Candied Yams – Carlsbad Cravings

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Candied Yams (Candied Sweet Potatoes) are a warmly spiced, simple, sophisticated side dish, coated in drool worthy brown sugar maple glaze!

These Candied Yams (Candied Sweet Potatoes) will be your new favorite way to devour sweet potatoes!  This recipe is warmly-spiced, caramelized on the outside, luxuriously creamy, melt-in your mouth on the inside, drenched in a buttery, brown sugar maple syrup spiked with cinnamon, ginger, orange zest (and my secret ingredient!), all topped with crunchy pecans.  Best of all, these Candied Sweet Potatoes aren’t too sweet, easy to make and reheat beautifully for all your company and holidays!  

Sweet potatoes are always a favorite for the holidays in every form! We love Mashed Sweet Potatoes. Herb Scalloped Sweet Potatoes with Gruyere and Bacon
and Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows and Pecans.

How to Make Candied Yams Recipe Video

up close of serving candied yams (candied sweet potatoes) showing how tender and caramelize they are
top view of candied yams (candied sweet potatoes)  in a serving dish garnished with rosemary
up close of best ever candied yams (candied sweet potatoes) recipe with pecans

Candied Sweet Potato FAQS

What’s the Difference Between Sweet Potatoes vs Yams? 

Sweet potatoes are lower in calories and higher in beta-carotene and vitamin C than yams. Yams have slightly more potassium and manganese. They both contain decent amounts of B vitamins. Both have great health benefits.

However, yams and sweet potatoes are very different and come from opposite parts of the world.  Sweet potatoes come from South America and are a member of the morning glory family.  Originating from Africa and a part of the lily family are our Yams. They are both tuber vegetables and have similar shapes.

Over 600 varieties of yams are known, and 95% of these are still grown in Africa.  Yams are darker, almost black, and have a rough texture.  Yams are also mushier (due to their higher water content) and have higher sugar contents.  However, yams do not taste sweeter even with more sugar.   Yams, true yams, can be hard to find, unless you frequent international or ethnic food stores.  They are long like sweet potatoes, but do not taper at the ends.

Do the yams Have to Be Peeled? 

Yes, you need to peel the yams before slicing and baking them. Sweet potato skin is edible, but it’s very tough and will interfere with the otherwise melt-in-your-mouth texture of these Candied Yams.  

Can I Use This Recipe to Make Candied Sweet Potatoes? 

Yes! Candied Yams are actually Candied Sweet Potatoes! Most grocery stores mistakenly call sweet potatoes “yams.”

Can I Use a Sugar Substitute? 

No, you must use regular brown sugar to make this recipe. Brown sugar will caramelize slightly in the oven, which is what makes these sweet potatoes “candied.” A sugar-free substitute won’t have the same effect. Similarly, trying to make this recipe with all maple syrup or another liquid sweetener will result in an incredibly runny, thin sauce.  

How do I choose yams?

When selecting your yams for this recipe, look for garnet yams – these are red sweet potatoes masquerading as yams!  You may also use Jewel or Beauregard, which are also sweet potatoes. Look for yams that are firm with unwrinkled flesh, free of blemishes.

Ingredients for Candied Sweet Potatoes /Yams

Homemade Candied Yams /Sweet Potatoes come together quickly with basic ingredients!  The yams are sliced, then roasted with a spiced syrup. Here’s a quick rundown of the ingredients you’ll need to make this elevated recipe: 

