Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Streusel Topping

published Oct 16, 2023
Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

With a fluffy, just-sweet-enough filling and crackly streusel topping that'll remind you of candied nuts, this sweet potato casserole will become an instant classic on your Thanksgiving table.

Serves10-12

Prep15 minutes

Cook1 hour to 1 hour 5 minutes

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Scoop out of our sweet potato casserole.
Credit: Kelli Foster

The first time I added this sweet potato casserole to my family’s Thanksgiving menu, there was some pushback and a feeling that most people wouldn’t like it. Fast forward to the end of that dinner, and the casserole dish was wiped clean. I’ve now been making it for almost 20 years and it’s a staple Thanksgiving side dish that everyone in my family looks forward to.

For me, there’s only one way to make sweet potato casserole, and that’s with a crisp brown sugar and pecan streusel topping (sorry to the marshmallow-lovers out there). My version has a fluffy, just-sweet-enough filling with a crackly streusel topping that just might remind you of candied nuts. You can count on it to safely serve 10 people, or even stretch it to 12, if there are a lot of side dish options on the table.

Ingredients in Sweet Potato Casserole

  • Sweet potatoes. This is the main ingredient. You’ll start with three pounds of fresh sweet potatoes, which is about six medium or three to four large potatoes.
  • Unsalted butter. You’ll use butter for both the potatoes and the streusel topping. Cutting the butter into 1/2-inch cubes, and letting it sit at room temperature while you boil the potatoes, makes it easier to mix in the butter once the potatoes are mashed.
  • Eggs. A couple of lightly beaten eggs give the casserole a fluffy texture.
  • Half-and-half. This gives the casserole a fuller and richer flavor than using milk. If you don’t have half-and-half handy, use 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup whole milk as a substitute.
  • Pecans. No need to toast them first; they’ll pick up a nice toasty flavor when the casserole bakes in the oven.
  • Brown sugar. Take your pick between light or dark brown sugar; both work great. I personally prefer dark brown sugar for the deeper flavor and color.
  • All-purpose flour. This gives the streusel topping a little more substance and prevents it from sinking into the potatoes.
  • Ground cinnamon. Just a tiny amount gives the streusel topping a nice flair. If you happen to be out of cinnamon, try pumpkin pie spice, ground nutmeg, or ground cardamom.
  • Vanilla extract. The subtle undertone of vanilla is perhaps my favorite thing about the casserole filling. 
  • Kosher salt. You’ll add salt to the water when boiling the potatoes, which works to season them from the inside out, plus a little more for the casserole filling.

Why Add Eggs to Sweet Potato Casserole?

Yes, there are eggs (two. to be exact) in this sweet potato casserole recipe. It’s not an ingredient you’ll find in mashed sweet potatoes, but you do want to include them in this casserole. Mixing lightly beaten eggs into the mashed filling gives the potatoes a light and fluffy texture.

 Can You Make Sweet Potato Casserole Ahead?

File sweet potato casserole under Thanksgiving sides that can be made in advance. The casserole (both the sweet potato filling and streusel topping) can be prepped and assembled a day in advance. Once it’s cool completely, cover and refrigerate overnight. When you’re ready to cook, let the casserole sit at room temperature while the oven heats and bake according to the recipe instructions. 

Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

With a fluffy, just-sweet-enough filling and crackly streusel topping that'll remind you of candied nuts, this sweet potato casserole will become an instant classic on your Thanksgiving table.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 1 hour to 1 hour 5 minutes

Serves 10-12

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons

    (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided, plus more for the baking dish

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 1 cup

    half-and-half

  • 3 pounds

    sweet potatoes (about 6 medium or 4 large)

  • 1 tablespoon

    plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

  • 1 1/4 cups

    pecans

  • 1 1/4 cups

    packed light or dark brown sugar, divided

  • 1/3 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Cut 8 tablespoons of the unsalted butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Place 2 large eggs in a small bowl and lightly beat with a fork to break up. Place 1 cup half-and-half or whole milk on the counter. Let everything sit at room temperature until the butter is softened. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes.

  2. Peel 3 pounds sweet potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks, and place in a large saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon of the kosher salt and add enough cool water to cover by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven and prepare the topping.

  3. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with butter.

  4. Place the remaining 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave on HIGH until melted, 40 to 50 seconds. Coarsely chop 1 1/4 cups pecans. Add the pecans, 1/2 cup of the packed brown sugar, 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt to the butter. Stir to combine.

  5. When the potatoes are ready, drain and return to the pot. Let cool for 5 minutes.

  6. Use a potato masher to mash the sweet potatoes in the pot until mostly smooth. Add the reserved butter, eggs, milk or half-and-half, remaining 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir to combine. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle the topping in an even layer over the potatoes.

  7. Bake until set and the top is lightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Substitution: As an alternative to 1 cup half-and-half, you can substitute 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup whole milk.

Make ahead: The casserole can be assembled one day in advance. Cool completely, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Let sit at room temperature while the oven heats.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.