Growing up in Kentucky, Thanksgiving has always meant family.
It became tradition that my parents would host the extended Hagan clan of 20+ aunts, uncles, and cousins. Everyone was expected to contribute, whether it was Aunt Trish’s notorious Cheesy Potatoes - “I swear, it’s so easy to make two pans”, she’d say – or Uncle Ronnie’s standard store-bought pumpkin pie and whipped topping. 365 days had built up to this occasion. Cousins were driving across state borders. Uncles were planning football viewing schedules. Assigned seating was involved -- my mom IS a teacher, after all.
And while some might have salivated over the turkey roasting in the oven or the flaky butter fluff rolls warming in the Crockpot, I was all about Mom’s Sweet Potato Casserole.
The day before, my mom would roast sweet potatoes in their skins until they were oozing with syrupy goodness. She’d peel them and mash them with canned pineapple for chunks of sweetness. The day of the feast, she’d top them with marshmallows and bake the whole dish until they there was a golden brown crust. One year, the grocery was out of all white marshmallow varieties, leaving my dad with no choice but the fluorescent mini marshmallows – a tradition that stuck around, still making us chuckle a decade later. Mom’s original recipe involved lots of margarine and brown sugar, but even that got scaled back over the years. I waited for this beautiful perfection all year. I was always grateful that my family served as host as it meant I could enjoy leftovers for at least 2 more days. Sweet potatoes for breakfast? Why not?
Today, my plant-based vegan recipe still honors my mom. I still roast the sweet potatoes to oozing sweetness. I opt for fresh diced pineapple because I’ll use extras as a healthy fruit snack, but you can use canned or frozen. Instead of the margarine and brown sugar I add seasonal spices like ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. While the fluorescent marshmallows have fallen away, I’ve kept golden crunch with a gluten-free pecan streusel topping. The best part about this recipe? I can make any time of the year. But Mom’s Sweet Potato Casserole will always mean giving thanks. Traditions may grow and change, but family is forever.
This recipe is part of my Chef's Essential Plant-Based Holiday Cookbook, which has two full menus and Chef's Tips for the best recipes.
This Holiday Cookbook features healthy, delicious vegan recipes for a plant-based celebration. A traditional menu offers oil-free classic flavors, while a gluten-free "Twisted" menu offers exciting new dishes. Chef's Tips offer guidance while beautiful photographs keep you inspired.