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Candied Yams — Learn how to make the BEST candied yams which are baked in the most wonderful buttery cinnamon-and-sugar sauce! If you’re looking for an EASY Thanksgiving or Christmas side dish recipe, look no further than this EASY holiday recipe with almost no active prep time. Truly candy-like in how sweet and wonderful they are. Sure to become a guaranteed family favorite!
Best Candied Yams Recipe
When it comes to classic Thanksgiving side dish recipes, it doesn’t get any more traditional than my recipe for the best classic candied yams.
They’re soft, tender, sweet, and perfectly spiced thanks to a buttery mixture of cinnamon and sugar, ground nutmeg and cloves, and your choice of either orange or pineapple juice.
That sauce is so good I could literally drink it. Who needs the yams when you’ve got the candied yam SAUCE! Kidding, almost.
As the yams bake and simmer away in the sauce — which is chock full of warming spices — your house if going to smell amazing. And the yams are going to become candied.
That is, the sauce will reduce, tighten, and thicken up to create a syrupy, candy-like tasting sauce that bathes every inch of the yams or sweet potatoes.
As you may have guessed, this is a sweet side dish. Between the naturally sweet sweet potatoes, and both the brown and white sugars, and the juice, once that all reduces you’re left with a sweet holiday side dish on your hands. Hence, the name candied yams.
I actually can happily eat candied yams for dessert after a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal.
It’s up to you to decide if you still want to make Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping with the candied yams but my vote is 100% yes —make both! After all, they are once a year type recipes that both deserve their moment!
Yams vs Sweet Potatoes
Before we move onto the recipe, I need to give clear something up. And I have a secret for you.
If you live in the US or Canada, it’s very likely that what you think are candied yams are actually candied sweet potatoes.
That’s because it’s so much more common to find sweet potatoes in our North American grocery stores compared to yams.
Sweet Potatoes Have:
- Smooth orange, thin skin
- Orange flesh is the most common but white or purple flesh exists
- A football-like shape or rounder (in human terms they would be called round and pudgy)
- Moist and sweet
- Native to the United States
- Rough, brown, scaly skin like tree bark
- White flesh
- Long and cylindrical (in human terms they would be called long and lanky)
- Dry and starchy
- Native to the Caribbean
Truthfully, I think candied yams are better tasting when using sweet potatoes than actual yams. There, I said it. So what we actually have here is a recipe for candied sweet potatoes.
However, you can make the recipe using actual yams if you’d like, noting that they are a drier and starchier vegetable so will not have quite the same melt-in-your-mouth moist texture that sweet potatoes have, which is why I am team sweet potato.
Ingredients in Candied Yams
To make this easy Thanksgiving side dish, you’ll need the following very common and easy to find list of fridge and pantry ingredients. Bonus, everything is very inexpensive which is always a nice bonus when cooking a big holiday meal.
Gather the following ingredients:
- Sweet potatoes or yams
- Unsalted butter
- Light brown sugar
- Granulated sugar
- Orange or pineapple juice
- Real maple syrup
- Bourbon, optional
- Ground cinnamon
- Ground cloves
- Ground nutmeg
- Marshmallows, optional
- Pecans, optional
- Sage, optional for garnishing
Note: Scroll down to the recipe card section of the post for the ingredients with amounts and more complete directions.
How To Make Baked Candied Yams
Making baked candied yams from scratch is a cinch and involves almost no active work time, which is my favorite kind of recipe! Follow my very basic and straightforward steps for the easiest baked candied yams:
Step 1: Peel and slice the sweet potatoes and place them in a 2-quart casserole dish or 9×13-inch baking pan and set it aside.
Step 2: To a small saute pan, add the butter, sugars, juice, maple syrup, optional bourbon, salt, spices, and heat over medium heat to melt.
Step 3: Pour the buttery mixture over the sweet potatoes.
Step 4: Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour.
Step 5: Optionally, add pecans or marshmallows and bake for 5 minutes if desired. Or skip that and just serve the candied yams now, with an optional sage garnish!
Can I Make Stovetop or Slow Cooker Candied Yams?
Stovetop instructions: Cube or slice the yams and boiling them in hot water for about 10 minutes or until a bit softened.
Drain the water, add the remaining ingredients to the pot with the yams, and simmer everything together covered for about 30 minutes, or until the yams are very soft. If you want a sauce that’s more reduced, uncover them, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes uncovered.
I’ve also seen recipes where you don’t preboil the yams separately and instead simmer everything together, all at once, for about 45 to 60 minutes, covered.
