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Paleo (Vegan) Sweet Potato Casserole

Paleo sweet potato casserole is the ultimate holiday side dish! This dairy free, gluten free sweet potato casserole with pecan topping can also be made vegan with just a few adjustments!

Naturally sweetened, the creamy, rich sweet potato layer is topped with a crunchy pecan topping that is irresistible! Everyone at the table will be raving about how good this is!

Oval casserole dish filled with sweet potato casserole with a spoon.

Growing up sweet potato casserole was always one of my favorite dishes at Christmas or Thanksgiving. My mom made the traditional recipe with a cup or two of sugar and lots of butter. I loved that it was essentially dessert (my favorite part of any meal) with dinner, and I always piled my plate high!

This paleo sweet potato casserole is less sweet, but equally as delicious! Sweetened with maple syrup instead of sugar, the sweet potato layer is just sweet enough, but you could easily add 2-3 more tablespoons if you really want a sweet treat!

The crunchy pecan topping uses coconut sugar, which helps the pecans get caramelized and adds texture and added sweetness to the top of the sweet potato layer. I have to admit, the topping is my favorite part!

You can easily make this sweet potato casserole vegan by omitting the egg whites and instead adding 2-3 tablespoons of your favorite nut butter (almond butter, cashew butter or even tahini) and whipping that up with the maple syrup and cinnamon instead! An added bonus is that if you are not adding the eggs, you don’t have to cook this for as long either!

Ingredients for paleo sweet potato casserole.

How to make paleo sweet potato casserole

Ingredients (and substitutions)

Sweet potato layer

  • Sweet Potatoes – you can roast these, cook them in the instant pot, microwave or on the stove.
  • Egg whites – I like the volume that the egg whites provide the dish but don’t love egg yolks competing with the sweet potatoes so I leave them out! For vegan recipes, substitute with nut butter of choice.
  • Maple syrup – this will add just a touch of sweetness to the dish and compliments the sweet potatoes well. You could also use date syrup to make it Whole30 friendly!
  • Cinnamon – this is a KEY ingredient and should not be left out. Did you know that cinnamon can increase the perceived sweetness of the dish – meaning you need less sugar!
  • Pinch of salt – I can always tell when I leave out the salt. It elevates the sweetness without making it salty. You only need a pinch!

Pecan topping

  • Chopped pecans – I love the combo of pecans with sweet potatoes. You could also use chopped walnuts or almonds or for a nut free version, you could chop up roasted shelled sunflower seeds (this was how I wrote this recipe originally and it’s wonderful).
  • Avocado oil – I like a neutral oil here, but you could also use coconut oil or even melted ghee or dairy free butter substitute.
  • Coconut sugar – this tastes just like brown sugar but is made from coconuts! It’s pretty easy to find in most grocery stores now. If you cannot find coconut sugar, you could use maple syrup or light brown sugar. To make this Whole30 friendly, omit the coconut sugar and instead chop 4-5 dates into small pieces.
  • Cinnamon – Trust me don’t skip the cinnamon here either!
  • Almond flour – this helps add texture to the topping. You could also use 1-2 tbsp. of your favorite gluten free flour instead. If you are looking for a nut free, grain free topping, you could put about 3 tbsp. of roasted sunflower seeds in the food processor and process 1 minute or so until they resemble flour.

Step-by-step instructions

Cook the sweet potatoes. First step is to cook the sweet potatoes. There are many methods to do this, my favorite lately has been to use the Instant Pot or roast the sweet potatoes in the oven. See tips below on different methods you could use.

Hand peeling skin from cooked sweet potatoes.

Mash the sweet potatoes: Once sweet potatoes are cooked and peeled, mash them with a potato masher, a fork, or break up with a hand mixer or stand mixer (you could also put them in the food processor).

Fork mashing sweet potatoes in a bowl.

Make the sweet potato layer: For best results, you will want to add the egg whites, maple syrup, cinnamon and pinch of salt to the potatoes in a stand mixer or blend with a hand mixer or food processor.

This allows the egg whites to whip and really helps the potatoes get fluffy.

Sweet potato filling before being mixed.

Tip: If you don’t have a hand mixer, before adding the egg whites to the sweet potatoes, whip them in a large bowl for 2-3 minutes to help get some air in them before adding to the potatoes. Stir well with a wooden spoon.

For the vegan version, omit the egg whites and replace with 2-3 tbsp. of your favorite nut butter. You will notice that the longer you whip the potatoes, the fluffier they get.

I like to spray my casserole dish with olive oil or avocado oil before adding the sweet potatoes so nothing sticks. Once sprayed, add the mashed sweet potato mixture to a 2 quart casserole dish and be sure to even it out with the back of a spoon.

Note: If you are making this dish ahead of time, place the casserole in the fridge covered at this point without the topping.

Sweet potato filling being spread into casserole dish.

Make the Pecan Topping: Chop the pecans, add them to a bowl with the rest of the topping ingredients and stir well.

Ingredients for pecan topping in a glass measuring cup.

Sprinkle the topping over the sweet potato mixture.

Bake in the oven: Bake the paleo sweet potato casserole in a preheated 375F oven for 30 minutes. You will want to cover the casserole for the first 10 minutes so that the pecans don’t burn.

Sweet potato casserole after baking.
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How to make vegan sweet potato casserole

  • Cook and mash sweet potatoes.
  • In a bowl combine mashed sweet potatoes, 2-3 tbsp. favorite nut or seed butter (tahini, almond butter, cashew butter or sunflower seed butter), maple syrup, cinnamon and pinch of salt. Whip with hand mixer or stand mixer if possible.
  • Add sweet potato mixture to casserole dish. 
  • Make the pecan topping, sprinkle over sweet potato mixture.
  • Cook in 375F oven for 20 minutes. 

How to make whole30 sweet potato casserole

  • Cook and mash the potatoes.
  • Soak 3-5 dates (pit removed) in hot water at least 15 minutes. Drain the hot water and blend up the dates in a high speed blender or food processor. Use this date mixture in place of the maple syrup.
  • Add dates, egg whites, cinnamon and salt to the mashed sweet potatoes and mix well.
  • Put sweet potato mixture in a casserole dish.
  • For the topping finely chop 5 dates (pitted) and mix with chopped pecans, avocado oil and cinnamon until combined.
  • Distribute topping over sweet potato mixture. Bake in 350F oven for 40 minutes, covering the dish for the first 30 minutes.
Spoonful of paleo sweet potato casserole.
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Time saving tips

To save time, you can cook your sweet potatoes days or even months ahead, peel off the skin and mash them. Store the mashed sweet potatoes in the freezer (for months ahead) or in the fridge for up to 2 days ahead. When you are ready to use, pull the mashed sweet potatoes from the freezer 1 day in advance or microwave them until defrosted.

You can also buy mashed sweet potato blocks in the frozen section at Trader Joe’s. Simply pull the sweet potato blocks from the freezer the day before or microwave these blocks until defrosted and easily mashable.

Make ahead instructions

This is a great dish to make the night before if you are preparing for a holiday meal. You will want to make the sweet potato layer and the pecan topping but do not combine them until right before serving if possible (the pecans can get soggy). Store the sweet potato mixture in the fridge and the pecan topping in an air tight container on the counter or in the fridge.

If you have time, bake the sweet potato layer at 375F for 20 minutes. Allow it to cool, cover it and store in the fridge. The day you are serving this, add the pecan topping and bake 375F for 25 minutes.

If you don’t have time to bake this the night before, add the sweet potato mixture to the casserole dish, cover and store in the fridge. The day you are serving this, add the pecan topping and bake 375F for 40 minutes, covering the dish with foil for the first 20 minutes of baking.

Note: You could also freeze the sweet potato layer ahead of time, but the end result will not be as good, as the sweet potatoes will release extra water when defrosting which can change the texture of the dish.

Pecan topping being sprinkled on top of paleo sweet potato mixture.

FAQs

How to cook sweet potatoes

  • Instant Pot: Place trivet in the instant pot, add 1 cup of water. Stack the sweet potatoes on top of the trivet and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Allow pressure to naturally release. After cooking, the skin will easily peel off the potatoes.
  • Oven: Preheat the oven to 450F. Prick the skin 1-2 times with a fork and bake on a baking sheet for at least an hour. Allow to cool and peel the skin from the potatoes.
  • Stove: Peel the potatoes and chop the potatoes into equal size cubes (about 1 inch). Cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Cook for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are fork tender (you can easily insert a fork and they pretty much fall apart). Drain off all water from cooking before mashing.
  • Microwave: Prick sweet potatoes 2-3 times with a fork. Place in microwave and microwave 10-15 minutes, depending on strength of your microwave. Allow to cool before peeling away the skin.

Storage

Fridge: Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days in a well-sealed container. Reheat in the microwave or in the oven (350F for 10-12 minutes) to re-crisp the topping.

Freezer: You can freeze leftovers in a freezer safe container for up to 1 month. Note that the topping will not be as crunchy after defrosting. You will want to reheat in the oven to try to get the topping more crunchy or even add new nuts for crunch. Reheat in the microwave or in the oven (350F for 12-15 minutes) to re-crisp the topping.

Can you double this recipe?

Yes, if you are having an extremely large gathering or really love leftover sweet potato casserole with pecan topping, you can double the recipe. You will want to use a 9X13 casserole dish. Double the ingredients, the instructions remain the same.

Can you use marshmallows for the topping?

Yes of course! You can make you own homemade marshmallows or buy store bought! You can mix in the marshmallows with the pecan topping or omit the pecan topping all together.

Sweet potato casserole topped with chopped pecans.

How to make nut free sweet potato casserole

You can use roasted sunflower seeds in place of the pecan pieces and replace the almond flour with all purpose gluten free flour or grind up roasted sunflower seeds in the food processor until they resemble flour and use the sunflower seed flour in place of the almond flour.

