curried sweet potato gratin (with a vegan option)

vegan curried sweet potato gratin

Lately, Lu and I have been eating sweet potatoes nearly every evening. Thick slices, tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, a bit of fresh thyme, roasted in the oven until they yield to the fork but still have a bite — this has been part of our dinner at least four times a week. Throw in the sweet potato puree I have made, the soup with sweet potatoes and chorizo? We’re pretty nuts about sweet potatoes around here.

It used to be that the only way I knew sweet potatoes was at Thanksgiving. They arrived at the table, after being liberated from the can, with handfuls of brown sugar and smothered in marshmallows. Cloying and sticky as gum at the bottom of my shoe on a hot day, those sweet potatoes never sated me. I sort of shoved them aside on my plate to make my way to the stuffing and gravy.

Sweet potatoes deserve better than this. If you’re still trying to figure out what to do with sweet potatoes this year, we’d like to suggest this unexpected dish. It’s far more satisfying than those overly sweet potatoes. We could eat these sweet potatoes, threaded through with the mystery of Madras curry powder, any week of the year. This week, in particular, we crave them.

Curried Sweet Potato Gratin

Sweet potatoes and curry powder are best friends. Simmering the bay leaf in cream gives it all a shimmering mysterious taste. And the toasted almonds on top, in place of the traditional breadcrumbs, gives this dish an unexpected crunch.

If you cannot eat eggs or dairy, don’t despair. We have a variation on this dish below this recipe. In fact, it’s the one you see pictured above.

1 quart heavy cream
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic
½ bunch fresh fine-chopped cilantro
4 large sweet potatoes
2 egg whites
2 cups Parmesan
1/2 cup toasted almond pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter a 3-quart casserole pan.

Bring the cream, curry powder, turmeric, bay leaf, and garlic to boil in a small saucepan. Set aside and let the flavors steep for ½ hour.

Strain the bay leaf and garlic from the cream. Add the cilantro into the cream.

Peel the sweet potatoes. Slice them ½-inch thick.

Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks. Toss the sweet potatoes into the egg whites, along with the salt and pepper, and mix.

Put a layer of the sweet potatoes in the casserole pan. Sprinkle the layer with Parmesan cheese. Repeat until you are out of potatoes.

Pour the flavored cream over the potatoes until it is all gone and evenly distributed.

Finish the casserole with the remaining Parmesan cheese and the almonds.

Cover the dish with tin foil.

Bake in the oven until the casserole is golden brown and bubbly, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Serve hot.

Feeds 8 to 10.

If you need to avoid eggs and dairy, try this variation on the recipe instead:

1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup Ahern AP flour mix
4 cups soy milk
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic
½ bunch fresh fine-chopped cilantro
4 large sweet potatoes
1/2 cup toasted almond pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°. Oil a 3-quart casserole pan.

Heat the canola oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Pour in the flour mix and stir vigorously until the flour forms a ball. Cook until you have a thick paste, which is called a roux, about another 2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and set it on the back burner.

Set a saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour in the soy milk. Add the curry powder, turmeric, bay leaf, and garlic to the soy milk. Once the milk has turned hot and begins to boil lightly, add a bit of the roux (about 2 tablespoons)at a time. Whisk the roux into the milk and let the milk simmer for a few minutes. Repeat this process. 2 tablespoons at a time, until you have reached your desired consistency. (We used all the roux to create a sauce with the consistency of thick, heavy cream.) You just made a vegan bechamel.

Strain the bechamel of the bay leaf and garlic. Add the cilantro.

Peel the sweet potatoes. Slice them ½-inch thick. Layer the sweet potatoes in the casserole pan until you have used all the slices. Pour the bechamel over the sweet potato slices. Toss the sweet potatoes with a spoon to make sure the bechamel is coating all the sweet potato slices.

Finish the casserole with the almonds.

Cover the dish with tin foil.

Bake in the oven until the casserole is golden brown and bubbly, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Serve hot.