Slow cooker instructions: Add all the ingredients, cover, and slow cook for about 4 hours on low or until the yams are soft and tender.
Can I Add Pecans or Marshmallows to Baked Candied Yams?
I love the flavor of these sweet, caramelized yams on their own but if you want to take them to the next level, yes you can add either pecans and/or marshmallows.
I suggest the following:
- Adding Pecans (or Walnuts) – Add about 1/2 cup chopped and toasted pecans at the very end of baking time. Do this by first adding the nuts a dry skillet, and toasting them until they smell nice and nutty, about 2 to 3 minutes. Then, remove the foil from the candied yams at the 1 hour mark, evenly sprinkle the toasted pecans or walnuts, and bake for about 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can simply sprinkle on the toasted pecans after baking, and treating them like they’re a garnish.
- Adding Marshmallows – Add about 3 to 4 cups mini marshmallows at the very end of the baking time. Remove the foil at the 1 hour mark, evenly sprinkle the marshmallows, and bake for about 5 minutes, or until they are just toasting up and melting a bit. Keep a close eye on them, as marshmallows burn easily!
Tip: If you are adding both pecans and marshmallows, first sprinkle the pecans over the yams, and then the marshmallows.
What to Serve with Candied Yams
And of course, don’t forget my other favorite sides including The Best Classic Mashed Potatoes with Easy Perfect Gravy, The Best Green Bean Casserole, and my favorite Best Classic Traditional Stuffing recipe.
If you know you’re going to be pressed for time, energy, oven space (or all three!) feel free to make these easy candied yams up to 48 hours ahead of time and store them airtight in the fridge until it’s time to reheat and serve them.
How To Reheat Candied Yams
When you plan to serve the candied yams and need to reheat them, transfer them along with all the lovely sauce back into a baking dish.
Let it sit at room temp for about an hour, cover tightly with foil, and reheat in a 350F oven until warmed through, about 15 to 20 minutes.
How to Store Leftovers
If you have extra homemade candied yams, they’ll keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days and while I’ve never frozen them, they’ll probably be fine airtight in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Tips for Making Candied Yams
Sweet Potatoes vs. Yams: As I mentioned, I prefer sweet potatoes to yams for candied yams because sweet potatoes are sweeter, more moist and tender and less dry and starchy, and more readily available.
Peeling and Size Uniformity: I only make candied yams with peeled sweet potatoes. I suppose you could leave the skin on but I’ve never tried it. This is a time where I’m not necessarily aiming for health and fiber, so I peel them.
Make sure the slices of sweet potato rounds are all of uniform thickness, about 1/2-inch thick. Make sure they’re not thicker than that because they won’t cook through properly.
You can cube the sweet potatoes rather than slicing them into rounds if you prefer. However, again, make sure you’re using a 1/2-inch cube dice.
Orange vs. Pineapple Juice: Orange juice is the more traditional way to go and probably more common to have on hand. But for a bit of a flavor twist, if you have pineapple juice on hand, feel free to use it.
Maple Syrup: Make sure to use real maple syrup and not imitation. That means, no cheapie pancake syrup since there’s nothing reap nor maple about it.
Bourbon: If you want to add a layer of special richness to the candied sweet potatoes, add 1 to 3 tablespoons of bourbon to the butter, sugar, and spice mixture. The alcohol burns off but the depth of flavor that’s imparted is rich and lovely.
Pecans and Marshmallows: As I mentioned, both are nice additions and I outlined in detail above what to do. Which is basically baked the candied yams as directed, peel back the foil, sprinkle one or both, and bake uncovered for 5 minutes.
Long Baking Time: If you want the sweet potatoes to take on an extra chewy, more candy-like texture, you can bake them for up to 2 hours. This sounds like a very long baking time for half-inch thick sweet potatoes or yams, and it is.
However, remember your baking dish is covered which reduces the likelihood of burning. But if you decide to go this route, every 15 minutes after the suggested 1 hour baking time has passed, lift the foil and check on your holiday side dish how it’s looking because you definitely don’t want to burn them!
The super chewy texture is worth if to me, if you have the time and oven space of course! If you go this route, make sure to line your pan with heavy duty nonstick foil for easier cleanup.
