Searching for the best sweet potato casserole recipe this Thanksgiving? We tested 8 popular recipes in search for the perfect casserole for every palate! Whether you’re looking for marshmallows, a pecan crumble or a bronzed meringue topping, we uncovered some useful techniques in this bake off.
When it comes to a Thanksgiving table, sweet potato casserole is one of my favorite dishes that I always gravitate towards! While I didn’t grow up eating it often, I do remember eating marshmallow-topped casseroles. In the search for the best sweet potato casserole recipe, we had to be equitable–so there’s a mix of pecan and marshmallow casseroles here.
- Most casseroles were assembled the day before and baked the day of
- 28 friends participated in tasting and ranking for the below scores.
- Each taster ranked each casserole on an overall scale of 1-10 and then ranked all casseroles in order of preference.
For this test, I selected a diverse group of casseroles. From marshmallows to brown butter to pecan crumbles and a vegan option, we tested a wide range!
This spreadsheet contains all the casserole finalists I considered (you can see how similar many recipes are). Here are the recipes I tested:
- Oh She Glows
- Serious Eats
- The Kitchn
- America’s Test Kitchen
- Sally’s Baking Addiction
- Ruth Chris
- How Sweet Eats
As usual, the tastes and textures of these recipes far more than I expected based on the simple formulas.
Note that Ruth Chris and Saveur actually came close to a virtual tie. You can see from the chart that while Ruth had a higher average rating, Saveur had a much tighter distribution. This means that more people thought that Saveur was a strong casserole while Ruth’s casserole was a bit more divisive.
Casseroles like America’s Test Kitchen ranked really highly with at least one person though low ratings from others brought down the overall average. And even though several casseroles are all clustered around the 2-6 point range (which seems low), I still believe that most of these casseroles, would do just fine at a gathering.
As always, a reminder that the group’s #1 casserole may not be your personal #1. So I encourage you to read through the extended reviews to find a recommendation that fits your tastes.
Analysis of the Best Sweet Potato Casserole Recipes
Oh She Glows: a lightly-spiced and sweetened vegan sweet potato casserole with a granola-like topping
Angela is probably my favorite vegan blogger. I’ve made many of her recipes with great success, so I trusted that this casserole would be able to compete against conventional counterparts. The sweet potatoes are mashed with vegan butter, coconut oil, vanilla, maple syrup and spices and topped with an oat and pecan crumble. Unfortunately, in what seems to be a pattern for any recipe involving coconut oil–this casserole did not please most tasters. The biggest complaint tasters voiced was that it was “bland,” “needs more spice” and “not sweet enough.” When you compare the relative amount of fat and sweetener to other casseroles, it’s easy to see why this one tasted bland in comparison.
Tasters also likened the topping to granola. Some liked the texture while others thought it was “too oat-y and healthy tasting” and “slightly dry.” Personally, I don’t think 16-23 minutes of bake time was enough to brown the topping. If I made this casserole again, I would use all vegan butter (omitting coconut oil). andincrease the maple syrup and spices in the filling and topping. I’d also bake the casserole for longer (at least 30 min) to get the topping browned.
Make this if: you are vegan, or have some vegans in your life. Or just someone who wants a healthy (and healthy-tasting) sweet potato casserole.
The Kitchn: a cinnamon, nutmeg and thyme-forward filling with a meringue topping
The photos of this casserole are utterly picturesque with golden peaks of torched meringue. The directions in this recipe say to whip the meringue topping to stiff peaks, but I feel they would have been better left at soft peaks. Admittedly, I did leave it in the oven for a tad too long, hence the very brown meringue. Virtually everyone did not enjoy the meringue topping (“ABSOLUTELY NOT. SO EGGY. WHY” raged one taster), with several suggestions that marshmallows would be better than the very eggy-tasting meringue.
People were split on the sweet potato filling. Some enjoyed the spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, and a bit of fresh thyme), but others felt it wasn’t the best blend of spices. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of nutmeg and felt it came through pretty strongly in this casserole. The texture was very thick and souffle-esque thanks to the addition of the four egg yolks. While I liked the no-waste aspect (the whites get used in the topping), the texture was thicker than my ideal.
