A Southern Staple

by Nov 17, 2023Recipes, South Brunswick, Southern Sandi

Whether you call them sweet potatoes or “swee’taters” (as we do in these parts), Candied Sweet Potato Casserole is a must-have recipe for Thanksgiving and beyond.

North Carolina is the primary producer of sweet potatoes in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, North Carolina harvests on average 1.6 billion pounds of sweet potatoes a year and has seen a rise in domestic demand as Americans are taking on healthier habits.

There are many types of sweet potatoes in varied sizes, shapes and colors. I was surprised to learn that sweet potato varieties can be white, pale yellow, deep purple, violet-tinged and pink-red in addition to the traditional shades of orange. Aside from the overall sweet deliciousness of the potato all by itself, this root vegetable has a lot of versatility. Sweet potatoes are great for making chips, fries, breads, pies, souffles, puddings, spreads, mashes and much more. In this recipe, I am supplying the quintessential Southern candied sweet potato casserole.

As the weather turns cooler and the leaves start to fall, pumpkin and pumpkin spice is generally the dominant flavor and is mostly associated with Halloween and Thanksgiving. But in my home, sweet potato is the prevailing orange food of the season. My family prefers sweet potato pie to pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, and candied sweet potato casserole is always on the menu at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sweet potatoes are healthier than pumpkins because they contain more magnesium, potassium, fiber, copper and vitamins A and B6. They also provide antioxidants like beta-carotene, which helps support the immune system.

There are many ways to make sweet potato casserole, and most recipes call for pureed or canned sweet potatoes, but I much prefer the fresh-sliced option. The ease of peeling and slicing the potatoes then layering them in the dish allows me to know exactly what is in my casserole as opposed to a can full of preservatives and chemicals.

This recipe, with the aromatics of orange juice and orange zest combined with maple syrup, is divine. Many Southerners like to put marshmallows on top, but the naturally sweet flavor of the potatoes gets overpowered by marshmallows, in my opinion. I have offered a simple topping made of pecans, cinnamon and sugar. When placed under the broiler, this creates a hard crust that adds to the textures of the dish.

When you start to pull out your flannel from the back of your closet and the leaves turn into burnt colors, it’s time give the ol’ sweet tater a chance. I do not expect you to start taking your fall photo sessions in fields of sweet potatoes, but utilizing this root vegetable more might surprise you and your tastebuds. Plus, it will keep boosting North Carolina’s sweet potato supply and demand.

Photography by James Stefiuk

Print Recipe
Candied Sweet Potato Casserole
Whether you call them sweet potatoes or “swee’taters” (as we do in these parts), Candied Sweet Potato Casserole is a must-have recipe for Thanksgiving and beyond.
Sweet Potato Casserole
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Sweet Potato Casserole
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large baking dish, arrange the sliced sweet potatoes in overlapping layers.
  3. Combine the orange juice, orange zest, maple syrup, butter and salt in a bowl and pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes, making sure all slices are coated.
  4. Cover with foil (or a lid) and bake for 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, mix the pecans, cinnamon and sugar.
  6. Turn the oven temperature up to 375 degrees F, uncover the dish and sprinkle the pecan/sugar mixture over the sweet potatoes. Bake for another 30 minutes.
Recipe Notes

Tip: For the last few minutes, turn the oven up to broil to caramelize the topping.