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Sweet potatoes are one of our favorite starchy vegetables so this casserole is a must at Thanksgiving for us. There are many variations for this holiday side dish – those that use canned yams (or sweet potatoes) and those that layer on marshmallows for a gooey creamy topping. Our recipe for sweet potato casserole adds bourbon and makes this the perfect dessert-like side dish.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
There is no need for canned sweet potatoes in our easy sweet potato casserole.
The complete ingredient list and measurements are listed in the printable recipe below.
- Sweet Potatoes: You will need about four pounds of sweet potatoes which is 5-6 sweet potatoes depending on the size. Sweet potatoes are starchy vegetables and baking them allows enzymes to break down the starch making the sweet potatoes sweet. So our preferred method is baking or roasting them but you can boil them if you are in a time crunch.
- Bourbon: Any bourbon (or another whiskey) that you enjoy drinking will work for this recipe but if it doesn’t taste good on its own then you don’t want to use it in this casserole.
- Brown Sugar: While the sweet potatoes will be sweeter after baking the casserole still needs a little sweet boost. We prefer the flavor of brown sugar but you can substitute maple syrup. Brown sugar is also added to the pecans to help caramelize the topping. You can increase or decrease the amount of brown sugar in the recipe based on your sweetness preference.
- Pecans: Sweet potato casserole has a smooth, creamy texture and the pecans add a much-needed crunch. Walnuts are a good substitute for pecans or substitute with a layer of mini marshmallows.
How to Cook Sweet Potatoes
We prefer the taste and texture of baked sweet potatoes but they can also be boiled.
Baking: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes then pierce them with a fork several times. Place sweet potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 45-60 minutes or until they are tender and can be easily pierced with a fork or knife. Once sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in half and scoop out the flesh placing it in a large bowl.
Boil: Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes then peel and chop them into large 1-2 inch chunks. Add the potatoes to a large pot of boiling water and cook for about 15 minutes or until they are fork-tender.
How to Make Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole
Here are the quick step-by-step instructions with visuals; you can find the full instructions with the exact ingredients in the recipe card below.
Pro-tip: Bake or Boil? We prefer to bake sweet potatoes to get the best flavor. This step can be done a day or two in advance.
1. Prepare Casserole: To the cooked sweet potatoes add softened butter, bourbon, brown sugar, and salt. Mash the ingredients together using a potato masher until everything is well combined and the sweet potatoes have a slightly smooth consistency. Trasfer the sweet potato mixture into a buttered 9 by 13 baking dish.
2. Make the Pecan Topping: For the pecan topping, combine the melted butter, brown sugar, and pecans in a medium bowl. Spoon the mixture evenly over the top of the casserole. You can also sprinkle some marshmallows on top if you like.
3. Bake the Casserole: In a preheated 350°F oven bake the casserole for 25-30 minutes. Allow the casserole to cool for several minutes before serving.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: Make the sweet potato casserole through step 4 in the recipe instructions below then cover and refrigerate. It can be made up to 2 days in advance. When you are ready to bake, remove the casserole from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature while the oven preheats. Prepare the pecan topping and add it to the top of the casserole just before baking.
How to Store: Leftovers can be refrigerated for 3 to 4 days or stored in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. If you made the casserole with a layer of marshmallows remove them before freezing and add a new layer when you’re ready to reheat.
How to Reheat: Allow frozen sweet potato casserole to thaw in the refrigerator then transfer it to an oven-safe dish. Cover with foil and reheat at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until heated. To reheat in a microwave transfer to a microwave-safe dish, cover, and heat in one-minute increments until thoroughly heated.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- The sweet potatoes can be roasted up to 2 days in advance and then refrigerated until ready to use.
- Add in a pinch of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon to the sweet potato mixture for a little fall flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, yams and sweet potatoes are technically not the same. Sweet potatoes have smooth, reddish skin and sweeter, softer flesh when cooked. Yams have skin that is rough textured skin and a neutral flavored flesh. What is often called yams in US grocery stores are typically sweet potatoes. Even the canned stuff is usually sweet potatoes when you read the ingredient list.
Yes. Prepare the casserole as instructed but instead of the pecan topping top it with a single layer of mini marshmallows and bake as directed. You can also add a combination of both pecan and marshmallows.
The alcohol from the bourbon will cook off as the casserole bakes but it can be left out.
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Other Recipes to Try
If you enjoy this recipe, we recommend checking out some of these:
Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole
- 1 Cookie or Baking Sheet
- 1 Large Bowl
- 4 pounds sweet potatoes, cleaned
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ¼ cup bourbon
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 ½ cups chopped pecans
- Preheat oven to 400°F. With a fork pierce sweet potatoes several times. Place sweet potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 45-60 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce oven temp to 375.
- Once sweet potatoes are cool to handle, cut them in half. Scoop out the flesh and place in a large bowl.
- To the sweet potatoes add the softened butter, bourbon, brown sugar, and salt. Mash ingredients using a potato masher until well combined and sweet potatoes have a slightly smooth consistency.
- Pour the sweet potatoes into a buttered 9×13 casserole dish.
- For the pecan topping, combine the melted butter, brown sugar, and pecans in a medium bowl. Stir well to combine then spoon the mixture evenly over the top of the casserole.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow the casserole to cool for several minutes before serving.