No Thanksgiving table is complete without an old-fashioned sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. A classic dish, rich, creamy, and sweet, just perfect for the holiday table. Only 5 simple ingredients!
Old-fashioned sweet potato casserole with pecans, mini marshmallows, and brown sugar. Is it a side dish or a dessert? I could never settle on this... Some call it a side dish; some serve it at the end of the Thanksgiving meal as a dessert.
I just put it on the table and let people decide. And most of them prefer to eat it as a dessert. Some might eat a spoonful or so as a side dish, but most of the guests eat bowlfuls of it at the end of the holiday dinner. And my favorite way of enjoying this classic sweet potato casserole is the next day, straight from the fridge, cold, sweet, and pudding-like.
- Not to be confused with yams. Sweet potatoes are called yams in some areas in the South, but real yams are very different.
- Yams have brown, bark-like skin and dry and starchy flesh. Fresh sweet potatoes have red skin and orange or yellow flesh, and they are softer and sweeter when cooked.
- Try our Loaded Sweet Potato Fries, too.
- The combination of tender potatoes, crunchy pecans, and sticky marshmallows is glorious, making this the best Southern sweet potato casserole recipe for me!
- When I don’t have minis, I use regular-sized marshmallows, which I cut into smaller chunks.
- Traditionally, I make this dish with brown sugar; it is the perfect fit.
- You can substitute the brown sugar with white sugar, but I recommend adding one tablespoon of molasses to achieve a similar flavor.
- They add a wonderful crunch to the recipe; don’t leave them out.
- You can replace them with walnuts if needed; they are also great.
- If you have more pecans, make this Moist Pecan Banana Bread, too.
Other ingredients: Unsalted butter and salt. If you use salted butter, add less or no salt at all.
Additions: You can add about ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract and about ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon if you like
How to make an old-fashioned sweet potato casserole?
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) and butter a pie dish (8 ½ in/ 21 cm) or a similar-sized casserole dish.
Cook potatoes on medium-high heat until fork-tender, about 12-15 minutes. Drain well.
Mash potatoes with sugar, butter, and salt using a potato masher.
Chop the pecans and add ½ of them to the sweet potato mixture.
Scoop the filling into the prepared dish.
Top with the remaining nuts and the mini marshmallows.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the marshmallows are golden brown.
Can I make a sweet potato casserole without marshmallows?
Sure. Another classic recipe is the easy sweet potato casserole recipe with crunchy pecan streusel topping.
Combine ¼ cup (30 g) all-purpose flour with ¼ cup (45 g) brown sugar in a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons of chilled unsalted butter (cut into small cubes) and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the reserved pecans and sprinkle the crunchy topping on top of the casserole.
I prefer to boil the potatoes for this recipe because it’s the fastest way of cooking them. However, you can roast, steam, or even microwave them. See Recipe FAQ.
Check after about 15 minutes and cover the dish with aluminum foil if the marshmallows are getting brown too quickly.
Make a large batch: Double the ingredients and bake the casserole in a 9x13 inches (23x33 cm) baking dish.
Make another American classic dish: New England Chop Suey.
A traditional sweet potato casserole was made without marshmallows and sugar for centuries. Apparently, the use of marshmallows resulted from a marketing campaign initiated by a confectionary business selling marshmallows at the beginning of the 20th century.
Roast whole sweet potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper in the preheated oven (400°F/ 200°C) until fork tender. The roasting time depends on their size; it can be anything from 30 minutes to one hour. If they are small, check after about 30 minutes and keep checking until they are tender.
If you have a steamer, you can also steam the cubes; it will take about 30 minutes, but check.
Prepare everything and fill the pie dish, but don’t add the marshmallows yet. Cover the container well and refrigerate it for up to 48 hours. Remove it from the fridge while you preheat the oven. Heat the casserole for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with marshmallows and bake as instructed.
Refrigerate leftover sweet potato casserole in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
Reheat in the preheated oven at 350°F (180°C) until warmed through (about 15 minutes, but check). Or reheat the casserole in the microwave.
As mentioned above, my favorite way of enjoying this dish is as a cold dessert straight from the fridge.
More sides for Thanksgiving dinner
Give my quick recipes a try for your next family meal! Feel free to reach out if you need any assistance!
Old-Fashioned Sweet Potato Casserole
- Pie dish 8 ½ in/ 21 cm or a similar-sized baking dish
- 1.2 lb sweet potatoes 550 g, Note 2
- ⅓ cup brown sugar 60 g/2 oz, Note 3
- 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter Note 4
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt or Kosher
- ⅓ cup pecans chopped, 30 g/ 1 oz
- 1 cup mini marshmallows or as needed to cover the casserole
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) and butter the baking dish.
- Cook sweet potatoes: Peel and cube them. Bring a pot of water to a boil, carefully add the sweet potato cubes, and cook them for about 12-15 minutes or until tender. Drain well in a colander.1.2 lb sweet potatoes
- Mash: Return the sweet potatoes to the pot. Add sugar, butter, salt (Note 5), and mash with a potato masher.⅓ cup brown sugar + 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter + ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Chop the pecans and add ½ of them to the sweet potato mixture. Scoop the mixture into the prepared dish.⅓ cup pecans
- Top with the remaining nuts and the mini marshmallows.1 cup mini marshmallows
- Bake for 25 minutes until the marshmallows are golden brown. Check after about 15 minutes and cover the dish with aluminum foil if the marshmallows are getting brown too quickly (it depends on your oven).
- The recipe can be easily doubled. Bake the sweet potato casserole in a 9x13 inches (23x33 cm) baking dish.
- I had one large sweet potato.
- For a lower-calorie version, use xylitol and add 1 tablespoon of molasses. Xylitol has 40% fewer calories than sugar, and the molasses imparts the sweetener a brown sugar-like texture and flavor.
- If using salted butter, omit the salt in the recipe.
- Spices: You can add a pinch of cinnamon and about ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract if you like.