A lighter version of the classic southern Thanksgiving side dish, this lower sugar and eggless sweet potato casserole features super smooth mashed sweet potatoes with a brown sugar pecan oat streusel topping. No eggs and no marshmallows in this healthier sweet potato casserole recipe!
If you’re looking for more Thanksgiving recipes, check out my cranberry crumb bars, cranberry coffee cake, leftover cranberry sauce breakfast rolls, salted caramel apple galette, and small batch pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting.
Inspiration behind the recipe
I’m not proud of this admission, but I was a card-carrying sweet potato hater for the first two decades of my life. I just didn’t enjoy them. I think it had something to do with the fact that I expected potatoes to be savory, in the same way I expect pickles to be savory, and it just didn’t compute that they should be sweet.
I can pinpoint the time at which this aversion reversed itself forever: Thanksgiving 2010. I was living in New York City, freshly graduated from college. I took the train home to Philadelphia for Thanksgiving, even though I had to take it right back the next day because I hadn’t accrued enough vacation time to take Friday off.
We went to a restaurant my parents love for Thanksgiving dinner (I realize that’s strange, but there were just 4 of us), and it was there that I took a small portion of the mashed sweet potatoes on offer because my dad (southern by birth, of course) insisted they were good.
I expected the cloying, gross sweetness I remembered from whatever childhood experience I’d had. But I was shocked when instead, I encountered silky, buttery, barely-sweet complexity. The texture was just…beyond. They were ethereally smooth. And they really weren’t all that sweet! After my first bite, I immediately got up and went back for a hearty portion. And then another.
And then I had sweet potatoes for dessert, instead of pie.
Inspired by this experience, I developed a recipe as close as I could get to those extremely smooth, creamy sweet potatoes, which in my opinion is FAR superior to the standard super sweet marshmallow-laden side dishes many people serve on Thanksgiving. This delicious recipe is now the best part of our Thanksgiving table and a family favorite!
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Lower Sugar: this recipe is FAR less sweet than most sweet potato casserole recipes, and that’s intentional. Sweet potatoes have enough natural sweetness in their own right, and all they need is a little butter, cream, and a touch of maple syrup to bring out their flavor.
- No Eggs: the sweet potato filling is made without eggs, great for those with egg allergies or if you simply ran out of eggs. You could even make the casserole vegan by using vegan butter and coconut cream instead of butter and heavy cream (see Substitutions section of this post for more details).
- Super Smooth Sweet Potato Filling: to achieve a silky, smooth filling consistency, I use an immersion blender. You could also use a food processor or a mixer, or a potato masher in a pinch. This is far smoother than most casserole recipes – more of a puree consistency.
- The Pecan Oat Topping – The easy pecan crumble topping on this casserole is made with melted butter, pecans, flour, spices, and just a touch of brown sugar. It’s way better than the cloyingly sweet marshmallow topping on the classic sweet potato casserole, in my opinion.
- Make-Ahead – For a stress-free Thanksgiving day, this whole casserole can be made a day or two in advance. Check out my Make Ahead Instructions below for details on how to make this perfect side dish in advance.
Only a few simple ingredients needed for this healthier egg-free sweet potato casserole, and you can substitute or customize as noted below to make it your own for your holiday gathering! See the recipe card at the bottom of this post for full ingredient list and measurements.
For the sweet potato filling:
- Fresh sweet potatoes
- Unsalted butter (can substitute coconut oil or vegan butter if needed)
- Pure maple syrup (honey or corn syrup would work too)
- Heavy cream (half and half, whole milk, oat milk, or coconut cream would also work)
For the pecan streusel topping:
- Unsalted butter (can substitute coconut oil or vegan butter if needed)
- Brown sugar (can substitute coconut sugar)
- All-purpose flour (can substitute gluten-free all-purpose flour or oat flour)
- Old-fashioned oats (use gluten-free oats if needed)
- Chopped pecans (can substitute walnuts if preferred, or leave out entirely)
How to make sweet potato casserole without eggs
The secret to achieving the best texture with an eggless sweet potato casserole filling is to use an immersion blender to purée the potatoes once they are boiled, rather than using a potato masher or a hand mixer. If you don’t have an immersion blender, I would also recommend a food processor. I think a normal blender would get overheated by trying to blend the thick mixture, but you could try it. Immersion blenders are fairly cheap though, and great to make soups and smoothies as well. This is the one I use.
- Boil the sweet potatoes: Peel the sweet potatoes and chop into 1 1/2 inch cubes. Place cubed sweet potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add a generous dash of salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil potatoes, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, until soft enough to be easily pierced by a fork. Reserve about ½ cup of the potato water, then drain potatoes and return them to the pot.
- Make the eggless sweet potato filling: Add butter, maple syrup, heavy cream, a small splash of the reserved potato water, and salt. Using an immersion blender, food processor, or hand mixer, blend the potatoes until completely smooth – it takes a few minutes. Spread sweet potato mixture in an even layer in a greased 9×13 inch baking dish or 3-quart casserole dish.
- Make the brown sugar streusel: Melt the butter in a large bowl in the microwave. Whisk in the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt until combined. Stir in the flour, oats, and pecans until evenly distributed. Arrange pecan streusel evenly on top of the sweet potato layer.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, until topping is golden brown and the crunchy pecans are smelling delicious. Serve warm!
How to use frozen sweet potatoes for sweet potato casserole
If you’re short on time or don’t feel like peeling and chopping a bunch of sweet potatoes, you can definitely use pre-cut frozen sweet potatoes to make sweet potato casserole. Simply steam sweet potatoes in the microwave as directed on the package, then follow the remaining directions in the recipe to make the sweet potato filling. You can also boil the frozen chopped sweet potato for 15-20 minutes until tender, then follow the remaining instructions in the recipe from there.
