This easy Sweet Potato Casserole is packed with comforting fall and Thanksgiving flavors. The potatoes are extra tender with concentrated sweetness because they're twice baked. No need for any additional syrup or sweeteners to take this casserole dish over the top.
The crowning glory of this Thanksgiving side is the pecan, bacon and panko topping, which replaces a more traditional streusel topping. The textures and tastes combine to perfection, making this dish a go to side for traditional Thanksgiving feasts.
Table of Contents
- Introduction To Sweet Potatoes
- Reintroduction To The Casserole Without Marshmallow Topping
- A Simple Casserole Recipe
- Delicious and Nutritious
- What's the difference between yams and sweet potatoes?
- Would you include sweet potato for a dinner party?
- What meat goes best with sweet potatoes?
- How to make mashed sweet potatoes tastier?
- Ingredients Required
- Directions For Making Twice Baked Sweet Potato Casserole
- How To Complete The Casserole Preparation If Refrigerated Overnight
- Recipe Card
Introduction To Sweet Potatoes
Time for a confession. I never tasted sweet potato as a child growing up in Ireland. It's only in recent years that this staple of the American diet became widely available in the Emerald Isle.
I first tasted this favorite American vegetable at a friend's home for Thanksgiving in New York over 25 years ago. Her family's Thanksgiving menu included a traditional sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. To truly take this dish to the next level of sugary overload, the potatoes were sweetened with maple syrup, and topped with sticky mini marshmallows. Everyone at the table was surprised to learn I had never before tasted such a concoction of textures and flavors.
My unsuspecting Irish palate was completely taken by surprise when I tasted the over-the-top sweetness of this American Thanksgiving dish.
I had never before tasted such sweetness in a dinner vegetable side, and the marshmallow topping on my dinner plate was just too much sweetness for my Irish taste buds.
And so, after my initial introduction to sweet potato casserole, I decided I did not like the stuff at all, at all.
Reintroduction To The Casserole Without Marshmallow Topping
And so, for many years I refused to try out this staple of the Thanksgiving table. I declined to eat any orange potatoes for nearly a decade.
Then one year we had a Thanksgiving potluck lunch at work. A colleague had cooked a pecan topped sweet tater casserole and she finally convinced me to give it a try.
Reluctantly, I took a bite. Much to my surprise the sweetness was veggie perfect. No onslaught of sticky marshmallow sugariness - just a hint of nutty perfection, mixed with salty bacon.
I was converted and ever since I've been cooking this not too sweet, twice baked sweet tater casserole to accompany my turkey dinners. It's simply delicious as far as I'm concerned.
And so today, I thought I would share my recipe for this traditional American side dish.
A Simple Casserole Recipe
I like simple, easy recipes, especially when cooking for a large gathering. This dish can be semi-prepared in advance and only popped into the oven for a second baking and reheating on the day of the big celebration.
By not over sweetening the mashed potato mixture, the flavors of the potatoes, bacon and pecans combine, so that a perfectly sweet and savory combo really does shine through.
If you like dessert-like casserole on your dinner plate, then this may not be the recipe for you. Avoid this recipe if you love marshmallows with your turkey. If like me, you like to pair savory with savory and cannot deal with highly sweetened marshmallows for dinner, then this may become your go to sweet potato recipe.
Delicious and Nutritious
Did you know the sweet potato is a nutritional powerhouse and a wonderful vegetable to add to your diet all year round?
It's an excellent source of beta-carotene, like most of the highly colored orange vegetables. It also boasts a good supply of Vitamin C and potassium, not to mention they're full of fiber. If you're Irish you'll probably have been told fiber is "good for the constitution." Now that's your own personal "constitution" or well-being, not the most important legal document of the United States.
What's the difference between yams and sweet potatoes?
Another question I asked my American friends years ago, was the difference between yams and sweet potatoes. Over the years I've heard many different answers to this question.
Once I was told that yams are bought in cans, and sweet potatoes and bought fresh and whole.
Another person told me that long, red skinned sweet potatoes are yams, and that the potatoes can be white or even purple.
One more explanation was that yams are a little coarser and can be a little stringier than sweet potatoes.
