Old Fashioned Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans

Old Fashioned Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans comes straight from my Grandma’s recipe book. And WOW is this vintage recipe good. It’s packed with sweet potatoes and a sweet and crunchy pecan crumble on top.

hand lifting spoon of old fashioned sweet potato casserole out of white casserole dish.

An Old Fashioned 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. Me too!

My Grandma made this exact casserole for decades, 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.

The pecan topped version is difficult to date, but the marshmallow topped version was printed in a cookbook as early as 1917! Here’s a fun history on sweet potato casserole if you’re interested.

It’s not Thanksgiving at our house without this traditional sweet potato casserole. Creamed Corn Casserole, Cranberry Jell-O Salad, and Mashed Potato Casserole are also on the menu.

Along with Green Bean Casserole, turkey breast, and Old Fashioned Sweet Potato Pie to round out the meal, it’s a table of family favorites that we enjoy year after year.

And I hope Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans becomes part of your favorites this year, too!

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Tips for making the best sweet potato casserole

  • Use a mixer to mash the sweet potatoes. It not only saves time, but makes for the silkiest potatoes. Sweet potatoes are less prone to becoming gummy like white potatoes, so don’t stress about over mixing them.
  • Put the crumble on top JUST before putting the casserole into the oven. If you let it sit on top of the potatoes, the warm potatoes melt the butter and the topping becomes runny.

Ingredients

sweet potato casserole ingredients on a white table.
  • 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 old fashioned 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.

cubed cooked sweet potatoes in the bowl of a stand mixer.

Add one stick of butter and the milk, and beat the potatoes on low until creamy.

sweet potato puree in the bowl of a stand mixer.

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.

brown sugar, flour, and butter cubes in a glass 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 hands is the easiest! You want the butter to be evenly disbursed in the flour/sugar mixture.

brown sugar crumble in a glass bowl.

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.

pecan crumble in a glass bowl.

Evenly spread the pecan crumble over the sweet potatoes in the baking dish. Bake for 35–40 minutes, and serve while still hot/warm.

sweet potato casserole topped with pecans in a white casserole dish.

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.

sweet potato casserole with pecan topping in a white casserole dish next to two mini white pumpkins.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use canned sweet potatoes for sweet potato casserole?

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!

Can I use a different sized baking dish?

You can use two 8×8 inch baking dishes instead of a 13×9 inch dish.

Can I freeze sweet potato casserole?

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.

How do I reheat sweet potato casserole?

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.

Can I top the casserole with marshmallows instead of pecans?

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.

old fashioned sweet potato casserole topped with pecan topping in a white casserole dish.

Variations

Here are a few ideas for variations for this old fashioned 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 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!
table set for thanksgiving with corn casserole, sweet potato casserole, plates, and white mini pumpkins.

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:

And lastly, Old Fashioned Sweet Potato Pie or Old Fashioned Pecan Pie are a delightful ending to a meal.

Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and/or comment below!

📖 Recipe

hand with a spoon of sweet potato casserole, lifting it out of a white casserole dish.

Old Fashioned Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans

Published by Kate
Everyone will love Grandma's recipe for sweet potato casserole with pecans. It's rich and creamy, and topped with an irresistible pecan crumble.
4.75 from 4 votes
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 10 servings
Calories 505 kcal

Ingredients
  

For the sweet potatoes:

  • lbs sweet potatoes
  • 1 stick butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the pecan crumble:

  • cup butter, cold
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • cup flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Instructions
 

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 JUST until the mixture is blended and the potatoes are creamy.
  • 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.
  • Bake for 30–35 minutes. The top will be golden brown. Serve while still warm.

Notes

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! 
Make ahead instructions: prepare the sweet potato layer as directed, then cover and refrigerate. Prepare the pecan crumble but leave out the pecans. Place in the refrigerator. When ready to bake the casserole, stir the pecans into the crumble, then put the crumble on top of the sweet potato layer. Bake for 40–45 minutes. Do not put the two layers together until you’re ready to bake the casserole. 
Reheating instructions: place the leftover casserole into a 350°F oven. Bake for 15–20 minutes, or until heated through. You can also microwave individual servings of the casserole, but the topping won’t be as crunchy. 
Want to use marshmallows instead of pecans? Omit the pecan crumble. Top the sweet potato layer with one (10 oz) bag of mini marshmallows. Bake at 350°F for 25–30 minutes, or until the marshmallows are golden brown all over.

Nutrition

Calories: 505kcalCarbohydrates: 70gProtein: 5gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 75mgSodium: 321mgPotassium: 489mgFiber: 5gSugar: 47gVitamin A: 16633IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 83mgIron: 1mg
Keyword sweet potato casserole
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