Can you use canned sweet potato puree

Yes! You will need the equivalent of about 5 cups of mashed sweet potatoes (about 30 ounces or so).

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Spoon in a casserole dish filled with sweet potato casserole.

Simple Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet potato casserole with pecan topping is so easy to make and is perfect for your holiday meals! This dairy free gluten free sweet potato casserole is sweetened with maple syrup and is paleo and can be made vegan or Whole30 friendly! This healthy recipe can be made ahead if needed, you won't believe how simple this is to make!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Save Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: healthy sweet potato casserole, paleo sweet potato casserole, vegan sweet potato casserole
Prep Time: 2 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
20 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 2 mins
Servings: 8 servings

Guided Recipe Video

Ingredients

Topping

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375F
  • Cook 3 pounds sweet potatoes in oven, instant pot, on the stove or in the microwave (see below for instruction).
  • While the sweet potatoes are cooking, make the topping by combining the chopped pecans, coconut sugar, almond flour, avocado oil and ground cinnamon. Stir well and set aside.
  • Peel the skin from the cooked sweet potatoes and mash until smooth.
  • Add the egg whites, ground cinnamon, maple syrup and pinch of salt to the mashed sweet potatoes and mix with a hand mixer or stand mixer (optional). If no mixer, whip egg whites first to incorporate more air (you can also use a large food processor).
  • Spray a casserole dish with non-stick and add the sweet potato mixture nd smooth it down.
  • Sprinkle the pecan topping over sweet potato layer and bake in 375F oven for 40 minutes, covering with foil for the first 20 minutes to protect the pecans from burning.

Notes

How to cook sweet potatoes: 
  • Instant Pot: Place trivet in the instant pot, add 1 cup of water. Stack the sweet potatoes on top of the trivet and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Allow pressure to naturally release. After cooking, the skin will easily peel off the potatoes.
  • Oven: Preheat the oven to 450F. Prick the skin 1-2 times with a fork and bake on a baking sheet for at least an hour. Allow to cool and peel the skin from the potatoes.
  • Stove: Peel the potatoes and chop the potatoes into equal size cubes (about 1 inch). Cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Cook for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are fork tender (you can easily insert a fork and they pretty much fall apart). Drain off all water from cooking before mashing.
  • Microwave: Prick sweet potatoes 2-3 times with a fork. Place in microwave and microwave 10-15 minutes, depending on strength of your microwave. Allow to cool before peeling away the skin.
How to make Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole:
  • Cook and mash sweet potatoes.
  • In a bowl combine mash sweet potatoes, 2-3 tbsp. favorite nut or seed butter (tahini, almond butter, cashew butter or sunflower seed butter), maple syrup, cinnamon and pinch of salt. Whip with hand mixer or stand mixer if possible (or use your food processor).
  • Add sweet potato mixture to casserole dish. 
  • Make the pecan topping, sprinkle over sweet potato mixture.
  • Cook in 375F oven for 20 minutes. 
How to make Whole30 Sweet Potato Casserole:
  • Cook and mash the potatoes.
  • Soak 3-5 dates (pit removed) in hot water at least 15 minutes. Drain the hot water and blend up the dates in a high speed blender or food processor. Use this date mixture in place of the maple syrup.
  • Add dates, egg whites, cinnamon and salt to the mashed sweet potatoes and mix well.
  • Put sweet potato mixture in a casserole dish.
  • For the topping finely chop 5 dates (pitted) and mix with chopped pecans, avocado oil and cinnamon until combined.
  • Distribute topping over sweet potato mixture. Bake in 350F oven for 40 minutes, covering the dish for the first 30 minutes.
Make ahead instructions:
  • This is a great dish to make the night before if you are preparing for a holiday meal. You will want to make the sweet potato layer and the pecan topping but do not combine them until right before serving if possible (the pecans can get soggy). Store the sweet potato mixture in the fridge and the pecan topping in an air tight container on the counter or in the fridge.
    • If you have time, bake the sweet potato layer at 350F for 20 minutes. Allow it to cool, cover it and store in the fridge. The day you are serving this, add the pecan topping and bake 375F for 25 minutes.
    • If you don’t have time to bake this the night before, add the sweet potato mixture to the casserole dish, cover and store in the fridge. The day you are serving this, add the pecan topping and bake 375F for 40 minutes, covering the dish with foil for the first 20 minutes of baking.
Nut Free Sweet Potato Casserole:
If you want a nut free sweet potato casserole you can use marshmallows in place of the pecan topping or use roasted sunflower seeds in place of the pecans and use your favorite gluten free flour in place of the almond flour. You can also make your own sunflower seed flour by grinding roasted sunflower seeds in a food processor about 1 minute until they resemble flour. 
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Nutrition Information

Nutrition Facts
Amount per Serving
Calories
235
Fat
 
5
g
Carbohydrates
 
45
g
Fiber
 
6
g
Sugar
 
15
g
Protein
 
4
g
Where does nutrition info come from? Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy, sourced from the USDA Food Database.
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