This classic casserole often straddles the line between side and dessert (indeed, we've enjoyed the leftovers both ways). We dial down the sugar to steer the dish back to savory territory, and add a crunchy oat and nut topper for texture. A final drizzle of maple syrup just before serving gives the casserole a lovely sheen. While we call for a ricer in our master mashed potatoes, a potato masher is perfectly acceptable here since the spuds will be bound with an egg, topped, and baked. Chopped almonds or walnuts would be a delicious sub for the pecans.

Photo: Jennifer Causey

This all-time favorite Thanksgiving side has a few pitfalls that are worth avoiding. Here’s what you need to know.

Hannah Klinger
September 08, 2017

1. Overwork the Mash

Put your food mill, ricer, and food processor away. You don’t want a silky smooth mash for potato casserole because it won’t hold together properly after baking (a casserole dish full of baby food? No thanks). A coarse mash is what gives the casserole its character and body. Use a potato masher or a fork to break down the sweet potatoes instead.

We promise this technique won't let you down, as shown with our Quick Traditional Sweet Potato Casserole recipe

Photo: Johnny Miller; Styling: Sarah Smart

2. Forget the Egg

The egg is the all-important binder in a sweet potato casserole: it enriches and stiffens the mixture without making it heavy. Make sure to cool the mash slightly before adding the egg so it doesn’t scramble, and to stir well so there are no streaks of cooked egg white in the finished dish.

3. Use Too Much Sugar

Added sugar and sweet evaporated milk in the filling, a candied nut topper, and marshmallows for good measure…it’s a wonder many sweet potato casserole recipes are still not classified as dessert. Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet; all that extra sugar is not only unnecessary, it masks a delicious ingredient. A little brown sugar in the streusel topping and a little brown sugar or maple syrup in the base (combined with sweet-tasting vanilla and cinnamon) is all you need.

This sweet potato casserole recipe proves that even with less sugar, this dish is still an indulgence.

Photo: Brian Woodcock

4. Forget the Crunch

A great sweet potato casserole needs an element of crunch to elevate the filling, otherwise it will get lost among the other dishes on the Thanksgiving table. Chopped toasted almonds, pecans, or pumpkinseeds are a great addition, as well as an oat streusel. If prepping ahead, keep the topper and the base separate, then assemble and bake before the meal.

Try our Sweet Potato Casserole with Crunchy Oat Topping for a crowd favorite.

Photo: Jennifer Causey

5. Don’t Let It Set Before Serving

A piping hot casserole will not have had time to fully set and will be harder to serve. The topper also needs a couple minutes to dry out, just like a homemade granola, in order to have great crunch. Let it stand at room temperature for 10 to 20 minutes before serving. Because of the density of the mixture and size of the casserole, it will still be quite warm when guests dig in.