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Sweet Potato Casserole

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Healthier Sweet Potato Casserole -- naturally sweetened with a hint of maple syrup, and topped with cinnamon pecans |

What’s chocked full of gorgeous sweet potatoes, naturally-sweetened, made with lighter ingredients, sprinkled with a tasty crunchy pecan topping, and deliciously marshmallow-free?

THIS sweet potato casserole recipe, that’s what.

Oh my goodness, for the first few decades of my life, I didn’t even think I liked sweet potato casserole because of the killer-sweet marshmallow bombs that usually graced the buffet on Thanksgiving. I mean, I love a good toasted marshmallow on a s’more as much as the next girl. But it wasn’t until finally nixed the puffy white topping and tried making a naturally sweet potato casserole that this dish finally made sense to me.

And as it turns out, when made with a few healthier ingredients (including a few tweaks that make this recipe naturally vegan and gluten-free), I think it’s even more delicious than the original.

Who wants some?

Healthier Sweet Potato Casserole -- naturally sweetened with a hint of maple syrup, and topped with cinnamon pecans |

Really, the best news about sweet potato casserole is that you can customize the dish just about however you’d like. Just mash up your sweet potatoes with your desired ingredients — however sweet or savory you’d like — and then top them with whatever sounds good!

If it were up to me, I’d probably go with a 100% savory sweet potato casserole recipe, maybe just mashed with some seasoned salt and smoked paprika for flavor, and topped with some toasted pecans. But I’m guessing that most people are still craving the cinnamon-and-sugary classic dish, so don’t fear — I wrote this recipe for you! There’s still plenty of cinnamon, but the cup of sugar is swapped out for just a hint of delicious maple syrup, which complements the sweetness of the potatoes perfectly. Then when mashed with a few other healthier ingredients, and sprinkled with an easy maple-cinnamon pecan topping, I’m tellin’ you — no one is even going to miss those marshmallows. ;)

Healthier Sweet Potato Casserole -- naturally sweetened with a hint of maple syrup, and topped with cinnamon pecans |

Another bonus? This sweet potato casserole recipe is naturally vegetarian/vegan and gluten-free. So hopefully even more people at your Thanksgiving feast will be able to enjoy it with you.

So cheers to being able to actually taste and see the sweet potatoes in our sweet potato casseroles this year!!

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Sweet Potato Casserole

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 4 reviews
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 10 -12 servings 1x


This Sweet Potato Casserole recipe is easy to make, it’s naturally sweetened with a hint of maple syrup (no marshmallows!), it’s vegetarian and gluten-free, and it’s SO delicious!



Sweet Potato Casserole Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks
  • 1 cup milk, warmed (I used 2%, but any milk will work)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter (or coconut oil, to make this vegan)
  • 12 Tablespoons maple syrup, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • maple cinnamon pecan topping (see below)

Maple Cinnamon Pecan Topping:

  • 1 cup chopped raw pecans
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of cayenne (optional)


To Make The Sweet Potato Casserole:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Add sweet potato chunks to a large stockpot and cover with water.  Heat over high heat until the water reaches a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-high and continue boiling until the potatoes are fork-tender (can mash easily with a fork).  Drain, and then return potatoes to the stockpot.
  3. Add in the warmed milk, maple syrup, butter, cinnamon, salt and pepper.  Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes, and stir the mixture together until everything is well-combined and the potatoes reach your desired level of smoothness.
  4. Transfer the potato mixture into a baking dish, then top with the maple cinnamon pecan topping.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the pecans are toasted and fragrant.
  6. Serve warm.

To Make The Maple Cinnamon Pecan Topping:

  1. Stir all ingredients together until combined.

Healthier Sweet Potato Casserole -- naturally sweetened with a hint of maple syrup, and topped with cinnamon pecans |

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53 comments on “Sweet Potato Casserole”

  1. Honestly, I feel like this recipe satisfies my craving for pie without actually eating that 3000 calorie laden maple pecan pie. Who needs those marshmallows on top? If you want a marshmallow, go eat a box of Lucky Charms. This looks like the most coveted side dish at Thanksgiving. I’m bringing this to my Mother-in-laws house to show her what I’m all about. 

  2. I’m looking at Thanksgiving heaven here! No need for marshmallow when you can use  a little maple goodness on top, I mean come on, look at it! Looks amazing girl!

  3. I love that you added a hint of black pepper and cayenne — yum!! Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite sides, but this makes it a lot more doable for everyday (all the calories!!). Yum!!

  4. Totally with you on the sans-mallow train. Sweet potato casserole deserves to stand on its own. With the help of crunchy pecans, that is :)

  5. I like this healthier take without the marshmallows a lot!!  Looks yummy!

  6. Love how you made this a big lighter so I don’t need to feel guilty at Thanksgiving! It looks amazing!

  7. This is EXACTLY what I am looking for this year for Thanksgiving! My dad, MIL and I are the only ones that eat sweet potatoes and I wanted a lighter, naturally sweet (but not too sweet dish) that we can throw together fairly easily! Can’t wait to make this! 

