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! Originally published November 14, 2020.
Table of Contents
- This is the best recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole!
- Baked Sweet Potato Casserole Ingredients
- Pecan Topping for Sweet Potato Casserole
- Best Sweet Potato Casserole variations
- How to make Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans
- Can you make Sweet Potato Casserole ahead of time?
- How to serve this Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping
- How to store this recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans
- Baked Sweet Potato Casserole FAQs
- More Thanksgiving Side Dishes
- More Sweet Potato Recipes
- Baked Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe
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.
“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!
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.
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!
This is the best recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole!
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.
The problem is that, as per usual, nobody was adding enough streusel.
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.
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.
Baked Sweet Potato Casserole Ingredients
Here’s a quick shopping list to help you gather your ingredients. See the recipe card below for the full ingredients and instructions!
- Sweet potatoes (about 2.5 pounds)
- Brown sugar
- Lemon (one, for juice)
- Pecans (chopped)
Pecan Topping for Sweet Potato Casserole
I like my pecan topping plentiful and crispy crunchy. That means we’re making a lot of it and we’re not skimping on the warm spices, the pecans, or the total quantity of streusel goodness. If you’re with me, let’s do this! If you’re one of these people who always thinks things are too sweet, you can consider making half the topping. I respect you…but I don’t understand you. Maybe reset your expectations and think about this as pre-pie. The dessert before the dessert!
Best Sweet Potato Casserole variations
I love this sweet potato casserole just the way it is. Here are some other ways you can make it your ideal Thanksgiving side!
- Use canned yams. I know some of you are gasping in horror and others are immediately scribbling “canned yams” on a shopping list. Maybe it’ll be a little different, maybe no one will be able to tell, maybe you’ll like it BETTER. Sometimes you just need to hit the easy button you guys!!
- Leave out the cardamom. I love it, maybe you don’t. That’s ok, just skip it.
- Sub walnuts or almonds for pecans. Pecans are absolutely my first choice for this casserole. Their buttery texture and classically sweet flavor are ideal. But if you don’t like or don’t have pecans, almonds or walnuts would be good too.
- Leave out the pecans. Some people have nut allergies. Just don’t include them! (The pecans, not the people. Obviously include the people.)
How to make Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans
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:
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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
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!
How to serve this Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping
Serving this warm straight out of the oven works perfectly. But sometimes you have competing priorities and that coveted oven space is busy! That’s ok. 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 it, there’s no need.) Then you can reheat it right before serving. Warm it for about 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
How to store this recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans
Sweet potato casserole can be covered and stored in the fridge for 3-5 days. After that we’re talking about mush gone wrong. Pro hosting tip, make sure to send your guests home with plates of leftovers so none of this warm and cozy streusel-topped goodness goes to waste.
Can you freeze sweet potato casserole?
Yes, but I only recommend doing this as a prep method, not once the whole thing has been baked and served. We want to avoid mushifying the streusel. I suggest you follow the instructions through step 6, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap or tin foil and freeze. When you’re ready to serve the casserole, you can defrost it overnight, then follow the rest of the instructions starting with preheating the oven in step 7.
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!
Baked Sweet Potato Casserole FAQs
Baking is easier, boiling is fast. Both work. I usually choose baking because I like easy!
To bake: 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.
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.
Nope! This is why baking sweet potatoes is so easy. Just stab a few holes in them so they don’t explode and bake right in their skins. When they’re tender, cut them in half, wait for them to cool just enough so you can handle them, then scoop out the insides.
Yes! Always. Sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, or an entire eggplant you’re roasting for baba ganoush. If you don’t poke holes in them they WILL explode.
More Thanksgiving Side Dishes
- Creamed Corn Casserole << this recipe is going INSANE this year. People love them some corn casserole! This stuff is so good!
- Easy Broccoli Bacon Salad << a nice lighter side dish for Thanksgiving!
- Gruyere-Crisped Potatoes Au Gratin << this will forever and always be my favorite scalloped potato recipe
- Literally the Best Mac and Cheese I’ve Ever Had << still true to this day!
- Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe << simple and tart and so so delicious with turkey.
- Sausage and Sweet Potato Stuffing from Gimme Some Oven
- Hasselback Butternut Squash from How Sweet Eats
- Roasted Butternut Squash Gratin from Recipe Girl
More Sweet Potato Recipes
- Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts << another fan favorite recipe, especially for Thanksgiving. Can be made ahead!
- Chipotle Sweet Potatoes with Bacon << If you love a smokey sweet flavor, these are the potatoes for you! So good.
- Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas << These are a fun vegetarian twist on enchiladas!
- Buttery Sweet Potato Rolls << use your leftover sweet potatoes to make these delicious rolls!
Baked Sweet Potato Casserole
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 & 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 large eggs
For the streusel
- 1 & 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
- Start by cooking your sweet potatoes. You can bake or boil. (Baking is easier; boiling is faster.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Spread the sweet potato mixture evenly into a 9×13 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!)
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Use a spatula to mix together the streusel. Make sure all the dry ingredients are moistened with butter.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- Store leftovers covered in the fridge. It will keep for 3-5 days!