What's the Thanksgiving spread like at your house? Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and a sweet potato casserole might make the table at your family's annual gathering. But if you want to throw a celebrity-chef-worthy Thanksgiving dinner, you should nix that last dish. (Womp womp.)
What is sweet potato casserole?
There are hundreds of sweet potato casserole recipes out there to try, but they all generally consist of sweet potatoes, sugar, butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Some families prefer blending their tubers, which is what the Pioneer Woman's sweet potato casserole recipe calls for, while others roughly chop their orange veggies before popping them in the oven or into the Crock-Pot. Then, there's the topic of acceptable sweet potato casserole toppings. Sprinkling toasted pecans on top is delicious, as is melting a layer of marshmallows.
If you think the above ingredients sound like a good mix, you aren't the only one. We'd wager that every Thanksgiving, thousands of moms, dads, kids, grandkids, and even pets chow down on this fall dish. So why are chefs like Guy Fieri and Michael Symon so staunchly anti-casserole?
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“There’s nothing I like about it at all,” said Guy Fieri, the host of the popular show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. “There’s no texture, no balance — just sweet on sweet and soft on soft. The premise of the dish frustrates me,” says chef Michael Symon, who's appeared on The Chew and Iron Chef America.
Who cares, right? The holidays are a time to eat all the sweets! With so many other tasty and decadent topping options, we can see why some people might find sweet potato casseroles too sugary for their liking. That said, they're not nearly as sweet as, say, a creamy pumpkin pie or a crunchy, buttery, flaky apple pie. But hey, to each her own, we guess.
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Is sweet potato casserole healthy?
Because sweet potatoes are naturally sweet — hence the name — we don't blame you for second-guessing yourself and wondering, "Is sweet potato good for you?" On their own, sweet potatoes are actually very healthy; it's the sugar, butter, and second helping that add to your waistline. According to the US Department of Agriculture's Food Composition Databases, sweet potatoes are full of fiber, vitamin B6, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and manganese. Sweet potatoes are also low in sodium, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
If you want to make a healthy sweet potato casserole, there are a few swaps you can make. Nixing the marshmallows and all the added sugar will help you curb the holiday weight gain — and considering these bright orange potatoes have a naturally sweet flavor, you might find you don't even miss the sugary extras. Adding flavorful dried fruits or even a homemade crumb topping made of whole-wheat flour, brown sugar, and a tiny bit of butter will make for a healthy sweet potato casserole recipe your whole family will love.
Another trick for making a sweet potato casserole healthy is to use less butter. We love butter as much as the next woman, but it adds a lot of unnecessary calories and fat to your sweet potato casseroles. Instead, add good-for-you ingredients like honey (make sure it's not the fake kind!), cinnamon, orange zest, ground ginger, or vanilla extract for a low-calorie sweet potato casserole that's still rich.
Your last option for a healthier sweet potato casserole would be simply to watch your portion size. You can still enjoy sweet casseroles with all the fixin's as long as you don't overdo it. Instead of grabbing the usual spoonful (or two!), cut your helping in half. There are so many other yummy Thanksgiving side dishes to fill up on!
Our verdict? This year, we'll go ahead and keep enjoying our sweet potato casseroles — in our super stretchy Thanksgiving dinner pants — thank you very much! But sure, we'll keep the second helping at bay as much as we can.