Chai Spiced Sweet Potato Crunch is a simple five ingredient side dish featuring buttery mashed sweet potatoes hidden under a layer of crunchy chai spiced pecans. This irresistible casserole will satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth during the holidays.
Are you looking for more unique veggie sides? Search the search bar for ‘sides’ or check out these fiery sweet Maple Gochujang Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Need something a little more traditional? Simple Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes are always a hit at our holiday dinner table.
Chai Spiced Sweet Potato Crunch
Friends, this is the EASY, slightly healthier version of Sweet Potato Crunch. There are no eggs or extra baking involved but there is still butter! Simply steam, boil, or bake the sweet potatoes until soft. Mash them with a bit of butter, then top with the Chai spiced candied pecans just before serving.
Sweet Potatoes and crunchy topping go together like peanut butter and jelly. Dig your spoon through the crunchy sweet top layer of this easy casserole and you’ll discover the perfectly light and fluffy mashed sweet potatoes waiting underneath.
The crunchy top layer directly contrasts the texture of the smooth potatoes, breaking up the monotony and making them less like baby food. Additionally, the richly spiced pecans really complement the creamy sweetness of the potatoes.
What is Sweet Potato Crunch?
Traditionally, Sweet Potato Crunch is a casserole from the American mid-west. It consists of mashed sweet potatoes are mixed with beaten eggs, brown sugar, butter, and sometimes vanilla extract.
This sweet potato mixture is then topped with a fruit crumble style topping (which includes flour, more butter, and sugar) and baked for another 45 minutes.
However, this recipe is a much simpler, lightened up version of the classic side dish. There are no eggs or flour in this updated version and I have greatly reduced the sugar too.
This allows the amazing sweet flavour of the sweet potatoes to shine all on their own.
Ingredients Needed for this Side Dish
- Sweet Potatoes – Buy one large (2 1/2 lbs) or 3 medium similarly sized.
- Salt and Pepper
- Chai Spice – (or 1/4 tsp EACH ground cardamom, ground allspice, ground cloves, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger). For a less sweet, more savoury candied nut, try my homemade Tandoori Masala Blend instead.
How to Make the Candied Pecan Topping
Apart from the natural sugar in the potatoes, the candied crunchy pecan topping contains extra natural sugar in the form of honey.
To make the candied pecan topping, mix the chai seasoning (see recipe for spices) into the honey then drizzle it all over the pecans. Mix well so that the honey and spices are evenly distributed on the pecans.
Spread the pecans out in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in a 325 F preheated oven for 10 minutes, then remove and stir to break up the nuts. Bake for another 3-5 minutes. Watch closely to ensure they do not burn.
Remove the candied nuts from the oven and allow them to cool. Chop them up or leave them whole before topping the casserole.
These Chai spiced nuts also make a nice sweet treat on charcuterie boards or as a food gift. Additionally, they make a delicious topping for salads, ice cream sundaes, or waffles.
Sweet Potatoes vs. Yams
Since I didn’t grow up eating sweet potatoes or yams, my mind was blown when I found out they were not the same starchy root vegetable. After all, our local grocery store often mislabeled sweet potatoes as ‘yams’.
The two vegetables are quite easy to tell apart by their exterior appearance. Yams tend to be rough skinned and sometimes have little ‘hairs’ attached while Sweet Potatoes are smooth skinned with ’rounder’ ends.
Sweet Potatoes also come in three varieties (white, orange, and purple) which have different nutritional benefits that are related to colour.
Three Ways to Cook Sweet Potatoes
Steam – Peel the sweet potato(es), then cut into equal sized cubes. Place in steamer basket (rice cooker, etc.) and add water to the pot. Steam for 30-40 minutes or until a fork can easily pass through.
Boil – Prepare potatoes as above. Place in a large pot and cover with water. Add salt and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, about 30-40 minutes.
Bake – Do not peel or cut the sweet potatoes. Place whole on a baking sheet and bake at 400 F for an hour or more depending on the size of the sweet potatoes. Cool slightly, then peel. Not recommended if using one giant sweet potato.
Can Sweet Potato Crunch Be Made Ahead of Time?
Both components of this recipe can be made separately ahead of time and brought together in a baking dish just before serving.
Simply cook the sweet potatoes using your preferred method, add the butter and mash sweet potatoes with a potato masher. Store them in the fridge up to one week before reheating and assembling the final dish.
The candied nuts can be made ahead of time as well. Store them in an airtight container so they don’t absorb any moisture and become sticky.
To assemble, layer the mashed sweet potatoes in a oven safe casserole dish, then cover them with foil. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are heated through. Remove from the oven and top with the candied nuts. Serve immediately.
How to Store and Reheat Sweet Potato Crunch
To store this Sweet Potato Casserole, cover any leftovers and place in the fridge for up to four days. The leftovers reheat nicely in a microwave or in a 350 F oven.
Please note that the candied nuts will soak up moisture from the sweet potatoes and will not be as crispy as the first time you served them.
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