I have a confession to make. I’ve never had sweet potatoes with the marshmallow topping. Never ever. Crazy, isn’t it? Sure, my family had sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but they never had the marshmallow topping that would have made them more appealing to me. I remember just about gagging on them when I ate them because they were just too smushy. That’s a word, right? Anyway, I never had fond memories of sweet potatoes because of this, and I have to imagine a lot of people feel the same. They are rock stars in my book now, and I love them every which way. This Sweet Potato Casserole dish has been adapted from a friend of my cousin’s recipe, which I experienced on Thanksgiving about 10 years ago. It was a recipe I had to have. It was extremely sweet and very rich, so I revised the recipe on a grand scale, removing a large amount of butter and sugar. It’s still over the top delectable. This dish tastes like sweet potato custard topped with a buttery, brown sugar, toasted pecan topping. It is unbelievably good. I’ve made them every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas as everyone asks for them.
I always buy a 3 lb. bag of organic sweet potatoes for this recipe. You can use more or less, depending on how many people you’ll be serving. Regardless, you will always need the same amount of the topping to cover those gorgeous sweet potatoes. Simply prick the potatoes all over with a fork, and place on a foil lined, rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 – 60 minutes or until they are very soft. As you can see from this picture, when the potatoes are done, they begin to caramelize and, well, ooze juicy goodness.
From here, let them cool on the baking sheet until cool enough to handle. Cut them in half, and scoop the flesh out into a bowl. You should have somewhere in the vicinity of 4 cups. Discard the skins.
Next, beat the potatoes with the butter, eggs, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt until as smooth as possible. Believe me, it’s hard to get them super smooth, and I always vow to buy a potato ricer or food mill which would solve this problem, but in the end, it really doesn’t matter.
Now for the best part. The crowning glory….the pecan topping. This is what makes this dish extra special in my opinion. The topping is crunchy, sweet, and buttery, which compliments the sweet potatoes so well that you won’t miss the marshmallows. I promise.
At this point, you can either pop the casserole in a 350 degree oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or you can cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until you’re ready to bake it. That’s the best part — you can make this up to a couple of days ahead. If you choose to do this, you will just need remove the casserole from the refrigerator around two hours before you bake it so it gets close to room temperature. It will bake much more evenly and quickly this way than if it was placed in the oven ice cold. Bake 30-40 minutes, or until bubbly and browned on top.
- 3 lbs. cooked sweet potatoes, cold (about 4 cups)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup pecan pieces
- ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼" pieces
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Pierce sweet potatoes all over with a fork and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes, or until the potatoes are extremely soft. Remove from the oven and cool.
- When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl. Discard the skins. Cool the potatoes in the refrigerator if they're still warm.
- Spray a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Beat the potatoes, butter, eggs, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt until smooth (or as smooth as possible). Pour into prepared baking dish.
- For the topping: Combine pecans, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and pinch of salt in a small bowl. Cut the cold butter in with a pastry blender, fork, or your fingers, whichever your preferred method. Sprinkle over the top of the sweet potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until bubbly and browned. Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, then serve.