4 Mistakes That Ruin Sweet Potato Casserole (and How to Fix Them)
With its sweet filling and (sometimes) savory topping, sweet potato casserole is the ultimate crowd-pleaser. It's not fancy or complicated to pull together, but that doesn't mean there's no room for error! Here are four ways you can mess up your sweet potato casserole—and four ways to fix it when things go wrong.
Mistake to Avoid #1: Crunchy Sweet Potatoes
Pictured recipe: Instant Pot Sweet Potato Casserole
There's some debate over which is better: Sweet potato casserole with a filling as smooth as silk or a filling that has a little more texture. No matter where you land, everyone can agree that the filling shouldn't be crunchy. If it is, you've got a problem—and the problem is that your sweet potatoes haven't been cooked properly. You can bake or boil your sweet potatoes for sweet potato casserole. If you're baking them, make sure a sharp knife can slide easily through to the middle of the sweet potato after cooking. If you're boiling, make sure to cut your sweet potatoes into equal-size pieces so they cook at the same rate. (Another hot tip if you're boiling your sweet potatoes: Don't overcook them! They tend to absorb water, which could make the filling watery.) So say you do have some undercooked bits of sweet potato. You have two choices: either pick them out, or bake your sweet potato casserole long enough to soften the underdone pieces.
Related: Browse all of our sweet potato casserole recipes
Mistake to Avoid #2: Your Casserole Is Too Sweet
Pictured recipe: No-Sugar-Added Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet potato casserole walks a fine line between being savory and sweet. That's why we love it! But if you taste your filling and find it would be better suited for dessert, then you may want to try toning it down. You can add an additional sweet potato to even out the flavor, but that takes tons of extra time you might not have. Your best bet might be to add something to the filling to counter the sweetness. Something tangy like sour cream or buttermilk can help. And the topping? If your filling is sweet already, you can skip the marshmallows on top and opt for a more savory topping like a nutty crumble mixture. If the topping calls for sugar (which many do) feel free to hold back on the sugar and bump up the salt a little. The savory topping and sweet filling will taste perfect together.
Related: More healthy sweet potato side dish recipes
Mistake to Avoid #3: Your Casserole Is Dense Instead of Fluffy
A really good sweet potato casserole filling should be light and moist, not dense. If it's dense, then you may not have added an often overlooked ingredient—an egg. An egg adds lift, structure and volume and makes the filling more custardlike. Obviously you can't add an egg after the fact, so know that it's not absolutely necessary for success. Your casserole can still be great without it. But do know that if your recipe does include an egg, you will want to make sure your casserole is cooked through—not just warmed up in the oven. How will you know? The filling should puff a bit around the edges. If you want to be absolutely sure your casserole is cooked though, an instant-read thermometer can also tell you—if the casserole contains an egg, check that it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
Related: See all of our Thanksgiving recipes
Mistake to Avoid #4: Your Casserole Is Bland
Pictured recipe: Meringue-Topped Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet potatoes are sweet but, on their own, they're pretty one dimensional. Forget the flavorings in your filling and you'll have a sweet potato casserole that's OK, but not great. Since the goal is always to achieve greatness during the holidays, don't be afraid to spice things up! A splash of vanilla extract can push your casserole to the confectionery side of things without making it too cloying. Orange juice or crushed pineapple adds a nice tangy counterbalance with hints of the tropics, and spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger can make it more interesting. The topping is also a good place to experiment. Yes, the classic marshmallow topping is good. If you like the look of marshmallows but want something a little fancier, try a meringue topping. It looks like marshmallow topping but you can control the design by piping it with a piping bag. It's almost guaranteed to inspire oohs and aahs from your guests. And don't forget: a topping with chopped nuts like pecans or almonds is always a good savory choice that's easy to whip up if you're in a crunch for time.
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