Candied Pecan Sweet Potato Casserole


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Creamy sweet potato casserole with a crunchy candied pecan topping and toasted marshmallows.

serving spoon in casserole dish of mashed sweet potatoes with pecan topping

I hate to admit it now, but growing up, I didn’t like sweet potato casserole AT ALL. It wasn’t just this particular recipe – I just didn’t like flavor combinations. Chocolate and fruit were a no-go and the same could be said for sweet and salty together. I just didn’t think they worked. Sweet is for dessert and salty is for dinner. The end. Then, one fateful day, I accidentally ate some chocolate candy with my popcorn and, viola! a sweet-and-salty lover was born. The rest, they say, is history. 

I’m so glad I stumbled upon that flavor combination, too, because the thought of not enjoying this Candied Pecan Sweet Potato Casserole is just too much to bear. (I’m not crying you’re crying!)

You wouldn’t think that it could get any better than your typical easy sweet potato casserole recipe, but that’s where I beg to differ. Adding in candied pecans is where it’s at. Don’t be put off by the title of this dish, either. I’m sure it sounds like it’s a lot of work, but trust me, it isn’t! In fact, half the work can be done by a slow cooker while you’re busy doing other things (like making this easy Beef Broth Brown Gravy). 

The best part is, you don’t have to “pre-candy” your pecans, they candy-up all by themselves right in the pan! The other great thing is that you can put this dish in the oven while the turkey is resting. It should be served nice and hot so you’re free to put this dish off to the last minute — really! 

Why This Recipe Works 

Marshmallows – You simply can’t have a sweet potato casserole without marshmallows. That’s my statement and I’m sticking to it! (Sticking to it…get it?) They are like the icing on top of this awesome Thanksgiving side. 

Sweet potatoes – I know this goes without saying, but there is just no other potato or tuber that can match the sweet potato when combined with marshmallows and that candied pecan topping. Sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving or bust! 

Pecan topping – Again, the nutty candiness of the pecans MAKES this dish what it is. You can leave them off if you’re allergic of course but they really add a lovely crunch and nuttiness that balances out the sweetness of the marshmallows and potatoes. I’m all about that difference in texture with every bite. 

Last minute dish – If you have a little counter space open you can make this sweet potato casserole in the slow cooker while you make everything else. So there’s no need to fret over adding another side or making something if you forgot you were supposed to bring a dish to your Thanksgiving gathering. You can even make it all together and pop it in the oven (wherever you happen to be celebrating) right before everyone eats, after the turkey is done. 

six steps of preparation of mashed sweet potatoes

Here’s How You Make It 

  1. Get those potatoes cooked. You can boil them or cook them in a slow cooker. For slow cooker directions, add sweet potatoes and water to the slow cooker and cover. Cook on high for 4 hours or until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mash the drained sweet potatoes. To them, add eggs, vanilla, and half a cup of melted butter, plus the brown sugar, salt, and milk or heavy cream. Mix till smooth. 
  3. Spread the sweet potato mixture on the bottom of a 9×13 greased baking dish. In another bowl, mix together brown sugar, flour, 1/3 cup of melted butter, and the pecans with a spoon. Sprinkle this over the potatoes and bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes or until the pecans are caramelized. 
  4. Remove the dish and add the marshmallows to the top. Return the sweet potato casserole to the oven for another 5 minutes or until the marshmallows are puffy and browned slightly. Serve
four steps of preparation of sweet potato casserole

How Do I Make a Sweet Potato Casserole Without Pecans?

Wait. Are you sure you want to do that? Kidding. I know, I know, not everyone likes pecans, and some people can’t eat them due to allergies. Pecans are an addition to the original easy sweet potato casserole recipe anyway, so they’re as easy to take off as they are to put on. All you have to do is: Skip putting the pecans in. No, really! That’s it! If you want to keep the streusel topping, go ahead and make that, and drop it by spoonfuls over the sweet potatoes. Bake, then complete through the directions for the marshmallows at the end. 

Can I Use Canned Sweet Potatoes?

Yes you can use canned sweet potatoes if you like. They are already softened so you can skip the whole cooking the sweet potatoes step. You’ll want to drain off any excess liquid first. Make sure to use the same amount of canned sweet potatoes that the recipe calls for. 

close up of candied pecan sweet potato casserole  in a baking pan.

Is This the Same As Southern Sweet Potato Casserole?

Yes! Southern sweet potato casserole IS sweet potato casserole. Whether you add the “Southern” or not is up to you. 🙂 But, the casserole originated in the South, so I guess the name stuck. 

Can You Make Sweet Potato Casserole Ahead of Time?

There are days, like Thanksgiving, when you just cannot do everything at once. In those instances, it does help to make dishes of time, if possible. I think you can totally make this sweet potato casserole in advance. I’d do it one of two ways, though: 

  1. Cook the potatoes and work your way through step 3. Then, let the dish cool and cover it and put it in the fridge for one to two days. When you’re ready to serve it, pop it in the oven for 10-15 minutes to warm it back up, pull it out of the oven, and go ahead with adding the marshmallows and baking again, through step 4. 
  2. Make the entire recipe, marshmallows and all. Cover tightly (but don’t let the marshmallows stick to the cover, plastic wrap, or foil) and then pull the dish out about 30-45 minutes before dinner is served. You will be serving the casserole at room temperature — and that is a-okay as well! 

