healthy sweet potato casserole
This healthy sweet potato casserole with maple pecans and italian meringue is a makeover of the classic Thanksgiving side dish. Atop the orange-infused sweet potato mash is a gooey layer of maple pecans and then it’s covered in a ultra light and airy swath of whipped meringue (instead of marshmallows.) It’s vegetarian, gluten free and kid friendly making it the perfect addition to your Holiday table!
I originally published this recipe on November 9th, 2012. I have updated the text to reshare it with you today.
Not that any of you were planning on ordering in for Thanksgiving, seeing that you are reading a food blog and all, but I wanted to share a number with you. That number is 448. FOUR HUNDRED FORTY EIGHT! That’s how many calories are in a serving of Boston Market’s Sweet Potato Casserole.
I’m not joking! Look right here, plain as day, on their website. That’s crazy. So is the fact that that same side order has 12 grams of fat!
I think I need to have a whiff of smelling salts.
Since 448 calories is in the ballpark of what one should be eating for their entire meal, it seems to me this classic Thanksgiving side-dish is in serious need of a makeover. Ok, now, picture this part spoken in my best Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother (did you watch that show?), “Challenge accepted! This is going to be legen…wait for it… dary!”
How To Make Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole
Prepare the Sweet Potato Filling
Boil the sweet potatoes until they are very tender. Then mash them with spices. I used salt, cinnamon and chipotle for a little kick.
I also add in orange juice (instead of additional butter) to mash the sweet potatoes. It adds lots of tangy sweet flavor and vitamin C, without any extra fat.
Use Butter Sparingly
To keep the saturated fat low in this healthy sweet potato casserole, I only used 3 tablespoons of butter in the filling and 1 tablespoon in the nut topping, which is just enough so you can taste it, but not so much to make it a calorie and fat bomb. Plus this casserole serves 16, so the amount of butter per serving is only about a half teaspoon!
No Marshmallows, Please!
Marshmallows are convenient, I’ll give them that, but taking an minute to make homemade whipped meringue is so much better, and light and fluffy! Making the meringue instead of marshmallows is also a calorie saving tip, because it’s is about one third of the calories of marshmallows. With only 1/3 cup sugar, you get less than a teaspoon sugar per person.
How to Make Meringue Topping For Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole
Start with Room Temperature Eggs
Room temperature eggs are much easier to whip than cold eggs. But you shouldn’t leave your eggs out of the fridge, so theres a trick to bring the eggs up to room temp quickly and safely. Simple submerge uncracked eggs into a bowl of hot tap water for several minutes. I do this while I am mis en placing the rest of the ingredients.
Beat Egg Whites
Whip the egg whites in a stand mixer with the whip attachment or in a bowl with a hand mixer until they have formed soft peaks. If you have both a hand mixer and a stand mixer, I recommend the stand mixer because you’ll have an easier time with the next step.
Since the whipped whites don’t have sugar in them (yet) they will not be glossy or stiff, you just want to get them to the soft peak stage. To test if they are soft peaks, remove the beater, and dip it into the whites, bring it upside down and if the whites curl to the side, then you have a nice soft peak. If the peak stands upright it is stiff already.
Make Boiled Sugar Syrup
While the egg whites are beating, you can start to make the sugar syrup for the meringue. I know this sounds scary, but all you need is a pot and a candy thermometer. Essentially, making the boiled sugar syrup is the same technique you would use to make caramel but you’ll just remove it from the heat before it starts to darken. Here’s how to do it:
Mix the white sugar and water in a small saucepan.
Place the mixture over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, swirling pan or stirring it gently to dissolve sugar. Do not slosh sugar solution on the sides of the pan.
Once the sugar is dissolved, stop stirring. Then boil it undisturbed, until a candy thermometer just reaches 238 degrees F. Once it hits that hot temp, you are ready to make your meringue.
Cook The Egg Whites With Hot Sugar Syrup
- As the mixer is running or as you’re beating [if you have a hand mixer, try to grab a helper for this part] drizzle the hot sugar syrup into the whites. Go slowly, so you don’t deflate the whites.
