Every Thanksgiving, I call dibs on bringing the sweet potatoes. It’s not out of the kindness of my heart, though I will always willingly and enthusiastically contribute to a meal, nor is it because sweet potato casserole is showiest. It’s because sweet potatoes are my favorite, and I am rather, erm, particular about them. This Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole recipe is the one! It’s the ideal balance of sweet and savory, the oatmeal topping maintains a traditional feel but is refreshingly unexpected, and it’s both vegan and gluten free, meaning everyone at the table can have a giant scoop.
Truth be told, when I first made this healthy sweet potato casserole, I was not in the market for a new sweet potato recipe.
For years, I’d made and loved my mom’s Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Whiskey Pecans. It, Butternut Squash Casserole, and Rosemary Bacon Mushroom Stuffing are my favorite Thanksgiving side dishes to the extent that after the meal, I hide a container of them in an undisclosed location for my own personal consumption.
I really am selfish when it comes to the sweet potatoes, it seems!
Fortunately, just like my Sweet Potato Souffle, this healthy sweet potato casserole can easily serve a crowd, so there’s plenty to go around and fill a secret container or two. You will love it just as much at the feast itself as you will leftover the next day.
About This Next-Level Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe
My two tricks to setting this healthy sweet potato dish apart from others you’ve tried are vanilla beans and a crunchy pecan oatmeal topping. The vanilla flavor is subtle but surprising. Guests might not be able to guess what it is, but they will absolutely go back for more.
In the topping department, marshmallows are not my thing at dinner (sorry if you were hoping for a healthy sweet potato casserole with marshmallows!), but I do solemnly believe that every good casserole deserves a special topping, and this pecan oatmeal one is superb.
The savory crunch of the oats and pecans is an ideal counterpoint to the velvety vanilla sweet potatoes. It vaults this healthy sweet potato casserole straight into the holiday side dish stratosphere.
As I mentioned, in addition to being gluten free (just make sure you used certified gluten free oats like these in the oatmeal topping), this healthy sweet potato casserole is vegan. Instead of using butter and heavy cream, I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk and coconut oil, along with a light touch of maple syrup for extra flavor.
With the additional flavor dimension from the vanilla and maple, I didn’t miss the butter. The filling is still plenty creamy and decadent.
(If making the recipe vegan isn’t a priority, you could try this healthy sweet potato casserole with honey instead, and yes, it works with butter too.)
I’ll be hosting Friendsgiving again this year, our first “official” party in our new home! In addition to the turkey, I’ll be continuing my tradition of making this sweet potato casserole. Now you know why.
Last year’s record: I ate two servings of the casserole at dinner and one the next morning (if you’re looking for a healthy sweet potato breakfast casserole, try this one with a extra maple syrup and vanilla Greek yogurt). In a final act of self preservation, I moved what little remained to our garage refrigerator, hoping the distance would encourage me to eat something besides sweet potato casserole for a meal. It didn’t work.
Since our move, we no longer have a garage refrigerator, so guess who’s eating this healthy sweet potato casserole for dinner, breakfast, and lunch? She’s pretty excited about it. Try this recipe, and you will be too!
How to Make Your Own Almond Meal
- Making your own almond meal is quick and easy! To make your own almond meal, pulse whole, raw almonds in the food processor until they form fine crumbs.
- Be careful to not over process the almond, or you will end up with almond butter instead.
Recommended Tools to Make Sweet Potato Casserole
- Half sheet pans, for roasting the potatoes
- Casserole dish: this one does the trick; this is the one I used for the photos and LOVE. It makes anything you bake in it gorgeous!
Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe
For the Sweet Potatoes:
- 4 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes scrubbed (about 4–5 very large sweet potatoes)
- 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- 2 vanilla beans or 2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste*
- 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil melted
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (it’s an amazing flavor upgrade to grate your own nutmeg. I use this zester to do it.)
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch casserole dish or other 3-quart casserole dish and set aside.
- Prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork, then place them on a baking sheet lined with foil or a silpat mat. Bake until the potatoes are fork tender, about 1 hour or so, depending upon the size of your potatoes. Remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes. Peel and discard the skins (they should come off easily with your fingers), break the potatoes in large chunks with a fork, then place the chunks into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl.
- While the potatoes bake, pour the almond milk in a small saucepan. Split the vanilla beans, scrape the seeds into the pan, then add the empty pods to the pan too. Bring to a very gentle simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not let the almond milk boil. Remove from heat and let the vanilla steep while the potatoes continue baking.
- Remove the vanilla bean pods from the saucepan, then pour the almond milk and vanilla bean specs into the bowl with the sweet potato chunks. Add the melted coconut oil, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and white pepper.
- Mash the potatoes together with the milk and spices (or beat gently with a mixer or your paddle attachment or run though a food mill) until fairly smooth with some texture remaining. Taste and add additional salt/pepper as desired. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. With the back of a rubber spatula, press and smooth into a single layer.
- In a separate bowl, combine the topping ingredients—oats, pecans, almond meal, cinnamon, salt, coconut oil, and maple syrup—until moist and evenly mixed. Sprinkle over the sweet potatoes.
- Bake until the topping is toasted and fragrant and casserole is warmed through, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.
- *You can substitute 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract for the vanilla beans, but the flavor will not be as rich and you lose the pretty specks.
- **To make your own almond meal, pulse whole, raw almonds in the food processor until they form fine crumbs. Do not over process, or you will have almond butter instead.
- MAKE IT AHEAD: Casserole can be prepared up through Step 5 one day in advance. Store refrigerated with plastic wrap over the top of the dish. Let come to room temperature prior to baking.
- TO STORE. Let the sweet potato casserole come to room temperature, then place it in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- TO REHEAT. Heat up leftovers in a 350 degree oven F until warmed through, or warm in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE. To freeze sweet potato casserole, wrap it in the casserole dish with plastic wrap, followed by a layer of foil, or freeze leftovers in an airtight container. Thaw overnight in refrigerator before reheating according to the instructions above.
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