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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24 Responses to “grandma’s sweet potato casserole”

  1. 1
    Liz the Chef — November 19, 2010 @ 3:47 pm

    This is a keeper! I missed your cornbread stuffing too – hear the printer going? Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. 2
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — November 19, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

    Ooh! I’ve been on a mission to find the perfect sweet potato recipe. I want to try something new this year. I plan on making a mini T-day dinner for my hubs and I tomorrow evening since I won’t be hosting on Thursday… Definitely going to give this a try πŸ™‚

  3. 3
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — November 19, 2010 @ 5:41 pm

    Oh, my heart hurts looking at this. Not because it is delightfully terrible for you… but because this reminds me of a recipe my mom makes every year. We call it Killer Sweet Potatoes and it… literally… kills you. I always end up rolling on the floor after a few bites… but they’re just so good!!!

  4. 4
    tina — November 19, 2010 @ 5:48 pm

    I make “Merry’s Sweet Potatoes”. They are delicious and similar to Sam’s grandmother’s.

  5. 5
    Kare — November 20, 2010 @ 11:51 am

    Yum. I tend to like my sweet potatoes on the savory side, but this might just convert me…

  6. 6
    Veggies, Cake and Cocktails — November 20, 2010 @ 12:20 pm

    My husband has been searching for a good sweet potato dish for Thanksgiving. I’m going to try this one out on him:)

    On a side not, I just had my first sweet potato, ever, a couple weeks ago. I have no idea why it took me this long to try it because it was very tasty!

  7. 7
    Wendy (The Weekend Gourmet) — November 20, 2010 @ 4:56 pm

    Yum…this is my favorite way to eat sweet potatoes! My only little wrinkle is to add a well-drained can of crushed pineapple to the sweet potatoes. That’s the way my husband likes them, and it adds a nice flavor.

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  9. 8
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — November 20, 2010 @ 6:44 pm

    This looks absolutely spectacular MJ. I have a sweet potato souffle that I love but this looks like it would make a great meal with a green salad and some crusty bread (you know, for those of us who have already celebrated Thanksgiving). Bookmarked. A beautiful tribute to Grandma.

  10. 9
    Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels — November 21, 2010 @ 10:17 am

    OH MY WORD! I absolutely adore sweet potato casserole and yours look amazing. It’s one of my favorite dishes in the entire world. Thank you so much for the recipe, I’ve been looking for a really good recipe for Thanksgiving! πŸ™‚

  11. 10
    JulieD — November 21, 2010 @ 8:44 pm

    It looks amazing! I love that you shared with us your husband’s grandmother’s recipes. I’m slowly working on learning my mother’s Vietnamese recipes. Next is pho. Thanks for sharing this!

  12. 11
    Heather @ The Single Dish — November 22, 2010 @ 9:45 am

    This looks great to eat any day of the year! I love sweet potatoes. Pretty photos. Happy Thanksgiving!

  13. 12
    Nancy@acommunaltable — November 22, 2010 @ 9:18 pm

    Wow… this sounds decadent.. and delicious!! I have done the same thing with some family recipes – trying to lighten then up and have found that in general they are better left unchanged. Sometimes you just can’t mess with success!!

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  15. 13
    briarrose — November 23, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

    Mmmm….delicious topping. I love sweet potatoes with a non marshmallow topping. πŸ˜‰

  16. 14
    Cassandra — November 25, 2010 @ 10:08 pm

    I just wanted to say that this recipe is awesome! Since my father-in-law can’t eat pecans, I left them off and put on marshmallows instead. Very good! Thanks!

    • 14.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — November 26, 2010 @ 8:01 am

      Cassandra – Thanks so much for the feedback! I’m glad the recipe worked well for you. Marshmallows are always a great idea for a topping – they’re my kids’ favorite. πŸ™‚

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  20. 15
    Kathleen Seide — November 25, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

    This was so great last year I am making it again tomorrow for a get together. Thanks for sharing!

  21. 16
    sojournerofthearth — December 2, 2011 @ 11:29 pm

    You’re casserole will be much better if you add a little spice to your sweet potatoes, a pinch of salt, a little cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg and a little bit of canned evaporated milk, about a half a cup or so… and a little cinnamon to your streusel topping… It’s a great recipe but it could be a bit better. I’ve been making it as a Thanksgiving Dish for about 30 years… and, well, I’m a grandma too.

  22. 17
    Cyprienne — December 16, 2011 @ 4:38 pm

    I made this for my first time hosting Thanksgiving this year — and my in-laws loved it so much, I’m on the hook to make it for Christmas!! Thank you so much for sharing this awesome recipe.

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