5 Ways to Lighten Up Your Sweet Potato Casserole

Holly Riddle

By Holly Riddle

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What do you think of when you think “sweet potato casserole?” Mounds of fluffy, sugary sweet potatoes piled high with butter, candied pecans, and toasted, lightly browned miniature marshmallows? If there was ever a recipe to take a relatively healthy vegetable and turn it into a sugar-laden side dish that — let’s be honest — is more of a dessert than a side dish, it’s sweet potato casserole.

Sweet Potato Casserole topped with Pecans.
Ksenija Toyechkina/Shutterstock

Luckily, though, you don’t need to give up this classic holiday staple if you’re trying to clean up your diet. You can eat sweet potato casserole all season long, with a few of our handy tricks to lighten it up without sacrificing flavor.

Almonds in a bowl next to a glass of almond milk.

1. Create A Creamy Texture Without Relying Solely On Butter And Milk

Yes, we all love butter, but too much butter can take a dish from healthy to far from it. Instead of relying on butter and dairy milk to make your sweet potatoes oh-so-luscious and creamy, try another option. Almond milk is a good alternative and also can help make this dish vegan. Cashew milk works as well, as does coconut milk. For a thicker option with some protein, try adding your favorite vanilla yogurt.

Oat and pecan streusel topping on a casserole.
from my point of view/Shutterstock

2. Swap Your Mini Marshmallows For Another Topping

There are many toppings you can use for your sweet potato casserole without relying on those miniature marshmallows.

Keep your classic pecans, but also try a streusel-like topping made with oats, or, for a little added crunch, try pepitas. You can also add a little touch of sweetness to your topping by mixing in some chopped dates and other dried fruits.

A spoon filled with date sugar is spilled over with dates in the background.
Michelle Lee Photography/Shutterstock

3. Add A Note Of Sweetness Without Brown Sugar

You don’t need to rely on brown sugar for your sweet potato casserole’s extra sweetness. Try date sugar or maple syrup instead (like our recipe for spiced sweet potato puree uses), for a sweetener that’s both better for you and that offers a more season-appropriate flavor profile.

4. Go The Savory Route

Thanksgiving casserole or side dish. Traditional American dining room table set for Thanksgiving. Turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries, green beans, homemade rolls, vegetables.
Marie Sonmez Photography/Shutterstock

Just because “sweet” is in the name, that doesn’t mean you have to make your sweet potato casserole all sweet, all the time. Consider mixing things up this year by making a savory sweet potato casserole. Your tastebuds will enjoy a new twist on an old favorite, while your body will appreciate the lessened sugar. Instead of relying on spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, go for paprika and sage. Swap out a streusel and marshmallow topping for breadcrumbs and maybe a bit of cheese.

Potatoes boiling in a large pot.

5. For More Nutrients, Boil Your Sweet Potatoes Instead of Baking Them.

Lastly, beyond just lightening up your sweet potato casserole by making some ingredient swaps, if you want to retain as much nutrients in your casserole’s sweet potato base as possible, follow the Harvard School of Public Health’s recommendation and boil the potatoes before using them in your casserole, rather than baking or roasting them. This helps retain up to 92% of the potatoes’ nutrients, including beta carotene, while also making the nutrients more absorbable.

Sweet Potato Casserole topped with Pecans.

5 Ways to Lighten Up Your Sweet Potato Casserole

Let's be honest, sweet potato casserole is more of a dessert than a side. With our tips to lighten up your sweet potato casserole, you can eat it all season long without sacrificing flavor.

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