Batata Casserole with Pecan Coconut Topping

published Sep 17, 2021
christmas
Batata Casserole with Pecan Coconut Topping Recipe

This sweet potato casserole isn't as sweet as the traditional sweet potato casserole for a balanced, savory & sweet bite.

Serves10 to 12

Prep25 minutes to 35 minutes

Cook45 minutes to 50 minutes

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Overhead shot of gray/blue casserole dish with batata (sweet potato) casserole, one serving missing, serving spoon still in dish. Green runner underneath, pink plate and fork peeking in from left. Pink plate with serving of casserole served with coffee in bottom of photo. white and yellow napkin
Credit: Photo: Amber Gress; Food Styling: Krystal Rack; Prop Styling: Vanessa Vazquez

When I think of my Afro-Latinidad and African American heritage, the culinary blessings of both of my cultures bring me the most joy. When I was growing up, my parents incorporated both of these cultures into everyday recipes, which helped me understand that the individual cultures didn’t need to exist in a vacuum. Like myself and my siblings, bringing the cultures together could result in something pretty interesting.   

Credit: Photo: Amber Gress; Food Styling: Krystal Rack; Prop Styling: Vanessa Vazquez

Celebrating Batata, My Favorite Kind of Sweet Potato

This batata casserole with pecan coconut topping is one of the mezclas (mixes) I’m the fondest of. I didn’t realize that batata and sweet potatoes were related when I was a kid. Both were staples in our home, yet they seemed like totally different things to me. I shied away from the traditional sweet potato casserole dish because I found it cloyingly sweet. 

Batata (or boniato) was different: It has a light purple skin and ivory white flesh and we usually ate it boiled and tossed in a vinegary sauce. It’s not nearly as sweet as the orange Beauregard variety, which further distinguished it from the sweet potato family.

It wasn’t until I became a young adult that I took another look at classic sweet potato casserole and wondered how batata would play out in it. The rest is culinary history. Batata casserole isn’t as sweet as the traditional sweet potato casserole, so if you like mildly sweet recipes, this is right up your alley. I can only assume that most people would serve this as a holiday side dish, but in my family it’s a year-round recipe that we often enjoy as a stand-alone vegetarian meal. 

Credit: Photo: Amber Gress; Food Styling: Krystal Rack; Prop Styling: Vanessa Vazquez

How to Make This Batata Casserole

For this dish, I cook the batata as you would orange sweet potatoes, then mash the batata with butter and fold it together with a quick coconut milk custard. (For maximum coconut flavor, use canned full-fat coconut milk.) To add a warm spiced flavor to the casserole, I use a combination of cinnamon, ginger, and allspice, a staple in most West Indian spice cabinets. Just before baking, sprinkle on a lightly spiced pecan and coconut topping that gets toasty and crispy in the oven.

Now that I’m a mom raising children who will navigate the world with the blood of two cultures coursing through their veins, recipes like this batata casserole mean so much more to me. It’s a reminder that cultures can exist together in harmony as long as there’s respect for each and an acknowledgement of what they both bring to the table.

Batata Casserole with Pecan Coconut Topping Recipe

This sweet potato casserole isn't as sweet as the traditional sweet potato casserole for a balanced, savory & sweet bite.

Prep time 25 minutes to 35 minutes

Cook time 45 minutes to 50 minutes

Serves 10 to 12

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the casserole:

  • 5 tablespoons

    unsalted butter, divided

  • 4 quarts

    water

  • 5 1/2 pounds

    batata (boniato) or other sweet potatoes

  • 3

    large eggs

  • 1 (about 13-ounce) can

    full-fat coconut milk

  • 3/4 cup

    packed light or dark brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground ginger

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground allspice

For the topping:

  • 1 cup

    chopped pecans

  • 1/2 cup

    sweetened coconut flakes

  • 1/2 cup

    packed light or dark brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    ground allspice

  • 5 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

Instructions

Cook the batatas and make the custard:

  1. Cut 4 tablespoons of the unsalted butter into 4 pieces and let sit at room temperature to soften while you prepare the rest of the casserole.

  2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon unsalted butter. Brush a 9x13-inch baking dish with the melted butter.

  3. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, peel and cut 5 1/2 pounds batata into 1-inch chunks.

  4. Add the batata to the boiling water and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the coconut milk custard and pecan-coconut topping.

  5. Place 3 large eggs in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Add 1 can coconut milk, 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, salt, 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, and whisk until combined.

Make the pecan-coconut topping:

  1. Place 1 cup chopped pecans, 1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice in a medium bowl. Toss with your hands to combine.

  2. Melt 5 tablespoons unsalted butter in the microwave or on the stovetop. Pour into the pecan mixture and use your hands or a rubber spatula to toss until a thick, crumbly topping forms.

Assemble the casserole:

  1. When the batata is ready, drain and return it to the now-empty pot. Add the softened butter and mash with a potato masher until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the coconut milk mixture and stir until absorbed and the mixture is smooth again.

  2. Transfer the mixture into the baking dish and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle with the pecan-coconut topping, breaking up the mixture with your fingers as needed.

  3. Bake until the topping is a deep golden-brown and crisp on top, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Halving the recipe: This recipe may be divided in half. Halve the ingredients, with the exception of the batata and eggs: Use 2 1/2 pounds batata and 2 large eggs.

Make ahead: The batata and pecan-coconut topping mixtures can be made up to 1 day ahead and stored separately in the refrigerator. Let the batata mixture sit at room temperature while the oven is heating. Sprinkle with the topping just before baking, and bake for 40 minutes.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.