Sweet Potato Balls: A Fun and Festive Side Dish

Sneak Preview: These Sweet Potato Balls are mashed sweet potatoes formed into balls, covered with chopped pecans, then baked–an impressive side dish, for sure. Ingredients include egg whites, cayenne pepper, pecans, and butter.

Pecan Crusted Sweet Potato Balls-ready to serve on a platterPin

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How do you resist buying too many when sweet potatoes go on sale? I can’t. Then I find myself with an overabundance of sweet potatoes and few ideas for preparing them.

Baked Sweet Potato Balls with a Pecan Crust are seasoned, mashed sweet potatoes shaped into balls, rolled in a spicy egg white mixture, then coated with chopped pecans. Make these a tradition on your holiday menu.

Three reasons why you will greatly enjoy these Sweet Potato Balls

  1. The technique for cooking sweet potatoes comes from the Nov-Dec 2018 issue of Cooks Country. It’s a simple task on top of the stove that results in a rich, concentrated sweet potato flavor.
  2. Marshmallows seem to find their way into many sweet potato casseroles served around the holidays, but I finally decided to say “no” to a vegetable dessert.
  3. Use a little Swerve (but you can use sugar or your favorite sweetener) to get the slightly “sweet” flavor in the sweet and spicy pecan coating. The “spicy” notes come from Worcestershire sauce, paprika, and cayenne.

Ingredients and substitutions

  • Sweet Potatoes: I recommend using fresh sweet potatoes. Canned sweet potatoes are too mushy and don’t hold together like fresh ones. I have not tested this recipe with yams. Read more about the difference between sweet potatoes and yams.
  • Salt: Table salt, sea salt, or Kosher salt–they’re all good.
  • Cayenne pepper: This pepper has some kick to it. Go easy if you aren’t familiar with it. Did you know the cayenne pepper is best kept refrigerated?
  • Egg Whites: Egg whites are an important part of the glaze. They are a carrier for spices and seasonings and also serve to clue the pecans to shaped sweet potato balls. If you want a good recipe for the leftover egg yolks, try making egg noodles from scratch, or make a vanilla cream pastry filling in your microwave.
  • Sugar: I tested the recipe with granulated sugar, but light or dark brown sugar would also do the trick. If you prefer to avoid sugar, try Swerve or stevia as a substitute.
  • Worcestershire sauce: This popular sauce adds an extra dimension of flavor. Please don’t leave it out.
  • Paprika: Use sweet paprika for flavor and color.
  • Pecans: Buy pecan pieces to save money since you will chop them anyway. I have not tested this recipe with other nuts, although I always leave them off a couple of potato balls for anybody who can’t eat nuts.
  • Butter: Use salted or unsalted butter. Substitute margarine or dairy-free butter if necessary.


  • Add a teaspoon of cinnamon or a dash of nutmeg instead of Worcestershire sauce for a more traditional sweet potato flavor.
  • If you don’t want to buy pecans (they can be quite expensive), replace them with crumbled cornflakes.

How to make Sweet Potato Balls

slicing raw potatoes with a kinfe on a chopping boardPin

Prepare sweet potatoes:

  1. Use a knife to slice peeled sweet potatoes into 1/2-inch pieces.
  2. Add six tablespoons of water and sweet potatoes to a medium pot. Cover. (Boil the potatoes immediately after peeling and slicing them to keep them from turning brown.)
  3. Cook on medium-low for 25-30 minutes, occasionally stirring until the potatoes are tender.
  4. Drain the potatoes and allow them to cool and dry for a few minutes.
  5. Mash with a fork or potato masher. Add salt and cayenne. Taste the potatoes at this point to ensure the seasonings are correct.
using a whisk to mix the egg white dipping mixture in a bowl.Pin
While sweet potatoes cook, make an egg-white dipping mixture. Start by whisking egg whites, salt, and water in a small bowl until frothy. Then, add spices and whisk again.
preparing the pecans to coat Sweet Potato Balls with egg whites in one bowl, and pecans on a paper plate.Pin
Form balls between ¼-½ cups in size. I like to use a spring-loaded ice cream dipper and wear surgical gloves.
dipping the balls in a spicy sauce with a slotted spoon.Pin
Use a slotted spoon to dip each sweet potato ball in the egg-white mixture.
covering the Sweet Potato Balls with nuts using a spoon.Pin
Cover with chopped pecans.
brushing the sweet potatoes with a glaze.Pin
Place balls on a prepared baking sheet. Brush with butter. Bake at 400˚ F (200˚C) for 15-20 minutes.


How can I peel sweet potatoes ahead of time without them turning brown?

Just like white potatoes, immediately place peeled sweet potatoes in a bowl full of water to slow down the browning.

Can this sweet potato recipe be made ahead?

Admittedly, these sweet potato balls are a little trouble. But luckily, you can do most of the work ahead of time.

Prepare balls and bake them at your convenience. When cool, wrap sweet potato balls well and freeze. Allow to thaw and reheat in the oven before serving.

What else can I do with sweet potatoes?

If you are a bread maker, try these Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls. If you need a different holiday side dish, look at my recipe for Sweet and White Mashed Potato Swirl. Another favorite idea for fresh sweet potatoes is to make Skinny Sweet Potato Chips.

