This yam casserole recipe is made with fluffy sweet potatoes topped with a crunchy, candy-like topping. It’s the ideal Thanksgiving side dish to make in advance!
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I have been making this yam casserole every Thanksgiving for the past few years. Recently, my family has been asking me to make it more often. They want this sweet, savory yam casserole at least once a week! I am happy to oblige because I agree, it is really good!
Easy Yam Casserole Recipe with Pecans
My yam casserole filling is made with fresh cooked yams that are peeled, boiled and mashed. I add a few eggs, vanilla extract and brown sugar to the yams for the perfect taste and texture. The casserole bakes up fluffy and tender. The yam layer is nice and smooth, which is fantastic along with the crunchy pecan topping.
Speaking of the yam casserole topping, let me tell you a little more about this important component of my casserole. Many yam casseroles have marshmallows on top. I far prefer the crunchy brown sugar pecan crumble on my yams. However, if you like marshmallows, feel free to use both! Marshmallows do add a very pretty look to the casserole, in addition to increasing the sweetness of the yam side dish.
So are you ready to make the most perfect Thanksgiving side dish you have ever had? I will give you all the details here. Remember that while yam casserole is great for Thanksgiving, it is also great any day of the week. I just made it last Thursday!
See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Yams – Six medium sized yams should be about 3 pounds. Try to weigh your yams when you buy them. The weight is the best measurement for this recipe to ensure you have the perfect amount of casserole filling.
- Dark brown sugar – I like dark brown sugar because it has a rich molasses taste that is delicious in this recipe. You can use light brown sugar as well.
- Butter – Unsalted butter is best for both the yam casserole filling and the topping.
- Milk – I use whole milk any time I am cooking.
- Ground black pepper
- Vanilla – A little bit of vanilla really enhances the flavor of the yam filling.
- Pecans – Look for pre-chopped pecans in the grocery store, which will save you a little time.
Substitutions and Variations
I make this yam casserole quite often, especially in the fall. Try a few of these variations to keep your yam casserole exciting and new.
- Skip the pecan filling and use just marshmallows. This is a great way to make the yam casserole nut free.
- Use chopped almonds in place of pecans for a different flavor and more crunchy topping.
- Use heavy cream in place of milk to make a richer, more decadent casserole.
How to Make Yam Casserole
- Preheat the Oven: Preheat your oven to 375ºF and grease a 9×13 baking pan.
- Cook the Yams: Boil a large pot of water and cook the yams for 15 minutes. They should be very tender and soft.
- Mix the Filling: Place the strained, cooked yams in a stand mixer along with all the other ingredients for the filling. Blend with a paddle attachment until smooth. Then, scoop the filling into the prepared casserole dish.
- Make the Topping: Mix the flour, butter, brown sugar and pecans together with your hands until crumbly. Sprinkle the topping over the yam casserole dish.
- Bake the Casserole: Bake the yam casserole for 25-30 minutes until the topping is golden brown. If you want to add marshmallows to your yam casserole, you can sprinkle 2 cups of mini marshmallows over the casserole after 20 minutes of baking. Pop the casserole back in the oven for 5 more minutes to brown the marshmallows and finish cooking the casserole. This is a great way to add a little sweetness and eye appeal to the dish.
Try making individual yam casseroles; they are perfect for buffets and also a true holiday show stopper. Scoop about a cup of yam filling into large, oven safe ramekins. Top each one with the pecan topping and bake for only 20 minutes.
Canned Yam Casserole
Thanksgiving is a very busy time in the kitchen. If you are looking to save a little bit of cooking time, use canned yams to make the yam casserole. This will eliminate the step of boiling the yams.
Use three cans of chopped yams to replace the 6 yams in this recipe. Strain the yams in the can and discard the syrup. Skip the cooking step, as the canned yams are already cooked. You should also reduce the brown sugar to just 1/4 cup in the filling since canned yams are typically very sweet thanks to the sugar syrup in the can.
How to Store Yam Casserole
Once baked, yam casserole will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days. Be sure to keep it well wrapped so the pecans stay crunchy. Reheat the casserole in the oven when you are ready to eat.
You can also freeze this casserole for up to two months. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container with a lid. To reheat the frozen yam casserole, put it back in the oven for 20 minutes to thaw and make the topping crunchy again.
If you choose to freeze the casserole, skip the marshmallow topping. You can add them when you reheat the casserole before eating it.
In the United States, “yam” and “sweet potato” is a term used for the same vegetable, so yam casserole and sweet potato casserole are the same dish. Technically speaking, there is a different vegetable called yams that originates in Africa, but it is much more starchy and less sweet than the sweet potatoes used to make casseroles here.
Boiling yams is faster, but baking them will bring out more of their natural sweetness. In this recipe, the yams are boiled and then baked.
With yams, you can either add contrasting flavors for balance, or lean into the sweetness by adding sugar, maple syrup, or marshmallows. Marshmallows add sweetness and a bit of nostalgia to a yam casserole!
Cut the ends off of the yams when you’re doing the prep and discard them. It’s the ends that are stringy.
- 6 medium yams, about 3 pounds, peeled and cubed
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
- Grease a 9×13 baking dish and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the cubed yams. Boil for 15 minutes then strain the yams and discard the water.
- Add the yams to a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment along with the brown sugar, butter, salt, black pepper, milk, eggs and vanilla extract.
- Beat the yams until well blended and creamy.
- Scoop the yam mix into the greased baking dish.
- In a separate, medium sized bowl, mix all of the topping ingredients together until well blended. The topping should be crumbly like a pie topping.
- Sprinkle the topping over the yam casserole in the pan.
- Bake the casserole for 25 to 30 minutes. The topping should be golden brown and slightly crisp.
- Let cool for 10 minutes before scooping and serving.