Sweet potato casserole is such a classic side dish on every holiday table. You know the kind. Mashed sweet potatoes mixed with brown sugar and topped with toasted marshmallows.
If you’re not a fan of the sweet side dish, then this savory sweet potato casserole may just be for you. It’s loaded with flavor thanks to caramelized onions, roasted garlic, bacon and mushrooms. Oh. And let’s not forget the red wine. It’s not to be forgotten.
Topped with toasted pecans, this savory sweet potato casserole is the perfect side dish for the holidays. Whether you’re hosting or bringing along a dish to share at your next potluck, this is a great gluten-free side that pairs well with so many different proteins – from turkey to ham.
How to Caramelize Onions
Caramelizing onions is a true labor of love. It’s not difficult. It just takes time. Remember, patience is a virtue. And can we just all agree that the smell of onions cooking is literally the best smell in the world?
I remember the first time I caramelized onions. In my head, caramelizing onions was just a quick sauté in oil until translucent and lightly browned. Oh boy was I wrong.
It was culinary school. We were making caramelized onion tarts. I remember the smell of the onions slowly cooking on the stove. The aroma wafting in the air.
That was the first time I truly understood how to caramelize onions. Low and slow, friends.
Onions contain sugar and that sugar caramelizes when you cook it at a low temperature for a long period of time. Caramelizing onions isn’t going to happen in 5-10 minutes. It can even take upwards of 45 minutes to an hour to make true caramelized onions.
Well…. these aren’t EXACTLY traditional caramelized onions. Because I love you and I’m not going to make you caramelize onions for an hour. So we only cook our onions about 20-25 minutes.
To speed up the process, we’ll add some brown sugar for that caramelized flavor and a pinch of salt which draws out the moisture. We’re also going to add some wine for the last five minutes of the process and cook until the pan is dry. While it may not be traditional, it definitely gives us the flavor and texture we need for this awesome savory sweet potato casserole side dish!
How to Roast Garlic
If you saw my roasted garlic mashed potatoes then you may know by now that I’m really into roasting garlic these days. Full heads of garlic. I did it once and it became this magical experience that I can’t stop doing it. And it’s so easy so I hope you want to try it, too!
Roasting garlic takes a bit of time, but the steps are so simple that I truly believe it is worth the extra step.
All you have to do is crank up your oven to 400F. Chop off the top of a garlic head (about 1/4 inch) to expose the garlic cloves. Then, you drizzle the garlic head generously with olive oil. Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and roast in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour.
What results is golden brown cloves of garlic that are smooth and buttery. Roasted garlic doesn’t have as strong of a flavor as typical sautéed garlic so you need to use more than you typically would in a recipe.
Where I would use 1-2 cloves of minced garlic in a recipe, I’ll use a whole head of roasted garlic… which can be 10 or more cloves! The mild, nutty taste of roasted garlic is truly worth it.
What Kind of Mushrooms Should I Use?
I’m a bit new to the mushroom world, but decided they would be a great addition to this savory sweet potato casserole. And I was right! So mushroom haters… don’t knock it until you try it! They add just a bit of flavor and meaty texture to this side dish.
Portabella, cremini, button, shiitake. So many varieties of mushrooms!You might be wondering, what types of mushrooms work best in this savory sweet potato casserole?
Most mushrooms that you see in stores are white button mushrooms. They’re great for cooking. Button mushrooms are what I tend to use in this recipe, but I’ve also used baby portabella mushrooms (also known as cremini mushrooms) which are definitely meatier and add a lot of flavor.
It’s My Party and I Can Wine If I Want To
I’ve been getting a little crazy with the red wine lately (see my red wine cranberry sauce for reference), and I really just thought some red wine would amp up the flavor of this savory sweet potato casserole.
After the onions are caramelized and the mushrooms tender, I add just a bit of red wine to cook with the onions, mushrooms and bacon. It’s just yummy.
Is this 100% necessary? Eh. Depends. It definitely adds some flavor and color. However, if you don’t want to add in wine you can add in vegetable, chicken or turkey broth or stock for some added flavor. It will still be delicious, I promise.
More Gluten-Free Holiday Recipes To Finish Your Meal
The holidays are all about the sides, right? Here are more gluten-free holiday side dishes to round out your meal:
- Roasted Acorn Squash with Pomegranate and Pistachios
- Classic Gluten-Free Stuffing
- Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Lemon Tahini Sauce
- Cranberry Pork Polenta Stuffing
Savory Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe
Sweet potatoes are always a holiday favorite. However, they tend to be known for their sweet side filled with brown sugar and marshmallows. Instead, try this savory sweet potato casserole filled with caramelized onions, bacon, mushrooms, roasted garlic, and sage.
Savory Sweet Potato Casserole
For the Roasted Garlic:
- 1 head garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms:
- 6 slices bacon (diced)
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 yellow onion (thinly sliced)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 cup mushrooms (sliced)
- 1/2 cup red wine
For the Sweet Potatoes:
- 4 large sweet potatoes (peeled and quartered)
- 1/2 cup milk (or non-dairy milk of choice)
- 1/4 cup butter (or non-dairy butter)
- 1/4 cup fresh sage (roughly chopped)
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 + 1/2 cups pecans (toasted)
To Roast the Garlic:
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Slice about 1/4 inch off the top of the garlic head, to expose the tops of the cloves.
- Drizzle olive oil over the garlic generously. Wrap in aluminum foil.
- Roast in the oven at 400F for 45 minutes to an hour, until garlic is brown and buttery. Remove from oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes to cool.
- Once cool, gently squeeze each garlic clove and the clove should pop right out. Place in a bowl and gently mash with a fork. Set aside.
To Make Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms:
- While the sweet potatoes are boiling, prepare the caramelized onions and mushrooms.
- Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Add diced bacon and cook 2-3 minutes, until bacon is about halfway cooked through.
- Add sliced onions and brown sugar to the skillet and stir with a wooden spoon.
- Cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and a light golden brown.
- Add the mushrooms and tablespoon of olive oil and cook an additional 5 minutes. By this time the onions should be pretty much caramelized. If not, cook an additional 3-4 minutes.
- Add the red wine, and cook about 5 minutes, until it has absorbed into the mushrooms and onions. Remove the skillet from the heat.
To Make Sweet Potatoes:
- Add peeled and quartered sweet potatoes to a large pot. Cover the potatoes completely with cold water.
- Place pot on the stove and cook over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil.
- Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes, until sweet potatoes are fork tender. Drain water and add the sweet potatoes a large bowl.
- Mash with a potato masher or wooden spoon. Mix together with milk, butter, salt, pepper, roasted garlic, and caramelized onions and mushroom mixture (reserve 1/2 cup of the onion/mushroom mixture for the topping).
- Spoon sweet potato mixture into a lightly greased 9×13-inch baking dish. Top sweet potatoes with reserved onion mushroom mixture and toasted pecans.
- Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes or until sweet potato casserole is completely warmed through.
- Roasted garlic can be made in advance. Store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
- You can make the caramelized onions and mushroom mixture 2-3 days in advance if you wish. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- You can make the whole savory sweet potato casserole the day ahead. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and then bake on the day you are serving. Bake at 350F with the aluminum foil on for 20 minutes, remove aluminum foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until heated through.