Sweet Potato Casserole is a Southern dish that has been around for many years. It’s often made for holiday meals, but you can serve it any time of the year. It’s typically made with canned or leftover sweet potatoes, butter, brown sugar, and marshmallow cream. A crumble is used to top off the dish, then it is baked until golden brown. The ingredients are simple and inexpensive which makes this recipe perfect for those on a budget or who want to stick to their grocery lists as much as possible!
I’ve eaten a lot of sweet potatoes in my day, but I really believe this is the best sweet potato casserole recipe there is. It’s got everything you could want – sweet and savory, soft and fluffy potatoes, crunchy topping, and that cinnamon spice flavor that sets off that sweet vanilla marshmallow perfectly. It truly is the perfect sweet potato casserole.
Yams vs Sweet Potatoes
Yams and sweet potatoes are in the same family but they are not the same thing. Yams grow in Africa, Asia, and the West Indies while sweet potatoes only grow in North America. Furthermore, yam flavor is stronger than that of a sweet potato. A yam is starchier with a more fibrous texture and pale flesh. A sweet potato, in stark contrast is far sweeter with a vibrant orange color.
Typically, when people want to substitute yams in a recipe that calls for sweet potatoes they need to get twice as much. In contrast, when substituting sweet potatoes for yams then you only need 1/2 the amount because it’s about four times less potent!
While you can buy yams in some grocery stores, I do strongly recommend sticking to actual sweet potatoes for this recipe.
Marshmallows, Pecans or Both?
One of the most common disagreements in this recipe is about the use of pecans versus marshmallows. Those who like pecans feel that they add a nice crunch, while those who like marshmallows feel they make the dish sweeter and creamier. This is one area where you can’t please everyone!
Some recipes use both, while some don’t include either!
When I was growing up, it was marshmallows all the way. My mother made what she called “Candied Yams,” and I had no concept of what a sweet potato was, despite the fact that what she was making was, in fact, sweet potato casserole. It was my favorite thing to eat at the holidays, and there were no pecans in sight.
As an adult, I deviated from my mother’s recipe and started using a crumble topping made of brown sugar and chopped pecans. (By the way, how do YOU pronounce pecans? Pee-CAN or peh-CAHN? Or some other way???) It gave a much-needed crunch to an otherwise very soft dish, and I appreciated that.
This recipe, however, uses a combination that makes the best use of both the marshmallows and the nuts.
The History of Sweet Potato Casserole
If you’ve ever wondered who is responsible for the idea of putting marshmallows on sweet potatoes, I’m here to help. To begin with, we need to go back to 1796 when the recipe for “Sweet Potato Pudding” was first recorded in a cookbook called “American Cookery.” Well, to be truthful, it was actually called “Potatoe Pudding,” but historians believe it was understood to mean sweet potatoes.
More recent history (and by that, I mean the 1820s) show more definite proof of sweet potato usage such as in this recipe from Colonial Williamsburg:
Sweet Potato Pudding
Boil one pound of sweet potatos very tender, rub them while hot through a colander; add six eggs well beaten, three quarters of a pound of powdered sugar, three quarters of butter, and some grated nutmeg and lemon peel, with a glass of brandy; put a paste in the dish, and when the pudding is done, sprinkle the top with sugar, and cover it with bits of citron. Irish potato pudding is made in the same manner, but is not so good.Mary Randolph, in “The Virginia Housewife,” in 1827.
It wasn’t until 1917, however, that marshmallows were first introduced into a sweet potato casserole, in a recipe booklet produced by the Angelus Marshmallow company. It contained a recipe from Janet McKenzie Hill for Mashed Sweet Potatoes Baked with a Marshmallow Topping.”
It took another decade before a similar recipe appeared, but since then it’s become a staple in American households for holidays and special occasions.
Now that you’ve learned all about the history of sweet potato casserole, it’s time to actually make it.
2-3 large sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
1/4 C cream
1 tsp vanilla
3 tsp melted unsalted butter
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1-2 cups chopped pecan
½ cup melted unsalted butter
Enough Marshmallows to cover the top (about 6-8 oz)
To begin with, you’ll need to peel and cut your sweet potatoes. Choose your favorite way to do so. You can slice or dice as you feel best. I went with a thin slice. It’s important that you make the potatoes small enough that they will be able to cook through. Too large a slice or too big a dice make leave them a little raw in the middle, which is… not great.
In a medium sized bowl, make a custard by combining egg, cream, sugar, melted butter and vanilla.
Pour the custard over the sweet potatoes, giving it a good shake to coat all the potatoes. This is important so that everything cooks evenly and you don’t end up with a big pile of scrambled eggs on top of your potatoes.
At this point, sprinkle the cinnamon over the top.
In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for your crumble topping, then spread them over the top of the potatoes.
Cover the pan with foil, and bake for 55 minutes. This gives the sweet potato casserole a chance to cook through before adding the marshmallows. Once it’s done, remove from the oven and turn the oven to broil or its highest setting.
Cover the top of the casserole with marshmallows. You can use full size or mini or even colorful rainbow marshmallows! Go nuts. When you’re satisfied with your marshmallow placement, return the dish to the oven for 2-3 minutes to toast the marshmallows. Let them get nice and golden brown.
Remove from the oven and enjoy.
How delicious does that look? In my opinion, this is the very best sweet potato casserole you can make. It’s simple to make, takes very little time and fills the home with an unbelievable aroma.
- 2-3 large sweet potatoes
- 1 egg
- 1 C sugar
- 1/4 C cream
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3 TBSP melted butter
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Enough Marshmallows to cover the top (about 6-8 oz)
- 1/3 C brown sugar
- 1/3 C all purpose flour
- 1-2 C chopped pecan
- ½ C melted unsalted butter
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Butter the pan or spray with a nonstick spray
- Peel and thinly slice your sweet potatoes.
- In a medium sized bowl make the custard by combining the egg, cream, sugar, melted butter and vanilla.
- Pour the custard over the sweet potatoes and give it a good mix coating all of the potatoes.
- Sprinkle cinnamon over top.
- In a small bowl combine the crumble topping ingredients and spread over the top of the covered potatoes.
- Cover with foil and bake for 55 mins.
- Remove from oven, turn the temp to broil or the highest setting.
- Cover the top with marshmallows and return to the oven for 2-3 mins to get the marshmallows nice and toasted.
- Carefully remove, serve, and enjoy.
This casserole cooks the potatoes, but they are still firm and have some bite. For softer potatoes I would let them soak in the custard overnight or chop the potatoes.
If you don’t want to slice the potatoes you could chop them, slicing them just cuts the prep time down.
Remember to thinly slice the potatoes, the thinner they are the softer they will be after cooking
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 437Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 52mgSodium: 58mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 4gSugar: 31gProtein: 4g
This nutrition information is automatically calculated and may not be entirely accurate. Please do your own research if you are overly concerned about specific macros.