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Full of flavor and perfect for making ahead, this homemade sweet potato casserole will steal the show at your next holiday meal. Crunchy sweet brown sugar pecan crumble covers every bite of this buttery sweet potato mash. After your first forkful, you’ll already be thinking about going for seconds!

sweet potato casserole with brown sugar pecan & fresh thyme topping in casserole dish.

Side dishes are, without a doubt, the best part of a classic Thanksgiving meal. We’re talking creamy from-scratch green bean casserole, flaky soft dinner rolls, and flavorful cornbread stuffing.

Today’s recipe for homemade sweet potato casserole is a family favorite. Enjoy a smooth and creamy sweet potato mash topped with a crunchy, toasty, praline-esque pecan topping. Because it’s a little sweet, I like to serve this casserole with a sprinkle of sea salt and some savory fresh thyme or rosemary. A lovely balance of texture and flavor!

Why You’ll Love This Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

  • Creamy + crunchy = wonderful contrasting textures in every bite
  • Buttery sweet potato mash with a hint of vanilla
  • Cinnamon-spiced brown sugar pecan topping
  • Sweet + salty—a decadent way to get your vitamin A!
  • You can conveniently prep it a couple days in advance

One reader commented: “Very easy to make and was a big hit at Thanksgiving! Prepared the potatoes and topping the night before so was a quick dish to put together and bake on the day. The pecan topping and sweet potatoes together were divine! ★★★★★

dish of sweet potato casserole with a serving spoon.

10 Ingredients in This Thanksgiving Side Dish

  1. Sweet Potatoes: You need 2 pounds (908g) for this casserole, which is 3 extra large sweet potatoes or 5 small/medium sweet potatoes. Don’t go overboard on the potatoes because the mash will end up tasting heavy and dense.
  2. Butter: For unparalleled buttery flavor.
  3. Brown Sugar: I prefer dark brown sugar in this casserole, but light works too. You’ll use some in both the sweet potato mash and the pecan crumble topping.
  4. Eggs: For structurethey turn this into a casserole, rather than a pile of mashed sweet potatoes.
  5. Half-and-half: Half-and-half keeps this dish extra creamy. If you have heavy cream on hand for your other cooking and baking needs (like whipped cream & pumpkin pie), you can use that instead.
  6. Vanilla extract: For just a hint of delicate, aromatic flavor.
  7. Salt: Brings out all the flavors, and balances the sweetness.
  8. Flour: Gives structure to the crumbly topping.
  9. Cinnamon: Complements both the sweet potato and pecan flavors.
  10. Pecans: Buttery, nutty pecans are the jewels in the sweet potato casserole crown!

Plus, finishing touches like thyme or rosemary and a sprinkle of sea salt round out the entire dish. One reader commented: “The fresh rosemary and sea salt made it…*chef’s kiss*. ★★★★★

ingredients on wood backdrop including pecans, sweet potatoes, eggs, butter, brown sugar, and more.

Boil & Mash the Sweet Potatoes

Start by peeling the sweet potatoes with a vegetable peeler. Boil them in a large pot of water until they’re nice and tender. Let them cool for about 15 minutes, and then mash. You can use a potato masher and some arm muscle for this, but I usually just use my mixer. Once they’re as smooth as you’d like (feel free to leave some chunks if you prefer them that way!), beat in the eggs, brown sugar, heavy cream, vanilla, and salt. These are all the ingredients you need for the sweet potato layer.

peeled sweet potatoes in a pot under water and shown again after being boiled.
two photos of mashed sweet potatoes in glass bowl.

FAQ: Can I Use Yams Instead of Sweet Potatoes in This Casserole?

For the best taste and texture, I recommend using sweet potatoes instead of yams.

The names of these two starchy root vegetables are often used interchangeably, but they are actually different, and originate from different continents. Native to Central and South America, sweet potatoes typically have orange flesh and a pinkish-brown skin, and are sweeter and creamier in texture when cooked. Native to Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean, true yams have white flesh and a bark-like skin, with a drier, starchier texture—more like a regular baking potato.

You could, however, use purple sweet potatoes if you can find them!

Easy Crunchy Pecan Topping

We’re finishing this sweet potato casserole with a delicious crumbly, praline-esque pecan topping. The crunchy texture contrasts so beautifully with the creamy, buttery sweet potato mash. It comes together quickly and easily, and uses some of the same ingredients as the sweet potato layer.

If you love the cinnamon-y brown sugar pecan topping here, you’ll enjoy something similar on this pumpkin French toast casserole and this cranberry pecan cake.

brown sugar pecan crumble in glass bowl.

Can I Use Marshmallows on This Sweet Potato Casserole?

Yes. If you love marshmallows on your sweet potato casserole, you can certainly add them. I wouldn’t leave off the pecan topping, though. (You’ll really miss that texture!) Add the marshmallows towards the end of the bake time. See recipe Note below for details.

How to Make Sweet Potato Casserole Ahead of Time

This easy side dish can be prepared ahead of time, which we all know is a total lifesaver leading up to Thanksgiving dinner! Here’s how to get started:

  • 1–2 days before serving: Boil and mash the sweet potatoes, add the remaining ingredients to the sweet potatoes, and smooth into a baking dish. Prepare the topping in a separate bowl. Cover each separately and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
  • Day of serving: Spoon the topping over the sweet potato layer and bake.
  • Freezing instructions: If assembled, the unbaked casserole can be frozen up to 2 months. Take it out of the freezer and thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Bring the casserole to room temperature and bake.
dish of sweet potato casserole with a serving spoon.

More Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes

And, of course, turkey pot pie for any leftover Thanksgiving turkey!

