Today I start working on my 30th year. At least I think that is how this works, right? I turn 29, but that means I’m working on my 30th year, correct? I sure as heck hope so since I’m structuring an entire blog post about it.

Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Casserole I

It seriously makes my brain explode when I think about the fact that I have been walking this earth for nearly 30 years. Maybe it’s because I’m so horrific at math (I froze in the back of a cab in San Francisco this past weekend when I had to tip the driver… disaster), or maybe it’s because I usually reserve the idea of “30 years” for long lasting marriages (which uh, by the way… how the HECK have those people not killed each other? they must not be snorers or cover-stealers).

But THIRTY years?!

Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Casserole I

As usual, I came to this party totally unprepared. If I was super creative or managed to think about something other than the next five minutes in front of my face, I would have made something completely chocolate-covered, bacon-infused, sugar-loaded and salty. Because salt is heaven.

Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Casserole I

But I didn’t. I made sweet potato casserole. Boring sweet potato casserole. Nothing worthy of birthday celebrations. Can I have an assistant? Not because I’m busy enough but because I need a second brain. It would help us all. Really.

Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Casserole I

So this whole turning 29 thing? I’ve never been one to freak about birthdays. I’ve never spazzed at the thought of turning 30 or 40 or even 50. I mean, yesterday I spent six hours on a plane listening to Kenny G on my iPod for the second time in 48 hours. I’m pretty sure I’m closer to age 50 than 29, right? Without all the wisdom and stuff.

Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Casserole I

As your typical product of the internet generation, I grew up assuring myself that by this age I’d have spent my college years being even cooler than Jessica Wakefield, the majority of my 20s gallivanting in and out of popular clubs in an even more popular city, and the rest of the time making millions of dollars, owning some kind of mansion on water somewhere, marrying someone who doesn’t come complete with a stuffed turkey, popping out four or ten Ralph Lauren polo-clad kids, and decorating my entire life a la Martha Stewart.

Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Casserole I

Raise your hand if you think I read too many fiction novels.

And thanks a lot to you too, MTV.

I definitely drank the koolaid.

Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Casserole I

Soooo. Here I am. I cook way too much food in my kitchen and then talk about something completely other than that food to my invisible internet friends. I pretend to know what I’m doing even though many days I honestly have zero idea… ever.  I don’t wear ball gowns every weekend and I don’t sit at cool coffee shops and I don’t have a house in Malibu and I don’t have a wardrobe like Carrie Bradshaw. The money tree I planted must have began with faulty seeds because, uh… I see no bills laying in my backyard. Fail.

Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Casserole I

29 is so different at 29 than I thought it would be at 7 and 15 and even 21. But it’s just what I need and it certainly is… delicious? Yes. So I’m gonna eat up.

Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Casserole I


Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Casserole

Yield: serves 6-8, possibly more + can easily be doubled

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 1.5 hours


sweet potato layer
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/3 cup canned lite coconut milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter

oatmeal coconut pecan crumble
1/2 cup whole, unsalted pecans, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened, flaked coconut
1 tablespoon whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup mini marshmallows


Peel and chop sweet potatoes into 1 1/2 inch cubes. Add to a pot with cold water, then bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 20-30 minutes, then drain. While sweet potatoes are cooking, add butter to a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisking constantly, cook until little brown bits appear in the pan – about 4-5 minutes. Remove immediately from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mix (or a large bowl, using a hand mixer), add sweet potatoes. Add all remaining ingredients – sugar, syrup, spices, salt, vanilla extract, coconut milk and brown butter – and mix on low speed until combined about 30 seconds. Mix on medium speed for another 1-2 minutes, until potatoes are whipped. Spread in an oven-safe pan or dish. I used an 9 x 2 1/2 round tart pan.

Combine oats, flour, pecans, coconut, spices and salt in a bowl and mix to thoroughly combine. Add in softened butter, and use your hands to completely moisten the mixture and clump it together. Sprinkle the crumble around the outside of the dish, leaving room in the center for marshmallows. Add marshmallows to the middle. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crumble is golden and marshmallows are gooey.

Notes: If you want to skip the marshmallows, I suggest doubling the crumble mixture and covering the entire top with it. If you can’t find unsweetened, flaked coconut (I use Bob’s Red Mill brand), using sweetened is fine, but I would decrease the sugar by a 1/2 tablespoon (or more/less, depending on tastes). You can also sub in milk, cream or half and half for the coconut milk if you wish. However, the coconut milk does NOT add a coconut flavor to the casserole.

Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Casserole I

Since, like always, I spent so much time talking about myself, I forgot to tell you about that orange stuff up there. It’s good. It has less than half the sugar and butter than regular sweet potato casserole has. I threw a bunch of stuff in the dish and said a prayer that it would turn out. It has lovely coconut milk. Mmmmm. But! IT HAS BROWN BUTTER. That should be enough. Make. Now.