None of these answers seemed correct to me, so recently I did a little research. It turns out that what most Americans call yams, and purchase in cans, are actually not yams at all.
In fact, most Americans have never actually tasted a true yam, and what they lovingly call yams, are just another variety of sweet potato.
Both the orange potatoes we love, and yams are considered tuberous roots, and both are sweet and delicious.
An orange-fleshed sweet potato variety was introduced to the United States several decades ago. At that time people were more accustomed to a whiter fleshed potato and to distinguish between the two varieties producers shortened the African word “nyami” and labeled the new sweet potatoes as “yams.”
Real yams are starchy roots mainly grown in Africa and the Caribbean. They're skin is rough and scaly and their texture is different to the softer sweet potato. They must be cooked well because they contain toxins. No such worry with a sweet tater.
Would you include sweet potato for a dinner party?
I would make this casserole for a dinner party. Firstly because it can be partially prepared well in advance, making final cooking and presentation easier. I embrace make ahead dishes when entertaining.
Pecans take this dish to a whole new level of impressive elegance, adding to its appeal at dinner gatherings. It also pairs well with meats, other than turkey.
What meat goes best with sweet potatoes?
Well, I think we all agree that turkey is a great partner for this nutritious root vegetable. This pecan topped sweet potato casserole recipe is a good turkey side dish for about 8 to 10 people
But don't limit this dish to the holiday season only. It's a great accompaniment for meats such as pork, and ham, and I like to serve it with duck and other chicken or poultry dishes.
How to make mashed sweet potatoes tastier?
Many people add syrup or honey to their sweet tater casseroles to highlight the sweet flavors of this vegetable.
However, I believe the potato is chock full of it's own natural sweetness, so I avoid any additional sweeteners. The key to this casserole is pre-baking the potatoes before mashing them. The initial baking concentrates their delicious taste and sweetness.
I use butter and sour cream to moisten the mixture for this casserole. If by chance, you loosen the potato mixture too much, you can thicken it with a little corn starch slurry.
And so, without further ado, let's get to making my favorite sweet potato casserole recipe with bacon and pecan topping.
- sweet potatoes, scrubbed and pierced
- bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
- panko breadcrumbs
- butter, melted
- sour cream
- butter, softened
- chopped pecans, for topping
You'll notice I don't add any additional brown sugar nor even a teaspoon vanilla extract to the potato mixture. I find sweet potatoes are plenty sweet without additional sugar and flavoring.
No additional spices were added to the sweet potatoes, but if you like the warm hints of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, then feel free to add a teaspoon or so to the mashed sweet potatoes.
I also don't use eggs to bind this mixture together, but instead use sour cream for a little tangy flavor.
Directions For Making Twice Baked Sweet Potato Casserole
Here you'll find step-by-step photographic instructions for this favorite fall recipe.
Cook the Sweet Potatoes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wash the sweet potatoes and dry them completely. Pierc them a few times with a fork. Place them on a baking sheet and transfer them to the pre-heated oven.
Bake the sweet potatoes for 1 ½ hours or until they're tender when squeezed.
Cool the sweet potatoes enough to peel them without burning your fingers. Place the sweet potato pulp in a large bowl.
Use a hand mixer to make a smooth sweet potato mixture.
If you prefer more texture, then skip using the hand mixer. A potato masher permits you to leave a little bit of texture.
If you prefer a completely silky smooth texture, you can certainly use a hand mixer to make them light fluffy. Another option is to pass them through a potato ricer.
Prepare a 9x13 casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
Combine the bacon (reserving 2 tablespoons for the topping), together with the sour cream, butter, salt, and pepper until well blended.
If you wish you can tip the mashed sweet potatoes into the greased casserole dish and smooth out the top. However, I like to go an extra step to make the final dish look extra special.
Uniformly lined mounds of the mash create a more spectacular presentation.
Use a large ice cream scoop to create equally sized measures of the mixture. Place each mound of the potato mixture in the prepared baking dish, forming tight and even rows.
Now if you like to semi-prepare your Thanksgiving dishes the evening before the big event, then you can stop here, until you're ready to heat and serve this dish.