Make this if: you are a meringue fan, you like a slightly thicker potato texture, and you love cinnamon and nutmeg.
Serious Eats: a tangy, gingery, brown buttered sweet potato base topped with mini marshmallows
Serious Eats notes that this recipe was developed to combat the traditional “achingly sweet” marshmallow topping. The base includes a whopping 6 pounds of sweet potatoes slow roasted in a foil package for extra caramelization. These then get mashed with thyme-infused brown butter, grated ginger and buttermilk or sour cream. The whole thing gets topped with mini marshmallows!
As one of the only recipes using sour cream, the tangy flavor really stood out to tasters. Some noted that it was “savory” “bland” and “nothing special.” Several also noted that the texture “tasted like baby food,” was “oddly smooth” or like “gooey mush.” This made me wonder if the slow roasting technique actually led to overcooked potatoes. On the positive side, several loved the buttery flavor, but most felt it was lacking sweetness.
Ultimately, I think this would be a great casserole if you tend to like less sweet foods. The brown buttered sweet potatoes are really tasty! I’d also recommend increasing the marshmallow amount. Multiple tasters noted that the marshmallows were too sparse.
Make this if: you’re serving palates who prefer less sweet dishes.
Sally’s Baking Addiction: a less sweet, velvety-textured sweet potato casserole with a cinnamon-forward pecan topping.
Sally’s casserole uses just 2 pounds of potatoes and a promising cast of ingredients. It includes cream for richness, butter, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and eggs. The straightforward pecan topping uses cinnamon, sugar, butter and flour. This was the only recipe that calls for whipping the potatoes in a mixer (stand or handheld), which seemed a little unnecessary to me.
Until I tasted them! I whipped mine to a fairly smooth consistency, and I loved the creamy, velvety texture. (Feel free to leave them chunkier if you prefer.) I liked the flavor of the crunchy topping, though I would have preferred the pecans chopped rather than whole. The filling, on the other hand, wasn’t quite sweet enough for my palate. Tasters were split between thinking the potatoes were “a bit bland” vs. “very buttery!!”
Overall the casserole didn’t quite wow me next to the others. One taster dubbed this casserole “extraordinarily forgettable.” In this particular cast of casseroles, I tend to agree–a solid but perhaps not outstanding casserole!
Make this if: you’re looking for a smaller commitment with uber-creamy, not-too-sweet potatoes.
America’s Test Kitchen: a classically sweet pecan-topped casserole with homemade candied sweet potatoes
As usual, America’s Test Kitchen features a slightly unusual cooking process. Rather than simply mixing cooked potatoes with butter and sugar, everything gets cooked together until softened and candied. The potato mixture gets blanketed with a sugary pecan topping that includes an egg white for an extra crisp top. Visually, it’s very similar to Sally’s casserole, but the potatoes were quite a bit sweeter (which most tasters preferred).
Multiple tasters noted that this casserole tasted like it had less sugar, but that they still liked the flavor. “Most authentic sweet potato flavor,” said one taster. “Appearance wise, looks healthy. Very surprised how delicious the sweet potatoes are,” said another.
Some complained that the potatoes were too dense while others appreciated the texture, and that the potatoes weren’t too “smushed.” I didn’t notice any special crispness in the topping, so I probably wouldn’t bother adding the egg white next time. This is a delicious, crowd-pleasing casserole.
Make this if: you like candied sweet potatoes with some added texture and a sweet and spicy topping.
How Sweet Eats: a uniquely spiced coconut and nutmeg sweet potato filling with an oat crumble and marshmallow topping
As a big fan of Jessica’s blog, I was excited to try her “lightened up” sweet potato casserole. With a oat crumble and marshmallow topping and coconut milk sweet potatoes, it seemed healthy-ish while still being decadent.
Tasters loved the sweet and crunchy topping laced with marshmallows (again, add more marshmallows than called for for maximum delight). “Perfect blend and consistency, love the crunch!” said one taster. Although coconut can be quite divisive, tasters actually commented positively on its inclusion here. “Commendable use of nutmeg, maple and coconut,” said one taster. “Coconutty and well-balanced,” said another.
