A Southern classic featuring roasted sweet potatoes, warm spices, marshmallows and candied pecans.
Sweet potato casserole is a classic Southern dish and being the native Texan I am, I can’t recall a Thanksgiving without it. Traditionally speaking the casserole features a sweet potato base loaded down with brown sugar and spices, and is typically finished off with a layer of marshmallows and chopped pecans.
DOES IT REALLY HAVE TO BE SICKENLY SWEET? NO.
If I am being perfectly honest, even as a child, sweet potato casserole has always been too sweet for my liking. Now, I am fully aware what a bold statement this is coming from a gal whose business started in cookies and peppermint bark, but I never understood the reasoning behind adding more sugar to the sweet potatoes. I mean, they are naturally…well, sweet. In addition to that, one of the main attractions of the casserole is the marshmallow topping, and folks, it literally does not get any sweeter than that. In my humble opinion, sweet potato casserole is seriously lacking in balance. With all this being said, I still think it belongs on the sweeter side of things, however, I have decided to take it in a new direction this Thanksgiving.
ROAST THE POTATOES INSTEAD OF BOILING FOR MORE FLAVOR
The first change occurs right off the bat. Rather than peeling, chopping and boiling the sweet potatoes per the usual method, I opted to take the easy way out — roasting. Not only does this method cut back on the prep work, freeing our hands to touch upon more important turkey day matters (like holding a glass of wine), but roasting the potatoes also brings out the natural sugars, meaning we can get away with using far fewer sweeteners in our recipe.
EVEN MORE FLAVOR
A dollop of crème fraîche does nicely and makes for a lovely addition. Its smooth and tangy qualities play extremely well with the sweetness of the potatoes. Now what we need is a little richness, and who better to call upon than our old pals butter and cream? Ok then, time to spice things up a bit, shall we? Fall spices are always so warm and inviting. I say we return the favor. Allspice, cloves, welcome to the party.
DON’T WORRY — THE MARSHMALLOWS ARE STILL THERE. BUT, LET’S RAISE THE BAR ON PECANS.
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 sweet potato casserole. Like I said before, marshmallows are overly sweet, but this is an easy fix. Ever had candied pecans? Ever had candied pecans with a prominent salty finish? Yum. The sharp, salty bite provided by my quick-candied pecans is exactly what we need to counterbalance the sweetness of the marshmallows. It’s the harmonious ending we’ve all been waiting for.
All of the components are the same: sweet potatoes, marshmallows, and chopped pecans are still the most prominent ingredients. We have simply raised the bar on what was once an overtly sweet casserole and turned it into a dish that could be well-received by any palette. Mission accomplished.
Rather than peeling, chopping and boiling sweet potatoes per the usual method for this casserole, I opted to take the easy way out: Roasting. Not only does this method cut back on the busy work, allowing us to do more important things (like have a glass of Chianti), but roasting also brings out the natural sugars in the sweet potatoes, meaning we can use far less in our recipe. Bonus.
- 8 Sweet Potatoes scrubbed clean
- 2 1/2 tablespoons Canola Oil
- 2 Eggs room temperature, beaten
- 4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter room temperature
- 1/3 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
- 1/3 cup Creme Fraiche
- 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1 teaspoon Ground Allspice
- Pinch of Ground Cloves
- 15 ounces 1 1/2 bags Jet-Puffed Marshmallows
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 eggs, butter, cream, creme fraiche, vanilla, salt, nutmeg and cloves 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 aluminum foil, and bake for 20 minutes.
Take casserole out of the oven, remove foil and carefully place marshmallows across the top of the sweet potatoes in even rows. Apply gentle pressure to the top and press the marshmallows slightly into the filling. Bake for 10 minutes more. If you are using a broiler-safe dish and you’d prefer the marshmallows to be toasty on top, turn on the broiler and watch closely. Do not step away, as they will quickly burn.
Remove from the oven and immediately scatter atop the candied pecans. 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.
- 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.
Would pair well with: