Combining sweet potatoes, butternut squash and maple syrup, this healthy, make-ahead sweet potato casserole wows everyone!
I love how traditional Thanksgiving feasts vary tremendously from family to family, as well as from one area of the country to another. While I was preparing this sweet potato casserole, I thought back to a time when I wasn’t aware of this wonderful melting pot of Thanksgiving traditions.
Both Scott and I grew up in central Wisconsin. A typical Thanksgiving dinner for us included turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce. You’d often also find sweet potatoes, corn, a green veggie and some type of yeast rolls on the table. When we moved to North Carolina, we discovered that, what was “typical” for us, wasn’t really typical at all!
When Thanksgiving rolled around the first few times in North Carolina, I experienced a bit of a shock. I learned from new friends at work and in the neighborhood that a classic southern Thanksgiving meal was quite different from my norm. To start with, there were usually several types of meat, minimally a ham and a turkey. The sides often included dishes that, to me, seemed a bit weird. Some of my friends talked about deviled eggs, mac cheese, pickles and collard greens! Other typical feasts included pimento cheese, cornbread stuffing, corn puddings, biscuits and grits.
“What is wrong with these people?” was the first thought from this narrow-minded midwestern girl. It took a bit of time, but I finally came to understand that there are lots of wonderfully, delicious ways to celebrate Thanksgiving.
These days, I love hearing about “typical” Thanksgiving feasts, knowing there are a zillion unique traditions and beloved culinary customs. Did you know that in Baltimore and parts of Pennsylvania, a Thanksgiving meal without sauerkraut is quite unthinkable? Now that’s my kind of tradition! (Not so much the photographer/editor’s though!)
Although there are lots of unique variations, a few things are quite universal for Thanksgiving meals, here in the States. For example, it doesn’t matter where you go in the country, turkey is a given, as well as some type of pumpkin or pecan pie. Sweet potatoes are another endearing tradition; usually in the form of a casserole. Traditional recipes for sweet potato casseroles include a marshmallow or brown sugar pecan topping. And the sweet potatoes inside are usually sweetened to the point of being dessert-worthy.
No marshmallows or sugar needed!
This season, I’m happy to present a new option; a delicious, but healthy sweet potato casserole – with butternut squash! Intrigued by a recipe I saw on Pinterest, I couldn’t resist checking it out. Happy to see that the ingredient list didn’t include marshmallow or sugar, I adapted the recipe to make it a bit easier (no peeling and dicing the squash) and added a few touches of my own.
This easy sweet potato casserole comes together quickly once the veggies finish their stint in the oven. This dish will be sure to bring rave reviews, as it allows the wonderful natural flavors of the veggies to shine without adding sugar.
The ingredient cast list also includes salt, pepper and a splash of maple syrup. In addition, there’s a pinch of both cinnamon and curry powder. Don’t worry if you’re not a curry fan. The small amount of curry just adds a warm deliciousness when combined with the cinnamon. No one will be able to quite put their finger on the fabulous flavor. They’ll just know they love it!
The topping for this sweet potato casserole is my Maple Molasses Glazed Pecans and a scatter of fresh rosemary. If you haven’t tried these pecans yet, you might want to make a double batch!
Why? Because, if you pop one in your mouth, it will be impossible to stop nibbling. And they make wonderful little appetizers with a glass of wine.
What does your “typical” Thanksgiving meal include? I know it’s wonderful. If you have a minute and live in the U.S. or Canada, we’d love to hear how you celebrate this beautiful holiday. Feel free to leave a comment below. And finally, if you want to add a fabulous new dish to your holiday table, be sure to try this delicious and healthy butternut sweet potato casserole!
Café Tips for making this Healthy Butternut Sweet Potato Casserole
- To make your life easier, make this sweet potato butternut casserole a day in advance. Just cover and keep the pecans separate till just before baking. It also reheats well for those wonderful leftover Thanksgiving meals.
- You’ll have more pecans than you need for this recipe, but they keep well if stored in an airtight container. They’re perfect for sprinkling on puddings, ice creams and stirring into your morning yogurt.
- Butternut squash can be a real pain to cut as they are so hard and dense. If you pop the whole squash in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, it will be much easier to cut. Remove it with an oven mitt or pot holder as it will be hot. Give it a few minutes to cool, then slice off the hard stem at the top of the squash. Lay squash on its side and, with a long, sharp knife, starting at the top end, cut down the middle of the squash to the center. Do the same thing, starting from the other end. Your cuts should meet in the center and the squash will be cut in half. For this recipe, don’t worry about scooping out the seeds before baking. It will be much easier to remove seeds after the squash is roasted and it’s nice and soft.
- 1 recipe Maple Molasses Glazed Pecans* roughly chop the pecans before proceeding with the recipe
- 3 medium sweet potatoes about 2 pounds, halved
- 1 large butternut squash 2 1/2-3 pounds, cut in half**
- 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon curry powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2-3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line two sheet pans with foil for easy cleanup. Lightly grease a 8x8-inch baking dish.
Add halved sweet potatoes to one baking sheet and the halved butternut squash (see Café Tips above) to the other. Drizzle the veggies on each pan with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and rub with your hands to coat.
- Roast butternut squash for 30 minutes, then add pan with sweet potatoes to the oven and bake for another 30-35 minutes or until both the squash and the sweet potatoes are very tender.
- Remove from oven and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees F.
- Holding sweet potato halves with a clean, folded kitchen towel or a pot holder, scoop the flesh of all the potatoes into a large bowl and discard the skin. Scoop out the seeds from the butternut squash and discard, then scoop out the flesh and add to the bowl with the sweet potatoes.
Add the salt, pepper, curry powder, cinnamon, 2 tablespoons maple syrup and butter. Mash with a potato masher or an electric mixer until smooth. Taste and add more maple syrup if you like it a little sweeter.
Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish and top with 1 1/2 cups of the Maple Molasses Glazed Pecans (you will have more pecans than you need, but they are great for nibbling). Bake for 20 minutes until hot. Sprinkle with finely chopped fresh rosemary. Serve and enjoy!