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313 Responses to “Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Casserole.”

  1. #
    Jen at The Three Little Piglets — November 8, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

    Aw! Happy Birthday!


  2. #
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — November 8, 2011 @ 11:25 pm

    I just turned 29 two weeks ago… I know how you feel!! And, I love the look of this casserole. It looks divine!


  3. #
    Michaela — November 8, 2011 @ 11:39 pm

    have a great birthday :)
    and enjoy that casserole!


  4. #
    Ali — November 8, 2011 @ 11:46 pm

    Happy Birthday! I like your variations to this casserole. Can’t wait to try it. BTW you have accomplished so much in your young years ;).


  5. #
    TeriLyn [a foodie stays fit] — November 9, 2011 @ 12:34 am

    this recipe is a BAM!

    and happy birthday you beautiful, smart, hilarious, talented woman you!


  6. #
    Mikalee Byerman — November 9, 2011 @ 1:05 am

    Happy birthday to one of the few people I know who actually understands that you’re beginning your (years alive + 1)th year when you turn (years alive). Congrats!

    I’m loving your recipes — so grateful to have found you. And my boyfriend is, too…he’s enjoying all my new-found talents. Too bad I can’t tell him you exist. It’s our little secret…



  7. #
    Heather of Kitchen Concoctions — November 9, 2011 @ 2:50 am

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESSICA! Didn’t know your birthday was in November! Mine too! That must be why we get along so well!


  8. #
    Brandi Lee — November 9, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

    Happy Birthday! I’m a little late I think….I never really know, because I follow all of my favorite blogs through RSS feeds….that I read every couple of days. lol

    I just wanted to ask, does the casserole end up with a strong coconut flavor from the coconut milk?

    I love coconut, but my husband hates the taste (What is his deal??). I would love to make this version for Thanksgiving dinner, as long as it doesn’t taste too much like coconut….OR I could just make it, even if it does, MORE FOR ME! :)


    • Jessica — November 9th, 2011 @ 1:10 pm

      Nope – not a strong coconut flavor at all!


  9. #
    Brandi Lee — November 9, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

    Looking through the recipe again, I just realized it says that at the bottom. Sorry!


  10. #
    Colleen — November 9, 2011 @ 10:32 pm

    Hi! This looks fabulous and delicious and I’m hosting Thanksgiving for 9 (!) this year. Um, for the first time. Other than being scared shitless and making ridiculous lists, I’m trying to see how much I can make ahead. Do you think this would hold well assembled but unbaked in the fridge for a day or so? Thanks!


  11. #
    Jackie — November 9, 2011 @ 10:52 pm

    YES! I love sweet valley high! I think we had the same childhood… your pop culture references are the best!!

    I even read the two books that were about the twin’s genealogy…. The Wakefield Legacy. #Nerd!


    • Jackie — November 9th, 2011 @ 10:53 pm

      And ps – HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! I think bacon, chocolate and sprinkles are in order:)


  12. #
    Rachel @ The Avid Appetite — November 10, 2011 @ 10:31 am

    question for you on this, because I want to make it for a pre-Turkey Day dinner at my place on Saturday…do you know if I make this in advance and reheat? Or…can I at least make the sweet potato part in advance and then finish it off with the topping before serving? I’m going to give it a try and see how it goes!


    • Jessica — November 10th, 2011 @ 11:56 am

      I *think* that you could make the entire thing ahead of time and cook before serving. I would make the sweet potato part and put it in the dish, make the crumble (without the butter) and put it in a ziplock bag, then assemble everything before baking and go?


  13. #
    Flor — November 10, 2011 @ 1:17 pm

    OHHH! This looks absolutely delicious! I just bought a gorgeous mustard colored pie plate and I can’t wait to use it with this recipe.I am trying it with some pork chops tonight. Can’t wait! Thanks for sharing!


  14. #
    Justeen @ Blissful Baking — November 19, 2011 @ 12:37 am

    I made this for a Friendsgiving dinner tonight – it was spectacular! I didn’t have any marshmallows, so I doubled the crumble topping like you suggested and I loved the extra crunch. The brown butter and coconut made this sweet potato casserole really special. Fabulous recipe!


  15. #
    Melissa — November 25, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

    We made this last night… huge hit, delicious! Best sweet potato adaption we’ve ever had… thanks Jessica!


  16. #
    jen — November 25, 2011 @ 5:58 pm

    Made this yesterday for Thanksgiving! It was picture perfect and delicious. Now my go-to recipe for sweet potato casserole. I used regular coconut milk because I couldn’t find low-fat coconut milk so I’m sure mine was more fattening than your version. Also, I left out the coconut in the topping per a family member’s request (much to my chagrin). For any other blog readers, Jessica is absolutely right when she says that the coconut milk does not make it taste like coconut.


