To make sweet potato casserole ahead of time, prepare the sweet potato mash, and top it with the nut mixture, then cover it and stick it in the fridge for a day.
  • Then when the roasted turkey comes out of the oven, set the oven to 350 degrees, remove the cover from the casserole and bake it until the topping is showing the deliciously telltale signs of being roasty toasty and the brown sugar is turning to a crispy sugary candied coating. This takes about 50 minutes when the casserole goes in the cold. Just keep an eye on it, and when the nuts start to brown, you’ll know it’s ready.

How to Make it Start to Finish on Thanksgiving

If you can’t prep it ahead, no worries, you can also make this simple sweet potato casserole recipe from start to finish on Thanksgiving. Once you add the nut topping, just pop it in the oven. It will bake much faster because it won’t be cold, so it will be ready in about 35 minutes. Again, set a timer and check on it after 30 minutes to make sure the nuts do not brown too much.

Sweet Potato Casserole in a white dishSweet Potato Casserole in a white dish

FAQs and Expert tips

What’s the Difference Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are native to Central and South America while yams are native to Africa. What makes things confusing is that traditional recipes, like candied yams with pecans, are actually made with sweet potatoes. And if you look on the can of store-bought candied yams, in small letters below it will specify that it’s not yams but indeed sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potatoes are higher in sugar and yams are starchier. Yams also have thick woody skin, and sweet potatoes’ skin is relatively thin by comparison. While there are a lot of hefty sweet potatoes at the market these days, some yams are huge (5 ft long!) You can read more about it here.

What is the difference between sweet potato pie and sweet potato casserole?

So here’s what you should know, sweet potato pie and sweet potato casserole are not the same dish. Sweet potato pie is a popular dessert that features a creamy sweet potato filling baked in pie crust. While, sweet potato casserole is a side dish made with sweet potato chunks and is topped with nuts or marshmallows.

How to prepare make-ahead sweet potato casserole?

To make sweet potato casserole ahead of time, prepare the sweet potato mash, and top it with the nut mixture, then cover it and stick it in the fridge for a day. Then when the turkey comes out, set the oven to 350 degrees, remove the cover from the casserole and bake it until the topping is showing the deliciously telltale signs of being roasty toasty and the brown sugar is turning to a crispy sugary candied coating. This takes about 50 minutes when the casserole goes in the cold. Just keep an eye on it, and when the nuts start to brown, you’ll know it’s ready.

Additional Thanksgiving Recipes To Try

Thanks so much for reading! If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my email newsletter to get a free weekly menu plan and the latest recipes right to your inbox. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you thought!

Happy Cooking! ~Katie

 

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Description

Sweet Potatoes mashed with orange juice, butter, cinnamon and nutmeg. Topped with chopped nuts tossed with brown sugar, butter and more cinnamon and nutmeg. Instructions to include how to make ahead and reheat in the oven once the turkey comes out.


  • 4 large sweet potatoes, about 3 1/2 pounds
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) melted butter, divided
  • 5 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg, divided
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans


  1.     Bring 1 to 2 inches water to a boil in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Meanwhile, peel sweet potatoes and cut into 2-inch chunks. When water comes to a boil, place the sweet potatoes in the steamer basket, cover saucepan and let steam until the sweet potatoes are fork tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Using an oven mitt, lift the steamer out of the saucepan and slide the sweet potatoes out into a large bowl.
  2.     Add orange juice, 6 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, orange zest, salt, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon nutmeg and mash with a potato masher until smooth. Alternatively, puree in a food processor (in two batches) for an ultra-smooth consistency. Transfer the mashed potatoes to a 3 quart casserole dish coated with cooking spray.
  3.     Combine pecans in a small bowl with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and the remaining ¼ teaspoon each cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss to coat. Spread the spiced nut mixture over the sweet potatoes and cover. Refrigerate up to two days. See alternative instructions to bake immediately.
  4.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove cover and transfer the casserole to the oven and bake until heated through and the nuts are toasted, candied and fragrant, about 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool at least 5 minutes before serving.

Notes

Tip: If baking immediately, do not cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees until hot all the way through and the nuts are toasted, about 30 to 35 minutes.

  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stove Top and Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 2/3 cup
  • Calories: 202
  • Sugar: 9 g
  • Fat: 15 g
  • Saturated Fat: 5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 18 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 2 g

Keywords: sweet potato casserole,easy sweet potato casserole,sweet potato casserole with pecans,healthy sweet potato casserole,sweet potato casserole with orange

About the Author

Katie Webster

Katie Webster studied art and photography at Skidmore College and is a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute. She has been a professional recipe developer since 2001 when she first started working in the test kitchen at EatingWell magazine. Her recipes have been featured in numerous magazines including Shape, Fitness, Parents and several Edible Communities publications among others. Her cookbook, Maple {Quirk Books} was published in 2015. She launched Healthy Seasonal Recipes in 2009. She lives in Vermont with her husband, two teenage daughters and two yellow labs. In her free time, you can find her at the gym, cooking, stacking firewood, making maple syrup, and tending to her overgrown perennial garden.



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