Savory Sweet Potato Casserole with Roasted Garlic & Crispy Herbed Bacon-Panko Topping

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This is not your grandma's sweet potato casserole! My Savory Sweet Potato Casserole recipe is for anyone who wants to ditch the marshmallows & sugar this Thanksgiving, balancing the natural sweetness of sweet potatoes with extra savory flavors. Sweet potatoes are whipped velvety-smooth with roasted garlic, & finished with a crispy panko topping infused with bacon & fresh herbs for the perfect balance of savory & sweet. Add this savory sweet potato side dish to your Thanksgiving dinner menu for a delicious holiday twist on tradition! Meal prep & make-ahead friendly!

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An overhead shot of a baking dish filled with assembled and baked Savory Sweet Potato Casserole topped with bacon breadcrumb topping. The baking dish sits atop a creamy white textured surface. A gray and white striped linen napkin is tucked underneath the baking dish. A few loose fresh herbs and a parmesan rind surround the baking dish.

Savory Sweet Potato Casserole: Tradition with a Twist!

If I’m being completely honest, I’ve always been a little weirded out by traditional sweet potato casserole. While I love sweet potatoes, in my opinion the added sugar & marshmallow topping are a little much. With its cloying sweetness, I’ve always felt like this traditional Thanksgiving dinner table side dish belonged on the dessert table, know what I mean?

Me being me, I became obsessed with the idea of developing an alternative sweet potato Thanksgiving side dish that’s a little more well-balanced – & this savory sweet potato recipe is the result! Not only is it perfectly savory-sweet, but it also packs a big punch of flavor on every single level. 

This savory sweet potato casserole folds caramelly roasted garlic into dreamy whipped sweet potatoes & finishes them off with the ultimate savory topping – herbed bacon-panko breadcrumbs. The topping adds delicious rich & savory flavor to contrast the natural sweetness of the sweet potatoes. As a bonus, it also balances the creamy texture of the sweet potatoes with a crispy crunch.

If you prefer a hearty, umami dish over something sweet, then this savory casserole is perfect for you! It’s a delicious break from tradition that can also be easily prepped ahead of time for convenience. You’re gonna be obsessed – I know I am!

Savory Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe Highlights

This easy sweet potato Thanksgiving side dish is…

  • A BREAK FROM TRADITION. Swap out the traditional marshmallow topping with an extra savory bacon breadcrumb topping for a delicious savory twist on the classic sweet potato casserole recipe. 
  • ONE-OF-A-KIND. The absolute best part of this recipe is the crispy herbed bacon-panko breadcrumbs! You’ll bloom hardy fresh herbs & garlic in bacon renderings, then toast crispy panko breadcrumbs to golden brown perfection. This topping totally makes these savory sweet potatoes stand out.
  • EASY TO MAKE AHEAD. Save time & prep almost all of this savory casserole ahead of time so on Thanksgiving day, all you have to do is pop it in the oven! Be sure to check the Recipe Notes for step-by-step guidance!
  • FILLED WITH FALL FLAVOR. The combination of sweet potatoes, fresh herbs, & garlic make this savory sweet potato casserole perfect for autumn. It’s special enough for Thanksgiving & also easy enough for any fall-inspired meal. 

It’s time to give the traditional sweet potato casserole a savory twist! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make this Savory Sweet Potato Casserole, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking! 

Key Ingredients in this Savory Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

Savory Sweet Potato Casserole ingredients arranged on a creamy white textured surface: sweet potatoes, garlic, unsalted butter, whole milk, grated parmesan, eggs, kosher salt, ground black pepper, bacon, fresh herbs - rosemary, sage, thyme, panko breadcrumbs.

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

You’ll need just few key ingredients to make this savory sweet potato casserole:

  • Sweet potatoes Of course, for a dreamy, creamy, mashed casserole filling. I like to use jewel or garnet sweet potatoes, which both have great texture & an iconic orange hue.
  • Garlic – Two whole heads of garlic, to be exact! They’re roasted into softened, caramelly goodness to give the creamy sweet potatoes a savory kick. 
  • Bacon The ultimate savory ingredient! Richly smoky & salty bacon adds several layers of flavor to our savory topping. I always like to use center-cut bacon, which is typically a little leaner & meatier. You can also make this recipe with pancetta, which is cured Italian pork belly very similar to bacon but it’s unsmoked.
  • Fresh herbs & panko breadcrumbs –The last two key ingredients of our crispy casserole topping! Bloom fresh herbs like sage, rosemary, & thyme in the bacon renderings, then stir in the panko breadcrumbs, toasting until they’re perfectly golden.

