Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows

5 from 2 votes

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This sweet, old-fashioned Thanksgiving classic makes both kids and adults happy.

Baking dish of Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows on a pink tablecloth.

This creamy sweet potato dish belongs on a truly traditional Thanksgiving table, with a Classic Roasted Turkey and Traditional Thanksgiving Stuffing. It’s strange how when I was a kid, the marshmallows were the best part, and now, as an adult, I’m scooping down deep to get more of the mashed sweet potatoes!

My late aunt Sue was not much of a cook, but there was a palpable level of nostalgic expectation for the sweet potatoes with marshmallows that she brought to Thanksgiving every year. This is my version of this old-school Thanksgiving side dish. In my memory, sometimes Aunt Sue used the bigger marshmallows, sometimes the mini ones. The mini ones are more common these days, making it easier to spoon a few small melty marshmallows atop each portion. But I do want to try it again with the big ones, for old-time’s sake!

Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows in a white baking dish.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows: This sweet, old-fashioned Thanksgiving classic makes both kids and adults happy.

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Why Top Sweet Potato Casserole With Marshmallows?

Americans love adding marshmallows to sweet potato casserole, and the story behind it is interesting. Sweet potatoes have been popular in America since Colonial times, brought over from Central and South America. In the Southern climes of the U.S., these crops were very successful. In the 1800s, they increasingly started becoming associated with holiday meals.

According to Saveur magazine, in 1917, a marshmallow company called Angelus Marshmallows published a recipe for sweet potatoes with marshmallows in a recipe booklet. Marshmallows were now commercially available and affordable, so they were an exciting novelty sweet. And apparently, that’s how it all started!

Ingredients

Fresh sweet potatoes and orange, marshmallows, and other ingredients on marble.
  • Sweet potatoes – Even though some sweet potatoes are white inside, for this recipe, I think you must go for the orange ones. I think they are usually sweeter, and the color, especially in contrast with the melty white and golden brown marshmallows, is so appealing. Peel and cube them before simmering so that they cook faster. If you prefer to roast them in the oven, then peel off the skin and mash them, you can do that as well.
  • Orange juice – Adds sweetness and acidity — please use fresh if at all possible!
  • Maple syrup – Just another level of earthy sweetness. Please use pure maple syrup, not pancake syrup!
  • Butter – Adds a silky mouthfeel and richness. Make sure to use unsalted butter so you can control the salt in the recipes as a whole.
  • Ground ginger – Adds a teeny bit of heat and that amazing warm spice aroma.
  • Kosher salt to taste – Brings up the flavor in everything.
  • Mini marshmallows – The big finale, the whole point of this dish! You only need 2 cups, so save the rest for snacking or tossing on mugs of hot cocoa the next day.
Baking dish of Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows on a pink tablecloth.

How to Make Old-Fashioned Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows

  1. Cook the potatoes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the potatoes in a big pot of simmering water for about 15 to 20 minutes, until they are completely fall-apart tender. Drain and return them to the pot.
  2. Mash the potatoes: Either mash the potatoes with a potato masher or run them through a ricer or a food mill.
Mashing sweet potatoes with potato masher and food mill.
  1. Season: Add the orange juice, maple syrup, butter, ginger, and salt and stir to blend.
  2. Prepare to bake: Transfer the potatoes to a 2 or 3-quart baking dish. Cover the top with the mini marshmallows.
Placing marshmallows on sweet potato casserole in baking dish.
  1. Bake: Bake until the sweet potatoes are hot throughout and the mini marshmallows have turned golden brown and started to melt, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows in a white, oblong baking dish.

FAQs

Are yams and sweet potatoes the same thing?

In the U.S., the terms yams and sweet potatoes are often interchanged. What most Americans think of as yams are actually orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. According to Jessica Harris, an expert in African American foodways, it’s likely that enslaved people began using the terms interchangeably, as American sweet potatoes approximated the flavor and texture of yams, which were more familiar to them. (Read more in The New York Times).

Today, most yams are usually grown in the tropics, the West Indies in particular. You can find them in Hispanic, Latin, or Caribbean markets in the U.S., but most yams sold in the average supermarket are botanically sweet potatoes. True yams are usually huge, at least 1 foot long, and have white, starchy flesh.

Is sweet potato casserole with marshmallows a dessert?

The short answer is that it’s up to you. Because of the sweetness of this dish, those unfamiliar with it may immediately assume that it is a dessert. However, on Thanksgiving, this dish is traditionally served as a side, along with the savory elements of the meal. It makes the Thanksgiving meal all the more special to have a sweet treat served with the meal in addition to dessert! If you prefer separating sweet and savory, don’t hesitate to serve this dish as a dessert.

Are candied yams and sweet potato casserole the same thing?

The definition of candied yams and sweet potato casserole is often quite subjective, depending on what you grew up with! In general, candied sweet potatoes are cubed yams or sweet potatoes roasted with syrup or another sweetener, butter, and warm spices until the potatoes are glazed.

Sweet potato casserole usually consists of cooked potatoes that are sliced or pureed, mixed with butter, spices, and sweetener, then baked with some sort of topping. The topping might be brown sugar and butter, or it might contain flour and be more like a crumble or streusel topping. Both are delicious!

Make-Ahead

  • You can refrigerate the mashed potatoes, covered, for up to 2 days, in the casserole you plan on baking them in. Don’t add the marshmallows yet — wait until you are ready to bake.
  • Return the mashed potatoes to room temp before baking. Sprinkle the marshmallows over the top so that they will heat through in the time it takes the marshmallows to brown in the oven.
Spoon with a large scoop of Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows.

What to Serve With Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole topped with toasted Marshmallows.

More Sweet Potato Recipes

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5 from 2 votes

Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows

This sweet, old-fashioned Thanksgiving classic makes both kids and adults happy.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 10 People
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Ingredients 

  • 2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes (about 5; peeled and cubed)
  • cup fresh orange juice
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Kosher salt (to taste)
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the sweet potatoes and return the water to a simmer, then adjust the heat so the potatoes continue to simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, until they are completely fall-apart tender. Drain and return them to the pot. Either mash the potatoes with a potato masher or run them through a ricer or a food mill.
  • Add the orange juice, maple syrup, butter, ginger, and salt and stir to blend until smooth.
  • Transfer the potatoes to a 2 or 3-quart baking dish. You can refrigerate the potatoes, covered, for up to 2 days at this point. Cover the top of the sweet potatoes with the mini marshmallows. Bake until the sweet potatoes are hot throughout, and the mini marshmallows have turned golden brown and started to melt, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Notes

  • You can refrigerate the mashed potatoes, covered, for up to two days, in the casserole you plan on baking them in. Don’t add the marshmallows yet – wait until you are ready to bake.
  • Return the mashed potatoes to room temp before baking. Sprinkle the marshmallows over the top so that they will heat through in the time it takes the marshmallows to brown in the oven.

Nutrition

Calories: 200kcal, Carbohydrates: 38g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 12mg, Sodium: 72mg, Potassium: 438mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 17g, Vitamin A: 16263IU, Vitamin C: 11mg, Calcium: 47mg, Iron: 1mg
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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