- You’ll see the whites will become less dry looking and start to get glossy and stiff. The sugar is actually cooking the whites as it is drizzled in. This will stabilize it and make it safe to eat.
- Continue beating until the bottom of the bowl is only slightly warm, about 2 minutes longer.
- Scoop the meringue into a large resealable bag or a piping bag.
- Pipe the meringue over the top of the sweet potatoes.
- Then broil the top of the casserole to brown the meringue, just as the marshmallows would be browned. Keep an eye on it, and rotate the casserole to make sure it browns evenly.
Besides, I think you’ll agree that 166 calories per serving and only two grams of saturated fat is a huge (Barney Stinson would even say legendary) improvement.
More Healthy Thanksgiving Side Dishes
I love having this Vegetarian Thanksgiving Pilaf with Pumpkin on the table as a Thanksgiving side dish because it is hearty and filling and meat eaters and vegetarians both love it!
My Green Bean Casserole is a great Make-ahead option your guests will rave over.
Try my Cranberry Sauce with Orange. It too can be made ahead, and the flavor of allspice is a little different!
These Brussels Sprouts with Sage and Hazelnuts are so good, even the kids will eat them!
Make sure to check out my Thanksgiving Planner too, to make the whole meal so much easier!
Here are some recipes from some Blogging Friends to Consider for your Thanksgiving Meal
Mom’s Thanksgiving Turkey from Simply Recipes, you can’t get more classic than this!
Apple Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash from Joyful Healthy Eats, these beauties are calling my name!
Instant Pot Apple Crisp from Confessions of a Fit Foodie, because warm desserts are greater than room temp desserts.
Thanks so much for reading. If you make this recipe, please come back and let me know by leaving a star rating and review.
This Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole with maple pecans and italian meringue is a healthy makeover of the classic Thanksgiving side dish. It’s vegetarian, gluten free and kid friendly making it the perfect addition to your Holiday table!
- 4 pounds peeled sweet potatoes, cut into 1 ½ inch chunks
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt, plus a pinch, divided
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch chipotle powder
- 1 cup orange juice, preferably freshly squeezed
- 2 large egg whites, room temperature, see *tip
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- Place sweet potatoes in a large saucepan and cover generously with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and return to the pot. Add 3 tablespoons butter, 1 ¼ teaspoon salt, cinnamon and chipotle powder. Mash with a potato masher until no large lumps remain. Add orange juice and mash until smooth. Cover and keep warm.
- Position oven rack in upper third of the oven. Heat broiler. Coat a broiler-safe 2 ½ quart casserole dish with cooking spray.
- Beat egg whites and ¼ teaspoon salt in a stand mixer until soft peaks form. Mix sugar and water in a small saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, swirling pan gently to dissolve sugar. Do not slosh sugar solution on the sides of the pan. Boil undisturbed, until a candy thermometer just reaches 238 degrees F. Immediately drizzle sugar syrup into the egg white mixture while the mixer is beating continually. Continue beating until the bottom of the bowl is only slightly warm, about 2 minutes longer. Scoop the meringue into a large resealable bag and set aside.
- Mix maple syrup, the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the remaining pinch of salt in a small sauce pan. Heat over medium heat until the mixture boils. Add pecans and cook, stirring constantly until the nuts are coated, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Spread the sweet potato mixture in the prepared casserole dish. Top with the pecans. Cut the corner of the re-sealable bag off and pipe the meringue decoratively over the sweet potato mixture. Broil, rotating as necessary, until the top is browned, 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
*tip: To warm egg whites to room temperature quickly and safely, place whole uncracked eggs in a small bowl. Cover with very warm water and let sit several minutes. Drain and separate eggs as usual.
- Serving Size: 2/3 cup
- Calories: 166
- Sodium: 241 g
- Fat: 6 g
- Saturated Fat: 2 g
- Fiber: 3 g
- Protein: 3 g