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Sweet Potato Casserole with Bourbon and Pecans

This sweet potato casserole is sweet, but not too sweet. It’s also a little bit spicy, crunchy with a pecan crumble topping, and spiked with a little bit of bourbon.

Sweet potato casserole

My mother’s sister, Janet, was quite possibly sweetest person I’ve ever known. A pretty lady who  had a kind word for everyone and always—and I mean that quite literally—had a smile on her face.

But my mom used to tell me tales of the feisty and rebellious girl Janet was back in the day. She showed me pictures of a fashionable beauty in kicky skirts, with scarves tied rakishly around her neck, a sassy gleam in her eye.

When I was growing up, without fail, Janet brought the sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner—an old-fashioned super sweet, marshmallow-topped concoction. My family all complained that they were “too sweet,” and yet, we all would have thrown fits if Janet had failed to supply them one year.

After Janet passed away, we knew it was time to retire that over-the-top sweet version, and somehow, the task of filling the sweet potato hole in our Thanksgiving menu fell to me.

There was tsimmes for a while, but it never quite caught on. Then there were sweet potatoes roasted with rosemary, cider-glazed sweet potatoes, and mashed sweet potatoes, but they all went largely uneaten and wholly unappreciated.

Until one year I whipped up this rich, sweet, spicy, and nutty sweet potato casserole adapted from an Emeril Legasse recipe. I thought for sure my picky cousins, aunts, and uncles would turn their noses up at this bourbon-spiked dish with a kick of cayenne, but they polished it off that first year and even asked for the recipe.

This sweet potato casserole has since become a new tradition. Like my beloved Aunt Janet, it’s a sweet dish with a secret feisty side. I’m pretty sure Janet would have liked it, too—and even if she hadn’t, she would have said something nice. She was just sweet like that.

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Yield: 12

Bourbon-Maple Sweet Potato Custard with Crunchy Pecan Topping

Bourbon-Maple Sweet Potato Custard with Crunchy Pecan Topping

Roasting the sweet potatoes in a hot oven instead of peeling, cubing, and boiling them as many recipes suggest is much less work and, I think, intensifies their flavor. My version also cuts back on the "dessert" flavors common to many sweet potato casseroles (cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, coconut, marshmallows) and plays up the savory.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds orange-fleshed yams
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup, plus more to taste depending on the sweetness of your yams
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • Cooking spray, olive oil, or butter for preparing the baking dish
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Bake yams for about 1½ hours, until soft, and then peel and mash them in a large bowl.
  3. Add half-and-half, maple syrup, bourbon, salt, eggs, and cayenne to the sweet potatoes beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth.
  4. Coat a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray, olive oil, or butter and spoon potato mixture into it, smoothing out the top.
  5. In a food processor pulse flour and sugar together to combine.
  6. Add chilled butter and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal.
  7. Stir in pecans and sprinkle over potato mixture.
  8. Cover and bake at 375° for 15 minutes.
  9. Uncover and bake an additional 25 minutes or until the topping is browned and the potatoes are thoroughly heated.

Nutrition Information

Yield

12

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 333Total Fat 13gSaturated Fat 5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 7gCholesterol 66mgSodium 208mgCarbohydrates 52gFiber 6gSugar 33gProtein 5g

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By on November 23rd, 2010

About Robin Donovan


Hi, I’m Robin! I am a full-time food blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. I spend my days cooking, writing about, and photographing food.

I’m the author of more than 40 cookbooks, including Ramen for Beginners, 5 Ingredient Cooking for Two, Sushi at Home, The Baking Cookbook for Teens, and the bestselling Campfire Cuisine.

My food writing has also been featured in major print and online pubications including Cooking Light, Fitness, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and other popular publications.

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3 thoughts on “Sweet Potato Casserole with Bourbon and Pecans”

  1. Oh, thank goodness you posted this. We are off to Walnut Creek to my cousin’s house for The Big Day with The Big Bird. I have been assigned wines and a “fun sweet potato side-dish”. Thank you, thank you for ending my search for just the right recipe. Can’t wait to wow the family. Love your new blog!

    Reply
  2. I made this dish and it was fantastic – a big hit at our dinner. But I’m wondering about the tedious task of peeling the cooling sweet potatoes. Is there a reason why we can’t peel them first, then oven roast them? Is the flavor/texture/moisture affected by peeling first?

    Reply
    • Hmmm. I think that peeling after cooking is way easier. I cook them until they are quite soft and then the peel slips right off and/or I smoosh the flesh right out. I also use large yams, so it isn’t that many to peel. I suppose you could peel them first, though, if that is easier for you. If you do that, you’d probably want to coat them with olive oil or something before roasting, though, so the outside doesn’t dry out.

      Reply

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