Recipe Review

This Southern Sweet Potato Casserole Lives Up to Its Amazing Reputation

published Nov 17, 2022
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Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen; Headshot: Courtesy of Scott Peacock

When I first read about the Southern roots of sweet potato casserole, I knew I wanted to see if the legendary Edna Lewis had a version and was delighted to discover that she did. Hers is a brown sugar and pecan topped recipe she wrote with Scott Peacock for their bookThe Gift of Southern Cooking. Their book combines Lewis’s Virginia roots with Peacock’s Alabama tradition. 

At first, I found an adaptation of the recipe on Food52. But after some digging, I found the original recipe, with notably less sugar, on the publisher’s website. Because of its Southern pedigree, I had high hopes for this recipe.

Get the recipe: Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s Sweet Potato Casserole

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen; Headshot: Courtesy of Scott Peacock

How to Make Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s Sweet Potato Casserole

Roast whole, small sweet potatoes in a 350°F oven on a baking sheet until tender, about one to one-and-a-half hours. While they’re roasting, make a streusel by cutting cold butter into flour, brown sugar, and pecans. Set aside in the refrigerator while you finish the sweet potatoes.

Once the sweet potatoes are tender, peel and whip them in a stand mixer with a stick of butter, honey, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Finally, add in a splash of vanilla extract, three eggs, and three cups of milk. Pour the mix into a buttered casserole dish, sprinkle with the streusel, and bake at 375°F for 30 to 45 minutes until bubbly and crusty on top. 

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

My Honest Review of Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s Sweet Potato Casserole

I had no problems with the recipe as written, and it was the only recipe I tested that didn’t need any modifications. As a recipe developer and tester, I really appreciate it when recipes just work as written — especially when it’s for a high-stakes meal like Thanksgiving.

With over a cup of combined sweeteners, I was a little nervous that the recipe was going to be overly sweet. Like Southern sweet tea, I assumed it might be something you just had to grow up with. But I am very much relieved to say I was wrong. This dish is delicious. 

The three different sugars used — honey, brown sugar, and granulated sugar — provide a varied flavor profile rather than just straight sweetness. With the added milk and eggs, the sweet potato mixture is surprisingly light, which would be a nice contrast to so many other dishes on the holiday table. The crunch and generous amount of pecans in the streusel is also really lovely.

If you served this recipe as a dessert any other day of the year, I don’t think anyone would bat an eye, but it works as a side dish to complement other savory dishes, too. The only downside here is some of the sweet potato flavor is lost in all of the dairy. But one of my testers gladly took the leftover pan of this casserole home with her, which speaks for itself.

If You’re Making Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s Sweet Potato Casserole, a Few Tips

  1. Make sure you’re following the original recipe. Google will point you to Food52, but that is an adaptation and not what was tested for this recipe showdown. 
  2. Use a deeper casserole dish. The recipe calls for a 9x13x2-inch pan. While it fit, it filled the dish to the very top. I baked it on a sheet pan to catch any overflow. Fortunately, there weren’t a ton of drips, but if you have a deeper casserole dish I would recommend using it here.

Overall rating: 9/10