This family-favorite Southern Sweet Potato Casserole recipe features creamy, warm, and fluffy mashed sweet potato filling, and a buttery, crumbly pecan and brown sugar topping. It's perfect for the holiday season, and a side dish we use at every holiday!
Southern Sweet Potato Casserole
Southern Sweet Potato Casserole is one of my favorite dishes at holiday dinners. We have it at every one! And for good reason!
What makes this sweet potato casserole so amazing? It could be the fluffy and warm mashed sweet potato base. But for me, it's the buttery, pecan and brown sugar streusel topping that makes it amazing. My kids call it candy. None of that marshmallow business. That's not allowed here. And my sweet potato casserole recipe has extra topping. Because I can. And it's delicious.
Southern Sweet Potato Casserole is a holiday classic and a fan favorite! I never have leftovers! Plus, it can be frozen or made ahead, making the holiday cooking a breeze.
Is Southern Sweet Potato Casserole a Dessert?
Sweet Potato Casserole is not a dessert. At least not in our house. We serve it as a side dish alongside our turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. (I'll link to the recipes I use for those again below, in case you're in a Thanksgiving-cooking frenzy, like I often am, and you need to flip back and forth between the recipes!).
Don't be deceived. Although sweet potato casserole has sweet potatoes in it and it's not a dessert, it's also not really that healthy. It is a totally indulgent and delicious comfort food that I whole-heartedly recommend, though.
What's the Difference Between Sweet Potatoes and Yams?
In the United States, the terms "sweet potato" and "yams" are often used interchangeably. However, what you see here are primarily sweet potatoes, and you've likely never even tasted a true yam.
Sweet potatoes are a sweet, orange (or sometimes purple) root vegetable. There are several varieties that may have different colors of skins (for instance brown or red), but their primary characteristic is that sweet potatoes are, in fact, sweet.
Yams are also a root vegetable. They have a rough exterior and a white interior. Their flavor is closer to a white potato and isn't really sweet.
How to Bake Sweet Potatoes for Sweet Potato Casserole
Wash sweet potatoes and poke holes in them with a fork. Place on a lined baking sheet, and bake in a 400°F oven for about 30 to 45 minutes until fork tender. Set aside to cool enough to touch then peel off the skins (no peeler necessary. They should just slide right off!)
Can You Boil the Sweet Potatoes Instead?
Yes, you can. However, be aware that boiling does lower the sweetness level of sweet potatoes, so just keep that in mind.
To boil your sweet potatoes, peel them and cut into 1-inch cubes. Boil in water for about 12-15 minutes until tender. Drain from water and continue with the remaining recipe.
Why Does Sweet Potato Casserole Need Eggs?
There are eggs in this recipe because they act as a binder to hold it all together, and also make it a little fluffier, kind of like a soufflé.
Can I Use Marshmallows on Top?
Traitor! Just kidding.... okay, mostly kidding. If I do use marshmallows, I like to use them in addition to the crumble topping since that's my favorite part. Either sprinkle some mini marshmallows on top, or even better, nestle some full-sized ones into the crumble topping.
For the golden-toasted-marshmallow look, you can broil it for about a minute. Watch it carefully. It will happen quickly (and in my experience suddenly and as soon as you looked away!)
How to Make Southern Sweet Potato Casserole Ahead of Time
Prepare sweet potato mixture and spread into casserole dish. Wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. Prepare streusel topping and store in a zip top bag in the refrigerator.
When ready to bake, remove both from the refrigerator. Spread topping on top of casserole and bake as directed, adding 10 minutes to account for the cold dish.
Gluten Free: Use gluten free cup-for-cup flour instead of traditional all-purpose flour.
Dairy Free: Use vegan butter, margarine, coconut oil, or ghee instead of butter (be aware that ghee can still sometimes have traces of dairy), and a milk alternative such as oatmilk in place of milk.
Nut Free: Use gluten free oats instead of pecans.
Egg Free: The texture of the recipe will be slightly different when omitting eggs. Use 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal with 1 tablespoon of water to substitute the egg.
More Holiday Recipes You'll Love
- Butter Herb Roasted Turkey - the best, juicy, tender turkey that's perfect for a beautiful holiday table.
- Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce - super easy recipe that can be made ahead and is way better than the canned version.
- Traditional Stuffing - my grandma's stuffing recipe that is amazing!
- Southern Pecan Pie - quite possibly the easiest pie to make with a gooey caramel-like filling and crunchy, candied pecans on top.
- Slow Cooker Scalloped Potatoes - free up the oven with this crock pot version of creamy, cheesy scalloped potatoes.
Southern Sweet Potato Casserole Video
Southern Sweet Potato Casserole
- 4-6 whole large sweet potatoes
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons butter softened
- 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the topping
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ cup flour
- 6 tablespoons butter softened
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- Wash and bake potatoes at 400°F until fork tender, about 30-45 minutes.
- Peel sweet potatoes and place into a large mixing bowl.
- Mash potatoes slightly with a masher or fork just to get them started.
- Add sugar, butter, milk, eggs, vanilla, and salt to mixing bowl with sweet potatoes, and beat together to combine.
- Spread sweet potato mixture into a buttered 9"x13" baking dish. Set aside.
- In a separate medium mixing bowl, add brown sugar and flour for topping. Whisk together. Add butter and cut in with a pastry cutter or potato masher. Stir in chopped pecans. Sprinkle evenly on top of sweet potato mixture in baking dish.
- Bake casserole at 375°F for about 30 minutes or until cooked through.
- Make Ahead: Follow this recipe until the last baking step. Don't bake. Cover and keep in the refrigerator overnight or up to 2-3 days. When you're ready to use it, pop it back in the oven at 375°F for about 40 minutes, or until heated through.
- Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat in individual servings in the microwave.
- Freezer Directions: Follow the above recipe from start to finish. Allow casserole to cool. Cover and place in the freezer. This dish can be kept in the freezer for up to a month. When you're ready to use it, place it in the oven at 375°F for an additional 30-40, or until heated through.
UPDATE INFO: This recipe was originally published in September 2018. It was updated with new pictures, tips, and video and republished in October 2022.
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