Not only are these ingredients are all super easy to work with, they’re all holiday staples – I’d be willing to bet you already have them on hand at Thanksgiving! Plus, you can easily prep steps of this savory sweet potato casserole ahead of time, making it a breeze to throw together on Thanksgiving day! 

Two heads of garlic rest atop a green plastic cutting board with the top of the garlic heads cut off to prepare for roasting. A chef's knife rests on the cutting board which sits atop a creamy white texture surface. A small white ramekin filled with kosher salt and loose fresh herbs surround the cutting board.

Meal Prep Tips!

There are a couple of different components to this savory sweet potato casserole recipe, so a little meal prep will go a long way in saving you time on Thanksgiving day! Here are a few things you can prep ahead of time – be sure to refer to the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance:

  • Peel & dice the sweet potatoes then store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • Roast the garlic & store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Prepare the bacon breadcrumb topping by cooking your bacon, herbs, garlic, & panko breadcrumbs in a skillet & combining. The topping can be stored in your fridge for up to 3 days. When you’re ready to bake the casserole, simply just sprinkle it right over top.

 

How to Make Savory Sweet Potato Casserole

This casserole offers a few twists on tradition, creating a Thanksgiving side dish that’s the perfect balance between salty & sweet & creamy & crispy. Here’s how to make a savory sweet potato casserole:

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

1

Roast the garlic. Slice off the top of the heads of garlic, drizzle with olive oil & wrap in foil, then roast at 400 degrees F for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Why? ⇢ Roasting garlic helps bring out rich, savory flavor, creating beautifully soft, caramelized cloves for a big punch of flavor for our savory sweet potatoes.

2

Boil the sweet potatoes. Add cubed sweet potatoes to a large, heavy-bottomed pot & cover with cold water until they are completely submerged. Season the water with kosher salt & then bring the pot to a boil. Simmer, covered, until they’re fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Prep Tip! ⇢ The cubed sweet potatoes don’t need to be perfect 1-inch pieces, but taking a couple extra minutes to make sure they’re uniform helps them cook more evenly. 

3

Mash the sweet potatoes. Combine the cooked sweet potatoes & roasted garlic in a bowl & mash to your desired consistency. I like to add the butter & milk little by little as I mash for extra control over the flavor & texture. Prep Tip! ⇢ Use your food processor for extra smooth & creamy sweet potatoes. This is typically a no-no when you’re making mashed potatoes…but sweet potatoes don’t have the same starches as other potatoes, so they won’t get a gummy or gluey texture if you purée them. 

4

Prepare the herb bacon-panko topping. This is where it really gets good…these savory sweet potatoes are incomplete without this herbed bacon-panko topping! Start by cooking a few slices of bacon until crisp. Set them aside, leaving as much of the rendered bacon fat in the skillet as possible. Toss fresh herbs into the bacon renderings, which blooms the fresh herbs & draws out all of their amazing herbaceous flavor. Add in the panko breadcrumbs & toast until golden brown. 

5

Assemble & bake. With all of the components ready, all that’s left is getting the savory sweet potato casserole in the oven! Add the whipped sweet potatoes to a baking dish & top with the prepared breadcrumb mixture. then cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake the casserole at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes, until lightly browned & warmed through. Tip! ⇢ For a beautifully browned & crisp top, remove the aluminum foil in the last 15 minutes of baking.

A close up shot of Savory Sweet Potato Casserole and its bacon breadcrumb topping.

Savory Sweet Potato Casserole FAQs

Can I make the savory sweet potato casserole ahead of time?

Absolutely! There are 2 options to save yourself time on Thanksgiving day:

  1. Meal prep individual components, like dicing the sweet potatoes, roasting garlic, & prepping the herbed bacon-panko topping (refer to the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance). On Thanksgiving day, all that’s left is some inactive cooking & assembly.
  2. Assemble in advance. This savory sweet potato casserole can also be prepped up to 3 days in advance. If you make it ahead of time, just keep it stored in the fridge & then add 15 minutes to the bake time. 

What should I do with my leftover savory sweet potatoes?

This recipe makes a pretty large sweet potato Thanksgiving side dish, easily serving 12-14 people. If you have leftovers after your Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving dinner, store the savory sweet potato casserole in the refrigerator for 3-4 days & reheat in the microwave. You can also freeze leftovers for up to 1 month. This dish is perfect to enjoy with any autumn dinner, not just Thanksgiving!  

