This classic sweet potato casserole has a smooth, creamy, rich filling and a crunchy, sweet, nutty streusel topping to make a great contrast. This side dish is perfect for the holidays and can be prepped ahead.
Today, we’re talking classic Thanksgiving sides and making this amazing sweet potato casserole.
It’s a favorite at the holidays, and it’s actually great for any big meal with family or friends.
Previously I’ve shared this bourbon sweet potato casserole with buttery pecans. It’s made with a little less butter and sugar, and a good dash of booze, for a less sweet take on the classic. And you guys love it!
But today, we’re going with the real deal and more traditional kind.
This sweet potato casserole has a smooth, creamy, rich, sweet filling and a crunchy, sweet streusel topping to go with it.
And by topping, I mean a buttery chopped nuts streusel topping.
We’re still not doing marshmallows because while that may be a popular version on many tables, it’s not actually traditional in most cookbooks and family settings.
(I'm not knocking it, so you go ahead and add those little marshmallows if that’s the way you love it!)
But this version here, it’s got your creamy mashed sweet potato base and a nutty topping that just perfectly contrasts it.
It’s hard to resist that combo and that buttery, sweet richness of this dish. You’ll be making room on your plate for seconds for sure!
And if you need some other ideas for holiday sides, my classic Thanksgiving dressing is a favorite and the table wouldn’t be complete without classic green bean casserole and easy cranberry sauce! All must haves in my family.
Oh and this is the BEST turkey gravy and so easy to make. You’re gonna want to drink it with a spoon!
But back to today's recipe. Let’s get cooking!
Now, I’ve got some notes, tips and substitutions coming up below on how to make sweet potato casserole. Just tryin’ to be helpful.
If you want to jump on down to the recipe, simply scroll through the rest of the text. The recipe card is near the bottom of the page, above the comments section.
- Sweet potatoes: These need to be already COOKED and mashed for this recipe. I have details below on how to bake them to get them prepped, but just be sure you account for that in your timing and planning.
- Brown sugar: Light brown sugar is what I use, but dark brown sugar would be fine here as well. You can reduce it to ⅓ cup if you want to lower the sweetness a bit.
- Milk: Feel free to use whole or 2% milk or to substitute half and half or heavy cream. The richer the milk you use, the more richness you’ll have in the casserole.
- Nuts: Pecans and walnuts (or a mix of the two) work great to use as the nuts in the topping for the casserole. You can definitely buy the chopped kind, which are cheaper than buying the whole nuts or nut halves, since we need them chopped for this recipe anyway.
- Flour: Feel free to use a gluten-free flour mix if needed to make this recipe gluten-free.
Also, if you want, you can add ½ cup shredded coconut to the topping mix if you’d like.
That’s included in a lot of the traditional recipes I see in older cookbooks. I just personally don’t want that flavor add in my casserole.
OK, now, just to make it clear once again, the sweet potatoes need to be already cooked and ready to use for this recipe.
Meaning, the hour or so you need to bake them isn’t included in the time in the recipe card. I don’t want that to be a nasty surprise at the last minute.
Here’s my favorite way to get them prepped.
How to bake sweet potatoes:
- Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (or parchment paper) and set aside.
- Scrub the sweet potatoes then pat dry. Pierce each one with a fork or a knife several times.
- Place the sweet potatoes directly on the oven rack. Place the foil-lined baking sheet on the rack below the potatoes to catch any drips. (Note: You might get some drips on your rack. If you want to avoid that, you can just put the potatoes on the foil-lined baking sheet instead. It works just fine.)
- Bake at 400 for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until very tender. (If your potatoes are huge, it may take longer.)
For mashed sweet potatoes, let the potatoes cool slightly, until you are able to handle them, then remove the peels. (They should be loose from the flesh and peel right off.) Add the pulp to a bowl and mash well with a fork, adding any desired add-ins (such as butter and seasonings).
So that’s what you need to do to get your sweet potatoes prepped for this recipe - bake 'em and mash 'em. That can be done a day or two in advance as well, if you need to save time and oven space at the holidays.
Oh, and I do really recommend baking them. That long cook time helps to really develop the sweetness in the potatoes; they almost caramelize.
Making them in the microwave is faster, but you won’t get that same depth of flavor.
Speaking of making ahead, you can also prep this entire casserole ahead of time, minus the topping.
I know my mom and I like to knock out a big chunk of the prep work the day before Thanksgiving.
Then we’re just doing finishing touches and baking things off on the day of Thanksgiving.
Here’s how you can get ahead.
Make ahead tips for sweet potato casserole:
- Bake your sweet potatoes in advance then peel and mash well.
- Make the sweet potato filling in advance. Combine the mashed sweet potatoes with the remaining ingredients until smooth and combined.
- Add to your casserole dish then cover and refrigerate for up to 1-2 days.
- When ready to bake, remove the casserole dish from the refrigerator. Make the pecan streusel topping, add to the casserole and bake as directed, adding 5-10 minutes to the bake time.
That makes this really easy to finish off on a big holiday day - or if you just are serving company and have other dishes that will need your attention.
Last thing, what to do with leftovers of this sweet potato casserole.
Now, of course, it’s best served when it’s warm from the oven and the topping is crunchy.
However, you can keep leftovers, once cooled, in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
Reheat in individual servings in the microwave to warm it through quickly.
The crunchy pecan topping will soften a little and lose some crunch, but it’s still delicious.
So there you have it. Another classic side dish for your table.
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with lots of family, friends, love and laughter. And plenty of delicious food to go around.
- 4 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (from about 3 lbs)
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- ½ cup milk (whole, 2%, half and half or heavy cream)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
For the topping:
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup butter, melted
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup chopped nuts
- Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 2-quart casserole dish and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the mashed sweet potatoes, brown sugar, milk, butter, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Mix well until the mixture is very smooth.
- Place the sweet potato mixture into the casserole dish.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, melted butter, brown sugar and nuts. Stir until everything is well coated and combined. Sprinkle the mixture on top of the sweet potatoes in the casserole dish.
- Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Serve hot and enjoy!
Sweet potatoes: These need to be already COOKED and mashed for this recipe. I have details in the written post above on how to bake them to get them prepped, but just be sure you account for that in your timing and planning.
Brown sugar: Light brown sugar is what I use, but dark brown sugar would be fine here as well. You can reduce it to ⅓ cup if you want to lower the sweetness a bit.
Milk: Feel free to use whole or 2% milk or to substitute half and half or heavy cream. The richer the milk you use, the more richness you’ll have in the casserole.
Nuts: Pecans and walnuts (or a mix of the two) work great to use as the nuts in the topping for the casserole. You can definitely buy the chopped kind, which are cheaper than buying the whole nuts or nut halves, since we need them chopped for this recipe anyway.
Flour: Feel free to use a gluten-free flour mix if needed to make this recipe gluten-free.
Coconut: You can add ½ cup shredded coconut to the topping mix if you’d like.
Make-ahead tips: You can make the filling for the casserole (the mashed sweet potato mixture) ahead of time and put in your casserole dish, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1-2 days. Make the topping and add it to the casserole when ready to bake, adding 5-10 minutes to the bake time.
Leftovers: Leftover sweet potato casserole, once cooled, will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Reheat in individual servings in the microwave to warm it through quickly.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 466Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 84mgSodium: 239mgCarbohydrates: 56gFiber: 3gSugar: 41gProtein: 6g