A delicious, plant-based version of the classic holiday side dish! This Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole is made with rich and creamy coconut milk (you can also substitute any dairy-free milk alternative if preferred) and topped with the best crunchy maple butter pecan crumble. Not just for vegans, everyone at your Thanksgiving party will be asking for seconds of this healthier, pecan-crusted sweet potato bake. Plus, it's really easy to make gluten-free, too!
Sweet Potato Casserole is a Thanksgiving classic for good reason. There's something about the combination of creamy mashed sweet potatoes, crunchy pecans, and warming spices (like cinnamon and nutmeg) that is so incredibly comforting and just perfect for the fall holiday season.
This dish isn't traditionally vegan. Classic Sweet Potato Casserole usually contains eggs, butter, and milk or cream.
Luckily, though, it's really simple to make a plant-based version with a couple of vegan alternatives (namely canned coconut milk or any dairy-free milk and vegan buttery spread), which are pretty easy to find in most grocery stores.
In addition to being vegan, this Sweet Potato Casserole has less sugar than most old fashioned recipes. This is my personal taste preference, but also makes the dish a tiny bit healthier (without sacrificing flavor). Guests won't miss the extra sweetener or even realize that it's not there!
Okay, let's make a Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole!
Here are the ingredients you'll need to make this recipe.
- Sweet potatoes - Make sure you choose the orange ones to get the right color.
- Canned coconut milk - I prefer full fat canned coconut milk because it makes the mashed sweet potatoes extra rich and creamy. You can also use light canned coconut milk or any dairy-free milk alternative if preferred.
- Brown sugar - If it's important to you and your guests, make sure to buy a vegan brown sugar. (Not all are technically 100% plant-based!) Learn more about vegan brown sugar options in this post from Tofu Bud.
- Maple syrup - Look for pure maple syrup.
- Vegan buttery spread - This is a plant-based butter alternative that you can usually find near the regular butter or in the refrigerated vegan/vegetarian section of the grocery store.
- Vanilla extract - Use pure vanilla extract if possible.
- Ground cinnamon - Essential for adding that warming, autumnal flavor!
- Ground nutmeg - If you're not a fan or want to cut down on cost, you can leave this out.
- Pecans - I use pecan halves.
- Flour - Simple all purpose flour works great, but you can also substitute whole wheat flour or 1:1 gluten-free flour.
See the recipe card at the bottom of the post for the exact quantities you'll need for each ingredient.
Before you get started with this recipe, you'll need to peel your sweet potatoes and chop them into cubes.
Try to chop them into uniform pieces that are about one-inch in size. This will help the sweet potatoes cook evenly.
Here is a basic summary of the steps for making a homemade vegan sweet potato casserole. You can find more detailed instructions and tips in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
Boil the cubed sweet potatoes until they are soft. You should be able to easily pierce them with a fork.
Drain the sweet potatoes and combine with coconut milk, brown sugar, maple syrup, vegan butter, vanilla, and spices. Mash until smooth and transfer to a baking dish.
Add pecans, flour, brown sugar, maple syrup, vegan butter, and spices to a food processor and pulse until evenly mixed. The mixture should stick together when you press it between your fingers.
Spread the pecan mixture on top of the mashed sweet potatoes and bake uncovered in a 350º Fahrenheit oven for 40 minutes. Let the casserole cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
Hint: Canned coconut milk often separates into solid cream at the top with liquid underneath. You can fix this by shaking the can or stirring the contents before using.
This sweet potato casserole is naturally vegan, vegetarian, and dairy-free. Here are a few more substitutions you can make to fit other dietary/availability needs.
- Gluten-free - substitute 1:1 gluten-free flour for the all purpose flour.
- Whole grain - use whole wheat flour instead of all purpose flour.
- Nut-free - substitute rolled oats for the pecans.
- No butter - if you can't find vegan butter, substitute coconut oil.
- No coconut - use any dairy-free milk (I recommend full fat oat milk) instead of canned coconut milk.
