Sweet potato casserole has always been my favorite Thanksgiving side dish. I make mine with fresh sweet potatoes, and a brown sugar and pecan streusel topping that has a wonderful balance of salty and sweet flavors. Marshmallows simply don’t belong on sweet potato casserole, and if you’re reading this post, then perhaps you agree. The buttery, crumbly streusel topping in my recipe is simply the best! I could eat it all on its own, it’s that good.
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Making Sweet Potato Casserole
Mine is a recipe that’s evolved over the years, starting with using my mom’s recipe for the longest time, until I realized that hers just wasn’t working for me anymore. Gradual tweaking of ingredients eventually turned into a complete overhaul of the recipe to perfect the flavor and texture until settling on this version as the one I will always bake from now on.
I never use canned yams for my casserole, so I always start by roasting fresh sweet potatoes in their skin, a process that gives the potatoes a lovely caramelized flavor and makes them so tender. And because sweet potatoes range so greatly in size, I’ve only noted in my recipe how many pounds are needed, rather than the number of individual potatoes.
Rather than mashing the roasted potatoes, I like to puree them in the food processor until perfectly smooth. You can hand-mash them, but I find that some of the stringy fibers remain with hand-mashing, which can contribute an unpleasant texture to the casserole, so I far prefer the silky smoothness of the pureed potatoes.
Once smooth, I mix in a little softened butter, eggs, cream, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. At this point, it’s difficult not to just sit and eat the filling on its own, even before it’s been baked.
The Streusel Topping
Isn’t everything better with crumb topping? The topping is perhaps what evolved the most over the years. With more flour and less butter, the crumbs are more… crumbly. Like what you’d see on top of a New York style crumb cake, which is as much crumbs as it is cake.
And after years of making crumb toppings by cutting cold butter into the flour and sugar, I’ve come to realize from many experiments over the last year that melted butter makes a much better crumble, not only for this casserole, but also for pies and muffins as well. It distributes more evenly throughout the flour and sugar, and just looks and tastes better after baking.
I make my streusel topping with flour, brown sugar and granulated sugar, butter, pecans and salt. It’s the best.
Advance Prep for Sweet Potato Casserole
To make Thanksgiving day easier, I almost always prep my sweet potato casserole a day in advance. I make the filling and the topping, and then keep them refrigerated separately until I’m ready to bake my dish. It emerges from the oven piping hot, beautifully golden brown and crunchy, sweet and salty, with all those tempting buttery crumbs. It fills the house with the delicious aroma of Thanksgiving, and I can hardly wait for the first spoonful.
Because of the crumb topping, sweet potato casserole is always best on the day it’s baked. There’s just no way to prevent the topping from absorbing moisture and getting soft after a few days in the refrigerator. But the leftovers are still fantastic, and I’ve never let a soft crumb topping stop me from enjoying it the next day.
If you microwave a scoop of the casserole, it will melt the topping quite a bit. So to keep it as crunchy as possible, I recommend re-warming the entire dish in the oven. Just place it in a 325 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, and it will taste wonderful.
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Sweet Potato Casserole
- 3 lbs sweet potatoes (about 4 large sweet potatoes)
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 4 tbs unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- ½ cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp coarse Kosher salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp coarse Kosher salt
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- ½ cup pecans, roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with foil. Wash the potatoes and place on the baking sheet; drizzle the potatoes with the olive oil and cover tightly with another piece of foil. Roast for 90 minutes, until very tender.
- Set aside to cool until cool enough to touch, remove the skins, and scoop the potato flesh into a food processor. Puree until smooth.
- Mix in the softened butter, beaten eggs, cream, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt until incorporated. Spread into a 9×13 pan or large gratin baking dish.
- In a bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar and salt.
- Add the melted butter, and use a fork to evenly distribute, then use your hands to rub the butter in until moist and crumbly. Stir in the pecans.
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Sprinkle the topping over the filling and bake on the center oven rack for 45 minutes, until the topping is golden brown. If necessary, lay a piece of foil over the top if the topping is getting too dark.
- Cool for 15 minutes and serve hot.