Print
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dish of sweet potato casserole with a serving spoon.

Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe with Pecan Topping

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 8
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Creamy, comforting, and simple sweet potato casserole with a crunchy pecan crumble on top. Texture and flavors are spot on!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 pounds (908g) sweet potatoes, peeled (about 5 small/medium)
  • 1/3 cup (72g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar (I prefer dark)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping

  • 1/3 cup (41g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar (I prefer dark)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup (72g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 and 2/3 cups (210g) pecan halves or chopped pecans
  • optional: fresh rosemary or thyme, and sea salt for garnish

Instructions

  1. Place the sweet potatoes in a large pot or dutch oven and cover them completely with water. Bring water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Drain the water and allow the sweet potatoes to cool for 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan (or a similar size casserole dish, or a 12-inch oven-safe skillet). Set aside.
  3. Place the cooked sweet potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Using a handheld or stand mixer, beat the potatoes until relatively smooth—I like to leave some chunks for texture. For your reference, you will have about 4 cups of mashed sweet potatoes. Add the butter, brown sugar, beaten eggs, half-and-half, vanilla, and salt. Spoon/pour the mixture into prepared pan.
  4. For the topping: In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon together. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the melted butter and pecans until the mixture is totally combined. Spoon evenly over potatoes.
  5. Bake for 30–40 minutes or until golden brown on top. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then top with a little fresh thyme or rosemary and a sprinkle of sea salt. Serve warm.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: This is a great make ahead recipe! Here’s how to get started 1–2 days before: Prepare sweet potatoes through step 3, then prepare the topping. Cover each separately and refrigerate for up to 2 days. On the day of serving, assemble and bake. Assembled, unbaked casserole can be frozen up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature, and continue with step 5. Baked casserole can be frozen up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature, and bake at 350°F (177°C) until warmed through.
  2. Adding Marshmallows: If you love marshmallows on top of your sweet potato casserole, you can certainly add them. Bake as directed above, but 5 minutes before it’s done, add 1 cup marshmallows on top and then finish baking.

Keywords: sweet potato casserole

Reader Questions and Reviews

    1. Do it! Then maybe pop it in a pan with topping under the broiler on low to finish. Crock pot should be no problem…. actually, I’m going to do that. brilliant idea!

  1. Don’t change one thing about this recipe! It is the BEST sweet potato casserole recipe you’ll find!

  2. This recipe was so simple and easy to make. It was a hit! My family loved it!!! Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I’ll definitely make it again.

  3. I should not (?) roast my pecans first? I like to soak / slow roast usually before using in bakes

    1. The pecans will toast as the whole casserole bakes because they’re on the top. Hope you love it!

  4. Any advice for adding apples to this recipe? Maybe it would be too sweet? My MIL wants apples in it and I’m really interested in following this recipe here cause I love your recipes! Haha

    1. Hi! I’m sure that would be fantastic, though certainly a bit sweet. You can layer on very thinly sliced and chopped apples on top of the sweet potato layer and under the crumble topping, similar to this apple cheesecake pie. Let me know if you try it!

    2. I would try using crushed pineapples! I make this recipe for the holidays and pretty much as instructed. The pineapple lends a sweet tart tang to the casserole and is divine.

  5. Can I use coconut milk in place of half and half? The recipe looks totally yummy ! can’t wait to make it! Judith

    1. Hi Judith, you can definitely try coconut milk in place of half and half as a non-dairy substitute.

    1. Hi Terri, You could bake them with the skins on and then peel them after they cool. The bake time will be longer than the boiling time.

    1. Your reply to Laura says half and half is too thick for the sweet potato layer, but the recipe calls for heavy cream or half and half. Which is right?

      1. Hi Sharon, yes that was mixed up. You use half-and-half in this recipe.

    2. Hi Laura, whole milk may be the best option, but the sweet potato layer won’t be as rich and creamy.

    1. Hi Eric, yes, you can halve it and bake in an 8- or 9-inch baking dish.

  6. I’m a believer. Just made tonight to put in fridge for tomorrow’s celebration. So good. Thanks for putting sweet potato’s in a measurable amount – 2 lbs vs 2 potatoes. So much variety in sweet potatoes and their sizes!

    1. Just made this for Thankgiving today and it was AMAZING. Everybody raved about it. Best sweet potato recipe ever!

  7. I made this today with just a sprinkling of marshmallows and it was really good. Everyone loved it.
    Am definitely bookmarking this for future use! Thanks!

  8. Made this sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving. It is delicious. Even my husband who normally doesn’t eat sweet potatoes enjoyed it. This recipe is a keeper. Thank you for sharing. Oh and I also made your cranberry sauce recipe, easy and delicious

  9. This recipe will be added to our yearly traditions! WOW! The only thing I added was “cinnamon roasted pecans” instead of regular. SOOOO GOOOD.

  10. Every Thanksgiving I try a new sweet potato or yam recipe. It never gets eaten. Not this recipe. After I forced my teens to, “just take a bite…” all three of them loved it. It was such a huge hit. My oldest teen even asked if we could have it with other meals and not just Thanksgiving. Thanks for the great recipe Sally.

  11. This recipe is the best for a sweet, creamy, buttery sweet potato casserole! This was the star of the Thanksgiving show at both my family gatherings. My husband said it was the best tasting item on the table. Easy to follow instructions and doesn’t take long. Can’t wait to make this again!

  12. Thank you so much for such a fantastic recipe! I made it for Thanksgiving this year for a big group, and it was quickly gobbled up. Can’t wait to make this again ASAP!

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