Savory Sweet Potato Casserole

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This savory sweet potato casserole recipe is made with a creamy garlicky mashed filling, and sprinkled with the most irresistible maple rosemary walnut topping.  It’s also naturally gluten-free and can be made vegan, if you’d like.

Savory Sweet Potato Casserole

Move over, marshmallows.

Since sweet potatoes are already naturally plenty sweet on their own, I decided go the savory route with my sweet potato casserole recipe this Thanksgiving.  You know, in hopes of actually making this holiday fave taste more like a healthy side dish, versus a marshmallow-laden sugar-bomb of a dessert.

So, inspired by the seasoning in my favorite sweet potato fries, I decided to skip the usual cinnamon and sugar in the sweet potato filling, and added in lots of savory fresh garlic, smoky paprika, and creamy butter instead.  In place of the usual gooey marshmallow topping, I opted for a sweet-and-savory crunchy layer of rosemary maple walnuts too.  (Which, for the record, have also become my new favorite snack to toast up on their own — irresistible!)  Finally, once the sweet potato casserole came out of the oven, I finished it off with a sprinkle of fresh chives and a few generous twists of freshly-cracked black pepper.

And now I can’t stop asking — where has a savory sweet potato casserole been all my life?! ♡

Seriously.  At least in my humble opinion, the more savory version of this dish is far more interesting and well-balanced and enjoyable than the old marshmallow version.  It’s also wonderfully free of processed ingredients and naturally gluten-free (plus it can also be made vegan) to boot.  And while it would of course be a refreshing modern addition to any Thanksgiving meal, this savory sweet potato casserole recipe is simple and versatile enough to be enjoyed as a healthy side dish any night of the year.  It’s just so good.

So if you also happen to be in the mood for a new spin on the classic this year, ditch those processed marshmallows and give this healthier savory sweet potato casserole a try.  I really think you’re going to love it!

Sweet Potato

Savory Sweet Potato Casserole Ingredients:

Alright, let’s start with our shopping list!  To make this savory sweet potato casserole recipe, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Sweet potatoes: I just boiled these, similar to how I make mashed potatoes.  But you are also welcome to bake and then hollow out your sweet potatoes instead.
  • Milk and butter: I used regular cow’s milk (whole milk) and butter to make the mashed sweet potato filling.  But feel free to use plain dairy-free milk (such as almond milk, oat milk, coconut milk, etc.) and vegan butter if you would like to make this a vegan sweet potato casserole.
  • Garlic: Lots of fresh minced garlic, which we will boil along with the sweet potatoes.
  • Smoked paprika, sea salt and black pepper: Our three seasonings for the mashed sweet potato filling.
  • Maple rosemary walnut topping: Made simply by stirring together chopped walnuts (or pecans), pure maple syrup, finely-chopped fresh rosemary (or sage), olive oil, sea salt and a pinch of cayenne.
  • Optional toppings: I topped my savory sweet potato casserole with chopped fresh chives and freshly-cracked black pepper.  But thinly-sliced green onions, microgreens, or other fresh herbs would also be delicious.

Maple Rosemary Walnut Topping for Sweet Potato Casserole

How To Make Sweet Potato Casserole:

To make this sweet potato casserole recipe, simply…

  1. Boil the sweet potatoes.  Cut the sweet potatoes into evenly-sized chunks (about 1 inch thick) and boil them in a large stockpot until tender.
  2. Prepare the melted butter mixture.  Meanwhile, as the sweet potatoes are boiling, heat the butter, milk, smoked paprika, and sea salt together in a small saucepan or in the microwave until the butter is just melted.  (You want to avoid boiling the milk.)
  3. Mash the potatoes.  Drain and briefly pan-dry the sweet potatoes, to remove any excess moisture.  Then, using your preferred kind of potato masher (I recommend this one in general, or this one for extra-smooth), mash the sweet potatoes to your desired consistency.  Pour the melted butter mixture over the potatoes, and fold it in with a wooden spoon or spatula until potatoes have soaked up the liquid.  Taste and season with extra salt, pepper, and/or smoked paprika as needed, to taste.
  4. Prepare the walnut topping.  In a separate small bowl, stir together the maple rosemary walnut topping ingredients until evenly combined.
  5. Assemble and bake.  Spread the mashed sweet potatoes out in an even layer in a 9×13-inch baking dish, and top evenly with the walnut topping.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the walnuts are toasted and fragrant (but not burnt).
  6. Serve warm.  Then serve warm, garnished with fresh chives, extra black pepper, or any extra toppings that sound good!

Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe (Gluten-Free and Vegan)

Possible Variations:

There are so many ways that you can customize this savory sweet potato casserole recipe.  For example, feel free to:

  • Make it vegan.  Just use plant-based milk (such as plain almond milk, oat milk or coconut milk) and vegan butter.
  • Use different herbs.  If rosemary isn’t your thing, this topping would also be delicious with chopped fresh sage.
  • Use different seasonings.  In place of smoked paprika, feel free to add dried ranch seasoning, Cajun seasoning or Italian seasoning instead.

Easy Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

More Thanksgiving Recipes:

Looking for more delicious Thanksgiving recipes that won’t let you down?  Here is my full collection, plus a few more of my classic faves here below…

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Savory Sweet Potato Casserole

Savory Sweet Potato Casserole

  • Prep Time: 25 mins
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 mins
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x

Description

This savory sweet potato casserole recipe is made with a creamy garlicky mashed filling, and sprinkled with the most irresistible maple rosemary walnut topping.  See notes above for possible ingredient variations.


Scale

Ingredients

Savory Sweet Potato Filling Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into evenly-sized chunks, an inch or so thick
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • fine sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • chopped fresh chives or green onions, for garnish

Maple Rosemary Walnut Topping:

  • 1 heaping cup chopped raw walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of cayenne (optional)

Instructions

  1. Boil the sweet potatoes.  Place the sweet potatoes in a large stockpot.  Fill the pot with cold water, enough that the water line sits about 1 inch above the potatoes.  Stir the garlic and 1 tablespoon sea salt into the water.  Turn the heat to high and cook until the water comes to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-high (or whatever temperature is needed to maintain the boil) and continue cooking the potatoes for about 10-12 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle of a potato goes in easily with almost no resistance.  Carefully drain out all of the water.
  2. Prepare the melted butter mixture.  Meanwhile, as the sweet potatoes are boiling, heat the butter, milk, smoked paprika, and an additional 1.5 teaspoons of sea salt together either in a small saucepan or in the microwave until the butter is just melted and warm.  (You want to avoid boiling the milk.)  Set aside until ready to use.
  3. Pan-dry the potatoes.  After draining the water, immediately return the sweet potatoes to the hot stockpot, place it back on the hot burner, and turn the heat down to low.  Using two oven mitts, carefully hold the handles on the stockpot and shake it gently on the burner for about 1 minute to help cook off some of the remaining steam within the potatoes.  Remove the stockpot entirely from the heat and set it on a flat, heatproof surface.
  4. Mash the potatoes.  Using your preferred kind of potato masher (I recommend this one in general, or this one for extra-smooth), mash the sweet potatoes to your desired consistency.  Pour the melted butter mixture over the potatoes, and fold it in with a wooden spoon or spatula until potatoes have soaked up the liquid.  Give the mixture a taste, and season with extra salt, pepper, and/or smoked paprika as needed, to taste.  Set aside.
  5. Prepare the walnut topping.  In a separate small bowl, stir together the maple rosemary walnut topping ingredients until evenly combined.
  6. Assemble and bake.  Heat oven to 350°F and grease a 9×13-inch pan with baking spray.  Spread the mashed sweet potatoes in an even layer in the pan, and sprinkle evenly with the walnut topping.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until the walnuts are toasted and fragrant (but not burnt) and the potatoes are warmed through.  Transfer baking pan to a wire rack.
  7. Serve warm.  Then serve warm, garnished with fresh chives, extra black pepper, or any extra toppings that sound good!


Notes

Source: Recipe adapted from my more traditional Sweet Potato Casserole recipe.

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11 comments on “Savory Sweet Potato Casserole”

  1. love sweet potatoes, this is wonderful, thank you, yes prefer a savory version over a sweet, sweet marshmellow one!

  2. Yams are super good and super simple just baked with butter, salt, and Parmesan cheese on top!

  3. THIS just got added to my menu!

  4. Ali, I feel that you could save steps and have a better flavor if you baked the potatoes.

  5. Has anyone tried the casserole using pecans instead of walnuts? I am allergic to walnuts.

  6. I am so excited to try this! I love sweet potato casserole but could never understand why so much sugar was added to it. This seems like a great alternative to the traditional.

  7. Can you make this ahead of time and bake it the following day? Trying to cut back on doing so much on Thanksgiving Day….

  8. I love sweet potatoes but always hate traditional sweet potato casserole. This is different! We roasted the potatoes instead of boiling them but otherwise followed the recipe exactly, and it was delicious. My husband loved it, our guests loved it, and I loved it. I threw it in the oven after the turkey came out, and it was perfect.

  9. Delicious! Tried these the first time for Thanksgiving dinner and everyone loved them. I’ve never been a fan of marshmallows on sweet potatos. These will be on the menu for Christmas too!

  10. This was a hit at a Thanksgiving! Definitely not going back to the sweet version