  17. #
    Jill — November 25, 2011 @ 9:35 pm

    I made this for Thanksgiving. Oh. Em. Gee. These are truly the best sweet potatoes I’ve ever eaten. And I can eat a RAW sweet potato. Luckily most of my family aren’t huge sweet potato fans (and they still ate this!) and I got to bring half the casserole home. Yay! :) I have been eating this for breakfast. Gracias for the recipe.


  18. #
    Kari — November 28, 2011 @ 4:21 am

    I made this for turkey day. It turned out so wonderful I had to come back and tell you!
    My husband loved them!


  19. #
    Tracy — December 13, 2011 @ 10:24 am

    I made the Lighted-up Sweet Potato Casserole last weekend at a family Thanksgiving/Christmas. It was a hit. I had so many compliments on it. I loved it because it was not too overly sweet like sometimes a sweet potato casserole can be-just perfect.


  20. #
    elle dubya — December 25, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

    I just put a double batch of this in my oven & I’m waiting to poke my face in the dish when it’s done. Can’t wait!!


  21. #
    Britt — January 28, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

    I just wanted to let you know, that I had to make an African Yam recipe for one of my classes. I was afraid of the Yam’s starchy consistency and was in despair until I found this recipe. Traditional yams are not sweet, bitter and look like a giant log. My roommate actually said, “what is with the log on the kitchen counter,” but this recipe made a very pleasant addition to our class project and everyone loved it! I will probably never make a yam again, but I will definitely use this recipe! The coconut milk was wonderful! Thank you!


  22. #
    Kelly — November 13, 2012 @ 9:43 pm

    Love the Jessica Wakefield reference.


  23. #
    amy — November 14, 2012 @ 12:35 pm


    I want to make this for my in-laws for Thanksgivingi this year! Looks so good. Can I roast the sweet potatoes or cook in the microwave it since I”m too lazy to peel and chop them? Would it end up with the same consistency?


    • Jessica — November 14th, 2012 @ 11:00 pm

      Yes!, just make sure to puree.


    • Jessica — November 14th, 2012 @ 11:00 pm

      Or mash well, etc.


  24. #
    Simone — November 26, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

    Made this for Thanksgiving and it was a great hit. It tasted amazing. And since the leftovers were not at my place..I’m actually going to make it again this week. It was that delightful. The flavors melted in my mouth and I was in sweet potato heaven.


  25. #
    Julie — November 27, 2012 @ 6:32 pm

    Made this for Turkey-Day and it was a HIT! Thank you! :)


  26. #
    Mila — December 2, 2012 @ 4:36 am

    Sara Posted on Hi, I don’t think it’s a total throw away; looking at the oranigil one from Antro, it looks like their main architectural element was a unified white base of beads, with some accents of colour and then the flashy rim that was holding all of the candle bulbs. If you rejigg your design so that there is one main colour forming the shape of your lamp and then embelish the top and the bottom it would come off a lot better. Maybe try a string of twinkle lights wrapped in tulle glued around the bottom of the lamp instead of a single bare bulb?


  27. #
    Lynn — January 30, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

    Lynn — JANUARY 30, 2013 @ 1:02 PM
    Just bought the TJ dip and went on line to search for a similar recipe. Was thrilled
    to find your recipe and lol’d a lot – one of my first readings of an official blog!
    I recently turned 61 – and my brain has a doubly hard time wrapping around this # as yours! I love cooking and writing too, but only now have enough spare time
    to start indulging. BTW I am in a wonderful marriage of 37 years – it can be done!
    We have a king bed with ample covers and my husband got skinny so he no longer snores!


  28. #
    Julie Sparks — October 3, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

    We have the same birthday. No wonder I admire you so much. I’be been ready your blogs for several months and just love them.


  29. #
    Corrie — November 26, 2014 @ 1:01 pm

    I’m excited to make this for thanksgiving! I am in love with the coconut addition! Have you ever made this a day ahead and then baked the next day?


    • Jessica — November 26th, 2014 @ 1:47 pm

      i do make this ahead of time since i always have to go multiple places on thanksgiving! i make the sweet potato portion and put it in the dish it will bake in. in a separate bag i take the marshmallows. in another bag, i take the crumble mixture – everything but the butter. i take the softened butter with me. when i get to the location, i mix the crumble with the butter, top the casserole and bake it all!


  30. #
    Ellen — November 28, 2014 @ 11:12 am

    I made these for Thanksgiving yesterday and they were delicious! Even my mother, who doesn’t normally like sweet potatoes, gobbled (ha!) them up. Thank you for a fantastic recipe!


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