Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Carrot Casserole with Maple Pecans {Recipe}

November 16, 2016

Lighten up a Thanksgiving classic with this naturally sweet and creamy Sweet Potato Carrot Casserole that’s full of flavor and nutrition. Topped with sweet and crunchy maple pecans, I promise you won’t miss the marshmallows!

Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Carrot Casserole with Maple Pecans | Lighten up a Thanksgiving classic with this naturally sweet and creamy Sweet Potato Carrot Casserole that's full of flavor and nutrition. The sweet and crunchy maple pecans are such a delicious topping, you won't miss the marshmallows! Get the vegan and gluten-free recipe @jlevinsonrd.

This recipe originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Today’s Dietitian Magazine. I was compensated for writing the original article, “Sweet Potatoes + Carrots,” and developing the recipe, but I was not compensated for sharing the column or magazine with readers on my blog. All opinions are my own.

I may have mentioned this once or twice before, but it bears repeating – Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love everything about it: the casual day at home hanging out with family, the tradition we have of going around the table saying what we’re thankful for, and of course the aroma that envelops the house as we cook all our traditional Thanksgiving dishes.

Some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes include my Spiced Pumpkin Bread, Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup, roasted Brussels sprouts, Orange-Ginger Cranberry Sauce, roasted turkey (of course!), Spiced Quinoa with Roasted Apples and Root Vegetables, and some form of sweet potato casserole.

I’m actually not the biggest fan of the classic marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole, but my husband is so in the past I’ve made two casseroles – one with marshmallows and one without. The problem with most of the sweet potato casseroles you find recipes for this time of year is that they’re often more like dessert than a savory side dish. Between the butter, brown sugar, marshmallows, and number of eggs used in the casserole, you quickly have a side dish that’s a disaster for your waistline.

Don’t you want to have room for all the other amazing side dishes on the menu? And you definitely want a bite of that apple crumble or cranberry upside down cake waiting on the dessert buffet!

You’re in luck, because I’m here to help! This Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Carrot Casserole with Maple Pecans is a nutritious and delicious makeover of the classic recipe you know. It’s naturally sweet and creamy, it’s full of flavor and nutrition, and it’s a winner with the whole family – kids included!

Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Carrot Casserole with Maple Pecans | Lighten up a Thanksgiving classic with this naturally sweet and creamy Sweet Potato Carrot Casserole that's full of flavor and nutrition. The sweet and crunchy maple pecans are such a delicious topping, you won't miss the marshmallows! Get the vegan and gluten-free recipe @jlevinsonrd.

The Ingredients & Preparation

Sweet potatoes and carrots are the stars of the show here. It should come as no surprise to you that I roast them to bring out their natural sweetness and then they get pureed with freshly squeezed orange juice and zest, creamy coconut milk, and warming spices including ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. All these ingredients add so much flavor without overdoing it on fat, calories, sugar, and sodium. Plus, these ingredients keep the recipe dairy-free, egg-free, and gluten-free – so there’s something for everyone on the Turkey Day table!

The only added sugar you’ll find in this sweet potato carrot casserole is in the maple pecans sprinkled on top, and with that there’s only two teaspoons of maple syrup. That sure is a lot less than the 1/2 cup of sugar found in many sweet potato casseroles that come up in a Google search (and that’s not including the marshmallows!).

The maple pecans are a sweet and crunchy topping that provides a nice textural contrast to the creaminess of the casserole. Plus pecans are a good source of healthy monounsaturated fats and they add some more fiber to the dish. You definitely won’t miss the marshmallows here and you’ll save room for an actual dessert – not just a side dish imposter!

This Thanksgiving, give this easy recipe a place on your holiday table. It’s sure to satisfy everyone’s tastebuds and may even start a new tradition – lightened-up Thanksgiving recipes everyone loves and can feel better about enjoying! Now that’s something to be thankful about!

Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Carrot Casserole with Maple Pecans | Lighten up a Thanksgiving classic with this naturally sweet and creamy Sweet Potato Carrot Casserole that's full of flavor and nutrition. The sweet and crunchy maple pecans are such a delicious topping, you won't miss the marshmallows! Get the vegan and gluten-free recipe @jlevinsonrd.

The Sweet Potato Carrot Casserole Recipe

5 from 3 votes
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Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Carrot Casserole with Maple Pecans

Sweet potatoes and carrots are roasted and then puréed with flavorful spices to produce a naturally sweet and creamy base for a lightened-up version of the classic Thanksgiving casserole. It’s topped off with maple pecans that add some crunch and sweetness and still leaves you room for dessert!
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Vegan
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings 10
Calories 180 kcal
Author Jessica

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 pound carrots peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Line large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Coat a 9 X 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Toss sweet potatoes and carrots with olive oil and spread on baking sheet. Roast 30 minutes until caramelized, stirring once or twice during cooking.
  3. While vegetables are roasting, in a small bowl toss pecans with maple syrup and set aside.
  4. When vegetables are finished cooking, remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350° F.
  5. Transfer roasted vegetables to a large food processor; add ginger, orange zest, orange juice, and coconut milk, and process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper, to taste, and process again until blended. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
  6. Spread the sweet potato carrot purée in the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with prepared pecans. Bake until hot and beginning to brown around the edges, 40 minutes.

Is sweet potato casserole on your Thanksgiving menu?

Do you have a holiday recipe makeover you’d like to share?

Share with me in the comments section below!

Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Carrot Casserole with Maple Pecans | Lighten up a Thanksgiving classic with this naturally sweet and creamy Sweet Potato Carrot Casserole that's full of flavor and nutrition. The sweet and crunchy maple pecans are such a delicious topping, you won't miss the marshmallows! Get the vegan and gluten-free recipe @jlevinsonrd.

Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Carrot Casserole with Maple Pecans | Lighten up a Thanksgiving classic with this naturally sweet and creamy Sweet Potato Carrot Casserole that's full of flavor and nutrition. The sweet and crunchy maple pecans are such a delicious topping, you won't miss the marshmallows! Get the vegan and gluten-free recipe @jlevinsonrd.
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    1. I really never understood the whole marshmallows on sweet potato casserole thing as a side dish anyway! Hope you give this more savory side a try!

    1. Thanks so much Liz! If you can’t stand to wait, you can access the full article in TD’s mag online – there’s a link at the top of the blog post 😉

  1. I have to admit I love the sweet potatoes with marshmallows! But otherwise I just sweeten with orange juice and we make them only on Thanksgiving! But I also love them topped with pecans. I love your genius idea to blend carrots in. We’re super excited to be hosting our first Thanksgiving in the new house!

    1. I never would have guessed that Kaleigh! I think that’s the first difference in our tastes that I’ve found, lol! That is so exciting you’re making your first Thanksgiving. Can’t wait to hear about your menu!

    1. haha, right?! Casseroles get a bad rap, but they are delicious, especially when made healthier! Thanks so much Amanda – hope you enjoy it and happy Thanksgiving!

  2. My Mom’s classic recipe was a brown sugar, butter and marshmallow feast… and I have to admit I’m a fan. But JUST on Thanksgiving. This is the kind of dish you could feel amazing eating any day. Love the light coconut milk and orange zest in it. I bet it makes it so bright!!! LOVE!

    1. I bet your mom’s recipe is amazing! But, yes, more of a splurge, whereas this one is definitely one I will eat on repeat all fall and winter long!

    1. Hope you enjoy it with the carrots Janice! And yes, food processor is so much easier, although you get to work your biceps with the mashing 😉

  3. […] had some sweet potatoes in my veggie basket on the kitchen counter, bell peppers, cilantro, cottage cheese, and shredded […]