easy sweet potato casserole
Comin’ atcha, a brand new Easy Sweet Potato Casserole recipe 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.
DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by The Spice Hunter .
Can we all agree that Thanksgiving is The Best Thing in Life?
If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, don’t let the pressure of being responsible for The Best Thing in Life get to you; I got your back, friend! Not only do I have your whole Thanksgiving Planner ready at your fingertips, but I have a super easy SOLUTION for your Turkey woes.
You know how I always talk about how brining is the KEY to the best turkey? (That and an instant read thermometer and using a foil shield to prevent the turkey breast from overbrowning.) Well, if the idea of brining has been too overwhelming (or messy) for you to try in the past, this is your year to brine a turkey my friends. That’s because The Spice Hunter makes brining your turkey so easy with their all-in-one turkey brine mix.
which comes with a brining bag included. It’s a blend of salt (the key to brine) and a savory blend of fruit and rosemary. So you literally have everything you need to make a super flavorful (JUICY) bird right in a single bag! Here’s where you can buy it.
That means you can focus your culinary sorcery on the SIDE DISHES (woot woot!) And by culinary sorcery I mean cutting some stuff up and stirring it together. That’s pretty much all that you have to do to make this Easy Sweet Potato Casserole. But do not tell anyone because they’ll think it was mad hard to make when they taste it. They’ll be all “Oh my what is that flavor, this must be a family heirloom recipe!” Actually, it’s not, it’s brand new and there really is zero sorcery involved, but they don’t have to know that.
What’s the Difference Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes
Here in the United States sweet potatoes are by far more common than yams. While sweet potatoes are native to Central and South America, yams are native to Africa. What makes things confusing is that traditional recipes, like candied yams, 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. You can read more about it here.
Sweet Potatoes are higher in sugar and yams are starchier. Yams also have a thick woody skin, and sweet potatoes’ skin is relatively thin by comparison. While there are a lot of hefty sweet potatoes at market these days, some yams are huge (5 ft long!) You can read more about it here.
How To Make Easy Sweet Potato Casserole
Prepare 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.
Add Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Orange For Flavor
While the sweet potatoes are steaming, mix up the concoction you’ll mash them with. I just do so in a little bowl. When they are cooked and drained I can easily pour it right in and mash away.
Orange Juice and Zest
I love the combination of orange with sweet potato, so I used both orange zest plus orange juice. It adds so much flavor you’ll never want sweet potatoes without orange again. Full stop.
Cinnamon and Nutmeg
There is no such thing as Thanksgiving without cinnamon and nutmeg and I make it my personal mission to add it to as many dishes as possible. I used a full two teaspoons of Cinnamon
in the mashed sweet potatoes because they can really soak up a lot of flavor. I also added in some of Nutmeg, but in a much smaller amount, because it can be a bossy spice that can take over. I found a ¼ teaspoon in the mashed sweets was plenty.
Add Butter and Brown Sugar
Since I was going for a traditional classic sweet potato casserole recipe, I went for it, and added melted butter and brown sugar. This is the holidays after all. It makes these sweet potatoes creamier and sweeter, which means that they’ll be a total crowd pleaser and the flavors will pop against the other savory recipes like the Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes or the Gluten-free Quinoa Stuffing. Note: If you prefer an unrefined sweetener, you can use granulated maple sugar.
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, but 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.
Top the Sweet Potato Casserole with a Mixture of Pecans, Brown Sugar and Butter
Instead of topping this sweet potato casserole with sad and predictable marshmallows which could hardly qualify for worthy of “the Best Thing in Life” status, this Sweet Potato Casserole has a super easy pecan topping made with brown sugar and butter and a hit of The Spice Hunter cinnamon and nutmeg. That alone will have your Thanksgiving guests weak in the knees as they smell it baking! I promise!
- 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.
- Add The Topping: Top the mashed sweet potatoes mixture with the topping.
- Bake Until Nuts Are Candied and Toasted: Let the topping candy in the oven. I tested this sweet potato casserole a lot of times and I can say with assurance that you want to make sure to let it bake long enough for the topping to really toast and candy. Something special happens. When you see the pecans start to brown, that 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.
How To Make In Advance
Okay, not to bury the lead, but the fact that you can make this Easy Sweet Potato Casserole a day ahead means that the casserole itself is the Second Best Thing in Life. If you have time the day before Thanksgiving, I totally recommend adding this 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.
To Make A Day Before
To make this casserole ahead, 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 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 have to work late on Wednesday or can’t prep it ahead for some other reason, no worries, you can also make it start to finish too. 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 are not browning too much.
Some More Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Sides
- Broccoli and Cauliflower Casserole– this one can be made a day ahead too and is a creamy contrast to the other side dishes
- Cranberry Sausage Stuffing with sage, Italian sausage and dried cranberries- this is a classic stuffing recipe I make over and over.
- My Green Bean Casserole can be made a day ahead too. Just slide it into the oven next to the Sweet Potato Casserole and they’ll take about the same amount of time.
- The pies can be made a day ahead as well. It’s hard to choose one, but I think my favorite is this Maple Cranberry Apple Pie.
- Not everyone makes salad on Thanksgiving, but if you do, this Kale Salad with Delicata Squash is a good make ahead option. Build it and make the Maple Sherry Dressing the day before (if you have room in your fridge that is!)
Thanks so much for reading. Be sure to follow The Spice Hunter on Instagram or Facebook. And if you make this recipe, please come back to let me know by leaving a star rating and review!
Happy Cooking! ~Katie
Sweet Potatoes mashed with Orange Juice, Butter, The Spice Hunter 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 ½ pounds
½ cup orange juice
8 tablespoons (1 stick) melted butter, divided
5 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
1 teaspoon orange zest
¾ teaspoon salt
2 ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, divided
½ teaspoons ground nutmeg, divided
¾ cup chopped pecans
- 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.
- Add orange juice, 6 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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