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Chef and restaurateur Kelsey Barnard Clark shares her great-grandmother's Thanksgiving recipe.

Reprinted from Southern Grit by Kelsey Barnard Clark with permission by Chronicle Books, 2021


Credit: Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Melissa Gray; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Recipe Summary

15 mins
10 mins
20 mins
1 hr 10 mins
25 mins

Thanksgiving has never been a sit-down affair for chef and restaurateur Kelsey Barnard Clark. When she was growing up in Dothan, Alabama, her parents owned a beach house on the state's Gulf Coast, where both sides of the family would meet up on the holiday weekend. "We didn't set a table. Instead, about 30 of us would eat on paper plates with our legs dangling off a dock," Clark says. "It was a loud, casual, fun, and absolutely magical potluck."

The undisputed star of the show? Sweetie's Sweet Potato Casserole, named after Mildred Rayford Buckhaults, who was called Sweetie by her family (including her great-granddaughter Kelsey Barnard Clark). "My great-grandmother made this every year, and we have all carried on the tradition. It actually tastes of sweet potatoes and is speckled with orange throughout—a refreshing contrast to the very sugary, more processed versions that many in the South typically dote on," says Clark.

Read more about Clark's Thanksgiving traditions and her family matriarchs here.


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13- x 9-inch baking dish, and set aside. 

  • Place sweet potato chunks in a large pot, and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain potatoes in a colander, and let cool 10 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, stir together orange zest and juice in a small bowl. Stir in melted butter until combined. 

  • Stir together brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a separate small bowl. 

  • Arrange half of the sweet potato chunks in an even layer in prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the brown sugar mixture, and drizzle with half of the butter mixture. Sprinkle with half of the toasted pecans. Repeat process with remaining sweet potatoes, brown sugar mixture, butter mixture, and toasted pecans. Top evenly with marshmallows.

  • Bake in preheated oven until marshmallows are golden and casserole is bubbling around edges, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve hot.