Make Ahead Sweet Potato Casserole

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Wondering whether you can you make sweet potato casserole ahead of time for Thanksgiving this year? You bet you can! This Make Ahead Sweet Potato Casserole recipe combines light & airy mashed sweet potatoes with butter, vanilla, warm spices, pure maple syrup, & a generous sprinkling of nutty brown butter streusel for epic crunch. Prep it up to 3 days in advance, then simply finish & bake right before the big meal.

An instant classicirresistible & easy to make with next-level texture!

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A final make ahead sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving sits atop a light peach colored textured surface with streusel and maple pecan topping. A muted red linen napkin, two amber colored drinking glasses, red florals, two white plates with a gold fork resting atop surround the baking dish at center.

Make-Ahead Thanksgiving

This recipe is part of PWWB’s Make-Ahead Thanksgiving series, a complete resource for time-saving holiday dinner prep. No one needs the stress of cooking a multi-course meal all in one day! Whether you’re a savvy home cook or a first-time dinner host, these make-ahead recipes will help you tackle your Thanksgiving prep little by little for a completely stress-free holiday meal. Learn more about Make-Ahead Thanksgiving!

Light, Creamy, & Crunchy – This Make Ahead Sweet Potato Casserole is Texture Heaven!

Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole is totally classic, but I’ve never been a big fan of the traditional marshmallow topping. I’ve always found its cloying sweetness to be a little much – more like a dessert than a Thanksgiving side dish! As a flavor & texture-obsessed cook, my ideal sweet potato casserole is one that allows sweet potatoes’ natural sweetness to shine & has plenty of contrasting textures.

That’s exactly what this Make Ahead Thanksgiving Sweet Potato Casserole delivers: creamy whipped sweet potatoes topped with a next-level brown sugar streusel for amazing texture. The potatoes are so light & airy they practically melt in your mouth, but the nutty streusel adds an epic crunchy bite. It’s totally classic & absolutely killer.

Plus, you can make this sweet potato casserole up to 3 days ahead of time for even easier Thanksgiving dinner prep. Store the components separately to preserve their textures, & on Thanksgiving all you have to do is assemble & pop the make ahead sweet potato casserole in the oven. Super simple & seriously delicious!

Make Ahead Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe Highlights

This sweet potato casserole is a must-try Thanksgiving recipe. It’s…

NOT TOO SWEET. No marshmallows here! This recipe enhances the natural sweetness of autumn sweet potatoes with just a dash of maple syrup & vanilla.

CREAMY & CRUNCHY. Smooth & buttery mashed sweet potatoes + crunchy maple pecan streusel topping = a texture lover’s dream!

MAKE-AHEAD PERFECTION. Prep each component of this make ahead sweet potato casserole up to 3 days advance, then all you have to do on Thanksgiving Day is assemble the casserole & bake it off before you sit down for dinner. It couldn’t be easier!

Thanksgiving meal prep has never been sweeter! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make this Make Ahead Sweet Potato Casserole, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!

Key Ingredients

Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

You only need 10 staple ingredients to prep this recipe for make ahead sweet potato casserole…

  • Sweet potatoes – Of course! I suggest using jewel or garnet sweet potatoes (aka yams) for the best creamy texture & festive orange color.
  • Unsalted butter – Mashing high-quality butter into the sweet potatoes complements their sweetness & makes their creamy texture even creamier.
  • Maple syrup – Just a touch for naturally rich sweetness. Be sure to use pure maple syrup, not pancake syrup!
  • Vanilla extract – For another layer of subtle sweetness & flavor.
  • Spices – Ground cinnamon & nutmeg for cozy warmth!
  • Eggs – A must for sweet potato casserole! Eggs act as a binder for the mashed sweet potatoes, giving them a creamy, almost custard-like texture – so good!
  • Pecan streusel topping – Perhaps the very best part! Candied maple pecans are mixed into a streusel made of rice flour, brown sugar, cold butter, & ground cinnamon. It’s a buttery, sweet, & crunchy finishing touch that will have you going back for seconds.

How to Make Sweet Potato Casserole Ahead of Time

This make ahead Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole consists of 3 easy components: creamy sweet potato filling, crunchy maple pecans, & brown sugar streusel topping.

