grandma’s sweet potato casserole

My husband’s grandmother, known by the family simply as Grandma, made several traditional dishes each Thanksgiving and Christmas. I wrote about her cornbread dressing here. Another one of her specialties was a sweet potato casserole topped with a pecan streusel. After she died in 1993, the tradition of making her recipes was adopted by various members of her family. I started making the dressing as my usual Thanksgiving dish, and my sister-in-law took over sweet potato duty.

Grandma’s sweet potato casserole is a thing of beauty. It’s sweet and rich, and the dish could almost substitute for dessert. The crunchy streusel topping makes an ideal textural contrast to the smooth mashed sweet potatoes which lie underneath.

The casserole can be made very easily with fresh sweet potatoes, but if you’re in a pinch, you can use canned yams. Because the canned yams are packaged in syrup, I chose to use fresh sweet potatoes. I chose six medium-sized potatoes, baked them for an hour, peeled them, and mashed the sweet potatoes by hand.

I also burned my fingers on the hot potatoes. Don’t do that. You should let these cool a bit before peeling them. Learn from my mistake.

While the potatoes bake, you can make the streusel topping with chopped pecans, butter, flour, and brown sugar. This part can even be done the day before; just store the topping in a resealable plastic bag and keep it in the refrigerator until ready to use.

It’s hard for me to make a recipe exactly as it’s written these days, and Grandma’s sweet potato casserole is no exception. I was hoping to find a way to make it a little healthier (so I could eat more), so I cut back on some of the sugar and butter. I won’t do that again. The casserole was still delicious, but it didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted it to taste.

Since this recipe comes with such strong taste memories for me and my husband, from now on I’ll prepare it using all those extra calories. It just tastes better with them. It tastes like Grandma’s. It tastes like Thanksgiving.

Grandma's Sweet Potato Casserole

Serves 6-8 as a side dish, depending on how many times your family goes back for seconds. The struesel topping makes enough for a double-size recipe. I find it easier to make a larger batch of streusel and then keep the extra in a resealable plastic bag. The extra pecan streusel makes a nice topping for steel cut oatmeal in the morning.]


Ingredients for Casserole:

5 medium-to-large sweet potatoes
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, beaten well
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for Streusel Topping:

1 cup light brown sugar, packed [You could also use dark brown sugar instead.]
1/3 cup (about 5 1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place sweet potatoes on a foil-lined sheet pan and pierce each several times with the tines of a fork. Bake for 1 hour, or until the potatoes are tender. Allow to cool to the touch, then peel and mash well in a bowl.

Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Make streusel topping: Blend brown sugar, butter, flour, and chopped pecans together with a pastry blender or fork. Set aside.

Mix mashed sweet potatoes with sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla. Pour into a 9 x 9 inch lightly greased casserole dish. Sprinkle sweet potato mixture with the streusel topping, as much as your heart desires.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the casserole is set.

Note: The casserole can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance. Pour the prepared sweet potatoes into a tightly-covered dish, but do not add the topping. When ready to bake, pour into the casserole dish and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Top with struesel and bake as directed.

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27 Responses to “pumpkin soup with gruyère”

  1. HeatherChristo — October 28, 2010 @ 4:06 pm

    this looks so good! beautiful pictures 🙂

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — October 28th, 2010 @ 4:31 pm

      Thank you, Heather.

  2. Liz the Chef — October 28, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

    You are so brave! I have yet to tackle a “real” pumpkin…Your photos are lovely. Where did you learn to take such great shots? I need a class for certain.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — October 28th, 2010 @ 4:33 pm

      This was actually my first go at a real pumpkin – and it was fun! As for the photos – I’ve been learning as I go. I’ve never taken a course, but I’d love to!

  3. kateiscooking — October 28, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

    Beautiful photos! I hope I escape work in time to make this tonight. We’re supposed to have the first freeze of the year and this sounds like a perfect antidote!! Kate@kateiscooking

  4. Kare — October 28, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

    Man, there is nothing like the process of cooking and baking to just put you into that near-nirvana-like zone, eh? I LOVE that. And this soup looks scrumptious – I love a good pumpkin soup, and love the idea of the gruyere (and the hearty splash of white wine).

    Good luck on your two-week work project – ugh, I’d be feeling the blahs too. Hope it goes by quickly for you.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — October 28th, 2010 @ 8:02 pm

      Kare – Ah, yes – you noticed the wine. Wine and gruyere – what could be better?