Easy Recipe Variations

  • Make this savory sweet potato casserole gluten-free by subbing out the panko breadcrumbs for gluten-free breadcrumbs.
  • Try your favorite combination of flavors. When it comes to fresh herbs, rosemary, sage, & thyme are my Thanksgiving staples but you could make the herbed bacon-panko topping with any fresh herbs you like! You can also easily give this savory sweet potato casserole a smoky-spicy twist by blitzing a few chipotle peppers into the roasted garlic whipped sweet potatoes – so, so good!
An overhead shot of a white plate with a serving of Savory Sweet Potato Casserole topped with bacon breadcrumb topping atop. A fork rests on the side of the plate and the plate sits atop a creamy white textured surface. A gray and white striped linen napkin rests alongside the plate and a few loose fresh herbs surround it.

I can’t wait for you to try this Savory Sweet Potato Casserole recipe. It offers a fun twist on tradition, & it’s perfect if you prefer savory flavors to sweet. 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!

Love savory side dishes? Same here! 🙌🏼 Be sure to add my Roasted Garlic Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, Best-Ever Sourdough Stuffing with Sausage & Mushrooms, or Cheesy Butternut Squash Gratin to your Thanksgiving menu, too!

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An overhead shot of a baking dish filled with assembled and baked Savory Sweet Potato Casserole topped with bacon breadcrumb topping. The baking dish sits atop a creamy white textured surface. A gray and white striped linen napkin is tucked underneath the baking dish and a few loose fresh herb and a parmesan rind surround the baking dish.

Savory Sweet Potato Casserole with Roasted Garlic & Crispy Herbed Bacon-Panko Topping

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: serves 1214 1x
  • Category: Side Dish Recipes
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Perfect for anyone who wants to ditch the marshmallows this Thanksgiving, this Savory Sweet Potato Casserole recipe is not your grandma’s sweet potato casserole! Sweet potatoes are whipped velvety-smooth with roasted garlic, & finished with a crispy panko topping infused with bacon & fresh herbs for the perfect balance of savory & sweet.

Meal prep & make-ahead friendly!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled & cut into 1-inch dice
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 3/4 cup whole milk (or milk of choice)
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 large eggs
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season

for the crispy herbed bacon-panko topping:

  • 6 ounces center-cut bacon
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (e.g. rosemary, sage, thyme)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season Savory Sweet Potato Casserole ingredients arranged on a creamy white textured surface: sweet potatoes, garlic, unsalted butter, whole milk, grated parmesan, eggs, kosher salt, ground black pepper, bacon, fresh herbs - rosemary, sage, thyme, panko breadcrumbs.

Instructions

Roast the garlic: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice just the top off of the heads of garlic, to reveal their cloves. Lightly rub the garlic to loosen and remove any excess papery garlic skin. Wrap the garlic in foil, drizzling it with the olive oil before you seal the foil, then place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes – 1 hour, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Two heads of roasted garlic with their tops cut off are seasoned with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper rest atop sheets of crumpled aluminum foil. Each bundle of roasted garlic sits atop a creamy white textured surface.