How Do You Make a Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole?

That is a loaded question. Even though this recipe uses sweet potatoes, it’s not very healthy as-is, that I admit. If you want to slim down this Thanksgiving dish, try these ideas: 

  • Skip the marshmallow topping or use half the amount of marshmallows. 
  • Halve the butter or use a lower-calorie or fat butter option. 
  • Eliminate the pecan topping all together and add only half the amount of marshmallows. 
  • Make half the streusel topping for the pecans and mix well. Add to the top of the sweet potatoes. Leave the marshmallows off. 
  • Skip the topping ingredients except for the pecans and marshmallows. Toast pecans in a dry pan over medium heat for about five minutes until they release their nutty aroma. Add toasted pecans at the same time as the marshmallows and brown marshmallows according to directions. 
overhead view of sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping

Thanksgiving Side Dish Ideas 

Looking for more delicious Thanksgiving side dish ideas? Try these time-tested and popular dishes people love: 

Sweet Potato Recipe Ideas 

Looking for more ways to serve up those delicious sweet potatoes this Thanksgiving? You’re in the right place: 

What Do Sweet Potatoes Pair Well With?

Sweet potatoes are also great served as-is in a “bar” of sorts. Picture what you’d serve on top of a white, russet potato only add those toppings to a sweet potato instead – delicious! 

I love sweet potatoes with a meat like turkey (obviously), or steak or chicken work great too. But lots of people also like to pair sweet potatoes with a meatier fish like tuna, mahi mahi, walleye, or salmon. 

These tubers also go great oven roasted and mixed with just about any other vegetable, but my favorites are carrots and parsnips, broccoli, green beans, and asparagus. 

And, if we’re talking spices that go great with sweet potatoes, think fall spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, ginger, coriander, and thyme. 

Why Does Sweet Potato Casserole Need Eggs? 


Eggs act as a binder, holding the sweet potatoes, spices, and other ingredients together and helping it to bake stiffly instead of having it fall apart or be too thin. 

One tip? Make sure your sweet potatoes have cooled down to room temperature before adding egg or you’ll just end up cooking it rather than mixing it in. 

up close view of mashed sweet potato casserole

More Side Dishes You’ll Enjoy

Have you tried this Sweet Potato Casserole? YAY! Please rate the recipe below!

up close view of mashed sweet potato casserole

Candied Pecan Sweet Potato Casserole

Creamy sweet potato casserole with a crunchy candied pecan topping and toasted marshmallows.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

0 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Servings: 12 servings

Instructions

  • Potatoes can be boiled, drained, and then mashed OR cooked in a slow cooker or Instant Pot (my favorite method – see note for directions!).

  • Preheat oven to 375. Mash cooked sweet potatoes. Add eggs, vanilla, 1/2 cup melted butter, brown sugar, salt, and milk (or heavy cream) and mix until smooth. (I like my potatoes to have a bit of texture so I don’t whip them for too long).

  • Spread potato mixture in the bottom of a greased 9×13 baking dish. In a bowl combine brown sugar, flour, 1/3 cup melted butter, and pecans and mix well (with a spoon, not a mixer). Sprinkle mixture over potatoes (it’s okay if potatoes aren’t completely covered). Bake uncovered for about 20-25 minutes until pecans are caramelized.

  • Sprinkle marshmallows evenly over pecan mixture. Return to oven for another 5 minutes or until marshmallows are puffy and lightly browned. Serve and enjoy!

Notes

Instant Pot directions for potatoes: Instead of the slow cooker, you can cook the sweet potatoes in your pressure cooker/Instant Pot with 1 cup of water for 10 minutes on pressure cook/manual on high. Quick release, remove the lid, and drain and transfer to a bowl to mash and proceed with the recipe as written. 
Slow Cooker directions for potatoes: If using slow cooker, add sweet potatoes and water to slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Drain slow cooker.
Make ahead directions: This recipe can be made the night before! Simply prepare the potatoes, spread in your baking dish, and add the pecan topping, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 24 hours in advance. Remove from the fridge about 2-3 hours before dinnertime. Remove plastic wrap before baking as written. 
Fun flavor tip: After dropping pecan mixture over potatoes, sprinkle some coarse sea salt over the pecan layer – this will enhance that salty-sweet flavor combination!
 

Nutrition

Calories: 456 kcal, Carbohydrates: 82 g, Protein: 6 g, Fat: 13 g, Saturated Fat: 2 g, Cholesterol: 29 mg, Sodium: 207 mg, Potassium: 755 mg, Fiber: 7 g, Sugar: 43 g, Vitamin A: 27119 IU, Vitamin C: 5 mg, Calcium: 116 mg, Iron: 2 mg

 



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