You could also use canned sweet potatoes with no sugar added, or canned sweet potato puree in place of the fresh sweet potatoes.
Can sweet potato casserole be made ahead?
Yes, it’s very easy to make sweet potato casserole up to 3 days ahead of time and take one item off the to-do list for Thanksgiving day. Here are the steps:
- Make the sweet potato filling and spread it evenly in a greased 9×13″ baking dish or 3-quart casserole dish.
- Make the pecan oat crumble topping, but keep it in a separate bowl.
- Store both the sweet potato filling and the pecan topping in the refrigerator for 1-3 days, until ready to bake. Don’t combine them until you’re about to bake, to prevent the topping from absorbing moisture from the sweet potatoes and getting soggy.
- When ready to bake, sprinkle the pecan topping evenly over the sweet potato filling and bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
Or freeze the make-ahead sweet potato casserole: You could also fully assemble the sweet potato casserole, but don’t bake it yet. Freeze the casserole in the baking dish tightly covered with aluminum foil for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, either defrost it overnight in the refrigerator and bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or bake directly from frozen at 375 degrees, still covered with the foil for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake 25-30 minutes more, until filling is hot and pecan topping is golden and toasty.
Because Thanksgiving day can be so busy, I really like to make my healthier sweet potato casserole ahead of time (see section directly above). This casserole stores really well in the fridge or freezer which helps a lot during the holiday season!
Room temperature: the fully baked casserole will keep for up to 4 hours at room temperature, which makes it great for baking ahead and taking over to someone’s house. You can always reheat it in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes if you want to serve it warm.
Refrigerator: leftover sweet potato casserole will keep up to 5 days in the fridge, either covered in the baking dish or in a separate airtight container. Reheat individual servings for 30-40 seconds in the microwave, or bake entire pan in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees to reheat.
Freezer: see make ahead tips above if you want to freeze the casserole before baking. You can also freeze the baked casserole, tightly covered in aluminum foil, for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating for 20-25 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Additions and Substitutions
- Pecan topping: yes, you can use walnuts instead of pecans in sweet potato casserole! It’s a 1:1 substitution. If you really want to, you could also substitute marshmallow topping for the pecan topping. Top the casserole with a layer of mini marshmallows and bake for about 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees, or until the marshmallows are puffy and browned.
- Sweet potatoes: you could use canned sweet potatoes with no sugar added, or canned sweet potato puree in place of the fresh sweet potatoes. Or use pre-cut frozen sweet potatoes, and steam them in the microwave as directed on the package before following the remaining directions in the recipe.
- Make it vegan: this sweet potato casserole is already made without eggs, so it’s easy to make it vegan! Use coconut oil or vegan butter instead of the butter, and coconut cream or oat milk in place of the heavy cream.
- Make it gluten-free: use a gluten-free all-purpose flour or oat flour in place of the all-purpose flour, and make sure to use certified gluten-free oats in the topping.
More Thanksgiving Recipes
- Cranberry Crumb Bars
- Cranberry Coffee Cake
- Leftover Cranberry Sauce Breakfast Rolls
- Easy Apple Crisp with Oat Topping
- Apple Crumble Slab Pie
- Spiced Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Oat Topping (No Eggs)
- 1 9×13" or 3-quart baking dish
- 1 large pot
- 1 immersion blender (or mixer)
- 1 kitchen scale (optional but helpful)
For the sweet potatoes:
- 3 pounds (1.3 kg) sweet potatoes (3-4 large)
- 1/4 cup (56 g) unsalted butter (4 Tbsp)
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) pure maple syrup
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream (half & half or whole milk works too)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the pecan oat crumble:
- 1/4 cup (56 g) unsalted butter (4 Tbsp)
- 1/2 cup (100 g) brown sugar (packed)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 1/2 cup (62 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (45 g) old-fashioned oats (also called rolled oats)
- 1/2 cup (57 g) chopped pecans (or walnuts)
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease a 9×13 inch pan or approximately 3-quart baking dish, and set aside.
- Peel the sweet potatoes and chop into 1 1/2 inch cubes. Place cubed sweet potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add a generous dash of salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Boil potatoes, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, until soft enough to be easily pierced by a fork. Reserve about ½ cup of the potato water, then drain potatoes and return them to the pot.
- Add butter, maple syrup, heavy cream, a small splash of the reserved potato water, and salt. Using an immersion blender, blend the potatoes until completely smooth – it takes a few minutes. If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a hand mixer, but the immersion blender creates a wonderfully silky texture. If potatoes seem too thick, add a little more potato water and blend again.
- Taste potatoes and add further salt or maple syrup to taste. Spread potatoes in an even layer in the baking dish.
- For the crumble, melt the butter in a large microwave-safe bowl. Whisk in the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt until combined. Stir in the flour, oats, and pecans until evenly distributed. I actually use my hands at this point to ensure the mixture is thoroughly combined.
- Sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the potatoes.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until crumble is golden brown and smelling toasty.
- Serve warm!
- This sweet potato casserole can be prepared up to 3 days ahead of time (yay!). Make the potatoes through step 5 and spread in the baking dish, then cover and refrigerate. You can also make the crumble ahead and keep it in the fridge, separate from the potatoes. When ready to bake, proceed from step 7 and add 5 minutes to the baking time.
- You can also freeze the assembled and unbaked casserole, tightly covered in aluminum foil, for up to 3 months. When ready to bake, bake directly from frozen, still covered in the aluminum foil, for 20 minutes at 375 degrees F, then uncover and bake 20-25 minutes more, until filling is hot and topping is golden brown.
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