Classic bread pudding gets a soulful upgrade with roasted sweet potato and warm spices, plus pecan praline sauce. Meet your new favorite Thanksgiving dessert recipe! Originally posted November 2015. Last updated September 2021.
In the world of Thanksgiving desserts there is a divide between those who eat pumpkin pie and those who eat sweet potato pie. I grew up in a sweet potato pie household and only ever saw the pumpkin version at school functions and on TV. In fact, I don't think I even tasted pumpkin pie until college. As it happens, I am not actually a die-hard fan of either pie. They are both good to me but neither is my favorite. Whenever asked, though, I rep #teamsweetpotatopie by default. I'm just loyal like that. This sweet potato bread pudding, however, is my favorite, hands down. It's an adaptation of The Flavor Mosaic Pumpkin Praline Bread Pudding and there's technically a little pumpkin in it, too, for color but the flavor that comes through is pure spiced sweet potato goodness with an assist from my ultra decadent praline sauce. Is your mouth watering yet? Let's get into it!
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If you're planning your 2021 Thanksgiving dinner, make sure to download my Flawless Thanksgiving Guide. I promise, it will make your life much easier this time of year!
Praline Sauce for Bread Pudding
My bread pudding sauce only calls for four simple ingredients and none of them are condensed milk. That's not shade, because condensed milk is a pantry staple in my house, especially for making no-churn ice cream recipes. It just shouldn't be in praline sauce. Anyway, here's what you'll need for the sauce.
- Brown Sugar
- Heavy Cream
- Pecans - pieces, halves, or even chopped pecans will work just fine
This pecan praline sauce tastes just like the classic southern sweet and works with so many other treats, too. Anything from a sweet brunch casserole to ice cream, over baked brie, and more! Peep the recipe card below for the full how-to and check out my praline sauce guide for even more delicious details. As far as tools, you'll just need a good kitchen spoon and a small saucepan. I like to serve the sauce alongside the bread pudding in a little mini pitcher.
Now, I'm not gonna lie to you. The bread pudding ingredient list is much longer. But it's very simple to make. There are essentially three stages to the process of making bread pudding from scratch. First, tear or cut up your day-old bread into pieces. Then mix up your custard (that's all the wet ingredients) and pour it over the bread. Finally, bake everything. Meanwhile, you can make the praline sauce so that it's ready once the bread pudding comes out of the oven. The flavor star of this bread pudding is, of course, tender roasted sweet potatoes. How do I roast sweet potatoes for this bread pudding? Glad you asked because it's very simple!
- Pierce the sweet potatoes several times with a fork or knife. This step will help let out steam as they bake.
- Place sweet potatoes directly on oven rack with a sheet pan underneath to catch any drippings.
- Roast at 425 for about 45 minutes or until fork tender.
I recommend baking this bread pudding in a large, oblong pan that is non-stick for easy serving and cleanup. You'll also need a set of mixing bowls, rubber spatula, and a kitchen spoon. If you want to whip your sweet potatoes through a food processor for completely smooth custard, here's the one I use.
Notes on Making Sweet Potato Bread Pudding
- How to serve sweet potato bread pudding? You have options when serving this bread pudding for Thanksgiving (or anytime). The easier way is to pour the praline sauce over all the bread pudding at once. If you want a little more control you can spoon bread pudding on each piece as it's cut. This option is better for when all the bread pudding isn't being served or eaten at once.
- Should I mash the sweet potatoes? Chunks of sweet potato are OK in this sweet potato bread pudding. But if that isn't your thing, run the roasted sweet potatoes through a blender or food processor for a smoother texture.
- Can I half this recipe? This sweet potato bread pudding recipe makes enough for a large holiday-type crowd with leftovers for to-go plates and can be easily halved for smaller gatherings.
- Can I make bread pudding ahead of time? Yes, definitely. You can complete the prep ahead of time by tearing up your bread and storing it in a sealed container until ready to go. You can make the praline sauce ahead of time and seal it up, as well (make sure you store it in the fridge). You can even mix the custard up and chill it until go time--up to 48 hours. If you want to get really ahead of the game you can make bread pudding then freeze it. I have instructions for that below.
- Do I have to soak the bread pudding overnight? No, you don't have to soak bread pudding overnight. I almost never do and don't notice any difference in the results. Just make sure that the bread pieces are completely coated in the custard and you should be fine.
- What kind of bread is best for homemade bread pudding? French bread, challah, and Texas toast are all great options for bread pudding. Note that you can't use regular sandwich bread. it's just not dense enough. Whichever kind of bread you choose, make sure to use day-old bread--even a few days old is fine--so that it soaks up the custard and you get an even flavor and texture throughout.
How to Freeze Bread Pudding
Wondering can you freeze bread pudding? You can! Here's how to do it for the best results.
- To freeze this sweet potato bread pudding, allow it to fully cool after baking and don't pour the praline sauce over top.
- Cut the bread pudding into serving size portions and wrap them in plastic wrap (or place in zip-top freezer bags) then again in foil. I recommend then placing all the servings into freezer-safe tupperware.
- The bread pudding should keep in the freezer for about two months.
- To reheat an individual serving, place it in the fridge to thaw overnight then heat in the microwave for up to one minute.
- Serve with praline sauce.
I hope you'll try this Thanksgiving bread pudding at your next gathering. I've made this one for years for family holiday meals and Friendsgiving dinners, too. It is always a big hit and someone once snuck off with half a pan's worth so there were no leftovers! Shoutout to my former classmate Haley. 🙂 And sharing is caring so be sure to pin this recipe on Pinterest. Thanks for reading!
Decadent and soulful southern sweet potato bread pudding topped with homemade pecan praline sauce
- 2 large sweet potatoes roasted and peeled
- 2 loaves day-old French bread
- 8 eggs
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 15 ounces pumpkin puree
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups half and half
- 6 tablespoons butter melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 ½ cup pecan halves or chopped pecans
- 1 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Poke a few holes in sweet potatoes and place on bottom rack. Bake for about 45 minutes or until easily pieced with a dinner fork.
While the potatoes roast, prep the bread pudding ingredients: tear or cut bread into one-inch pieces and place into a large bowl. Set aside.
Remove sweet potatoes and reset oven to 350 degrees. Place in freezer for a few minutes to make them easier to handle then peel off the skin (they should come away easily) and place sweet potatoes in a bowl. Mash to your desired consistency using a wooden kitchen spoon.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs until uniform. Mix in sugar, pumpkin puree, heavy cream, half and half, melted butter, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sea salt then stir in the cooled sweet potatoes. This custard mixture will have some chunks of sweet potato, which is OK.
Pour custard mixture into bowl of torn bread pieces and use a spoon or rubber spatula to mix and spread the mixture until all pieces of bread are evenly coated. Transfer to a non-stick oblong pan and smooth top of mixture with spoon or spatula until it is relatively flat and even. Place pan in oven to bake for about an hour and thirty minutes.
While the bread pudding bakes, melt the butter for the praline sauce in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
Add brown sugar and cream and stir until mixture is uniform. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for five to 10 minutes in order to allow sauce to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in pecans.
When ready to serve, you can either spoon the sauce all over the bread pudding before cutting or ladle it on the individual portions. Both ways work fine but the first is easiest with a large crowd.
Recipe adapted from the Flavor Mosaic's Pumpkin Praline Bread Pudding.