Feeds 8 to 10.

24 comments on “curried sweet potato gratin (with a vegan option)

  1. Dia

    Sounds yummy!! Like you, I find sweet potatoes quite delicious without all that cloying extra sweet stuff added!! I'd go for the second version with coconut oil n milk.
    I've been using squash/pumpkin in many ways this fall, inc smoothies (with kefir & blueberries – yumm!!) & often use sweet potato or pumpkin to sweeten rice pudding …

  2. Juanita

    You and your daughter sound just like my hubby and I for the past two weeks.

    At least three times a week, we've been quartering Irish potatoes, drizzling them with coconut oil, sprinkling them with salt and chilli flakes, roasting them and then eating them dipped in hummus.

    Fun and ever-so-yummy!

  3. Shuku

    Oh this looks WONDERFUL. I may just have to try it this weekend if I have time between coaching choir and getting ready for a bazaar!

    My mother often steams or bakes a sweet potato or two and has it for a light lunch. With just a little bit of salt, some butter and cracked black pepper, it becomes a thing of immense, flavoursome wonder.

    Here, we sometimes make a Chinese dish that involves pumpkin and small little dried shrimps, all braised in a dark soy or oyster-based sauce. It is very, very good. I do a lot of simmered pumpkin nimono as well (for a Malaysian girl, I seem to cook an awful lot of Japanese dishes, but that's a throwback to university comfort food.)

  4. GF Gidget

    Thanks for posting 2 variations of the recipe. THAT is something I am thankful for this Thanksgiving! 🙂

  5. Natasa

    This sounds delicious!!! As I'm trying to cut down on cream – do you think I could use plain low-fat milk instead?

  6. I Am Gluten Free

    Sweet Potatoes and Curry – a lovely blend indeed. Thank you for sharing such a yummy and pretty recipe. I can't seem to get enough sweet potatoes. Lately, I've been slicing and steaming them and eating them cold, right out of the frig. Delish.

  7. gluten-free-foodie.net

    Mmm. That sounds great! I love curry and never thought to use it with sweet potatoes. Instead of soy milk in the second recipe, what about coconut milk? I've made plenty of sauces with it, but I've never baked with it.

  8. Just a Girl

    Love, love, love sweet potatoes! A friend of mine has made curried s.p. for a group thanksgiving dinne the last few years and they disappear so quickly!

    In our house we are fond of roasted s.p., s.p. and nut butter soup and s.p and black bean enchiladas, all of the G.F. variety.

  9. Norman

    Shauna, I’m not a vegan, but I am a diabetic who controls his blood sugar with diet alone (as many do). Your first recipe looks like something I can only dream about, but I do plan on trying your vegan recipe. I’d like to put some actual cheese into it, to make it a real gratin, but am somewhat of a loss as to how little would do the trick. Your first recipe calls for 2 cups of parmesan. Is that a misprint? It’s hard for me to imagine such a huge quantity of parmesan, even in a recipe for 8 to 10 people. What would be the weight of that amount?

  10. Becky

    Do you think this is something I could make in advance? Like, make it tonight and cook and serve it on Easter? It looks amazing, and I’ll be making it either way, but there’s so much to do between now and then, that anything I can accomplish today is amazing!

  11. Sierra

    Would almond milk be a fine substitute for soy on the vegan version? I’m not used to cooking vegan just yet, so not sure of the difference!

  12. Karen

    Thank you for offering this recipe with the option of being dairy and egg free. Besides being very allergic to gluten I am allergic to dairy, eggs. I am so glad to have found your website!

  13. Becky

    Great sounding recipe. Thanks for the dairy and egg free option. What is the recipe, tho,for
    your Ahern AP flour mix?? Thanks and regards.

  14. Sierra

    The ratio of oil to flour seems off for the roux! I am just making it and perhaps it’s because I’m not using Ahern’s flour (but I have another gluten free 4 flour mix) but I don’t see how a ball of flour could form, or a thick paste??

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