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

Creamy Sweet Potato Filling

1

Bake & peel the sweet potatoes. Rather than boiling & draining, I suggest baking sweet potatoes for the best light texture. Once they’ve cooled a bit, peel & discard the skins for a nice & smooth sweet potato mash. Baked Sweet Potato Tip! ⇢ Be sure to pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork so steam can escape while they bake in the oven. Doing so helps prevent them from splitting open as they cook, but also allows the natural moisture to escape, resulting in a fluffier, airier mash.

2

Mash the sweet potatoes. While you can use an old fashioned potato masher, food mill, or even an electric mixer, using a food processor is my favorite way to create extra-creamy & smooth mashed sweet potatoes! Why? ⇢ This is a total no-no for regular potatoes, but sweet potatoes don’t have the same starches that would cause them to become gummy as they’re mixed.

3

Season the sweet potatoes. Fold butter, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, & eggs into the mashed sweet potatoes, seasoning generously with salt to ensure all the flavors pop. Easy!

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

Crunchy Maple Pecan Brown Sugar Streusel Topping

While the potatoes are in the oven, prep the components for the crunchy streusel topping. Since the sweet potatoes take a while to bake up, it’s the perfect way to multi-task for efficient prep!

1

Toast & candy the pecans. Toasting nuts in a skillet gives them more depth of flavor & a bit more crunch. Once they’re golden & fragrant, coat the nuts with pure maple syrup. Tip! ⇢ To prevent sticking, cool the maple pecans in a single layer on a piece of parchment paper.

2

Mix the streusel topping. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add in cold, cubed butter. Using a pastry cutter, fork, or your hands, work the butter into the mixture just until it begins to stick together when you press it. Why? ⇢ Super cold butter brings the streusel together, forming large crumbs that get crispy in the oven. If you’re using your hands to incorporate the butter & flour, just be sure not to overwork it too much!

How to Store for Later

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

While all 3 components come together in the final dish, storing them separately helps each maintain its unique textures. To best store your make ahead sweet potato casserole components for later…

  • Creamy sweet potato filling. ⇢ Spread the mashed sweet potatoes into an even layer in a lightly greased baking dish. Tightly cover it with plastic wrap & foil, then transfer to the refrigerator & store for up to 3 days.
  • Brown sugar streusel topping. ⇢ Transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Crunchy maple pecans. ⇢ Once completely cooled, transfer to an airtight container & store at room temperature for up to 1 week.

How far ahead can you make sweet potato casserole? ⇢ Both the sweet potato filling & brown sugar streusel topping will keep, stored in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days. The pecans will last even longer, up to 1 week at room temperature.

Reheating Make Ahead Thanksgiving Sweet Potato Casserole

You’ll be so grateful for your make ahead sweet potato casserole on Thanksgiving Day! At dinnertime, all you have to do is finish assembly, which takes 5 minutes, tops. From there, the oven does all the work. So easy!

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

1

Prep. Let the sweet potatoes come up to room temperature before transferring them to the oven; doing so helps ensure they bake up evenly. This is a great time to finish the topping. Toss the maple pecans into the streusel until they’re all incorporated. Working bit by bit helps prevent clumping.

2

Assemble & bake. Sprinkle the maple pecan streusel topping all over the mashed sweet potatoes, then transfer to the oven. It takes about 40 minutes to reheat the make ahead sweet potato casserole, & you’ll know it’s ready when the streusel is golden brown & slightly crispy.

Recipe FAQs

What’s the best way to cook sweet potatoes for casserole?

While it’s faster to simmer or boil the sweet potatoes in a large pot & drain them well, doing so also adds extra moisture to the sweet potato casserole filling, which weighs it down a bit. After doing a side-by-side test, I’ve found that I greatly prefer the texture of baked sweet potatoes, which are perfectly creamy, light, & airy.

How far in advance can sweet potatoes be cooked?

For this recipe, I recommend cooking & mashing the sweet potato filling no more than 3 days ahead of time. If you prefer to break up your prep work even more, whole cooked sweet potatoes (i.e. not mashed & seasoned) will last a few days longer.

Does sweet potato casserole reheat well?

