Southern Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans comes straight from my Grandma’s recipe book. And WOW is this old fashioned recipe good. It’s packed with sweet potatoes and an irresistible pecan crumble on top.
Sweet Potato Casserole has a lot of variations. Some like it topped with marshmallows and others like it with pecans. If you’ve landed here, I’m guessing you are Team Pecan. I am too. 🙂
My Grandma made this exact casserole for years, and even submitted it for inclusion in a church cookbook. I found the recipe in that same cookbook years later, and I’m sharing it with you.
And I hope Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans becomes part of your favorites this year, too!
- Fresh sweet potatoes are best for this recipe. See FAQs below for substituting canned sweet potatoes if you’d like.
- This casserole is indeed sweet! The granulated sugar is for the sweet potatoes themselves, and the brown sugar is for the topping.
- The eggs and milk turn the sweet potatoes almost soufflé like—very light, creamy, and moist.
- Chopped pecans add the perfect amount of crunch to the top. Team Pecan all the way!
How to make Southern sweet potato casserole with pecans
Peel the potatoes and chop into 1–2 inch pieces. Place in a large saucepan, and then fill the pan with water. Place over high heat and bring to a boil.
Lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 10–15 minutes, or until a fork easily slides through the potatoes.
Drain and place the hot potatoes in the bowl of a stand mixer. You can also use a large bowl and a hand mixer.
Add one stick of butter and the milk, and beat the potatoes on low until creamy. Take care not to overbeat the potatoes, which can make them gummy.
Add the sugar, salt, vanilla, and eggs, and beat just until combined. Transfer the mixture to a greased 13×9 inch baking dish.
How to make the pecan topping
Cut the ⅓ cup cold butter into small cubes. Place the flour, brown sugar, and butter cubes in a bowl.
Rub the butter into the brown sugar and flour using your fingers. Alternatively, you can use a fork or a pastry blender.
I think using my (clean) hands is the easiest! You want the butter to be evenly disbursed in the flour/sugar mixture.
THEN add the pecans to the mixture and stir until combined. It’s easiest to wait until the butter is disbursed before adding the pecans. Otherwise, it’s hard to get the butter rubbed into the flour/sugar when there are chopped pecans getting in the way.
Evenly spread the pecan crumble over the sweet potatoes in the baking dish. Bake for 35–40 minutes, and serve while still hot/warm.
Can I make sweet potato casserole ahead of time?
You can successfully make the casserole 1–2 days in advance, and have a freshly baked casserole when it’s time do eat.
Here’s how to make sweet potato casserole ahead:
1. Make the sweet potato layer as directed. Place it in a greased casserole dish, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
2. Make the pecan crumble as directed, but leave out the pecans. Place the butter/sugar/flour crumble in a covered dish, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Do NOT place it on top of the sweet potatoes yet!
3. When you’re ready to bake the casserole (on the day you are serving it), stir the chopped pecans into the crumble. Sprinkle the crumble on top of the sweet potatoes, and bake for 45 minutes at 350°F.
Waiting to stir the pecans into the crumble ensures that the pecans don’t get soggy while the mixture sits in the refrigerator.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can substitute approximately 40 ounces of canned sweet potatoes for the fresh sweet potatoes. That’s about 2–3 (15 oz) cans. However, make sure that the can does NOT say “in syrup” or “in light syrup”. The can should say “cut sweet potatoes” or “sweet potato purée” and it should not contain any sugar. Read the label just to be sure!
You can use two 8×8 inch baking dishes instead of a 13×9 inch dish. You can also use a dish that’s slightly smaller than 13×9 inches, such as one that is 11×9 inches. I find that many decorative baking dishes are this size. The casserole will be a little taller, but that’s ok!
You can freeze the sweet potato layer of the casserole on its own (without the crumble topping). To do so, prepare the sweet potato layer as directed and pour into a greased, freezer-safe pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and then with foil. Freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost in the refrigerator for one day, then top with the crumble topping and bake as directed. If you place the crumble topping on the casserole before freezing, it will end up soggy instead of crunchy.
To reheat any casserole leftovers, place the casserole dish in a preheated 350°F for 15–20 minutes, or until the casserole is heated through.
You can also microwave individual servings of the casserole, but the topping won’t be as crunchy.
To use marshmallows instead of pecans, omit the pecan crumble. Top the sweet potato layer with one (10 oz) bag of mini marshmallows. Bake the casserole for 25–30 minutes at 350°F, or until the marshmallows are golden brown.
Here are a few ideas for variations for this southern sweet potato casserole:
- Use chopped walnuts in place of the chopped pecans.
- Omit the pecan crumble and add several cups of mini marshmallows to the top instead. Bake for 25–30 minutes.
- Make it gluten-free by substituting an equal amount of cup-for-cup gluten-free flour in place of the all-purpose flour.
- Make it dairy-free/vegan by using dairy-free butter (such as Earth Balance sticks) in place of the regular butter. Also, replace the milk with oat milk, almond milk, or soy milk.
- Don’t want nuts? Simply omit them. You can increase the crumble ingredients by 1.5x so there’s plenty of topping!
More holiday side dishes
Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans isn’t just for Thanksgiving! I’ve personally had it at Christmas and Easter, too. And my husband requests it occasionally for a special dinner (along with grilled ribeye—yum).
There are a number of other side dishes that pair really well with sweet potatoes. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Italian Green Beans (made on the stovetop to save room for other dishes in the oven)
- Easy Green Bean Casserole (SO easy and only 4 ingredients)
- Mashed Potato Casserole
- Creamed Corn Casserole
- Apple Cranberry Sauce
- Sourdough Stuffing (this one is vegetarian/vegan, but I bet you won’t be able to tell!)
- Cranberry Jell-O Salad (so pretty and festive)
- Easy Broccoli Casserole
- Extra Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
And lastly, Old Fashioned Sweet Potato Pie is a delightful ending to a meal.
Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and/or comment below!
Southern Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans
For the sweet potatoes:
- 2½ lbs sweet potatoes
- 1 stick butter
- ½ cup milk
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the pecan crumble:
- ⅓ cup butter, cold
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ⅓ cup flour
- 1 cup chopped pecans
For the sweet potatoes:
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 13×9 inch casserole dish.
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1–2 inch chunks. Place them in a saucepan and cover with water.
- Place the pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, and continue cooking the potatoes until they are tender, about 10–15 minutes. When they are tender, you should be able to easily slide a fork through the potatoes.
- Drain the potatoes and place them in the bowl of a stand mixer. Alternatively, place them in a large bowl if you are using a hand mixer.
- Add the butter and milk, and mix on low until the mixture is blended and the potatoes are creamy. Take care not to overmix the potatoes, as that can make them gummy.
- Add the sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt, and stir until combined. Pour the mixture into the greased 13×9 inch casserole dish.
For the pecan crumble:
- Cut the butter into small cubes. Place the flour and brown sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Add the butter. Use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour/brown sugar mixture until the butter is incorporated and crumbles form. Alternatively, you could use two forks or a pastry blender to incorporate the butter.
- Stir the pecans into the crumble. Sprinkle the crumble on top of the sweet potatoes and bake for 30–35 minutes. The top will be golden brown. Serve while still warm.