Are these balls gluten-free?

Yes, no flour is involved. Even the Worcestershire sauce is gluten-free if it was made in the United States.

Parting Thoughts: Since I only make this recipe for big holiday meals, I love that you can make the balls ahead of time and freeze them. Thanks to my friend for sharing this lovely recipe.

Help at Your Fingertips: For questions or suggestions, email Paula at saladinajar.com. If you need help, I’m happy to troubleshoot via email (faster than leaving a comment). Attach pictures and as many details as possible for the best advice.

Pecan Crusted Sweet Potato BallsPin
Yield: 8 servings

Sweet Potato Balls: A Fun and Festive Side Dish

These mashed sweet potatoes are formed into balls, rolled in a spicy egg white mixture, and then rolled in chopped pecans. They are a delicious make-ahead alternative to marshmallow, butter, and sugar-laden sweet potato casseroles.

Rate this recipe

(5 stars if you loved it)

5 from 12 votes


Prep time: 50 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes


  • 2 pounds (907 g) sweet potatoes, fresh
  • 6 tablespoons (90 g) water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • dash cayenne pepper

Egg White Coating

  • 2 large (66 g) egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 cups (250 g) finely chopped pecans
  • 3 tablespoons (42 g) butter, melted


  • Peel and cut 2 pounds (907 g) sweet potatoes, fresh into half-inch slices. Place them into a covered pot with 6 tablespoons (90 g) water. Cook over medium-low heat, occasionally stirring until potatoes are soft. It usually takes 20-25 minutes.
  • Drain the potatoes and allow them to cool and dry for a few minutes. Mash with a fork or potato masher. (Do not use a mixer, food processor, or immersion blender as they will cause sweet potatoes to be too soft.)
  • Season with ½ teaspoon salt and dash cayenne pepper.
  • Preheat oven to 400˚ F (200˚C). Prepare a cookie sheet by covering it with parchment paper, a silicone mat, or grease it well.
  • Mix 2 large (66 g) egg whites, 1 teaspoon water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar with a fork until frothy. Add 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon paprika, and 1 teaspoon cayenne. Mix well.
  • Spread 2 cups (250 g) finely chopped pecans on a piece of wax paper or a plate.
  • Make sweet potato balls using a spring-loaded ice cream scoop. I like balls between ⅛ to ¼ cup size. (Surgical gloves are really helpful here.) Drop balls one at a time into the egg white mixture with a slotted spoon making sure the whole ball gets coated. Then cover each ball with finely-chopped pecans.
  • Place on a prepared cookie sheet. Brush with 3 tablespoons (42 g) butter, melted.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes or until nuts become toasty and balls are heated through.


  • If you have any of the egg white mixture left over, here’s an idea. Add a tablespoon of melted butter to the mixture and stir. Add more pecans–1/2 cup. Pour onto a greased or silicone mat-covered baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until toasty. These are so good crumbled over a salad. Or….you could eat them straight up as I do.
  • The nutritional estimates on this recipe may be a little high because you will probably have a little bit of the egg mixture and butter left over after making the balls.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 341kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 564mg | Potassium: 527mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 16376IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 58mg | Iron: 1mg

All images and text ©️ Paula Rhodes for Salad in a Jar.com

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Recipe Rating


  1. Mai Solutions says:

    5 stars
    These look amazing!

  2. I have never heard of Swerve. Where do you buy it? Cannot wait to make this for my family. Wishing you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving.

    1. You can get it at places like Whole Foods and Sprouts in our area. It’s also available on Amazon (usually cheaper) here. It is a little pricey so I save it for special occasions.

  3. Oh my gosh, this looks amazing! I tell you your site always makes me so hungry when I’m done visiting it. Anyway, I’m making these ASAP.

  4. Linda K. Gill says:

    Our son-in-law is the only one in our family who likes sweet potatoes as much I do. Actually, he likes them better since he orders sweet potato fries instead of french fries (are they only in Louisiana?) Anyway, he will be surprised when I make these!

  5. Those look SO good. I love all things sweet potato! Will have to try this one for sure!

  6. Beth Pope says:

    This sounds and looks great – I am going to the store this afternoon and am getting everything to make these as part of our Christmas meal! Thanks for sharing – Debbie and Paula

  7. Muriel Holt says:

    Looks very yummy, Paula (aka “Pioneer Woman II”)!!!!!!!. Can’t wait to try them.

  8. These sweet potato balls look great and so appealing. I am not sure I have the time right now to make them but I will be putting this on my list of must do’s.

  9. Thanks for adapting the recipe. Think I will try your version next time. Had not planned to make these for Christmas but yours look so good, may have to try your version.

  10. Those look delicious! I love sweet potatoes, but, unfortunately, I am the only one in my family who does, so I don’t get them very often.

    On another note, I buy my hazelnuts in 1/2 cup packages. They are already shelled and somewhat chopped. I seldom use hazelnuts (I use more almonds and pecans) so buying them ready to use makes more sense to me. Thanks for dropping by my blog!

  11. I love sweet potatoes. These just look extremely gorgeous and delicious. They would be so good for parties. I love them. Thanks for sharing.