This healthy sweet potato casserole with maple pecan topping is a lightened up version of the classic Thanksgiving side dish. It’s naturally sweetened, grain-free, dairy-free with a vegan option.

Healthy sweet potato casserole with pecan topping; dairy-free, grain-free, paleo, vegan-option

To be honest, I was never a fan of sweet potato casserole. I would load my plate up with good old mashed potatoes quickly passing by the sweet potato casserole. While I like sweet potatoes and marshmallows, the combination wasn’t something I could get behind. Until now!

This healthy sweet potato casserole is absolutely delicious. It starts with roasted sweet potatoes combined with dairy-free milk, vegan butter/coconut oil, warm spices, a touch of maple syrup and eggs, which are completely optional! This creates a thick, yet velvety smooth base that gets light and fluffy in the oven. It’s topped with sweet and salty maple pecans that adds extra sweetness and crunch to balance it out the creamy sweet potatoes.

While this is a lightened-up sweet potato casserole, it’s sure to get rave reviews. Keep in mind it’s naturally sweetened and much lower in sugar that a traditional sweet potato casserole. But that’s the beauty of it. You can actually taste the flavor of the sweet potato and spices.  If you’re looking for a healthier twist on a classic, this sweet potato casserole will be your new favorite Thanksgiving side dish!

Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole Ingredients

This lightened-up sweet potato casserole comes together easily with just a handful of ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

    • Sweet potatoes – This recipe calls for 3 pounds of fresh sweet potatoes. This is about 4 large potatoes and equals 4 cups mashed after roasting. I recommend weighing them out at the store since potatoes can vary greatly in size.
    • Plant-based milk – you have options here. Any plant-based milk or creamer will work. As a rule of thumb, the more fat in the milk the creamier the potatoes. I love using cashew milk or oat milk in this recipe, but any plant-based milk or creamer will work!
    • Spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and black pepper. Yes, black pepper. It adds a touch of savory spiciness that helps balance out the sweetness.
    • Maple syrup – just a touch of added sweetness and lovely maple flavor. Honestly, this is optional. Taste the sweet potato mixture before adding the egg. If you’re looking for a sweeter casserole add in the maple syrup. Start with 2 tablespoons and adjust to your taste preference.
    • Vegan butter/coconut oil – adding in additional healthy fat creates a luscious silky smooth texture and of course, flavor! I recommend Miyoko’s Vegan Butter but you can also use coconut oil. Just keep in mind it won’t have the same “buttery” taste.
    • Eggs (or not!) – I’ve made this sweet potato casserole with and without eggs, both ways are delicious. The eggs act as a binder and gives the casserole a light and fluffy texture. Without eggs, the casserole doesn’t have as much structure but it still silky smooth and tastes delicious.
    • Maple pecan topping – chopped pecans get coated in maple syrup, cinnamon and sea salt. This adds additional sweet and salty crunch that balances out the smooth sweet potatoes. I highly recommend making the candied pecans on the stove top before topping. This extra 5-minutes toasts the nuts and created a maple glaze on the pecans. However, simply tossing the pecans in the maple syrup and spices before sprinkling on top the casserole work too!
Healthy sweet potato casserole with pecan topping; dairy-free, grain-free, paleo, vegan-option

Can you make sweet potato casserole without eggs?

Yes! I’ve tested this recipe without eggs and while it doesn’t have as much structure, it still tastes delicious. So feel free to leave the eggs out for a vegan sweet potato casserole. If opting for this egg-free/vegan version, you may consider adding 1-2 tablespoons more of vegan butter or coconut oil to the sweet potato filling. Eggs contain have fat which contribute to the overall taste and texture.

I don’t recommend adding flax eggs or a scratch to thicken up the casserole. I tested this and the texture isn’t ideal. That being said, I’ve seen a few other recipes that call for a store-bought vegan egg replacer. You could try this! But I find that the sweet potato casserole doesn’t necessarily need it.

Do you have to use roasted sweet potatoes?

Technically no, but I highly recommend it! Using roasted sweet potatoes is key to the best sweet potato casserole. Roasting the sweet potatoes brings out their sweetness, which means you don’t have to add as much sugar (or any if you don’t want to!). It also keeps the sweet potatoes light and fluffy.

Yes, you could boil the potatoes, microwave them or cook them in the instant pot but I don’t recommend it. The sugars won’t caramelize the same. Since roasting takes about an hour, I recommend roasting them ahead of time. Roast them the day before and keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to make the casserole.

Healthy sweet potato casserole with pecan topping; dairy-free, grain-free, paleo, vegan-option
Healthy sweet potato casserole with pecan topping; dairy-free, grain-free, paleo, vegan-option

Can I Make Sweet Potato Casserole In Advance?

Yes, you can make this sweet potato casserole in advance. To significantly cut back on the cooking time, roast the sweet potatoes a day or two beforehand. You can make the entire casserole in advance. .

