Every household has a dish that’s a true showstopper, pièce de résistance or simply “da bomb.” In our home, the recipe that automatically starts mouths a-drooling is my mom’s sweet potato soufflé. Some guests behold it skeptically at first, only to wind up in some sort of heated silverware joust over who gets the last scoop.

Although the sweet potatoes and pecans inherent in the concoction are actually very good for you, many of the other components are rife with fat and sugar. Here’s a rundown of the original recipe’s ingredients:

  • 3 cups sweet potatoes or yams
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Topping (or, as I like to call it, the icing on the soufflé):

  • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp softened butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

It may not be packed with lard, but the original version is definitely rich, sweet and has plenty of room for nutritional improvement. 

First, I tackled the soufflé portion itself. I polled upwave reviewer and nutrition expert Caroline Kaufman, M.S., RDN, who suggested using the whites of two eggs to replace each whole egg. “[You] can whisk with a pinch of salt to loosen up the texture, or just buy a container of 100 percent liquid egg whites and measure out three tablespoons per whole egg,” said Kaufman. Since I love a good shortcut, I chose to use the container of egg whites, which was easy and convenient.

One of the world’s oldest natural medicines, honey is a commonly used sugar substitute. Although research is ongoing, preliminary studies have found that honey is easier for both healthy and glucose-impaired people to process than sugar or artificial sweeteners. Plus, since it’s naturally so sweet, you can actually use quite a bit less, which is what I opted to do (3/4 cup honey, versus one cup sugar).

For the topping, I couldn’t find a satisfactory brown sugar substitute that I thought would do the dish justice, so I just reduced the amount by a half cup.

Since the texture and taste of the topping is so critical to the dish’s overall excellence, I was concerned about finding a suitable butter substitute. Kaufman suggested using Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread, which I found easily in the healthy/natural section of my chain supermarket. (You don't need to use a butter substitute, however. Unless you have high cholesterol or are concerned about your heart health, eating butter in small amounts isn't especially unhealthy, says upwave recipe reviewer Adeena Sussman.)

“The Earth Balance Spread has three grams of saturated fat, versus seven grams in butter," Kaufman told me. "It's also higher in mono and polyunsaturated fats and has no trans-fat and no cholesterol. It has about the same amount of calories as butter, but a much better nutrient profile for heart health.”

So, how’d the dish pan out with these tweaks? I’m happy to say that my brothers won’t leave Thanksgiving in a huff this year, because all of the substitutions worked beautifully. My expert taste-testers agreed that the lighter recipe maintained the full flavor and deliciousness of the original, but lost some of the overwhelming richness. Considering it’s usually served alongside an absurd amount of heavy food, this less-dense version is welcome. Plus, it’ll leave more room for pumpkin pie. If that’s not a win-win, I don’t know what is!

Granny’s Lighter Sweet Potato Soufflé

  • 3 cups sweet potatoes or yams
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 6 tbsp egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Boil potatoes in skins until done. Peel and mash in large mixing bowl. Mix on low speed, adding honey, egg whites and vanilla. Put in pan (I use a 2.5 quart soufflé dish).

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp Earth Balance natural buttery spread, or similar product
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Mix topping ingredients in small bowl until crumbly. Add to top of sweet potato dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes until topping is melted and brown.