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Holiday Sweet Potatoes with Glazed Pecans

Photo by Roger Winstead

There are few things more Southern than sweet potatoes and pecans — pronounced pee-cans, where I come from (and that’s with an emphasis on the first syllable). I dreamed up this recipe about 25 years ago, and the dish immediately became my holiday tradition, replacing my mother’s tried-and-true sweet potatoes with pineapple and marshmallows. As I began cleaning up my diet, I made only minor changes to improve how this healthy comfort food affects how I feel.  I switched from using butter to ghee, still delicious but without the dairy reaction. And I replaced brown sugar with coconut sugar.

For the uninitiated, ghee is clarified butter. The milk solids are removed when the butter is heated, leaving only the fat. So ghee is not vegan, but it works for vegetarians who have a dairy sensitivity that may cause a runny nose or cause you to constantly clear your throat. You can find organic ghee in most health food stores and also in many grocery chains today, including Kroger and Whole Foods.

I switched to coconut sugar because I’m hypoglycemic, which means I get the awful sugar blues when I eat refined sugar. Most brown sugar is refined (white) sugar with added molasses. Coconut sugar is unrefined and has a relatively low glycemic index compared to other sweeteners. I find that I can avoid the crash when I eat a modest amount of coconut sugar. And the best news is that coconut sugar is quite delicious, similar to brown sugar with a hint of caramel.

My original version of this recipe called for a half-pound of pecans. But with encouragement from my 29-year-old step-daughter Celeste, I’ve increased the nuts to one and a half pounds for six to eight large sweet potatoes.  This Thanksgiving we got a little crazy and used about two pounds , but Celeste and I agreed we had exceeded the right balance!

Enjoy making this sneak peek recipe from Sacred & Delicious, and bring the humming sounds of “mmmm” to your holiday table!

I send you my very best wishes for a sacred and delicious holiday with your family and friends.




Preparation time: 1/2 hour active; 3 hours start to finish.
Serves: 12 to 16


Note: The ranges for topping ingredients correspond to the range of potatoes you decide to bake, 6 or 8.


6 to 8 large Garnet yams or other sweet potatoes
1½ to 2 teaspoons Fine Ground Celtic Sea Salt
2 to 2½ tablespoons ghee or coconut oil


For the topping:
1 to 1½ pounds whole shelled pecans, chopped
5 to 7 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil + 1 teaspoon
1 to 1½ teaspoons Fine Ground Celtic Sea Salt
2½ to 3½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 to 4 tablespoons coconut sugar


Cook’s Tip: This dish can be prepared the day before and refrigerated. Reheat covered for 40 minutes to heat all the way through, and then heat uncovered for 10 more minutes. Also, you can make extra pecan topping, and set aside to top pancakes.


1. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Line a heavy cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Pierce each potato a few times with a fork or sharp knife; then wrap each potato in tinfoil. Place them on the cookie sheet and bake for at least 1 hour, and up to 90 minutes until the potatoes are very soft. When the potatoes are completely tender, remove them from the oven, and let them cool for about an hour until they can be handled easily.


2. While the potatoes are cooling, grease a 2½ to 3-quart casserole dish with about a teaspoon of fat, and prepare the topping.


3. For the topping: Melt the ghee (or oil when serving vegan guests) in a large skillet on medium. Add 1 teaspoon salt, cinnamon, and 3 tablespoons coconut sugar to the ghee. Stir the spices. Add the nuts, and stir constantly for 3 to 5 minutes or until they are lightly browned. Taste and add more sweetener, cinnamon, and salt if desired. Set the pan aside to cool.


4. Unwrap the potatoes once they have cooled and place them in a large mixing bowl. Pinch the end of each potato and pull the skins off. Add salt, and ghee (or coconut oil). Purée the potatoes with an electric mixer or mash by hand. Transfer the puréed potatoes to the casserole dish. Spoon the pecan mixture on top. Cover the dish and reheat in the oven at to 350° F for 15 minutes. Uncover and reheat 10 minutes more.




Cut ghee, pecans, sugar, cinnamon and salt in half!

Only eat on special occasions!

6 Responses

  1. Celeste says:

    I can vouch that this is indeed amazing.

  2. Lisa says:

    Thanks for making it more amazing with your eager request to increase the pecans, cinnamon and sugar!

  3. Sally says:

    Delicious! Lisa, you’re amazing!

  4. this looks yummy...i can't wait to try it says:

    this looks yummy, i can’t wait to try it

  5. Debbie says:

    Wow, sounds delicious, can’t wait to try it!

  6. Amy says:

    This is so delicious! I made it for a big gathering and everyone loved it. I especially like the textures of light and fluffy potatoes with crunchy goodness on top.