Yes, but the key is to assemble it right before reheating! It takes 5 minutes of active prep, tops, & helps ensure the crunchy pecan streusel topping doesn’t lose its texture as it sits on the creamy sweet potato mash.

Can you make sweet potato casserole ahead of time and freeze it?

Sort of! Similar to the make-ahead approach of this recipe as written, I recommend freezing the mashed sweet potato mixture on its own to help preserve all the textures of this recipe. Once you’ve baked, mashed, & seasoned the sweet potatoes, spread them into a prepared baking dish & freeze them for up to 3 months. Save prepping the maple pecans & streusel topping closer to dinner.

Can you cook a frozen sweet potato casserole?

No, I don’t recommend baking this make ahead sweet potato casserole from frozen. Instead, thaw your sweet potato mixture in the fridge overnight. Just before baking, top it with maple pecans & streusel.

How long is leftover sweet potato casserole good for?

You can store any leftovers from your reheated make ahead sweet potato casserole in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, simply pop it into the microwave & enjoy it later with other Thanksgiving leftovers. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for more storage & reheating guidance.

Serving Suggestions – Pair the Sweetness With Plenty of Savory!

This make ahead sweet potato casserole is a great balance to all of the more savory Thanksgiving side dishes like Sourdough Stuffing with Sausage, Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, & Green Bean Casserole Bundles.

Add a Roasted Maple Turkey (or a Thanksgiving Chicken to break from tradition!) & Easy Turkey Gravy for the perfect Thanksgiving Day spread.

All that’s left to enjoy is a post-Thanksgiving dinner nap! ☺️🙌🏼

I can’t wait for you to try this Make Ahead Sweet Potato Casserole! The textures are seriously next-level, & it’s so simple to make – especially when you prep it ahead of time. We think you’ll love it just as much as we do!

If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy Thanksgiving!

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A final make ahead sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving sits atop a light peach colored textured surface with streusel and maple pecan topping. A muted red linen napkin, two amber colored drinking glasses, red florals, two white plates with a gold forks resting atop surround the baking dish at center.

Make Ahead Sweet Potato Casserole

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Reheating Time: 40 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: serves 1012 1x
  • Category: Side Dish, Thanksgiving Recipes
  • Method: Oven, Baked
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

If you’re wondering whether you can make sweet potato casserole ahead of time for Thanksgiving this year, this Make Ahead Sweet Potato Casserole recipe is perfect for you! 

Baked sweet potatoes are whipped with butter, pure maple syrup, vanilla, & warm spices until light, airy, & perfect, then topped with a maple pecan streusel.

In true make-ahead fashion, you can prep each of these components up to 3 days in advance, assembling & baking it off just before dinnertime. 

As the casserole bakes, the sweet potatoes take on an almost custard-like quality, while the nutty streusel topping becomes golden & crunchy. The result is a classic sweet potato casserole with balanced sweetness & amazing textures. Everyone at your Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, or holiday dinner table will love it! 

Be sure to check out the blog post, above, for plenty more tips & tricks, & if you love the idea of a make-ahead Thanksgiving, be sure to check out our complete Make-Ahead Thanksgiving guide. ♡ Happy holidays!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 5 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed & dried
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • kosher salt, to season

for the maple pecans:

  • 1 ½ cups whole pecans
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

for the streusel topping:

  • ¾ cup rice flour (can sub all-purpose flour or pastry flour)
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • maple pecans (above)