- 2 pounds sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds* (I suggest sweet potatoes rather than yams but please read the blog post)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup orange or pineapple juice
- 3 tablespoons real maple syrup
- 1 to 3 tablespoons bourbon, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup toasted pecans, optional**
- 3 to 4 cups mini marshmallows, optional**
- Sage, optional for garnishing
- Preheat oven to 350F and spray a 2-quart baking dish, 9x13-inch pan, or similar with cooking spray. Tip - For easier cleanup, line with a sheet of heavy duty nonstick foil and spray the foil.
- Peel and slice the sweet potatoes, making sure that the slices are no larger than 1/2-inch wide. If cubing them, make sure they're no bigger than 1/2-inch dice; set aside.
- To a small saute pan, add the butter, sugars, juice, optional bourbon, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and heat over medium-low heat to melt the butter; stir nearly constantly.
- After the butter has melted, slowly and evenly pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes.
- Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour, or until sweet potatoes are very soft and tender. If they're at all hard, there's no harm in baking longer, 10 to 15 minutes, or whatever they need.
- If you plan to add nuts and/or marshmallows, see my detailed directions below**. You add them at the very end after baking for 1 hour. If using both, sprinkle the nuts first, then the marshmallows, and bake for 3 to 5 minutes uncovered, or just until the marshmallows begin to turn lightly golden brown or. melt a bit. Make sure to keep a very close eye on them so they don't burn!
- Optionally garnish with sage before serving.
- Recipe can be made up to 2 days ahead of time. When you plan to serve the candied yams and need to reheat them, transfer them along with all the lovely sauce back into a baking dish. Let it sit at room temp for about an hour, cover tightly with foil, and reheat in a 350F oven until warmed through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Leftovers will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
**I suggest the following:
- Adding Pecans (or Walnuts) - Add about 1/2 cup chopped and toasted pecans at the very end of baking time. Do this by first adding the nuts a dry skillet, and toasting them until they smell nice and nutty, about 2 to 3 minutes. Then, remove the foil from the candied yams at the 1 hour mark, evenly sprinkle the toasted pecans or walnuts, and bake for about 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can simply sprinkle on the toasted pecans after baking, and treating them like they're a garnish.
Tip: If you are adding both pecans and marshmallows, first sprinkle the pecans over the yams, and then the marshmallows.
- Adding Marshmallows - Add about 3 to 4 cups mini marshmallows at the very end of the baking time. Remove the foil at the 1 hour mark, evenly sprinkle the marshmallows, and bake for about 5 minutes, or until they are just toasting up and melting a bit.
Tip: Keep a very close eye on them because marshmallows can burn in seconds!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 694Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 244mgCarbohydrates: 135gFiber: 6gSugar: 94gProtein: 5g
More Sweet Potato Side Dishes:
Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping — This is the BEST sweet potato casserole ever!! The sweet potatoes are tender and creamy, while the streusel topping adds a delightful buttery crunch thanks to the pecans!
Classic Marshmallow Sweet Potato Casserole – An EASY recipe for the BEST sweet potato casserole with pecans! Tender and creamy sweet potatoes, the subtle crunch of a buttery pecan crumble, and gooey marshmallows make this comfort food side dish an automatic family FAVORITE! It’ll be on repeat for your Thanksgiving, Christmas, and holiday celebrations every year!
Savory Sweet Potato Casserole with Candied Bacon – If you thought sweet potato casserole couldn’t get any better, wait until you taste it topped with candied bacon and pecans! The sweet potatoes are smooth and creamy and the candied bacon topping is the perfect texture and flavor contrast!
Sweet Potato Bites with Marshmallows and Pecans — Sliced sweet potato rounds are brushed with a maple cinnamon-and-sugar mixture, baked, and then topped with marshmallows and pecans!
Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows — Sweet, creamy, decadent, and reminiscent of sweet potato casserole but individually portioned! FAST and EASY enough for family dinners or make them for more formal holiday celebrations! Either way, these are always the PERFECT comfort food side dish that everyone devours!
Roasted Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole — A HEALTHIER and DELICIOUS twist on sweet potato casserole!! The potatoes and apples retain some texture with the perfect amount of crumble topping! Put it on your holiday menu!!
Sweet and Savory Sweet Potato Casserole — A fun and EASY twist on classic sweet potato casserole that uses potato chips in the topping for a SALTY-SWEET flavor the whole family will love!! Great for Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations!!
Honey-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey-Cinnamon Dip – The honey glaze and the creamy cinnamon dip make these potatoes irresistible!!
Honey Butter Smashed Sweet Potatoes — Soft, tender potatoes with crispy skin and the most HEAVENLY melted honey butter on top!! EASY comfort food that’s a perfect side dish anytime!!
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