Of course, not everyone loved the coconut (“crust texture is too chewy from the coconut”). I didn’t love the strong nutmeg notes in the filling, though I loved everything else. If you’re also not a fan of nutmeg, I’d recommend omitting it. Without it, it would probably vy for one of my top favorites!
Make this if: you’re trying to please both crumble- and marshmallow-topping lovers, and you love the flavors of nutmeg, maple and coconut.
Saveur: a sweet, traditionally spiced casserole with a delightful combination crumble-marshmallow topping
Like How Sweet Eats, Saveur’s casserole combines an oat-based crumble with marshmallows in the topping. The sweet potato filling is slightly spicier than others with cinnamon, pepper, freshly ground nutmeg and grated fresh ginger.
For the most part, tasters loved the overall flavor and balance of this casserole. “Really nice cinnamon flavor, not too sweet, traditional,” said one taster. Most loved the touch of toasted marshmallows on top of the crumble, and several commented on its nostalgic value (“like mom used to make”).
Overall, there were very few critiques of this casserole except for the occasional stringy texture of the freshly grated ginger. If you’re not a fan of fresh ginger, dried ginger would work well instead. I loved the combination of a crumble and marshmallows on top. Predictably, I would add far more marshmallows as 1/4 cup is just silly.
Make this if: you love a cinnamon-spiced, “traditional” casserole with both crumble and marshmallow.
Described as “knock-your-socks-off-tasty” in Erica’s recipe showdown, this recipe comes from Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Based on the many copycat recipe iterations, this is an incredibly popular dish!. In fact, there’s so many iterations (with varying amounts of butter) that it was hard to find the “original” recipe. After finally watching a grainy YouTube video of a Ruth’s Chris chef, I went with a version that uses a stick of butter in both the potatoes and the topping.
Unsurprisingly, the recipe that’s stacked with as much butter and sugar as a cake was the clear winner of this bake off. “My soul left my body,” said one taster. Even though I used canned sweet potatoes, people still loved the sweet filling and the buttery crust studded with chopped pecans. “Very flavorful crust,” “praliney” “great topping, great texture,” said tasters.
The crust was so buttery that the casserole was nearly swimming in its own juices. I don’t think there would be any issue with halving the butter in the topping (per many other copycat recipes). Some did feel it was too sweet (” I love it but only want a bite,” “overwhelmingly sweet”). One said there was “too much butter.” Adjust at your own peril.
Make this if: you want a dessert-like, very sweet, showstopper of a casserole with a candied crust that is sure to impress everyone (except those that find everything “too sweet”).
Tips on making the best sweet potato casserole
Here are my thoughts on how to streamline the next time you make sweet potato casseroleÚ
- Don’t hesitate to use canned sweet potatoes: At the start of the bake off, I was positive that baking sweet potatoes would yield the best results. However, after smothering the potatoes in butter, sugar and spices, everything tastes fairly similar. Especially when you’re making a decadent casserole like Ruth’s Chris, it’s totally justifiable to use canned sweet potatoes if you’re short on time. I personally would save the baked sweet potatoes for a plainer application (or unless you have the oven on anyway).
- No need to bake potatoes in foil: I found that potatoes baked in foil packages for Serious Eats didn’t slip out of their skins as easily as the potatoes simply baked on a tray for The Kitchn. My tip? No need to foil them.
- Chop pecans for the best texture: Chopped pecans are easier to disperse for a more even-textured crust on casseroles. Whole pecans are much harder to stab with a fork!
- Whip with an electric mixer for a smooth texture: If you love a creamy-smooth texture, try whipping your potatoes in a mixer! (But be careful to avoid overwhipping, which can lead to gummy potatoes.) It’s a nice change up from the slightly chunky texture you get from mashing by hand.
- Erika’s picks: Ruth’s Chris, Saveur or ATK for a pecan option
- Best taste for least effort: Ruth’s Chris with canned sweet potatoes
- Most traditional casserole: Saveur or Ruth Chris
- For a less sweet casserole: Serious Eats
- For a really sweet casserole! Ruth’s Chris
- If you love pecans: America’s Test Kitchen or Sally’s Baking Addictions
- For marshmallows AND pecans: Saveur or How Sweet Eats
- For a healthy/vegan casserole: Oh She Glows