Sweet Potato Casserole

Canned sweet potatoes on left, fresh on the right

Canned sweet potatoes on left, fresh on the right

For my fourth, and final, installment of Thanksgiving side dishes I decided to test sweet potato casserole. I’m kind of ambivalent about sweet potato casserole. I never liked it as a child because it seemed overly sweet, gooey and slimy but, I’ve recently discovered that I love plain, baked sweet potatoes, so I began to wonder if I would find casserole made with fresh sweet potatoes more appealing.  I found this recipe on cookinglight.com and decided to make one recipe of it, half with canned sweet potatoes and half with fresh.  I liked the addition of pecans; they added a good crunch, but the recipe would be great without them also.   I’ll print the recipe below:

Ingredients for sweet potato casserole

Traditional Sweet Potato Casserole


  • 2 1/2  pounds  sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (or 1 can sweet potatoes in syrup drained and rinsed)
  • 3/4  cup  packed brown sugar
  • 1/4  cup  butter, softened
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1/2  cup  finely chopped pecans, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 2  cups  miniature marshmallows

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place the sweet potatoes in a Dutch oven, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until very tender. Drain; cool slightly.

Place potatoes in a large bowl. Add sugar and next 3 ingredients (through vanilla). Mash sweet potato mixture with a potato masher. Fold in 1/4 cup pecans. Scrape potato mixture into an even layer in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup pecans; top with marshmallows. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until golden.

baked sweet potato casserole

After comparing the two kinds of casseroles, I discovered that I love sweet potato casserole now . . . if it’s made with fresh sweet potatoes.  Out of five testers, only 1 other agreed with me.  Three out of five testers originally liked the canned sweet potato casserole better.  One of these changed her mind after eating the casserole with a meal and said that she would probably prefer the fresh sweet potatoes.  So, in the end, both casseroles basically came out even.  Some of the comments from those who preferred the canned sweet potatoes included that it tasted “smoother” and “sweeter” and had “more flavor” than the fresh sweet potato casserole.  Those of us who liked fresh best liked that the fresh sweet potatoes had more of a texture and were a little drier as well as not having the  cloyingly sweet taste of  the canned.  The fresh and canned casseroles were very similar in appearance, although the fresh sweet potatoes did have a brighter color.  As far as time goes, using canned sweet potatoes cuts about half an hour off the process, which might be important on a busy Thanksgiving day.  Both versions of this dish were pretty cheap, so cost may not be a huge factor, but there was a big difference between the price of fresh sweet potatoes and canned.  Two pounds of fresh sweet potatoes cost only 64 cents while a can containing 2 pounds of sweet potatoes was $2.16.

Bottom Line: I think this one depends completely on your preference.  Do you like the ultra smooth, sweet flavor of canned sweet potatoes or do you prefer a little more complex flavor and drier texture that only fresh will provide?  Also, if you’re in a big hurry or don’t want to add any extra hassle to your Thanksgiving preparations then you might like the convenience of canned sweet potatoes, but it will cost you a little extra.

Fresh Sweet Potato Casserole Canned Sweet Potato Casserole
Cost: $2.54 Cost: $4.04
Time: 55 Minutes Time: 30 minutes