  8. I can’t lie, I would definitely go the sweet route here! I’m not usually one to forgo marshmallows but with the maple syrup and sweetened pecans, you can’t go wrong here :) 

  9. Can you make this the day before and refrigerate and bake it the next day?  If yes, how long should I bake it?  Should I leave it out to come to room temperature before I bake it?

    • We think that would be just fine Liz, although we might suggest doing the topping right before baking, just so the nuts don’t get soggy. You can let it come to room temp before baking (for the same length of time listed in the recipe), or you could just bake it longer (might need 10 extra minutes or so, if you do it right out of the fridge). We hope this helps, and that you enjoy! :)

  10. Love this! I started making a similar casserole for my family for the holidays, and we never looked back at candied yams and marshmallows!

  11. Love the touch of black pepper in this casserole, Ali! I’m addicted to adding black pepper in lots of my sweet-savory treats. Also, Cinnamon Maple Pecans makes it perfect for holidays! thanks for sharing.

  12. This recipe is simply marvelous. I did allow myself to tweak it a little bit. I decided to roast the yams to see what will happen. Wrapped them in foil and roasted them whole. Then I proceeded with mashing and mixing the ingredients. The casserole turned out so flavorful it didn’t last long enough. One problem with this, though – roasting the yams only takes a bit longer than the whole recipe here, so, not really good for when you’re short on time.

    • That’s awesome Amber, we love that you roasted yams for this – so glad you enjoyed it! :)

  13. Yum! I agree, I didn’t like sweet potatoes because of the marshmallows on that sweet potato casserole. The candied pecans look like a delicious and healthier option.

  14. WOW! Do these ever look fantastic! 

  15. want to kick it up to full flavor- bake the sweet potato! Makes a world of difference

  16. This casserole sounds wonderful, though I’m suddenly realizing that a savory one would be really good.  Leave out the cinnamon and maple syrup and top with plain toasted pecans…  Either way it would be great.  I really appreciate how unsweet this one would be.  Definitely a keeper.

    • Thank you Susan, and a savory one definitely would be good – we’ve seen some with crispy sage and bacon crumbles with pecans. Yum!

  17. I am with you, no mallows on my sweet potaters! Love this recipe!

  18. Marshmallow free is totally the way to go with sweet-potato casseroles!

    Josh | The Kentucky Gent

  19. do you use sweet potatoes and some yams?  They are different….am making for Thanksgiving!!!

    • Hi Christine! We used sweet potatoes, but since they’re pretty similar, we’d say you could use either one, or a mix of the two – we hope you enjoy!

  20. Just made it Yummy!

  21. Could the sweet potatoes be cooked in advance in a slow cooker, then add the rest of the ingredients and bake the casserole in the oven for the last 20 minutes?

  22. Could this dish be made ahead and frozen, or if not frozen, can it be made ahead, refrigerated. brought to room temp. and then baked in the oven?  I really want this on my table for Thanksgiving, however we are traveling and I would need to make it early this week. Thanks for any advice.

    • Hi Tamara! You could make this ahead without the topping (just make sure it’s cooled before you refrigerate.) You can then bring it to room temp, put on the topping and then bake. We hope you enjoy, and that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! :)

  23. This is a perfect recipe for Thanksgiving! I got put in charge of sweet potatoes and this is what I’m planning to bring. Added bonus– Trader Joe’s sells pre-cut (and peeled!) sweet potatoes in 2 lb bags and the rest of the ingredients are things we have on hand. Easy peasy!

    • Thanks Laura, we hope you enjoy the recipe – and that’s awesome about Trader Joe’s (peeling and cutting potatoes can be such a tiresome task)! Have a great Thanksgiving! :)

  24. Cant wait to make this for thanks giving for my family

  25. I would rather bake the sweet potatoes, can you tell me how I could go about doing that for this recipe. 
    Thank you 

    • Hi Elisa — you can just put them on a baking sheet and pierce each one a few times with a fork. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes (or until tender). Then remove the skins and spoon out the flesh. We hope you enjoy!

  26. Hi – looking to bring this as pot luck for Christmas dinner!  What size dish would you bake this in? 

    • Hi Steph! We would suggest a 9×13-inch baking dish, or something comparable (something a little smaller would probably still work just fine). We hope you enjoy!

  27. I have only the sweet potatoes put together. Will put in fridge and add topping tomorrow. It is really yummy. Only used one TBSP of syrup

  28. Made this the first time for a Friendsgiving in Nashville. Rave reviews! No one complained about missing marshmallows, either. Making ahead today for family Christmas.

  29. Delicious! I made this for Thanksgiving per the recipe. At Christmas, I made it again, but went the savory route and instead of maple syrup and cinnamon, I added smoked paprika and your Cajun seasoning. I subbed walnuts for pecans due to a food sensitivity. It was great both ways, but I think I prefer the savory one.

  30. Made for Thanksgiving. All that like sweet potatoes loved it! Not too sweet, but still gave a different flavor to traditional cooked sweet potatoes. Thank you!

  31. Can you swap out the milk for coconut milk to make this non-dairy?

  32. Hello! I made this for Canadian Thanksgiving and it turned out so delicious :) even the kids loved it without all the sugar/marshmellows etc. I was wondering if it’d make a huge difference if I left out the butter/coconut oil? Thoughts?