A lightened-up Sweet Potato Crunch topped with a ginger-glazed pecan topping. A Thanksgiving side dish that is so easy to make and delicious that you’ll see it doesn’t need to be reserved for the holiday dinner only. You’ll want to make this all winter long!
Sweet Potato Crunch or sweet potato casseroles aren’t really a thing here in Canada. But I know it is a huge deal whenever I think about American Thanksgiving. When I think of American Thanksgiving I think of two things… Football and Sweet Potato Casserole.
Scratch that … and deep-frying a turkey. Another not commonly Canadian thing to do.
When I picture sweet potato casserole I always imagine heaps of toasted marshmallows. And while that may look amazing, and for some be delicious, I think that would be just a little too sweet for me.
So I did some research on the topic because a reader challenged me with making a healthier version of this Thanksgiving side dish and found that there is another less known tradition and that is putting pecans on top.
Mmmm pecans! Sweet on their own like sweet potatoes so no need to add loads of sugar.
What makes this Sweet Potato Casserole Great?
- Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet and so are pecans so there is no need to add a tonne of additional sugar.
- This recipe uses maple syrup which is a natural sugar with minimal processing.
- The pecans add a great crunch for added texture and contrast.
- This recipe makes enough to serve for a family and guests at Thanksgiving dinner.
- You can freeze the leftovers for a quick weeknight side dish.
- No flour is used in this sweet potato casserole so this recipe is great for a gluten-free lifestyle.
- Non-dairy milk has been used to allow those with a dairy-free lifestyle to enjoy it as well.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Sweet potatoes – whole to roast. Or if you have leftover sweet potatoes this is a great way to repurpose them.
- Unsweetened almond milk – or you can use unsweetened vanilla and just cut out the vanilla to be added to the sweet potatoes. If you don’t have almond milk any milk will work just the same.
- Egg – adds a little structure to the casserole recipe.
- Vegan butter – or regular butter can be used to add flavour and moisture.
- Maple syrup – a natural sweetener with rich flavour. Honey or light brown sugar are also great substitutes.
- Salt – a flavour enhancer.
- Vanilla extract – Goes great with most baked goods and sweets so it only makes sense to add a little to this casserole recipe as well. If you use vanilla-flavoured milk though you can leave this out of the sweet potato mash.
- Pecans – sweet on their own they are a great combo for this dish and add a great crunch for texture. Walnuts which are less sweet will also work well.
- Cinnamon and Ginger – The perfect spices to complement this fall and holiday dish.
How to make Gluten-Free sweet potato casserole
Preheat your oven to 400º F. Puncture sweet potatoes all over with a fork and bake for 50 minutes to an hour on a foil-lined baking sheet.
Bake them just until you can easily insert a fork into them. Scoop out soft insides into a medium bowl and discard the skins.
Add the egg, almond milk, vanilla, melted butter and maple syrup to the bowl. Mix well until combined.
Give them a good old mash. If you like them super creamy you can also place them in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
Spread the sweet potato mixture out evenly along the bottom of a 3-quart casserole dish.
In a small bowl add the pecan halves, maple syrup, melted butter, cinnamon, salt and ginger. Mix it all well so the pecans are evenly coated.
Use a spoon to evenly spread out the pecans over the top of the sweet potato mixture.
Cover with tin foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake for another 15 minutes. This lightly toasts the pecans up giving them a delicious flavour.
If you notice that the pecans are becoming too brown during the last 15 minutes of baking, simply place the foil back over the top of the dish.
Can I substitute the maple syrup in this recipe?https://thedeliciousspoon.com/easy-no-fuss-oven-roasted-turkey-recipe/
Yes! Brown sugar or honey will work just as well. If using brown sugar make sure to combine the wet ingredients first before adding them to the sweet potato mixture.
Mixing the wet ingredients first with the brown sugar will give the brown sugar a chance to melt to prevent the mashed sweet potatoes from feeling gritty.
can you make this easy sweet potato casserole in advance?
You can certainly make the sweet potato part ahead of time by roasting the potatoes and making the mash. The pecan topping though is best left till the end otherwise the pecans will soften and lose their crunch.
Make the mash then tightly seal with a lid o plastic wrap and place in the fridge for up to 3 days ahead of time. About an hour before dinner preheat the oven and while the oven is preheating make the pecan topping which only takes a few minutes.
Then top the sweet potato mash with the glazed pecan mixture and roast in the oven for half an hour. Serve this dish warm.
how can I make this sweet potato casserole vegan?
It is as easy as omitting the egg and swapping out the butter for coconut oil or vegan butter.
Storing and Freezing
Got leftovers? Perfect!
Cover the dish up with plastic wrap or a tight-fitting lid and store it in the fridge for 3 more days to eat as a side dish.
To store in the freezer cover the casserole with tin foil and then wrap tightly with a layer or two of plastic wrap. The casserole will be good in the freezer for up to two months.
When ready to bake defrost in the fridge overnight and then bake according to directions. The pecans will not get soggy unthawing overnight and will crisp up in the oven.
You can actually make the entire Sweet Potato Casserole pecan topping and all and freeze it. Why? Because nuts when frozen don’t lose their crunch, in fact, this is the best way to store nuts.
I always keep my pecans and pistachios in the freezer because they are expensive and I don’t eat them often.
There is less humidity in the freezer than in a fridge. Nuts stored in the fridge will absorb the moisture and lose their crunch.
Even though mashed potatoes and gravy are the Canadian staples at Thanksgiving I am adding this gluten and dairy-free sweet potato casserole to my holiday dinner in the future.
I mean it is Thanksgiving after all which is all about eating till you are stuffed like a turkey so bring on all the potatoes!
More Thanksgiving dinner side dishes to try
- The Ultimate Baked Acorn Squash
- Gluten-free Corn Bread Stuffing
- Jello Fruit Salad
- Cranberry & Apple Brussel Sprout Salad
- Roasted Kale & Nappa Cabbage
- Parsnip Pureé
- Tuscan Kale & Fennel Bread Dressing
- Pan-Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon & Leeks
Simple Sweet Potato Crunch
- 3-quart oven-safe casserole dish
- Baking Sheet
- Tin Foil
- Large Bowl
- Medium bowl
- Measuring Cups
- Measuring Spoons
- 5 lbs sweet potatoes 5-6 large
- 2/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup unsalted vegan butter melted
- 2 tbsp Maple Syrup
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/1/4 cup pecan halves
- 2 tbsp unsalted vegan butter melted
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1 pinch sea salt
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Pierce the potatoes all over with a fork and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a fork can be inserted to the centre easily. Remove from the oven.
- Lower oven temperature to 375°F. Let the potatoes cool for about 15 minutes. Then cut them in half and using a spoon scoop out the cooked sweet potato into a large bowl.
- To the large bowl with the sweet potatoes add the almond milk, maple syrup, eggs, vanilla, sea salt and melted butter. Mash and mix well until sweet potato filling become smooth.
- Place the sweet potato mash into the 3-quart casserole dish and smooth evenly across the bottom of the dish. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl add pecans, maple syrup, melted butter, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Mix well till all the pecans are well coated.
- Spoon the pecan mixture evenly over the sweet potato mash gently smoothing out the pecan layer. Cover casserole dish with tin foil and bake at 375°F for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.
For the step-by-step version of this recipe, check out the How To Make Simple Sweet Potato Crunch Story.