Want to change up the flavor profile or make this dish even easier to prep? Here are a few ideas.
- Walnut - Use walnuts instead of pecans.
- Hazelnut - Substitute hazelnuts for pecans.
- Canned Sweet Potato Puree - Use canned sweet potato puree instead of boiling and mashing fresh sweet potatoes.
- Pumpkin - Used canned pumpkin puree instead of boiling and mashing fresh sweet potatoes.
To prepare the sweet potatoes, you'll need a large pot for boiling on the stovetop.
You'll also use a food processor (a mini chopper or high speed blender also work) to prepare the pecan topping.
Finally, to bake the casserole in the oven, you'll need a 2-quart baking dish. I like to use an 8x8x2-inch square stoneware baking dish for this recipe.
Sweet Potato Casserole is so convenient for the holidays because you can make most of the dish ahead of time.
To do this, first prepare the mashed sweet potatoes and add them to the baking dish. Cover and store the prepared mashed sweet potatoes (without the pecan topping) in the refrigerator for up to two days.
On the day of serving, allow the mashed sweet potatoes to come to room temperature for about 30-60 minutes. While you're waiting, prepare the pecan topping.
Then, spread the pecan mixture over the mashed sweet potatoes in the baking dish and bake according to the recipe.
You can freeze sweet potato casserole as long as you leave off the pecan topping.
Store the mashed sweet potatoes in a freezer-safe bag or airtight container and freeze for up to six months.
The day before serving, thaw the mashed sweet potatoes in the refrigerator overnight.
On the day of, transfer the mashed sweet potatoes to a baking dish, add the pecan topping, and bake according to the recipe instructions.
Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Cover the baking dish with foil (this prevents the pecan topping from burning) and reheat in a 300 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15 minutes, or until warmed through.
You can also reheat leftovers in the microwave, but the pecan topping won’t be as crunchy.
To save on time, you can prepare the pecan topping while the sweet potatoes are boiling.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Traditional sweet potato casserole often contains eggs, butter, and milk or cream, so it is not vegan or dairy-free. You can easily substitute plant-based alternatives to make a vegan version of this dish.
Freeze sweet potato casserole without the pecan topping. Store the prepared mashed sweet potatoes in a freezer-safe bag or airtight container and freeze for up to six months. Thaw them in the refrigerator overnight. On the day of serving, transfer the mashed sweet potatoes to a baking dish, add the pecan topping, and bake according to the recipe.
Cover the baking dish with foil (this prevents the pecan topping from burning) and reheat in a 300 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15 minutes, or until warmed through. You can also reheat leftovers in the microwave, but the pecan topping won’t be as crunchy.
Easy Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans
- Large pot
- 2 quart baking dish such as an 8x8x2-inch baking dish
- Food processor or mini processor
For the sweet potatoes:
- 6 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes (about 3 large or 4 medium)
- ½ cup full fat canned coconut milk or dairy-free milk alternative (see note)
- 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons vegan buttery spread
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon salt
For the pecan topping:
- 1 cup pecan halves
- ½ cup all purpose flour (see note)
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup vegan buttery spread softened (see note)
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Prepare the mashed sweet potatoes:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Add cubed sweet potatoes to a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are soft. You should be able to easily pierce them with a fork. Drain and remove from heat.
- Add coconut milk, brown sugar, maple syrup, vegan buttery spread, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
- Use a potato masher to mash until the sweet potato mixture is smooth. (You can also puree the mixture in a food processor if preferred.)
- Transfer the mashed sweet potato mixture to a 2-quart (8x8x2-inch) baking dish and set aside.
Prepare the pecan topping:
- Add pecans, flour, brown sugar, vegan buttery spread, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt to a food processor container.
- Pulse 5-10 times, or until evenly mixed. The mixture should stick together when pressed between your fingers.
- Spread the pecan mixture over the mashed sweet potatoes in the baking dish.
Bake the casserole:
- Transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until the casserole is warmed through and the pecan topping is golden brown.
- Remove the baking dish from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving. The topping will get crunchier as it cools.