Cover the casserole with plastic wrap or foil and keep it overnight in the refrigerator.
Add the toppings once you're putting the final touches on your Thanksgiving meal.
Pecan Crumble or Pecan Streusel Topping
Next let's make the topping.
Mix the bread crumbs with 1 tablespoon of melted butter and sprinkle them evenly over the top of the potatoes.
Spread the remaining bacon over the top together with the chopped pecans, creating an even crunchy layer.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated and the bread crumbs are just beginning to brown.
Serve warm with turkey and other vegetable sides for Thanksgiving dinner.
How To Complete The Casserole Preparation If Refrigerated Overnight
What makes this easy sweet potato casserole so wonderful for Thanksgiving is that it can be prepared well ahead of time. Meal prep is super easy if the topping free casserole is refrigerated overnight.
I recommend removing the casserole from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before baking. It cooks better from room temperature. Heat it in the oven for about 20 minutes to start the potato reheating process.
Remove the casserole from the oven, then add the bacon, panko and pecan topping. Return the dish to the oven and cook it for an additional 20 minutes to make certain the potatoes are heated thoroughly.
Here's the printable recipe if you'd like to add this recipe to your personal collection.
Twice Baked Sweet Potato Casserole With Bacon And Pecans
- 6 pounds sweet potatoes washed and pierced
- 10 slices bacon cooked and crumbled
- ⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon butter melted
- ½ cup sour cream
- ¼ cup butter ½ stick - softened
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ⅓ cup chopped pecans
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Place the washed and pierced sweet potatoes on a baking sheet. Bake for 1 ½ hours or until they are tender when squeezed. Cool the sweet potatoes enough to peel them without burning your hands.
- Place the sweet potato pulp in a large bowl.
- Prepare a 9x13 casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
- Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or ricer. Combine with the bacon (reserving 2 tablespoons for the topping), together with the sour cream, butter, salt, and pepper until well blended. Use a hand mixer if you like a smoother consistency.
- Using a large ice cream scoop, place the potato mixture in the prepared casserole dish, forming tight rows.
- Mix the bread crumbs with 1 tablespoon of melted butter and sprinkle evenly over the top of the potatoes. Drop the bacon over the top together with the pecans.
- Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated and the bread crumbs are just turning brown.
Nutrition Information is estimated based on the ingredients and cooking instructions as described in each recipe and is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Please note that nutrition details may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients used.
I hope you enjoy this take on sweet potato casserole. It pairs beautifully with roast turkey dinner, cranberry sauce and stuffing. It's also perfect for serving at Christmas too.
Thanks for following my recipes and ramblings.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad -Irish American Mom
Pronunciation - slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad - rhymes with parade
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I love how you use an ice cream scoop to create a delicious presentation for this casserole. Thanks for another amazing recipe.
Irish American Mom
Hi Dale - Thanks so much for rating this recipe. I'm glad you like how this casserole looks.
Thanks for stopping by and checking out my recipes and ramblings.
All the best,
I'm so glad you gave sweet potatoes another try. I love them, and eat them almost every week. One of my favorite lunches to take to work is sweet potato with roasted raspberry chipotle sauce, dolloped with plain yogurt. So good! I've never liked the overly sweet marshmallowed potatoes, either; they are sweet enough on their own.
This recipe looks delicious. We're vegetarians, so might try it with fake bacon, which is good with sweet potatoes. That sweet-salty combo is always a winner! 🙂 I like root vegetables, so might give the carrot and parsnip mash a try as well.
Thank you for the recipes and beautiful pictures.
Irish American Mom
Hi Lynn - Thanks so much for your sweet potato lunch tip. Roasted rasbperry chipotle sauce sounds like a wonderful pairing for this sweet root vegetable. I'll have to give it a try. Thanks for checking out my recipes. I hope you'll enjoy the carrot and parsnip mash. It's a very popular combination in Ireland.
Thanks for stopping by.
All the best,
I love how you used an ice cream scoop to create a uniform pattern of sweet potato.
Irish American Mom
Hi Megan - I love the symmetry created by using an ice cream scoop for this casserole. I actually use an ice cream scoop to serve mashed potatoes sometimes.
All the best,