Mini sweet potato casseroles are perfect for an intimate, one or two-person Thanksgiving celebration.
This Thanksgiving is different in a lot of ways. But the excuse to make sweetly portioned, one and two-person recipes, has been sort of fun. Especially since my mom and I are two-person holiday veterans.
It doesn’t get much cuter than these little vegan sweet potato casseroles. I tested them on a whim last week. I’ve now made them twice, not only because the holiday is approaching. They’re delicious, plain and simple, and I wanted to eat them again.
So they could be your holiday dessert, if you wanted them to be. (Doesn’t pie crust feel like a lot of energy this year?)
Or, you can serve them as a cinnamon scented accompaniment to the savory goodness on your Thanksgiving table.
Even if you’re not celebrating a holiday, there’s no reason to delay making the casseroles. They’re an anytime treat for winter, and they’re much easier than most baking projects.
Mini sweet potato casserole ingredients
I used jewel sweet potatoes for the mini sweet potato casseroles. Sweet potatoes come in many shapes and colors. I like garnet and jewel sweet potatoes best for mashing, but Beauregard and Covington sweet potatoes would also be great in the recipe.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try purple sweet potatoes! I’m curious to try the recipe with them myself.
Unbleached, all-purpose flour
The streusel topping in this recipe is made with flour, vegan butter, brown sugar, and pecans. I used unbleached, all-purpose flour, my standard for baked things. However, whole grain flours will do the trick here, too.
You could use whole wheat, white whole wheat, whole wheat pastry flour, or another whole grain flour of choice.
Cane sugar will technically work in the recipe, but I prefer light or dark brown sugar for crumbly, streusel toppings! If you don’t have brown sugar, or if it’s your preference, you can use coconut sugar instead.
Any vegan butter will work well in the casserole topping. If you don’t have any vegan butter on hand, that’s OK. Coconut oil is a good substitute, especially if you keep it cold (and semi-solid).
In a pinch, it’s also fine to use vegetable oil (like grapeseed, safflower, or refined avocado).
I used chopped pecans in the topping. But chopped walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, or even cashews will be fine. If you’d like to make the recipe nut free, you could use a seed (like pumpkin seeds) instead. You could also omit the nuts altogether.
Can the casseroles be made gluten free?
Speaking of substitutions and swaps, it’s worth saying that the mini sweet potato casseroles can easily be made gluten free! Simply use an all-purpose, gluten-free flour blend in the recipe.
Additionally, I’ve made crumbly toppings with oat flour in the past and had good results. If you have oat flour at home (or want to try making it from scratch), that’s a good gluten-free option as well. Be sure to use a certified GF flour or oats.
Preparing your sweet potatoes
A lot of recipes for sweet potato casserole call for steaming the potatoes before mashing them. I found that the casserole was so much sweeter and more flavorful when I baked the potatoes instead. I baked them until they were collapsing and tender, and their interiors were super sweet.
If you have the time, I recommend baking the potatoes twice: once before mashing them, once after you’ve added your streusel topping.
If you don’t have the time, I think the microwave is the next best option. It’s faster than steaming, and no less flavorful. Which makes it the next best thing to baking.
I usually prick my potatoes and microwave them for 6-8 minutes, turning them over once during cooking. It can take as long as ten minutes to cook a sweet potato in the microwave, depending on the size of the potato and how many you cook at once.
Can mini sweet potato casseroles be made ahead?
The answer is yes! And there are a few approaches to making them in advance.
You can make your mini sweet potato casseroles entirely (prepare and bake them as directed) up to two days ahead of time. Then, you can reheat them in a 350F oven for 20 minutes before serving. Reheating them in the oven will help to keep the topping crispy.
I think the casseroles taste best when they’ve just recently been baked. To have that effect while also getting ahead on cooking, you can prepare the mashed potatoes one or two days in advance. You can also make the streusel topping ahead of time.
Store both the potatoes and the topping in an airtight container in the fridge. Then, heat your oven and bake them for 25-30 minutes right before your holiday meal. They’ll be a little bubbly, crispy on top, fragrant with pecans and cinnamon, and ready to eat.
Doubling (or tripling) mini sweet potato casseroles
This recipe is designed for two or three. As written, it’ll fill three ramekins that are each 4″ in diameter (similar to these). It could also fill two larger, oval-shaped crème brûlée dishes.
If you’re serving a bigger crowd, you can easily double the recipe to make 6 mini casseroles. You could even triple it to serve nine.
If you double it, you can bake the recipe in a smaller (1 quart) oval or square baking dish. If you triple it, you can bake it in a 2 or 2.5 quart rectangular baker.
Yields: 3 servings
For the mashed potatoes
- 2 large or 3 smaller sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 lb)
- 1 tablespoon (14 g) vegan butter
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened, non-dairy milk
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup or agave
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
For the topping:
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (21 g) vegan butter
- 2 tablespoons (15 g) unbleached, all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons (28 g) light or dark brown sugar
- 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch of salt (only if your vegan butter is unsalted)
- 2 tablespoons (15 g) chopped pecans or walnuts
Preheat your oven to 400F. Prick the sweet potatoes a few times with a fork. Place them onto a lined baking sheet. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until they’re completely tender when pierced with a fork or knife. Reduce the oven heat to 350F.
Wearing oven mitts, cut the hot sweet potatoes in half and scoop out the flesh into a medium sized mixing bowl. Add the butter, non-dairy milk, maple syrup, and cinnamon. Mash roughly with a fork. The sweet potatoes should be mashed, but they should still have a bit of texture—you’re not aiming for totally smooth or uniform.
Lightly oil or butter 2 or 3 small baking dishes. Transfer the mashed sweet potatoes to the dishes. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
To make the topping, place the butter, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt, if needed, in a small bowl. Use your fingers to crumble it all up. You’re aiming for pea-sized pieces of butter and for everything to be well incorporated. Add the nuts and mix again.
Distribute the topping over the mashed potatoes in their little dishes. Transfer to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown. Serve.
I love that this dish is hard to define. It’s a sweeter than a typical side dish, but it’s not quite dessert. It reminds me of my corn pudding in that way.
The mini sweet potato casseroles are following in my holiday tradition of sweet potato themed dishes. From shepherds pie to wild rice stuffing to lentil and sweet potato loaf, I seem to go a little crazy for sweet potatoes at this time of year.
That’s nothing to be sorry about, if you ask me. I’m happy to make these little casseroles a new tradition, even if they came into being during a year that broke with tradition in a lot of ways. I hope you’ll enjoy them, too.
And more fuss-free holiday fare to come in the next couple days.