This is not exactly a groundbreaking recipe. I guess you could call it an oldie but goodie. I looked around at other recipes for the classic Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole similar to the one my grandmother used to make. I loved her version; but I always found myself favoring the crunchy pecan topping over the sweet potato filling. Her version was super-rich; without marshmallows but sweet enough to sit on the dessert table, not the dinner buffet. The recipes I found were very similar, mashed sweet potatoes mixed with eggs, butter, vanilla and lots of sugar. Most of the recipes I found called for a cup of sugar for just three cups of sweet potatoes. REALLY??? That’s dessert – a sweet one. Most sweet potato pie recipes don’t even call for that much sugar.
What’s the reason for the overload? I think there might be a tendency to throw nutrition out the window for Thanksgiving and go with the more-is-more philosophy. I am all for splurging at holidays when the splurge makes the end product worth the splurge. But sweet potatoes are really sweet to start with; I just don’t understand all the sugar in a side dish destined for the dinner plate.
So, I decided to try the same recipe but with no sugar (or butter) added to the mashed sweet potatoes. I wanted to keep the topping sweet and crunchy and full of pecans, and threw in whole wheat pastry flour to help keep the topping ultra-crunchy. The result? My husband, who has never liked the classic version, loved it. The topping provides more than enough added sugar to preserve the classic flavor and it’s still full of the crunchy, nutty topping. Without all the sugar, you can actually taste sweet potato flavor too. As part of the dinner plate, it is still a sweet standout, as most sweet potato recipes are, but it is not a palate-killer either.
It is easily doubled and freezes beautifully. You can make it weeks in advance then take it out the day before you want it and have a no-hassle side dish that will please everyone. Enjoy!
Sorry, no how-to shots this time. I took them, but they are now a distant memory thanks to a little oops with the delete button.
Sweet Potato Casserole (Less Sugar Version)
Buy cutting the added sugar out of the mashed sweet potatoes, which are certainly sweet enough on their own, and substituting whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose, a classic dish is made less-decadent while still tasting just as good as the original. To keep the special occasion feel to this dish, I use a lot of pecans. They replace a lot of the refined sugar with healthy fats and sweet pecan crunch. This is easily doubled, but cooking times will increase by about 10-15 minutes.
2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
4 tablespoons butter (a 1/2 stick) softened
1 cups pecans, chopped
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the sweet potatoes thoroughly and pierce with a knife or fork. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a knife slides into the potato with almost no resistance. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
When the potatoes have cooled, scrape the potato out of the skin and mash with a potato masher or fork. Combine the mashed sweet potato with the egg, vanilla and salt. Transfer the sweet potato mixture to a greased baking dish.
In another bowl, combine the brown sugar and pastry flour. Using a pastry cutter or your hands (my preffered method) mix the butter into the sugar and flour. Add the pecans and mix. Top the sweet potatoes with the pecan mixture. To make-ahead, wrap the casserole tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to two days or freeze up to a month ahead.
If baking immediately, decrease oven temperature to 375 and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the top is starting to darken and is slightly puffed.
If cooking from frozen, thoroughly defrost in a refrigerator for 24 hours before baking then follow the instructions below for baking from the refrigerator.
To bake a refrigerated casserole, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unwrap the casserole and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the edges are darker brown and slightly puffed. Use a thermometer to check to make sure that the center of the casserole is also heated through. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
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