No Southern Thanksgiving is complete without Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows and Pecans. If you’re in charge of this beloved classic this year, rest assured — you can get a beautiful, crowd-pleasing casserole on the table with ease thanks to a stellar, fool-proof recipe and few simple tips and tricks.
Today, in addition to the best sweet potato casserole in the South, we’ll also discover the role brown sugar plays in this casserole and why we don’t need quite so much of it, a simple sweet potato hack that makes this recipe easier than the rest, how to make a gorgeous marshmallow topping, as well as tips for making your sweet potato casserole in advance!
HOW TO MAKE SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE WITH MARSHMALLOWS AND PECANS
Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows and Pecans is a classic Southern side dish often served at Thanksgiving. Traditionally speaking, the casserole features a sweet potato base with brown sugar and warm spices, topped with a layer of marshmallows and a sprinkle of pecans.
Most recipes begin with boiling the sweet potatoes, but rather than water-logging your dish from the get-go, this recipe roasts the sweet potatoes eliminating the need for prep work such as peeling and chopping. You’ll find after your sweet potatoes have roasted, the flesh is extremely easy to remove, making simple work of an old-fashioned favorite.
QUICK RECIPE OVERVIEW
- Roast whole sweet potatoes in the oven.
- Add the sweet potato flesh to mixing bowl, along with other filling ingredients.
- Mix with hand-held mixer.
- Transfer mixture to the casserole dish, cover with foil, and bake for 35 minutes
- Add marshmallows and pecans and bake 10 minutes more.
WHY THE BROWN SUGAR?
Chances are if you grew up eating your grandmother’s sweet potato casserole, it was very sweet. Brown sugar is a great addition to sweet potato casserole, as its molasses undertones truly compliment the flavor of the sweet potatoes. However, sweet potatoes are by nature already sweet. Hence the name. In addition to the sweet potatoes, we’re also adding a traditional topping of marshmallows.
The solution is simple. We don’t need to completely eliminate the brown sugar, but cutting back on the quantity isn’t going to hurt. This casserole is still every bit a traditional Southern Sweet Potato Casserole. The only difference is, with this recipe, more flavors than just brown sugar are going to shine, and it will be the best sweet potato casserole you’ve ever had.
WHAT MAKES THIS AN EASY SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE
As mentioned earlier, rather than peeling, chopping, and boiling the sweet potatoes per the usual method, we’re going to take the easy way out — roasting.
Not only does this method cut back on the prep work, but roasting the potatoes intensifies their flavor and brings out the natural sugars, meaning we can get away with using far fewer sweeteners in our recipe.
HOW TO ROAST SWEET POTATOES
- Have ready a sheet pan and preheat the oven to 400°.
- Drizzle sweet potatoes with canola or vegetable oil
- Bake for 50 minutes.
What we’re left with is the perfect sweet potato casserole base. Smooth, rich, creamy, and full of flavor.
To finish off the casserole base, a little richness in the form of butter and cream. And, to perfectly compliment the sweet potatoes and ensure this Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows and Pecans gives our guests all the “warm and cozies,” allspice and cloves are added as well.
WITH MARSHMALLOWS, PLEASE.
On to the marshmallow topping. We can’t (and we won’t) do without that stretchy, ooey-gooey goodness, as it is an intricate and beloved part of traditional Southern Sweet Potato Casserole. Opting for the big marshmallows over the minis makes for an impressive and beautiful presentation, especially when the pecans sink down into their crevices! However, if you’re in it for that ooey-gooey marshmallow stretch go for the minis!
THE PECAN TOPPING
Pecans are the perfect addition to a sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. Without them, the texture is one dimensional — soft. But with them, we have a perfectly balanced contrast of creamy and crunchy.
For an extra special touch, homemade candied pecans make a wonderful addition. They’re made with an extra little zing of salt, which adds yet another element of flavor to the casserole, and a heavenly combination.
However, this is most definitely not necessary. If you don’t have the time to (or want to) make a homemade batch of candied pecans, you can purchase candied or honeyed walnuts at most major grocers. Or, simply opt for plain pecans. They’ll toast up beautifully in the oven, and still serve as a lovely addition to your casserole.
HOW LONG TO COOK SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE
In order to not burn your precious marshmallow topping, the base of the casserole will cook first.
The sweet potato casserole base goes into a 350° oven, covered, for 35-40 minutes. Then, the marshmallow topping goes on, along with the pecans, and the casserole bakes for another 10 minutes, or until the marshmallows become soft and gooey to your liking. All-in-all, it should take a total of 45 minutes in the oven.
MAKE-AHEAD SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE
Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows and Pecans can be made in advance! Here are a couple of different ways you can get ahead on preparing your sweet potato casserole.
The sweet potatoes can be roasted and mashed up to 2 days in advance.
You can also assemble and bake the base of the casserole up to 1 day in advance. To do this, bake as directed until you get to the point of uncovering the casserole and adding the marshmallows and pecans. Allow to cool slightly, then cover tightly, and refrigerate.
Before you intend to serve it, place it in a 350° oven, covered with aluminum foil, and bake for 25-30 minutes (or until completely warmed through). Add the marshmallows and pecans and proceed with the recipe as directed.
Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows and Pecans featuring roasted sweet potatoes, warm spices, oven-toasted marshmallows, and pecans.
- 4 Large Sweet Potatoes scrubbed clean
- 2 1/2 tablespoons Canola Oil
- 2 Eggs room temperature, beaten
- 1/2 cup Unsalted Butter room temperature
- 1/3 cup evaporated milk
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground Allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon (optional)
- Pinch of Ground Cloves
- 15 ounces 1 1/2 bags Jet-Puffed Marshmallows or Miniature Marshmallows
- 1 cup roughly chopped pecans or candied pecans
- Preheat oven to 400° and have ready a greased 9x13” casserole dish.
Coat sweet potatoes evenly with canola oil. On a rimmed baking sheet, roast sweet potatoes at 400° for 50 minutes, or until fork-tender. Remove from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.
- Reduce oven temperature to 350°.
Transfer the flesh of the sweet potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Add brown sugar, eggs, butter, cream, vanilla, salt, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon (if using) to the bowl as well. Using a handheld mixer on medium-low speed, or a sturdy whisk, beat the mixture until smooth and evenly combined.
Transfer mixture to a casserole dish spread into an even layer, cover with foil, and bake for 35-40 minutes.
Take casserole out of the oven and add the marshmallows to the top. Apply gentle pressure to the top and press the marshmallows slightly into the filling. Add the pecans and bake for 10 minutes more, uncovered.
Allow to set for 10-15 minutes before serving.
You can make this recipe in advance!
The candied pecans can be made up to 3 days in advance, transferred to an airtight container and stored at room temperature.
Assemble the casserole according to recipe instructions up to the point of baking, cover and refrigerate 1-2 days in advance.
Set out at room temperature 1 hour before you intend to bake the casserole to remove the chill. Resume with the recipe and bake according to instructions.
A quick and easy recipe for candied pecans.
- 2 tablespoons Water
- 2/3 cups Brown Sugar
- 2 cups Whole Pecans
- 1 teaspoon Kosher or Falk Salt
- Have ready a Silpat or a large sheet of wax paper.
- Add the water and brown sugar to a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and allow the mixture to rapidly simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the pecans and stir 1 minute more.
- Carefully, transfer the pecans to the Silpat and working very quickly sprinkle with salt. If necessary, begin separating the pecans while still warm using two forks to pull them apart. Set aside and allow to completely cool.
*You could also use store-bought candied pecans.