Instructions

  1. Bake the sweet potatoes: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F & line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil for easy clean-up as desired. Liberally poke the surface of the sweet potatoes, piercing them well. Place the sweet potatoes on a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet. Transfer to the oven & bake 60 minutes, or until fork-tender. This is a great time multitask by preparing the maple pecans (Step 3) & streusel topping (Step 4).5 large baked sweet potatoes rest atop a parchment lined baking sheet. The baking sheet sits atop a light peach colored textured surface. A muted red linen napkin rests alongside the baking sheet pan.
  2. Mash the sweet potatoes: Carefully peel the baked potatoes & transfer to a large bowl, discarding the spent peels. While you can mash the sweet potatoes by hand by using a potato masher, making use of a hand mixer or stand mixer yields extra creamy results & making use of the food processor yields even creamier results yet. Whichever method you choose to use, mash the sweet potatoes until smooth & creamy, then stir in the butter, pure maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, & beaten eggs. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
  3. Prepare the maple pecans: Meanwhile, as the sweet potatoes bake, prepare the maple pecans. Add the pecans to a large nonstick skillet over medium-low head, spreading them into an even layer. Toast 5-7 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent burning. Once the nuts are golden & fragrant, increase heat to medium. Pour in the maple syrup, stirring to coat all of the pecans. Once coated, remove from the heat & transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, spreading the pecans apart so they don’t clump together as they cool.Maple pecans for make ahead sweet potato casserole rest atop a parchment lined baking sheet that sits atop a light peach colored textured surface. A muted red linen napkin rests alongside the baking sheet.
  4. Prepare the streusel topping: Meanwhile, as the sweet potatoes bake, prepare the streusel topping. To a medium bowl, add the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, & salt. Whisk to combine. Add in the cold, cubed butter. Cut the butter into the flour mixture – you can use a pastry cutter or fork, though I typically just use my hands to press the butter into the flour – until the mixture is super crumbly & begins to stick together when pressed gently.Streusel topping fill a large white bowl for make ahead thanksgiving sweet potato casserole. The bowl sits atop a light peach colored textured surface with a muted red napkin resting alongside.
  5. Store for later: Transfer the sweet potato mixture to a lightly greased 9×13 baking dish, spreading the potatoes in an even layer. Tightly cover the baking dish with plastic wrap or foil & refrigerate for up to 3 days. Transfer the streusel topping to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Transfer the cooled maple pecans to an airtight container & store at room temperature for up to 1 week.Partially assembled make ahead sweet potato casserole fills a large white ceramic baking dish that sits atop a light peach colored textured surface. The baking dish is partially covered with plastic wrap and aluminum foil and the words sweet potato casserole have been written on the outside of the foil. The baking dish is surrounded by a black Sharpie marker, a bowl filled with Streusel topping, another bowl filled with maple pecans, and a muted red linen napkin.
  6. Reheating: Remove the sweet potatoes from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour before you’d like to finish them in the oven. Remove the foil or plastic wrap. Prepare the topping by tossing the maple pecans into streusel topping – it is helpful to add a few pecans at a time to prevent clumping. Sprinkle the maple pecan topping over the sweet potatoes. Transfer to a 350 degree F oven & bake for 40 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are warmed through & the topping is golden.A final make ahead sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving sits atop a light peach colored textured surface with streusel and maple pecan topping. A muted red linen napkin rests alongside the baking dish.
  7. Serving: Serve alongside your roast turkey or roast chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, & gravy. Enjoy!A make ahead thanksgiving dinner is served atop a white dinner plate with a gold fork resting atop. The plate is filled with make ahead sweet potato casserole, make ahead thanksgiving stuffing, make ahead mashed potatoes with make ahead gravy, make ahead green bean casserole, and a few slices of carved turkey. The plate is surrounded by a red muted linen napkin, red and orange Fall florals, a small wooden pinch bowl filled with kosher salt, two amber colored drinking glasses, a white ceramic gravy boat, and a clean white dinner plate with a gold fork resting atop.


Notes

  • Storage & Reheating: Leftover reheated make ahead sweet potato casserole (i.e. prepared through Step 6 of Recipe Directions, above), will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave until warmed through.
  • Freezer Instructions: You can also freeze leftover sweet potato casserole. Transfer leftover sweet potato casserole to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat in the microwave or oven until warmed through.

Keywords: make ahead Thanksgiving recipes, make ahead sweet potato casserole, sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving side dishes, easy side dishes

Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by KJ & Company, Kate Poskochil

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, & Pinterest for more easy, modern recipes & fun!

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A close up shot of make ahead thanksgiving dinner served atop a white dinner plate with a gold fork resting atop. The plate is filled with make ahead sweet potato casserole, make ahead thanksgiving stuffing, make ahead mashed potatoes with make ahead gravy, make ahead green bean casserole, and a few slices of carved turkey. The plate sits atop a light peach colored textured surface.

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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