  1. Boil the sweet potatoes: Meanwhile, as the garlic roasts, cook the sweet potatoes. Place the diced sweet potatoes in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven and cover with 6 cups cold water, or enough to completely submerge the sweet potatoes. Season with 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover, cooking for 20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are fork-tender. Carefully strain and set aside.Boiled sweet potatoes strained in a stainless steel colander. The colander rests atop a creamy white textured surface.
  2. Cook the bacon: Meanwhile, as the garlic roasts & the potatoes boil, prep the breadcrumb topping. Add the bacon to a large skillet over medium heat. Cook 5-6 minutes per side, until crisp & rendered. Leaving as much of the rendered bacon fat in the skillet as possible, transfer the crispy bacon to a plate or cutting board & set aside. Five slices of crispy cooked bacon rest atop a white ceramic plate that sits atop a creamy white textured surface.
  3. Prepare the bacon breadcrumb topping: Reduce the heat under the skillet used to cook the bacon to medium-low. Add the fresh herbs to the skillet, blooming them in the bacon renderings. Cook 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Add the garlic to the skillet & cook 30 seconds longer, stirring constantly, just until fragrant. Add the panko breadcrumbs to the skillet, cooking 4-5 minutes, while stirring constantly, until toasty & golden brown. Remove from the heat & transfer to a small mixing bowl. Finely chop or crumble the bacon, adding it to the breadcrumb mixture along with the grated parmesan. Season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Stir to combine. Taste & season with additional salt & ground black pepper as needed. Set aside. A small white ceramic bowl filled with bacon breadcrumb topping and a gold spoon rests atop a creamy white textured surface.
  4. Mash the sweet potatoes: For extra creamy mashed sweet potatoes, transfer the boiled sweet potatoes to a food processor & puree until smooth & creamy, working in batches, as needed, to avoid overcrowding the food processor. As you puree the sweet potatoes, mix in the roasted garlic – the cloves should squeeze out of the garlic bulb very easily. With the food processor running, slowly add in the butter, one tablespoon at a time, and the milk. Alternate as you go – a little butter, then a little milk. Taste and season with additional kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired – I add ½ teaspoon of salt, taste, & go from there. Once the sweet potatoes have reached your desired consistency, transfer to a bowl. Fold in the grated parmesan & whisked eggs. Set aside. An overhead shot of a food processor bowl filled with pureed sweet potatoes. The food processor bowl sits atop a creamy white textured surface.
  5. Assemble the savory sweet potato casserole: Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Transfer the roasted garlic sweet potatoes to the baking dish. Top with the prepared bacon breadcrumb mixture. Cover with foil. An overhead shot of a baking dish filled with assembled and baked Savory Sweet Potato Casserole topped with bacon breadcrumb topping. The baking dish sits atop a creamy white textured surface.
  6. Bake the savory sweet potato casserole: Transfer the savory sweet potato casserole to the oven. Bake 35-40 minutes, until slightly browned & warmed through. In the last 15 minutes of baking, remove the foil so the breadcrumb topping gets beautifully browned & crisp.  An overhead shot of a baking dish filled with assembled and baked Savory Sweet Potato Casserole topped with bacon breadcrumb topping. The baking dish sits atop a creamy white textured surface. A gray and white striped linen napkin is tucked underneath the baking dish and a few loose fresh herb and a parmesan rind surround the baking dish.
  7. Serve immediately. Enjoy!An overhead shot of two white plates with servings of Savory Sweet Potato Casserole topped with bacon breadcrumb topping atop of them. A fork rests on the side of the plate at center. The plates sit atop a creamy white textured surface. A gray and white striped linen napkin rests alongside the plate at center and a few loose fresh herbs and a block of parmesan cheese also rest on the surface.


Notes

  • Storage & Freezing:
    • Storage & Reheating: Leftover savory sweet potato casserole will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave or oven, until warmed through.
    • Freezer Instructions: You can also freeze leftover savory sweet potato casserole. Transfer leftover stuffing 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.
  • Savory Sweet Potato Casserole Meal Prep & Make-Ahead Instructions: 
    • Meal Prep: A little meal prep goes a long way in pulling this savory sweet potato casserole together on Thanksgiving day! Between prepping the sweet potatoes, breadcrumb topping, & roasting the garlic, there are many components of this savory sweet potato casserole that can be prepared 3-5 days in advance. Pick & choose from the below list, or do it all ahead of time & all you have to do on Thanksgiving is toss it all together – easy! 
      • Sweet potato prep: Peel & dice 3 pounds sweet potatoes. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. (10 minutes active)
      • Roast the garlic: Roast the garlic according to Step 1 of Recipe Directions above. Store the roasted garlic in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. (5 minutes active)
      • Bacon breadcrumb topping prep: Prepare the bacon breadcrumb topping according to Steps 3-4 of Recipe Directions, above. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. (25 minutes active)
    • Make-Ahead Savory Sweet Potato Casserole: This savory sweet potato casserole can also be prepped & assembled, Steps 1-6 of Recipe Directions, up to 3 days in advance. Store covered in the refrigerator. Bake as directed in Step 7 of Recipe Directions, above, adding 15 minutes to the bake time.
  • Portions: As written, this savory sweet potato casserole recipe yields a large batch, serving 12-14 generously as a side dish. To serve a smaller crowd of up to 6, simply reduce the recipe by 1/2. Assemble in an 8×8 baking dish or 9-inch pie plate & bake as directed in Step 6, for 25-35 minutes or until slightly browned & warmed through.

Keywords: savory sweet potato casserole, savory sweet potatoes, sweet potato side dish thanksgiving, easy, make-ahead, side dish, vegetarian, gluten-free, Thanksgiving recipe, Friendsgiving, side dish, fall, winter, sweet potato casserole, Thanksgiving sides

Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Megan McKeehan

An overhead shot of a baking dish filled with assembled and baked Savory Sweet Potato Casserole topped with bacon breadcrumb topping. The baking dish sits atop a creamy white textured surface. A gray and white striped linen napkin is tucked underneath the baking dish. A few loose fresh herbs and a parmesan rind surround the baking dish.

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An overhead shot of two white plates with servings of Savory Sweet Potato Casserole topped with bacon breadcrumb topping atop of them. A fork rests on the side of the plate at center. The plates sit atop a creamy white textured surface. A gray and white striped linen napkin rests alongside the plate at center and a few loose fresh herbs and a block of parmesan cheese also rest on the surface.

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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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