  5. bunkycooks — October 28, 2010 @ 5:44 pm

    I am feeling the funk, too. I think it is the coming of cold weather combined with personal/work stuff. Cooking does make things better and gets the other stuff off your mind.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — October 28th, 2010 @ 8:02 pm

      Gwen – Cooking is such a blessing. I’m just hoping to squeeze in some time for it in the upcoming weeks. I think I’m going to need it.

  6. Kristina @ spabettie — October 28, 2010 @ 5:49 pm

    I know exactly what you mean… I get to feeling antsy or upset or frustrated… and I want to be in the kitchen… kneading or chopping or stirring… creating.

    gruyere is one of my favorites… and this looks so good…

    I also love your photos – the sage leaves especially… so pretty!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — October 28th, 2010 @ 8:01 pm

      Kristina – I just love gruyere too. In fact, it was all I could do to stop myself from eating the wedge of cheese before it went in the soup. 🙂

  7. Susi — October 28, 2010 @ 6:39 pm

    That looks like a wonderful and comforting bowl of soup! Love the addition of gruyere (one of my favorites) and your pictures are spectacular!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — October 28th, 2010 @ 8:00 pm

      Susi – Thank you so much for the photography compliment. I was playing with a new lens (my birthday present), so these photos were a lot of fun for me.

  8. Jennie — October 28, 2010 @ 6:43 pm

    What you said about wanting to make the soup more than wanting to eat it—that’s what I love most about being in the kitchen. The one place where you can control the chaos swirling around. I totally get your October funk, but think about November, right around the corner, and all the fun that follows.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — October 28th, 2010 @ 7:58 pm

      Controlling the chaos is the key. Being in the kitchen, controlling that ingredient in my hand or in the pot – that is the key for me. And I cannot even begin to describe the excitement I have about November. Well, after November 16th, that is. Until then, it’s nothing but hospital for me.

  9. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — October 28, 2010 @ 7:40 pm

    Great post! I know exactly what you mean about craving the cooking process. Sometimes just getting out my big wooden cutting board and chopping some veggies starts to melt away my stress.

    Love this soup, too… Pumpkin and gruyere sounds like a perfect combo.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — October 28th, 2010 @ 7:59 pm

      Jen – Yes! Chopping board and knife, and the stresses of the day melt away. I just wish I had more time for it. And anything with gruyere is fabulous. 🙂

  10. Kim - Liv Life — October 28, 2010 @ 11:26 pm

    I DO know what you mean!! I actually skipped our homecoming game too, though I didn’t cook at thing. The soup looks wonderful. Hang in there!

  11. Liren — October 29, 2010 @ 2:38 am

    “I just wanted to make it.”

    Boy, do I understand what you mean. However, I’m sure it tasted lovely – pumpkin and gruyere make sense together! In our family chaos, we haven’t been to the pumpkin patch yet, but if we make it this weekend, I would love to tackle this soup.

  12. Barbara @ VinoLuciStyle — October 29, 2010 @ 10:35 am

    I can certainly identify with your state of mind. Eight months into an injury that has limited most aspects of my life; long work days and dealing with a difficult daughter…sometimes the kitchen is my refuge from all of it…even if I’m not hungry!

    Something about soup is so soul satisfying…the results of your efforts look beautiful and sound perfect for that.

  13. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — October 30, 2010 @ 7:37 am

    MJ I absolutely can relate to this post. Sometimes when I have SO MUCH on my plate that I don’t know where to start, I find myself in the kitchen making something that, you know, could wait. Cooking and baking are exactly the release we need from time to time and if it results in this type of delicious soup, well it’s totally worth missing a game for, right?

  14. Renee (Kudos Kitchen) — October 30, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

    This soup looks great and I totally LOVE the gruyere and pumpkin combo. Don’t you just love that soup is comforting to eat AND make? Sounds like you had a wonderful afternoon in the kitchen!

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  16. Jennifer — October 30, 2010 @ 2:46 pm

    This sounds awesome. It’s been cold and rainy here and would be perfect. I have those blah days and there’s absolutely nothing better than comfort food.

  17. Belinda — October 30, 2010 @ 11:57 pm

    We had a blast with your kids and can’t wait to have them again in November. So glad you had a quiet afternoon and evening to do something fun and relaxing for yourself!

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