Forget the turkey—the centerpiece of my childhood Thanksgivings was always the sweet potato casserole made by a family friend. It was light, fluffy, and just sweet enough, with nary a mini marshmallow in sight. (In fact, it took me years to discover that marshmallows were a typical ingredient in the dish.)
Sweet potatoes, after all, are already sweet—it's right there in the name!—so the best recipes for them are the ones that complement and contrast that sweetness, rather than pushing it up to cloying levels. Instead of packing your sweet potatoes with gobs of sugar, try roasting them with savory miso butter or smoky chipotle powder, mashing them with carrots for extra bright flavor, or tossing them with tart cranberries and mango chutney. Sure, we've got a traditional-looking casserole, too—marshmallow topping and all—though it may be a hair less sweet than what you're used to, and we think that's a good thing.
Here are our 15 favorite recipes for Thanksgiving sweet potatoes that are sophisticated, subtle, and delicious across the board.
Traditions are what Thanksgiving is all about, so if your family is the type that will riot if you leave the marshmallows off the sweet potato casserole, don't worry—this recipe has your back. But to keep the sweetness in check, it helps to get rid of the extra sugar in the base and instead mix in more savory and spicy ingredients. Our recipe whips up the sweet potatoes until they're light and fluffy, then seasons them with ginger, browned butter, and thyme or sage to create contrast with the topping.
This simple mash incorporates many of the same ingredients as our casserole—sweet potatoes, brown butter, and thyme—though without the marshmallows. Maple syrup is a pleasant addition, but slowly roasting the potatoes before mashing should bring out enough sweetness that you'll need only a little.
This recipe blends carrots into the sweet potatoes, lending a more savory, complex flavor to the typical mash. But it's still comfortingly rich, thanks to plenty of butter, milk, and heavy cream, while brown sugar adds a deep sweetness. This recipe is a lifesaver if you're short on oven and stovetop space, as it can be made start to finish in your slow cooker.
Our take on a classic Southern sweet potato pie is made by simmering the potatoes with cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla in a mixture of milk and cream, which will cook down into a rich, toffee- and spice-infused DIY condensed milk by the time the potatoes are fully tender. With a butter-rich pie crust recipe, like Stella's Old-Fashioned Flaky Pie Dough, you won't need to worry about the pie getting soggy from all that moisture. And if you need instructions on how to blind-bake a crust for a custard filling, check out our step-by-step blind-baking guide and video here.
If you're not yet convinced that sweet potatoes don't need extra sugar, roasting them may be the method that sways you. Par-cooking the potatoes in hot water converts their starch into maltose; follow that up with a roast in a 400°F (200°C) oven, and they'll take on an amazing sweetness, plus lots of satisfyingly crispy edges.
Our basic roasted sweet potatoes are super versatile—once they're out of the oven, you can toss them with all sorts of ingredients to give them extra flair. This recipe keeps the flavorings simple and easy to love, tossing the sweet potatoes with an aromatic browned-butter sauce made with chicken stock and rosemary.
For this variation, we turn to a classic partner for sweet potatoes: pecans. We toast the pecans with a light coating of brown sugar and a variety of spices—smoky chipotle powder, cumin, and citrusy coriander—before combining them with the potatoes.
Earthy sweet potatoes play very nicely with Japanese ingredients. Here, we heighten the savory characteristics of the potatoes by tossing them with a miso-based dressing, sweetened with mirin and sugar, and sliced scallions. I'm never one to say no to a little spice, so I like to finish these with a dash of peppery shichimi togarashi—Japanese seven-spice blend.
Miso's incredible versatility is on full display in this recipe. We pair it with butter, maple syrup, white wine vinegar, and ginger for an unlikely combination of flavors that nevertheless turns out delicious. Here, we add the sauce to the potatoes before roasting, creating a glossy glaze, and skip the par-cooking step—the maple syrup and miso give the potatoes plenty of sweetness.
Thanksgiving salads don't have to be boring, and this intense side hammers that point home. It starts with roasted sweet potatoes flavored with ginger and cumin, which we mix with cranberries, scallion, and almonds, then dress with a mango chutney vinaigrette. Depending on your mood and your Thanksgiving Day schedule, feel free to serve this salad either warm or at room temperature.
I'm all about taking shortcuts in my Thanksgiving prep wherever possible, so I love that this recipe uses sweet potatoes cooked in the microwave, making the dish quick and easy. We combine the microwaved potatoes with peppery arugula and crunchy toasted walnuts. The dressing here is a sort of mock vinaigrette—made with olive oil and savory shoyu-dashi, rather than a traditional acid like lemon juice or vinegar.
Soup isn't a standard Thanksgiving dish on many tables, but it's a great way to show off roasted sweet potato. We roast the potatoes until they're lightly browned and tender, then simmer them with aromatics in chicken or vegetable stock, plus orange juice and zest for a citrusy sweetness. Don't skip the garnish—the pistachio, mint, and orange salsa really makes the dish.
Sweet potato purée provides these biscuits with more than just mellow, buttery flavor; it also makes them tender, moist, and light, hydrating the dough and keeping it thick and easy to handle. The pretty golden color it lends the biscuits doesn't hurt, either. Eat them alone with butter pre-dinner; stuff them with turkey, stuffing, and gravy at the table; and save a few for the next morning to make delicious breakfast sandwiches.
Where I live, in southern California, fall weather can be a little unpredictable, but it's rare that Thanksgiving ever gets so cold that I can't enjoy cooking outside. If you're similarly blessed by the climate gods, take advantage of your extended grilling season and make a batch of these charred-outside, creamy-inside sweet potato wedges, spiced with paprika, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. No need to precook; just set up a two-zone fire on your grill so you can cook the wedges through on lower heat, then transfer them to the hot side for deep browning.
Candied yams are a Southern Thanksgiving classic, but, like sweet potato casserole, they often run the risk of ending up far too sweet. On top of that, most recipes produce a sauce that breaks into sugar and grease in the oven. We make a few simple adjustments to fix those issues—using a higher proportion of water in the sugar syrup to keep it from breaking, and adding cider vinegar and ground ginger for balance—resulting in yams that are silky, tender, glazed in a syrupy lacquer, and not overly sweet.
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