An easy and stunningly delicious version of a classic side dish for your holiday meal. This copycat Cracker Barrel Sweet Potato Casserole is the best way to welcome guests to Thanksgiving dinner. A warm hug and a spoonful of creamy sweet potatoes with caramel pecan sauce. Happy holidays to all!
This easy sweet potato casserole recipe has been a family favorite for years. It is based on the Cracker Barrel Sweet Potato Casserole recipe, which I first tried when I started waiting tables at my local CB back when I was 18 years old. Ahhhh, the good old days.
This homemade version is silky and simple and comes with an over-the-top-amazing caramel pecan topping. And a single pinch of coarse salt makes a very good sweet potato casserole into the very best sweet potato casserole recipe!
Simple Ingredients for Sweet Potato Casserole (copycat recipe):
Sweet potatoes: I have always used classic orange sweet potatoes. Pro tip: boiling the potatoes is simpler if you can choose potatoes that are roughly the same size.
Butter: salted is my preference. If using unsalted, add an extra pinch of salt to the sweet potato mixture and the caramel pecan topping. Substitute a plant-based spread if you need a vegan side dish.
Brown sugar: I use light brown sugar in the potato casserole and the caramel topping, but dark brown sugar would be delicious, as well. You could substitute white sugar in the sweet potato mixture, but I don't recommend substituting for brown sugar in the caramel topping.
Orange: the recipe calls for orange zest as well as a few tablespoons of frozen (thawed) orange juice concentrate (based on my memory of the original recipe at The Barrel). If you can't get your hands on orange juice concentrate, double the orange zest, then taste and adjust for the perfect citrus notes.
Cinnamon: The potato mixture and the caramel nut topping get a sprinkle of cinnamon. If you're feeling wild and crazy, add a pinch of nutmeg or ginger, as well.
Pecans: sweet potatoes love pecans, and the attraction is mutual. Substitute walnuts or almonds, if you must.
Half and half: just a couple of tablespoons adds the perfect creamy touch to the caramel sauce. Substitute a splash of plant milk (like almond or cashew) if you're looking for a vegan alternative.
Vanilla: because no self-respecting version of this classic casserole would be caught without vanilla extract!
Salt: coarse kosher salt adds the perfect balance to the sweet and nutty topping. Don't miss it!
Full ingredient list and measurements included in the printable recipe card below.
Step by Step Instructions for Southern Sweet Potato Casserole:
Preheat oven to 400℉. Generously grease (with butter or cooking spray) a 2-quart casserole dish and set aside. If you're planning to double the recipe, use a large greased casserole dish (9x13).
Boil fresh sweet potatoes until tender, then peel and chop or smash the softened potatoes.
Combine potatoes with 4 tablespoons of butter, ½ cup brown sugar (packed), orange juice concentrate, orange zest, vanilla and cinnamon in a large bowl.
Use an electric hand mixer on low speed or immersion blender to combine until creamy. Or use a potato masher and a little elbow grease!
Next, make the crunchy pecan caramel topping to go over the sweet potato base. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter and ½ cup of brown sugar along with ½ teaspoon cinnamon in a small pan over medium heat.
Once sugar has dissolved (just 2-3 mins) add the half and half and pecans. Stir and let the caramel sauce simmer for a minute, then remove from heat. Add a pinch of coarse kosher salt.
Spoon the sweet potato mixture into the greased baking dish. Pour the caramel pecan sauce over the top of the sweet potatoes, distributing the nuts evenly across the mixture.
Bake at 400℉ for 20-25 minutes, until heated through and bubbly. Remove from oven and let the dish rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
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FAQ's and Serving Suggestions:
While I haven't tried it for this recipe, I'm confident that canned sweet potatoes or yams would be a great option for a shortcut casserole. Be sure to drain any liquid from the can, then mash the potatoes before adding them to the other filling ingredients. Keep in mind if your canned product has added sugar, you may need to decrease the brown sugar in the filling. Be sure to taste and adjust sweetness level.
While marshmallows aren't part of Cracker Barrel's legendary recipe, I wouldn't be made about a few lightly-charred mini-marshmallows on my plate! I won't tell anyone if you don't....
This simple recipe is the perfect addition to your classic Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter dinner table. It can serve as a delicious side or a delicious dessert! Whether you're serving a main course of turkey, chicken, ham, pork, salmon or shrimp, these sweet potatoes are a great recipe to add to your holiday lineup.
Let your casserole cool to room temperature, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and foil and keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Heat individual portions in the microwave in 30 second intervals until warmed through. To reheat a larger amount, preheat oven to 375℉ and bake leftover casserole for 15-20 minutes until hot.