On The Side

Senator Russell’s Sweet Potato Casserole

November 20, 2018

I’m posting this fabulous dish in honor of my sweet potato lovin’  daughter Emily, who celebrates her birthday today–our family’s kick-off to the holiday season. Enjoy!

Calling down to Georgia’s State Capitol offices and the Culinary History Society of Georgia, nobody could comment on the gustatorial habits of Richard B. Russell, Jr. (1897 – 1971), the famous politician this  much-requested dish is named for. (In case you need a refresher, RBR was in public office for 50 years as a legislator, governor of Georgia and U.S. Senator, was best known as national defense expert, and was proudest of his work advocating for the small farmer and for soil and water conservation. Russell also authored and secured passage of the National School Lunch Program in 1946.) But tracking down this recipe, one thing is sure: Richard Russell had a sweet tooth.  His favorite sweetie pie of a sweet potato casserole—a mainstay going back for generations on Southern holiday tables, includes from two to three cups of sugar. That, plus plenty of butter and pecans, makes this more of a dessert than a side dish. Be forewarned: the butter-crunchy pecan crust and smooth, whipped sweets beneath are addictive.sweetpotatoprep5-5-x-3-7

It took a little sleuthing to find the original recipe, but I found it from Nicolette Bruner, who got it from her husband’s grandmother, Stella Roberts Russell, one of Senator Russell’s cousins. It has about half the butter, a quarter of the milk and a third of the sugar used in the second version I’m also publishing here, from Victoria Osteen, of Houston, TX. Victoria’s mom’s family comes from Georgia and says their version of the recipe goes way back on their traditional holiday menu.

Senator Russell's Sweet Potato Casserole
This sweetie pie of a sweet potato casserole goes back for generations on Southern holiday tables. The butter-crunchy pecan crust and smooth, whipped sweets beneath are addictive.
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  1. Senator Russell's Sweet Potatoes Version 1 (from Russell Family) Ingredients
  2. 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  3. 1 cup sugar
  4. 2 tsp vanilla
  5. 2 large eggs, beaten
  6. 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) melted butter
  7. 1/4 cup milk
  8. 1/2 tsp salt
  9. 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  10. 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  11. 1/3 to 1/2 cup chopped roasted pecans
  12. 1 tsp salt
  13. 1/2 stick melted butter
  14. Senator Russell's Sweet Potatoes Version 2 (Victoria Osteen's Recipe) Ingredients
  15. 10 medium sweet potatoes
  16. 2 large eggs
  17. 1 cup granulated white sugar
  18. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  19. 3/4 cup milk
  20. 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  21. 2 cups firmly-packed light brown sugar
  22. 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  23. 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  24. 2 cups toasted pecans, chopped
  1. Version one: Mix first six ingredients well and place in a buttered 8 x 10 or 9 x 13 casserole dish. Mix brown sugar, flour, nuts and melted butter and sprinkle over the top of the sweet potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until bubbling.
  2. Version two: Preheat oven to 350. Bake sweet potatoes until soft, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool, peel and mash potatoes. Force the mashed potatoes through a sieve or ricer to remove threads. Combine sweet potatoes with beaten eggs, sugar, vanilla, milk and melted butter. Spread mixture in a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Mix brown sugar, flour, melted butter and pecans. Sprinkle over sweet potatoes and bake for 50 minutes until topping is bubbling.
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  • Reply Ron Braxley November 21, 2016 at 4:19 am

    Ah, this may be my favorite dish of all time–a Thanksgiving tradition. We got it from my mom, who got it from a church cookbook from Milledgeville, GA. This dates from at least the mid-60s, though the cookbook could be a bit earlier. My wife is called upon to whip this up for the family gathering every year at Thanksgibing.


    • Reply Monica Rogers November 23, 2016 at 4:14 am

      Ayup. It’s what I’m bringing to my daughter’s feast Thursday : )

  • Reply Sally Noe November 23, 2017 at 12:36 am

    So glad I found this recipe gain! I have made it many times but somehow lost the recipe. Thank goodness for Google.

  • Reply Lois Bourne November 23, 2017 at 2:15 am

    I have been mking this receipe since 1979, found the receipe in the Tullulah Falls Cookbook. It’s a family favorite!

  • Reply Kristen Lawson September 2, 2019 at 9:10 pm

    A slightly different version of this beloved dish is in A Taste of Georgia cookbook. My mom has used it for ages and I finally got a copy of the cookbook for my own kitchen. Love Senator Russell’s Sweet Potato Casserole!

    • Reply Monica Rogers September 3, 2019 at 2:19 am

      Yes! It is lovely : ) Pleased you have more than one version. Enjoy!

  • Reply Kathy November 4, 2019 at 3:25 am

    I was looking for Sen. Talmage’s Sweet Potato Souffle… This is close. But I’m a bit sad. My mom used to make it and I can’t get the hang of her (Talmage’s) crunchy topping. So I’ll try this and see if it works. I know how to do the potato part just fine.
    I’ll be glad to stop doing my own version if this is close enough to feel like I’m eating my mom’s goodies.

    • Reply Monica Rogers November 9, 2019 at 1:50 pm

      Those senators and their sweetness on sweet potatoes 🙂 ! I don’t have that recipe, but will certainly try to find it!

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