This Sweet Potato Casserole with pecan topping made a convert out of me! I used to hate baked sweet potato casserole, but that was before I tried my favorite trick: Adding a ridiculous amount of streusel. Works every time. This recipe is easy to make, has plenty of pecan topping to go around, and can be made ahead of time! 

how to make sweet potato casserole

Well, our baby Edison is going to be a year old next month, so he’s almost out of the danger zone of being killed by his own parents. I’m telling you, fourth babies are made of resilient stuff. Eric walked in the other day while I was feeding Edison his lunch. He had a bunch of Cheerios on his tray. Eric came in and nabbed one and said, hey! This has HONEY on it! These are honey nut Cheerios!

Me: “Umm.. so?” I thought he was upset because it was sugary cereal. We didn’t let our first couple babies try sugar until they were toddlers, but we got over that notion a long time ago when the reality of older siblings set in.

sweet potato casserole with pecan topping in a glass baking dish

“So, babies can’t have honey until after they are 12 months old!” Oh yeah. Botulism. I vaguely remember every pediatrician mentioning that at every one of the thousand doctor appointments I’ve brought my kids to…oops. Mom fail!! Good thing Edison made it out alive.

I told my mom this story and she scoffed. “Honey nut Cheerios doesn’t count as honey. I’m sure I fed you all honey nut and you turned out just fine.” I think this explains where I get my laissez faire attitude from. Ha!

baked sweet potato casserole on a plate

Well the holiday spirit is in FULL SWING around here, I don’t know about your house! But we are all in. It’s the most magical time of the year! I’ve been listening to Christmas music for weeks now but I finally can do it out loud, not covertly while Eric isn’t in the room, frantically changing it before he can hear. He is a good sport about it, really, but I try to be respectful so he isn’t slowly driven insane by December 25 when Bing Crosby comes on for the 174th time of the season.

Charlotte even made our first batch of cookies yesterday, Grandma Prudy’s Classic Gingersnaps. The besssst.

pan of sweet potato casserole with some pieces missing

And we’ve basically been eating Thanksgiving dinner all week. I made today’s Sweet Potato Casserole and these Soft and Fluffy Parker House Rolls on the same day and we’ve been chipping away at them all week. Haven’t heard any complaints yet! It really is the most wonderful food time of the year!

Sweet Potato Casserole convert over here.

Do you love sweet potato casserole? I used to be a HATER. Why waste calories on bland orange mush when I could be eating rolls and stuffing? BUT ALL THAT HAS CHANGED. I’m a total convert. This Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping is my life now. This recipe is sweet and delicious as pie.

sweet potato casserole with pecans being lifted from the pan on a spoon

I mean look at this. It is basically pie.

The problem is that, as per usual, nobody was adding enough streusel.

overhead shot of streusel on top of sweet potato casserole recipe

Streusel is food of the gods and deserves to be the center of attention. I have a history of going to the extreme with streusel. It really is just one of my favorite things. Check out this Apple Crisp with a Ridiculous Amount of Streusel, or this Sour Cream Coffee Cake with a Ridiculous Amount of Streusel. See? It just makes everything more amazing. 

sweet potato casserole with pecans in a glass pan with sweet potatoes exposed

I think the other reason for my Sweet Potato Casserole aversion was that I never had it fresh. I usually skipped it on Thanksgiving day and ate an extra roll instead. Then I would try some of the leftovers a day or two later. BAD idea. The streusel is no longer crispy after it has been refrigerated. (I’m not turning my nose up at leftovers anymore, because I’ve seen the light, but I totally get why I wasn’t impressed.) You want a delightfully crispy crunchy streusel topping for your casserole.

How to make Sweet Potato Casserole

First things first: do you know what a sweet potato is? It’s one of those confusing things we have to talk about every year because of some labeling mishaps in the past! Sweet potatoes have a purplish red skin, and a bright orange flesh on the inside, like this:

sweet potatoes split open on a pan after baking

Sometimes they will be labeled yams. But I promise, they are sweet potatoes. Yams are white on the inside and have a tough brown skin, almost like tree bark. Don’t buy those for this recipe!

You will need 3-4 sweet potatoes, or about 2 and 1/2 pounds.

Cook and mash

Now we need to get them cooked and soft. I prefer to bake them, but you can also boil them. To bake, poke them a few times and toss them in the oven, then scoop out the soft flesh. No peeling or pesky chopping. To boil, peel and chop the potatoes and boil in a pot until soft. Baking is easier. Boiling is faster. Take your pick!

Also…shh…I haven’t tried this, but I did a lot of research on sweet potato casserole, and a LOT of people say that you really can’t tell the difference if you use canned sweet potatoes (often labeled yams!) Drain them well. No one will ever know! I can’t vouch for this personally, but if you are short on time it’s a great option.

mashed sweet potatoes in a bowl, adding casserole ingredients like sugar, butter, and eggs

Add your cooked sweet potatoes to a large bowl.

Add in all the good stuff: butter, milk, brown sugar, salt, vanilla, lemon juice, and a couple eggs. I love adding lemon juice to my sweet potato casserole because I feel like it wakes up all the flavors a little bit, but it’s optional!

how to make sweet potato casserole; mashing sweet potatoes and spreading in pan

Mash it all together. I like the texture of using an actual potato masher, but you can use a hand mixer to beat it if you like. You will get a fluffier texture. Either way works great!

