A Healthier Spin on My Family’s Favorite Sweet Potato Casserole
Note, updated pictures but original writing and recipe remains the same.
We are very traditional at Thanksgiving at my house. Thanksgiving is all about celebrating family and traditions, right?!
So it is the same dishes every year, and frankly they are SO good, I don’t think I will ever get sick of them!
One of our favorites is Sweet Potato Casserole. It is really not a side dish, it is a dessert.
The traditional way we have always made it is with canned sweet potatoes in heavy syrup which we combined with more sugar, eggs, and milk. AND then topped with butter, more sugar, nuts, and flour.
But oh so bad for you!
And as our family grew, many food issues arose. My son and I were gluten, egg, and dairy free for years. My nephew has a life-threatening allergy to eggs and is allergic to corn.
So while we could still make our traditional sweet potato casserole, only half the family would be able to partake. And this girl would NOT be happy to watch her family eat one of her favorite dishes without her!
I took it upon myself to healthify and allergy-proof the recipe while still keeping the family happy. And if you have ever messed with a classic recipe passed down for generations, that can be quite the task.
Let me share with you the secrets of my make-over:
- Start with roasting fresh sweet potatoes at 400 degrees for about 1 hour, or until fork tender. Tip: Roast the potatoes while you are baking something else!
- Puree the potatoes in your food processor or in batches in your blender. Add in apple juice concentrate, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla extract while pureeing to finish off the base of your casserole. The apple juice concentrate and maple syrup give this dish all the sweetness that my family craves, while not being full of corn or overly processed sweeteners.
- The Topping: GF Oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, coconut oil, chopped walnuts (or pecans) and maple syrup. These simple ingredients provide the crunch we desire and a sweet richness. And I have found it is best to give all the topping ingredients a quick buzz in the food processor as well–it makes the topping so much more crumbly!
- Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until heated through and the topping is golden brown.
- For the Base:
- 3 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed
- ⅓ cup apple juice concentrate
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- dash of salt
- ½ cup gluten free oats
- 1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- Roast sweet potatoes at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until fork tender. Cool slightly. And lower temperature to 350 degrees.
- Remove skin of sweet potatoes (simply by peeling off skin with fingers) and place the pulp into a large blender or food processor (or use a hand/stand mixer).
- Add the remaining ingredients for the base and puree/mix until smooth.
- Transfer to a 2 quart casserole dish.
- For the topping: combine all the ingredients and sprinkle over the casserole.
- Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until topping is golden brown.
This dish is good. My family enjoys it and appreciates that everyone can have it despite the allergies we face.
But my dad, well his favorite part (the topping) has been changed up a bit too much for him. He loves the base of this, but he really wants the layer of butter and brown sugar–don’t we all?!
So this year, since my dad is trekking 12 hours to my house, I will make my base and his favorite topping. My son and I are no longer dairy free or gluten free so we can have the original topping.
And in case you want to just slightly improve the healthy qualities of this dish and face no dairy or gluten sensitivities in your house, I suggest you make the base as I direct, then mix together the following for the more traditional dish (but still made with all REAL food!)
- Decadent REAL topping: 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup unbleached flour, 1/2 stick butter (softened), 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans. Combine until crumbly and layer on base of casserole and bake as directed.
To Prepare Ahead
Make the base of the sweet potato casserole and cool completely. Freeze in gallon size freezer bag or freezer safe container. Thaw the night before you intend to serve in the refrigerator and then bake as directed with your desired topping.