I first made this healthier version of sweet potatoes with marshmallows last Thanksgiving, and I adored them. It's simply two ingredients - sweet potatoes roasted, split open, and topped with marshmallows.
Thanksgiving just isn't complete for us without some form of sweet potato. Alex in general would prefer "candied yams" or some kind of sweet potato casserole. I, on the other hand, generally feel that sweet food should be saved for dessert.
Traditional sweet potato casserole is made with those cans of sweet potatoes that are drowning in syrup. I have nothing against canned food - I buy lots of canned beans and tomatoes. But I hate the thought of my vegetables soaking up all that syrup/sugar!
Last Thanksgiving I decided to experiment, and that's how I came up with this delightful recipe - low effort but highly delicious.
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The Origin of Sweet Potatoes and Marshmallows as a Dish
Sweet potato casserole as we know it was invented in 1917 as a way to sell marshmallows, as food historian Sarah Lohman notes. This doesn't surprise me. There's all kinds of recipes we have that were concocted by manufacturers to sell food products. (Think of green bean casserole with condensed soup, or Chex mix.)
We know marshmallows as a commonplace sweet - cheap to buy in grocery stores, and found in so many things. Some of us eat them every day in our breakfast cereal! 100 years ago, though, marshmallows were usually high-end confections before manufacturers figured out how to mass produce them.
Making marshmallows isn't necessarily difficult (I make several batches of Homemade Marshmallows every year), but it is time-consuming and is not something a busy housewife would make when she had so many other things to do. And certainly, adding them to a side dish is a novelty.
I'm not sure why it's a Thanksgiving staple. Quartzy explores this. Perhaps it's because sweet potatoes are native to the Americas, or the copious sweetness in the casserole that make it appealing next to turkey. Or maybe it's that you combine canned food with prepackaged food - what's more American than that?Jump to Recipe
Important: SWEET POTATOES ARE NOT YAMS
Next, I step onto my soapbox. I think I am the only person, in the entire word, who is bothered when people call sweet potatoes "yams."
True yams are a different vegetable, more akin to yucca; per Bon Appetit, they're starchy and not sweet. Yams are native to Asia and Africa, and are a specialty ingredient here in the United States. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are indigenous to Central and South America.
Grocery stores may label orange sweet potatoes as yams, but that's really just marketing to differentiate the softer sweet potatoes from the firmer variety, per the Kitchn. In any case, you'll want orange sweet potatoes with red skin for this recipe, as they provide the softer texture you want. Just be aware, they may be (erroneously) called yams when you buy them.Jump to Recipe
How to Make Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows Healthier
Thanksgiving has a lot of food! There's no need for all of it to be so rich. And this recipe has all the flavor you need, with little fuss.
To start, buy fresh orange sweet potatoes. Give them a scrub, then scrape or slice off any blemishes or bad spots.
Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet, preferably lined with a silicone mat for easy cleanup. You roast these long enough that they will ooze syrup, which will caramelize on the pan.
Why roast them, instead of cook them some other way? First, roasting is super-duper easy - it takes next-to-no work, and I like cooking things the lazy way. Also, roasting concentrates the sugars in vegetables, making them sweeter.
Poke each potato several times with a fork to allow steam to vent. Bake at 425F for about an hour. Baking time will depend on how big your potatoes are. (I had two 12 ounce potatoes, and two 9 ounce ones.)
Pull your sweet potatoes out of the oven and poke them with a fork. They should be very tender, and you should encounter next-to-no resistance. They're very, very done, which gets you a softer texture that will more closely imitate casserole texture.
Use tongs to transfer each baked sweet potato to a cutting board. Using the tongs, hold the potato still and slice it in half lengthwise. Then cut each half into as many sections as you want.
I usually leave the skins on my potatoes - after all, that's where vitamins live! - but you can remove the skins if desired.
Transfer each potato section into a greased casserole pan. Crowd them together as much as possible. Top them liberally with marshmallows.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350, place the dish in the oven, and bake for another 8-10 minutes, until the marshmallows are melty and starting to brown. If you're using a metal pan, you can stick it under the broiler to toast the marshmallows if you'd prefer.
How to Serve
Serve the sweet potatoes warm. Eat as many of them as you'd like. After all, it's just sweet potatoes! (And marshmallows, of course.)
Obviously I make this recipe to replace sweet potato casserole at Thanksgiving, but we enjoy it enough to make it any time I want some gussied up sweet potatoes.
Leftovers are good too. Just heat them gently, covered, to make sure the marshmallows don't dry out.
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In the past:
Four Years Ago: Caramel Apple Pie
Six Years Ago: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Eight Years Ago: Yeasted Banana Sandwich Bread
A healthier, easy-to-make version of sweet potato casserole, made with just 2 ingredients! Soft roasted sweet potatoes, covered with melty marshmallows, without anything extra!
- 3 pounds orange sweet potatoes (whole; be sure they're all about the same size)
- 4 ounces miniature marshmallows (about half a bag)
Preheat oven to 425F. Scrub your sweet potatoes and trim any bad spots or blemishes from them. Place them on a baking sheet (lined is best for easier clean-up) and poke them along the top and sides a few times with a fork.
Bake for about an hour, until your sweet potatoes are done. You should be incredibly tender, and you should able to pierce them easily with a fork. Once they're done, remove them from the oven.
Use tongs to move a hot sweet potato to a cutting board. Hold the sweet potato with your tongs, and with your other hand, use a sharp knife to cut the pointy, inedible ends off. Slice the sweet potato down the middle lengthwise, then cut each half into half or as many segments as you'd like. Use tongs to remove pieces to a large and greased baking dish.
Repeat process with remaining sweet potatoes.
Top sweet potatoes carefully with miniature marshmallows. (Use more if you'd like.) Bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes, until marshmallows are melty. Bake longer if you want them to brown, or put them under the broiler if you're using a metal pan. Serve warm.
Choose orange sweet potatoes with red skins for this recipe. They will cook to a softer texture than white-fleshed sweet potatoes.
You can use large marshmallows, but I find miniature marshmallows cover the potatoes better.
I've never made this ahead. However, you can roast the potatoes ahead of time. Cut them and arrange them when they're cool. Arrange them in the greased roasting pan and bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes, until they're warmed through. Then add the marshmallows and bake for another 10 minutes.
Reheat leftovers gently in a covered dish.