Spread it all in a pan and set aside. It’s streusel time. LOTSA STREUSEL.

Make the ridiculous amount of streusel

First mix up your dry ingredients: flour, brown sugar, regular sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and little bit of cardamom if you’re like me (you can leave it out no problem if you’re not like me. Cardamom is totally underrated though, you should try it.) Stir in a cup of chopped pecans.

dry ingredients for streusel, adding butter to the bowl of dry ingredients

Add in some melted butter (I always prefer streusels made with melted butter rather than cutting in cold butter. Plus it’s easier!) and stir it all together. It should look like wet sand. Use your fist to squeeze handfuls of it together, and drop it onto your sweet potatoes. That’s how you get those big glorious streusel chunks! Who doesn’t want giant streusel chunks?

brown sugar streusel in a bowl

Alllll the streusel

Pop it in the oven for 25-30 minutes and you’re done. Feast! I like to add a few extra chopped pecans on top of my casserole halfway through the bake time. It think it looks pretty, and I love the extra crunch. If you add them in the beginning they will burn.

Can you make Sweet Potato Casserole ahead of time?

Yes! Kinda. You still have to bake it right before serving (remember I talked earlier about mushy streusel? No thank you) but you can totally prepare everything up to two days ahead.

sweet potato casserole in a glass dish

Prepare the sweet potatoes and spread them in the pan as directed, then wrap tightly and refrigerate. Prepare the streusel as directed. Tightly cover it (or transfer to a ziplock if that gives you more fridge space) and store in the fridge. When you are ready to bake, top the sweet potatoes with the streusel and bake as directed. It might take more like 35 minutes to bake since it will be cold.

You can also bake the casserole ahead of time on Thanksgiving morning, leave it out on the counter while the turkey cooks, and then rewarm last minute before serving. See recipe for details!

sweet potato casserole with pecan topping on a plate with bites taken out

And that’s it! Sweet potatoes forever. I hope you are having fun planning out your Thanksgiving menu! Be sure to subscribe to my emails (at the top of this page) because I am sending out ALL of my best Thanksgiving recipes over the next 2 weeks!

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Sweet Potato Casserole with a Ridiculous Amount of Streusel

Serves 12-15     adjust servings

This Sweet Potato Casserole with pecan topping made a convert out of me! I used to hate baked sweet potato casserole, but that was before I tried my favorite trick: Adding a ridiculous amount of streusel. Works every time. This recipe is easy to make, has plenty of pecan topping to go around, and can be made ahead of time! 

Ingredients

For the sweet potato filling

  • 3-4 sweet potatoes (2.5 pounds, about 5 cups mashed)
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large eggs

For the streusel

  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans, to add halfway through

Instructions

  1. Start by cooking your sweet potatoes. You can bake or boil. (Baking is easier; boiling is faster.)
  2. To bake: I like the baking method best, I think it's easiest! Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Poke each sweet potato firmly with a fork, two pokes on each side. Place on a pan lined with tin foil. Pop them in the oven and roast at 400 for 45-60 minutes until completely tender. You should be able to stick a butter knife all the way through with very little resistance. The thicker your sweet potatoes, the longer it will take.
  3. To boil: Peel the sweet potatoes and chop into 1 or 2 inch pieces. Add to a large pot filled with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn down to a simmer. Let simmer for 25-30 minutes until fork tender. Drain very well using a colander.
  4. Make the sweet potato filling: In a large bowl, add sweet potatoes. You should have about 5 cups. Add 5 tablespoons butter, 1/2 cup milk, 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (add 1 and 1/4 teaspoon if using table salt), 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and 2 large eggs.
  5. Mash it all together with a potato masher. If you like REALLY fluffy sweet potato casserole with zero lumps, use a hand mixer to beat it together for a couple minutes. (I prefer mine thoroughly mashed with a potato masher.)
  6. Spread the sweet potato mixture evenly into a 9x13 inch pan, smoothing out the top. (At this point you can refrigerate it ahead of time and bake up to two days later. See notes!)
  7. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  8. Make the streusel. In a medium bowl, add 1 and 1/2 cups flour (spooned and leveled), 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon cardamom, and 1 cup chopped pecans. Whisk it all together.
  9. In a large bowl, melt 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter. Pour the dry streusel ingredients into the large bowl with the butter (then wipe out the medium bowl and stick it back in the cupboard.)
  10. Use a spatula to mix together the streusel. Make sure all the dry ingredients are moistened with butter.
  11. Use your fist to pick up handfuls of streusel. Squeeze it together and gently crumble it over the top of the sweet potatoes so that they stay in big chunks.
  12. Bake. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until the streusel looks dry and crumbly and slightly browned. Halfway through the bake time, at about the 15 or 20 minute mark, I like to sprinkle on an extra 1/3 cup chopped pecans. (If you add them in the beginning they will burn.) This is optional but I love the extra crunch and how pretty it is.
  13. Serve warm! See notes for how to make this ahead of time. You can make this earlier in the day on Thanksgiving. Bake it as directed, and then set it aside somewhere on the counter in your mess of a kitchen. (Don't refrigerate, or even bother covering) Then you can reheat it right before serving. About 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven will be enough to get it warmed through!
  14. Store leftovers covered in the fridge. It will keep for 3-5 days!

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