    • Roast the sweet potatoes in advance: To cut down on time roast the sweet potatoes in advance. Store the whole sweet potatoes in the fridge until ready to make. You can also make the pecan topping in advance.
    • Make the entire dish ahead of time: simply prepare and assemble the recipe as directed. Instead of baking, cover with foil and place in the fridge. This can be done up to two days in advance. Once ready, bake as directed. You could also bake it fully and just rewarm covered in a 350F oven for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165F.

Substitutions and variations:

Following the recipe as written is delicious! However, I’ve tested these substitutions and slight variations and they work wonderfully! If you make any changes to the recipe or give it your own twist, make sure to leave a comment below the recipes, as it helps others know how a substitution worked.

    • Make it vegan – simply omit the eggs. The casserole won’t bind together as much but it will still taste delicious. Since eggs contain fat make sure to use a plant-based milk with a higher fat content, coconut milk, or add 1-2 tablespoons of vegan butter or coconut oil to the sweet potato filling.
    • Add more sweetness – adjust the sweetness to taste. I’ve made this sweet potato casserole with and without maple syrup. Feel free to make it without since sweet potatoes have a natural sweetness to them. You can also add more maple syrup to taste. Just make sure to taste before adding the egg.
    • Omit the vegan butter – adding in 2-3 tablespoons melted vegan butter or coconut oil to the sweet potato filling makes it lusciously smooth and creamy. I did test it without and it still taste good! But if you’re looking for a creamier texture or more buttery flavor, I recommend keeping it in! 
    • Replace the milk for orange juice – replace ¼ – ½ cup of the milk with freshly squeezed orange juice. This adds a hint of orange flavor and natural sweetness to the potatoes. It also pairs wonderfully with the spices.
Healthy sweet potato casserole with pecan topping; dairy-free, grain-free, paleo, vegan-option

More healthy Thanksgiving dishes to try:

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Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole

This healthy sweet potato casserole with maple pecan topping is a lightened up version of the classic Thanksgiving side dish. It’s naturally sweetened, grain-free, dairy-free with a vegan option.

  • Author: Jessica Bippen
  • Prep Time: 1 hr 15 min
  • Cook Time: 35 min
  • Total Time: 1 hr 50 min
  • Yield: 8-10 servings 1x
Scale

Ingredients

For the Potatoes:
3 lbs sweet potatoes, (about 4 large)
½ cup unsweetened full-fat plant-based milk
2 eggs, whisked (omit for vegan, see notes)
2-4 tablespoons maple syrup (see notes)
3 tablespoons vegan butter or coconut oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

For the Topping:
1 ½ cups pecans, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons maple syrup
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt

Instructions

Roast the potatoes. Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Wash the potatoes and piece with a fork or knife; about 4-5 pokes per potato. Arrange the sweet potatoes on the baking sweet. Place in the oven for 50 min to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Large potatoes take longer to cook. The potatoes are done when you see sugars bubbling from the holes and they are easily pierced with a knife.

Make the casserole. Heat the oven to 375F. Lightly grease an 11 x 7-inch or a 2 quart glass or ceramic baking dish with oil; set aside.

When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in half, scoop out flesh. You should have about 4 cups. Place the sweet potatoes in a food processor (you can also mash by hand or use an electric mixer). Add the milk, vegan butter/coconut oil (if using), cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Taste and add 2-4 maple syrup. Taste and adjust sweetness if necessary. Mix in the eggs (if using) until fully combined. Pour into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top.

For the maple pecans. In a small bowl, combine the pecans, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt. Optional but recommend: candy the pecans on the stove-top. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. add the pecan mixture; stir continuously for about 3-5 minutes. The pecans are done when the maple syrup starts to harden and nuts are fragrant. Spread the candied nuts on parchment paper to let cool or immediately top the casserole. You can also simply sprinkle the maple pecan mixture over the top of the sweet potato mixture, skipping the stove-top step. 

Bake the casserole. Place the sweet potato casserole uncovered in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165F. The top will be slightly golden brown and the edges start to puff. If making the egg-free vegan version, the casserole just needs to be warmed through; about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Notes

Vegan option: Simply omit the egg. The casserole won’t bind together as much but it will still taste delicious. Since eggs contain fat make sure to use a plant-based milk with a higher fat content, coconut milk and 1-2 tablespoons more of vegan butter or coconut oil to the sweet potato filling.

Plant-based milk: I recommend a full-fat plant-based milk as this provides the fat and creaminess in this recipe. I like oat milk, homemade cashew cream but any full-fat plant-based milk (ex. Malk) or plant-based creamer will work.

Maple syrup: I’ve made this with and without the maple syrup in the casserole. The maple syrup does add flavor and extra sweetness. However, feel free to make it without since sweet potatoes have a natural sweetness to them. You can also add more maple syrup to taste. Just make sure to taste before adding the eggs. 

 

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

I’d love to hear how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #nourishedbynutriton.