Old Fashioned Candied Sweet Potatoes are a classic soul food dish. Melt-in-your-mouth sweet potatoes baked in a buttery brown sugar glaze with warm spices and vanilla make this great recipe unforgettable! With the caramel notes and luscious texture, this dish is a must for holiday dinners.
For more sweet potato recipes, try my bourbon sweet potato casserole or my sweet potato pie recipe!
Candied sweet potatoes are one of my favorite side dishes for family gatherings. Originating from the American South, tt's one of those soul food dishes that's always huge hit for any special occasion, especially for holiday dinners. Growing up, my Grandmom would make this dish and the smell of the spiced syrup and sweet potatoes baking in the oven would fill up the whole house.
This recipe is inspired by those fond memories. I use fresh sweet potatoes, peel them and cut them into chunks (so that they cook a little faster). Then I make a buttery browned butter and brown sugar glaze (akin to a caramel sauce) with spices and vanilla extract to pour on top prior to baking them in the oven. The end result is heavenly.
Whether it be Thanksgiving dinner, Easter, Christmas dinner, or just sunday dinner, this southern candied sweet potatoes recipe is the perfect side dish for your holiday meal. Also, if you haven't paired candied sweet potatoes with my other favorite side dish - mac and cheese, you haven't lived. This combination is always the star of the show.
Sweet Potatoes - fun fact: sweet potatoes are simply swollen roots that absorb water as they grow. The best sweet potatoes (flavorwise) are the small and medium sized potatoes that have smoother skin. In this case, bigger is not better. The smaller sweet potatoes tend to be sweeter, while the larger sized sweets are more starchy with less flavor. Go for a 4-8 oz sized sweet potato for this sweet potatoes recipe.
Butter - butter is the basis of our brown sugar sauce that will be poured on top of the sweet potatoes prior to baking. I used salted butter as I love a nice mix of savory and sweet flavor to balance out this dish. If you're watching your salt intake, you can use unsalted butter and taste for salt as you go, adding about ¼ tsp of salt at a time while making the sauce.
Brown Sugar - brown sugar is what gives the syrup its buttery caramel toffee flavor. I recommend using dark brown sugar as it contains a bit more molasses and has a deeper caramel-like flavor. However, both light or dark brown sugars will be delicious for this recipe!
Warm Spices - you'll need ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and ground nutmeg. These spices really give this yam dish so much character and flavor and liven the dish to make it cozy. (Pro tip: you can also use my pumpkin pie spice blend here too)
Maple Syrup - the maple flavor pairs exceptionally well with the spices and buttery flavor of this dish.
Vanilla Extract - use a quality vanilla extract for the best results. The combination of vanilla, cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter are the stars of this dish so make sure that the type of vanilla extract you use actually contains vanilla. There's so many imitations out there! If you really want to get fancy, use vanilla beans (1-2 should do the trick) for added vanilla flavor.
Chopped pecans - this ingredient is totally optional. In my opinion, sweet potatoes and pecans go together like peanut butter and jelly - but if it's not your thing, leave the nuts out.
You've probably noticed that I've mentioned homemade candied yams and candied sweet potatoes interchangeably throughout this post. Truth is, sweet potatoes and actual yams are completely different root vegetables.
True yams have a white flesh and a bumpy grayish brown skin. Early sweet potatoes that were grown in the US had a white flesh as well. The orange-fleshed sweet potatoes weren't introduced to the United States until the 1930s.
Sweet potatoes are often referred to as yams by enslaved Africans because they resembled the yams that they cooked with back in Africa - hence the confusion.
The yams that you buy in US grocery, like garnet yams, stores are usually different varieties of sweet potatoes. So are candied yams technically a thing? Yes, just not for this recipe. BUT I grew up calling them candied yams AND candied sweet potatoes because that's why my family did. My kids will probably do the same.
That's it! See, I told you this was an easy candied yams recipe! Bookmark this delicious recipe for the perfect holiday dish!
My favorite part. These classic recipes are some of my favorite dishes to enjoy with old fashioned sweet potatoes. Let's fill up your plate with all of the holiday classics:
Make-Ahead Instructions: candied sweet potatoes can be made up to a day in advance. I actually recommend making them the day before Thanksgiving day so that they have time to soak in all of the flavors from the buttery syrup. Option #2: Make this recipe up to step #5, cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to bake. (see the full recipe at the bottom of this post)
Storage: allow the sweet potatoes to cool completely, then cover leftover candied yams with plastic wrap or add to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Reheating: the best way to reheat is to add to a baking dish covered with aluminum foil and bake in the oven at 350 degrees until warmed and syrupy, about 20-30 minutes.
I do not recommend using canned yams as the don't have much flavor and tend to be rather mushy. For the best candied yams, use fresh sweet potatoes.
When the potatoes are fork tender and sugary syrup has formed at the bottom of the baking dish, they're done.
Although there's only a few simple ingredients, these sweet yams have a buttery, sweet flavor with hints of spice and warm vanilla.
Nope! It's really not necessary and just adds an extra step and makes more dishes. Just peel the potatoes, cut them up, and bake them.
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