Candied yams (aka candied sweet potatoes) make a sweet and simple side dish. Perfect for holidays or enjoying year-round, this dish is extraordinarily flavorful while still being simple to make!
Simple Candied Sweet Potatoes
What do you call them–candied yams or candied sweet potatoes? My family refers to them as yams, even though that’s technically not correct (more on this below!). But I have a feeling some of you may call them that too…
Whatever you call them, this tasty and sweet side dish deserves a spot on your dinner table. Serve them on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or just a random Tuesday night–and you’ll be very happy you did!
I love preparing this recipe year-round because it is just so simple to make. Simply peel and chop your potatoes, heat the syrup, combine, and bake! It’s almost as easy as my roasted sweet potatoes 😊
What You Need
Candied yams are such an easy side dish, with only 7 ingredients required. Most of these will already be in your pantry!
- Sweet potatoes. That’s right, these technically are candied sweet potatoes–not yams. It’s confusing, I know! Scroll down to the FAQ section below to read more about this, and why I call them candied yams!
- Brown sugar. You can use either light or dark brown sugar, or a combination of the two! Note that dark brown sugar will have a richer flavor and will be just a bit sweeter.
- Butter. I stick with unsalted butter here, but if you have salted butter, simply reduce the salt to a scant ½ teaspoon.
- Salt. With all this sweetness, we need some salt to balance things out! Regular table salt works just fine here.
- Cinnamon and vanilla. These two are optional, but they add a lovely flavor that complements the sweetness of the potatoes and the brown sugar. Feel free to omit them if they make this dish too dessert-like for you though (my mom prefers to make hers without these two ingredients, while I prefer to use them).
SAM’S TIP: Feel free to swap the cinnamon with some pumpkin pie spice if you’re really feeling extra festive (and a little bold!)!
This is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Candied Yams
Prepare the Sweet Potatoes
- Peel and chop your potatoes first. I aim for pieces that are slightly larger than bite-sized (they’ll shrink some in in the oven) and try to keep the pieces roughly the same size, that way they cook evenly. Place them in a baking dish, a 9×9″, 11×7″, or even a 1.5 qt casserole dish would work well here.
Make the Syrup
- Add all remaining ingredients except the vanilla to a small saucepan. Cook over medium low heat until the butter melts, then bring to a boil and cook for about 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Things should be smelling pretty amazing right about now.
- Pour the syrup over the potatoes, stir to coat, then bake until your candied yams are tender, stirring every 15 minutes. Pierce the potatoes with a fork to test for doneness, then let them cool slightly before serving. The syrup will thicken some as it sits. Make sure to stir the dish before stirring to ensure optimal candied-coverage!
SAM’S TIP: The syrup/sauce thickens as it cools, but while warm it is a pretty thin sauce — this is normal!
Frequently Asked Questions
Confusing sweet potatoes and yams has become quite the American tradition. In reality, they are not the same thing; yams have a much thicker, tougher skin and aren’t actually sweet. Chances are, even if you stumble across orange tubers labeled “yams” in your local grocery store, they’re actually sweet potatoes! You can read more about how these two vegetables became intertwined (and confused!).
In my house we’ve always had “candied yams” with our holiday dinners, and in America this dish is exactly what is meant when you hear the phrase, so that’s what I’m calling them today. Feel free to call them whatever you like though!
While both are sweet sides, they are different. Sweet potato casserole involves mashing the potatoes, turning them into a custard of sorts, and then topping them with marshmallows and/or pecans before baking. We don’t do any of this when making candied sweet potatoes!
Yes! You can either assemble the sweet potatoes and syrup in the dish and keep in the refrigerator (tightly covered) up to 2 days before baking as indicated (make sure to give everything a good stir before baking) or you can bake the dish and then store in the fridge for up to 3 days before serving. Note that if you opt to bake the dish and then refrigerate, the potatoes will be quite soft/fall-apart upon reheating.
So, are they candied yams or candied sweet potatoes? Let me know in the comments!
- Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Place sweet potato chunks into a 9”x9” or 11”x7” baking dish. Set aside.2 lb sweet potatoes
- In a small saucepan over medium/low heat, combine all other ingredients except vanilla and cook until butter is melted.1 cup (200 g) brown sugar, 2 Tablespoons water, ¼ cup (57 g) unsalted butter, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Once butter is melted, bring to a boil and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in vanilla extract.½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pour mixture over sweet potato pieces. Gently stir so that all pieces are coated. Transfer to 375F (190C) oven and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Pieces should be tender when pierced with a fork.
- Allow to cool slightly before serving. Sauce will thicken as it cools.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.