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Answer a question for me: do you guys have sweet potatoes (or yams, which are actually something completely different) at your Thanksgiving table? And if you do, are they the kind that have three cups of sugar and mini marshmallows on top?
We do in my family. Minus the marshmallows. Our turkey day sweet potatoes have a pecan brown sugar streusel on top (it’s just as amazing as it sounds), but other than that, they are the same sugar-bomb that most folks have on their tables. I’m not exactly sure who decided that sweet potatoes spiked with more sugar than a pumpkin pie isn’t a dessert, but we serve those sweet spuds as a side dish right alongside our turkey.
That particular recipe for sweet potatoes is a well-loved family heirloom (I can’t believe I haven’t shared it with you guys—I will!), and you’ll never be able to pry it off of our Thanksgiving table. Traditions.
But if you have a family that is a bit more amenable to change, might I suggest a different way to serve sweet potatoes this Turkey Day? Skip the mashed white potatoes. Skip the sugar-loaded sweet potatoes. And instead, knock out two birds with one delicious stone, and make yourself a beautiful bowl of mashed sweet potatoes! Easy, delicious, healthier, and still super festive.
Mashed sweet potatoes come together in pretty much the same fashion as regular mashed potatoes. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes. Boil until tender. Mash and add in butter, milk (animal, soy, nut, etc.), and salt. Serve.
One of my favorite things about sweet potatoes is that they straddle the line between savory and sweet (mayhaps that’s why sweet potatoes are always served with the Thanksgiving meal—regardless of the amount of added sugar). That independent spirit is what makes sweet potatoes a wonderful pair to all kinds of flavors. Here, I used nutty, rich browned butter and high-quality Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract to make the sweet potatoes sing.
I think investing in high quality extracts is one of the best things you can do to improve your cooking—especially during the holidays. Good quality vanilla will totally transform your holiday baking! It might seem like a big chunk to invest (especially when the imitation stuff is just a fraction of the cost), but I think you can really taste the difference.
I used to be one of those folks that scoffed at paying $10+ for a tiny bottle of real vanilla extract when I could get a jug of the imitation stuff for $2. But then I was gifted a tiny glass bottle of good quality pure vanilla extract years ago, and after my first batch of sugar cookies, I was a total convert. I had no idea such a small volume of ingredient could make such a difference in my food. I also discovered that, in my kitchen, the real stuff seemed to stretch a lot further than the imitation stuff. I had to use 2-3 times the amount of the stuff in the jug! Which didn’t make that $10+ price tag so bad.
Enough of me preaching about vanilla extract (but seriously, if you can swing it, go get yourself a good bottle). Let’s talk about brown butter.
If you’ve never browned butter before, it’s one of those kitchen things that sounds really fancy and complicated, but is super simple (and honestly, super impressive). Butter is amazing “raw,” but when cooked over a low heat until it starts to brown, it gets this nutty, rich, toasty, and caramel flavor to it that is out. of. this. world.
You can add it to sweet or savory dishes to give a nice slow-roasted flavor—without slow-roasting. Yes, browning butter adds an extra step (and lordy, if you’re pressed for time and stressed on turkey day, skip it – no one will know!), but the added flavor is totally worth it in my opinion. Enjoy!
These mashed sweet potatoes straddle the line between sweet and savory. They are the perfect healthy alternative to the sugar-laden sweet potatoes normally served for Thanksgiving.
Unsalted and salted butter both work just fine for the recipe, just adjust your seasoning accordingly when mashing the sweet potatoes.
If you’re using a dark pot, you might need to spoon out a bit of the butter into a white dish to check the color while it is browning.
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The. Best. Stuff. EVER!!! I love that you featured it here. I need Santa to stick a bottle in my stocking this year I’ve been out for ages!
Drooling!! and I’m not waiting for Thanksgiving to make these!! Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste is one of my favorites that I put in everything I can – never thought to add vanilla to sweet potatoes!
I ADORE the vanilla paste by Nielsen-Massey. It’s expensive yes, but so amazing.
However, I recently discovered that I could buy a 32fl oz bottle on Amazon for just over $30. I bought it, finished using my small bottle and just refilled it (for ease over handling the large bottle).
Side note, just looked the the price has gone up since I bought it – it’s now just over $45. The liquid extract is just over $33 right now. I prefer the paste, but I might just be a vanilla snob.
Absolutely love this side dish recipe! You can’t go wrong with brown butter and NM vanilla.
Brown butter AND sweet potatoes?! Two of my very favorite things. :) These look wonderful.
Oh yum. Trader Joes has been selling these bags of frozen sweet potatoes (only ingredient is sweet potatoes!) and I’m going to have try this with them (since we basically bought out their supply).
NVM is the only vanilla I have at home and I think it would taste great with sweet potatoes! Although we are boring on thanksgiving and just have a bunch of baked sweet potatoes on the table. I think this could change my mind.
This is a perfect side for me – I don’t like my sweet potatoes overly swet, but I love the little pop of vanilla flavor!
THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I WILL BE MAKING SWEET POTATOES. I LOVE TO BAKE & COOK, SO THIS SHOULD BE REALLY EASY. THIS IS HOW I MAKE MASHED POTATOES, EXCEPT I DON’T BROWN THE BUTTER OR USE VANILLA. THANK YOU FOR THIS RECIPE. I AM EXCITED TO MAKE THIS ! I LOVE POTATOES!
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