To myself, I refer to this casserole as "Sweet-talker Sweet Potato Casserole," because no matter how you love your sweet potatoes at Christmas, this one has it. It’s a charmer you won’t be able to resist. It’s healthy, naturally gluten-free and can easily be made vegan.
I asked followers recently what kind of Christmas recipes they would like to see, and I had one follower request healthy casseroles. I liked that idea! It’s true that most casseroles contain a lot of cheese and cream, which yummm I don’t mind one bit, but there are some healthy foods that are just perfect the way they are. Roasted sweet potatoes are one of them! You don’t really need to add a thing to them. I had a lot of different ideas for casseroles. You’ll probably end up seeing more of them in the future, just because I was inspired by this request! I ultimately picked this one though, because the holidays are here, and Christmas dinner, in my opinion, is incomplete without mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes.
I made mashed sweet potatoes at Christmas dinner on a whim one year, when my mom handed me the raw potatoes and said “do something with these,” and my dad voted mashed. But, my sister voted roasted. I roast them first, which brings out all the delicious caramelized flavours, and then I mashed them up with milk and some classic Christmas spices. My dad has asked me to make them every year since! The only problem arose when we tried to figure out how to serve them. Ryan refers to himself as a “sweet potato purist.” Putting marshmallows on top, in his mind, is the ultimate crime. My dad and I, however, are marshmallow-topped fans. My mom voted caramelized pecans on top. We just ended up eating them without toppings that night, but when I put this recipe together, I figured there’s no reason I can’t do all three! Depending on where you scoop from in the casserole dish, you can have it your way. I saw this idea somewhere on Instagram at some point, but I can’t for the life of me remember where or find it! Regardless, it’s great for a big family dinner.
Let's talk healthy things
Sweet potatoes are one of nature’s superfoods. They’re a natural immune booster. They contain beta carotene, which functions as a powerful antioxidant. They’re good for gut health, brain health, skin, bones, vision, reproductive health, full of fiber, vitamins A/B and C, and minerals like iron, calcium, and selenium which are great for healing. This means they’re a fantastic recovery food, and also a great source of naturally gluten-free carbohydrates! Ryan and I eat sweet potatoes two or three times a week.
If you’re like Ryan and consider marshmallows on top to be an abomination, you can omit them and either scatter the pecan topping over the whole casserole, just eat the mashed sweet potatoes straight-up, or do a half-and-half pecan/purist casserole. Customize it the way you want! The milk can be substituted for your milk of choice (almond, oat, coconut, cream, etc). Many casseroles have eggs added… if you would like to add eggs, by all means add two or three. I kept them out of this recipe so that it can easily be made vegan. If you want to make this vegan, use vegan butter and an alternative milk.
Healthy Christmas Sweet Potato Casserole
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Yield: 10 servings
About 8 medium sweet potatoes
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter, melted
½ cup milk of choice
2 tbsp maple syrup
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp butter, at room temperature
¼ cup coconut sugar or packed brown sugar
¾ cup chopped pecans
2 tsp rosemary, finely chopped (optional, but delicious and recommended!)
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
Mini (large work too) marshmallows
Preheat your oven to 400°F/200°C. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Grease your casserole dish with cooking spray, olive oil, or butter. My casserole dish is 9x13 inches, but you can use a 9x9 or round one! You’ll just end up with deeper scoops of sweet potato.
Roast the sweet potatoes. Prick each sweet potato with a fork about 5 times so steam can escape. Place the whole sweet potatoes on the prepared baking sheet and bake until a fork easily pierces them, somewhere between 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes, depending on their size. Set them aside to cool for a few minutes.
Turn the oven temperature down to 350°F/175°C. Once the potatoes are cool enough to safely handle, slice through the skin. Have a big mixing bowl handy, or a large food processor if you have one. The insides of the sweet potato should easily fall out of the skin, or, slice them in half and use an ice cream scoop (thanks to a follower for that tip!) or spoon to scoop out the insides. Discard the skins, or feed them to your weird sweet-potato loving dog.
Add the melted butter, milk, maple syrup, spices and salt to the bowl or food processor. Whip the ingredients together in the food processor, or mash them with a potato masher, emulsion (handheld) blender, or whatever you have that will turn them in to creamy oblivion. Scoop the mixture into your prepared casserole dish and spread it in an even layer.
To prepare the pecan topping: In a medium bowl, combine the softened butter (if it’s not soft enough to stir yet, microwave it on low until it’s soft enough to easily mix with the pecans), sugar, pecans, optional rosemary, cinnamon and salt. Stir until the mixture is evenly incorporated.
Topping time! I started in the corner and spooned a diagonal line of the pecan mixture. Then, leave a diagonal line twice that wide for your marshmallows, and a “no topping” section. Don’t put the marshmallows on yet, because they’ll burn to a crisp in the oven if you put them on already! The double-wide bare section leaves space for them to put them on later. Then, do another line of pecan mixture, another double-wide line of bare sweet potato, and repeat until your whole casserole is covered.
Bake it in the oven for 25 minutes, until the pecans are golden and fragrant, and the filling is sizzling around the edges and warmed all the way through. You’re your oven on broil. Using oven mitts, remove the casserole to add the marshmallows. Beside the pecans, fill half your double-wide bare spots with rows of marshmallows. Put it back in the oven, and watch it carefully under the broiler until the marshmallows are puffed and golden brown! It will only take 2 minutes; these burn quickly, so keep a close eye on it.
Serve it up! Leftovers will keep well in the refrigerator, covered, for 4 to 5 days.