Made with creamy baked sweet potatoes topped with a pancetta, sage, and pecan crumble, this casserole side dish is the perfect blend of sweet and savory.
Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite veggies ever, and I eat quite a bit of them once fall arrives. I love ’em all kinds of ways. Mashed with maple syrup and smoky chipotle peppers, whipped into a sweet and fluffy soufflé for a decadent treat, and of course baked twice is just as nice.
At Thanksgiving, you typically see two types of sweet potato casserole—one with brûléed marshmallows (admittedly delicious but ultimately too sweet for me) or topped with a sugary pecan streusel (much like the one you find on coffee cakes). My version doesn’t stray too far from the latter.
This recipe features the creamy sweet potato mash you know and love, but the topping has a twist. This sweet potato casserole topping is more of a savory-sweet crumble, with aromatic sage, salty pancetta, and black pepper (trust) mixed with brown sugared crunch pecans. It’s a delightfully savory contrast to the sweet and fluffy mixture underneath. Now my mouth is watering. It just doesn’t get better than this.
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What’s in Sweet Potato Casserole
- Sweet potatoes—baked for max flavor
- Butter—it gets mixed in with the sweet potatoes and in the streusel
- Half and half (or whole milk)
- Light brown sugar (or dark brown for more molasses flavor)
- Pancetta—adds a nice savory bite to the topping. Try bacon if you can’t find pancetta.
- Pecans—or give walnuts a try
- Fresh sage—adds a nice, unexpected aromatics to the dish
How to Make Sweet Potato Casserole
Bake the sweet potatoes. Follow this baked sweet potato recipe, or here’s the quick rundown: Place the potatoes on a baking sheet, whole with the skin on, and cook in a 400°F oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour (depending on the size), or until soft and the peels are papery and pulling away from the flesh. Make sure the potatoes are really soft so they’re easy to mash.
Make your savory crumble. The sweet and savory topping is what makes this dish shine. Cook the pancetta until crisp, cool, then add to the pecans, brown sugar, flour, sage, and kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use your hands to work the butter into the mix until everything is coated and clinging into clumps.
Mix the yams, eggs, half and half and more brown sugar with the salt and pepper. Use a whisk if you’re feeling strong, or an electric hand mixer brings this mixture together quick.
Let’s casserole. Load the sweet potato mixture into a 9 X 13-inch baking dish. You could use a smaller dish, but I like to spread it out so when the crumble is added to the top, there’s plenty of crunch to go around.
Are Canned Yams and Sweet Potatoes the Same
Sweet potatoes and yams (canned or fresh) are often used interchangeably, but one is not like the other. Sweet potatoes are sweeter (surprise, surprise) and contain more moisture than starchier yams, which can taste on the dry side. The reason we often mix the two up is firm varieties of sweet potatoes were grown first in the United States, followed by a softer variety (the one we see in stores now). In order to differentiate the two, American farmers began calling the softer variety “yams,” (the English word of the African word “nyami”).
Both sweet potatoes and yams vary in color, from orange to white to purple, and both are delicious in their own right.
Why Does a Sweet Potato Casserole Need Eggs?
Eggs work as a binder here, helping hold the sweet potato mixture together. Skip the egg if you like and the casserole may not hold together as well, but will likely be just as delicious.
Should You Boil or Bake Sweet Potatoes?
While you can totally do either, I prefer baking my sweet potatoes. Baking potatoes allows the natural sugar in them to caramelize and coaxes out much more of their flavor. I also find that their texture is smoother. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet, whole with the skin on, and cook in a 400°F oven for 1 hour, or until soft and the peels are papery and pulling away from the flesh. Cool until you can easily peel the jackets from the potatoes, then discard the peel.
If you want to boil your sweet potatoes instead (which may help retain more of their antioxidants), peel and quarter them, then place in a large saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender, and cooked through.
What to Serve With Sweet Potato Casserole
- Juicy Turkey Breast
- Herb Butter Rotisserie Turkey
- 40 Cloves of Garlic Roast Chicken
- The Best Juicy Grilled Pork Chops
- Crispy Parmesan Buttermilk Chicken Tenders (Baked or Air Fryer)
- Stuffed Chicken Thighs with Spinach and Goat Cheese
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Sweet Potato Casserole with Savory Crumble
- 4 pounds sweet potatoes , about 5-6 sweet potatoes
- 8 tablespoons butter , softened at room temperature
- ½ cup half and half or whole milk
- ¼ cup light brown sugar , can also use dark
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 large eggs
For the Savory Crumble
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ½ cup flour
- 1/2 cup diced pancetta , 4 ounces
- 1 cup unsalted pecans , coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh sage . coarsely chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper , to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Place the potatoes on a baking sheet, whole with the skin on, and cook in a 400°F oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour (depending on the size), or until very soft and the peels are papery and pulling away from the flesh. Use a cake tester or long skewer to test for tenderness. Once the sweet potatoes are tender, remove them from the oven and rest until you can easily peel the jackets from the potatoes, then discard the peel. Reduce the oven temp to 350°F.
- While the potatoes bake, make the savory crumble. Heat a small skillet over medium and cook the diced pancetta, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes or until crisp. Use a slotted spatula to transfer pancetta to a paper towel to drain. Add 4 tablespoons of the butter to a medium sized microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted. To the melted butter, add the brown sugar, flour, pecans, chopped sage, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, and use your hands to combine. Set aside.
- Add the peeled sweet potatoes to a large bowl. Use an electric hand mixer or potato masher to mash them well. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of softened butter, half and half, brown sugar, and salt, and mix well. Whisk in the eggs. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Transfer the mixture to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and evenly sprinkle the crumble mixture overtop. Place in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
More Sweet Potato Side Dish Ideas
- Sweet Potato Soufflé
- How to Make Yummy Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes
- Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos
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