  • Yams:   Look for garnet yams – these are red sweet potatoes masquerading as yams! Look for yams that are similar in width for uniform slices, firm with unwrinkled flesh, free of blemishes.
  • Butter: I recommend Danish Creamery’s European Style Butter in this recipe for its luxurious creaminess – you can literally taste the’ difference! Slow churned the old-fashioned way in small batches, Danish Creamery’s European Style Butter is a rich velvety butter that has 85% butter fat — the secret to flavorful syrups, sauces, glazes and more!
  • Sugars: Brown sugar sweetens the sauce with subtle caramel flavor while granulated sugar balances the sauce so the molasses isn’t overpowering.
  • Maple syrup: Use pure maple syrup, not pancake syrup which is often just a flavored corn syrup mixture. 
  • Apricot preserves: This ingredient makes the dish, please don’t skip! It adds a refreshing multi-dimensional sweetness, otherwise the sauce is too one note molasses tasting.
  • Orange juice + zest: You’ll need one large orange for this recipe. It imparts nuanced flavor to the Candied Sweet Potatoes without making them taste overwhelmingly of orange. 
  • Spices: The syrup is seasoned with warming spices such as ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger as well as salt and pepper. 
  • Vanilla: Use pure vanilla extract for an oomph of flavor. 
  • Rosemary: Fresh rosemary is added last for a pop of fresh flavor and color. It perfectly balances out the sticky sweet sauce and pairs well with the orange zest. 
top view showing ingredients for candied yams (candied sweet potatoes):  sweet potatoes, butter, brown sugar, maple syrup and spices

HOW TO MAKE Candied Yams

This is an easy recipe for Candied Yams that anyone can master. Let’s take a closer look at how to make this side dish (full measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

Step 1: Slice the sweet potatoes. Square the ends of the sweet potatoes in order to make them a more uniform thickness, then slice into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Discard the ends. Transfer the sliced yams to a 9×13 or similar greased baking dish.

Step 2: Make the syrup. Add the ingredients to a saucepan and heat over medium heat, then simmer for a one minute. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the orange zest and vanilla. 

showing how to make candied yams (candied sweet potatoes) by adding butter, brown sugar and orange juice to a saucepan, simmering, then adding orange zest and vanilla

Step 3: Add the syrup to the potatoes. Pour the syrup over the sweet potatoes and stir until evenly coated.

showing how to make candied yams (candied sweet potatoes) by pouring the syrup over the sliced potatoes in a baking dish

Step 4: Bake. Bake the sweet potatoes until tender, then sprinkle with pecans and bake an additional 10 minutes. Finally, garnish with chopped fresh rosemary and serve!

showing how to make candied yams (candied sweet potatoes) by adding pecans and baking until tender
  • Use similar sized yams. When selecting the yams, hand-pick them as opposed to grabbing a bag so you can select potatoes of similar width so they cook in the same amount of time. Look for more narrow sweet potatoes if possible.
  • Slice sweet potatoes uniformly. I suggest breaking out your ruler so the potato slices can be pretty similar, they don’t have to be perfect, but close. Slicing the sweet potatoes into rounds of even thickness will ensure they cook at the same rate. Also, make sure you are measuring a full 1/2-inch – it may be thicker than you think. 
  • Square the yams. This simply means slicing off the very tapered ends so the slices are more uniform in width; you’ll still have some smaller and large ones, which is okay.
  • Be flexible with the roasting times. If your potatoes are especially wide or especially small, adjust the baking times. 
  • Bake until melt-in-your-mouth tender. That’s the goal! If the sweet potatoes aren’t creamy, velvety soft inside, then bake for an extra 5-10 minutes.
  • Add the vanilla last. Wait to add the vanilla to the sauce until the saucepan has been removed from the heat. If you stir the vanilla into the sauce as it’s simmering, the alcohol in the vanilla will cook off and the vanilla flavor won’t be as prominent. 
  • Use freshly squeezed orange juice. Fresh is best for this Candied Yams recipe – plus we need the zest!
  • Thicken the syrup. The syrup will be thin once the Candied Sweet Potatoes are removed from the oven, but will thicken upon standing. For an even thicker glaze, transfer it to a saucepan (a turkey baster works grate for this) and simmer for a couple minutes.
  • Scale the yams. This recipe has a generous amount of sauce, so feel free to increase the yams to 4 ½ pounds, but be prepared to increase the baking time.
top view of candied yams recipe (candied sweet potato recipe) in a bowl with syrup over top garnished with pecans and herbs
  • Add marshmallows. The sweet potatoes are already sweet enough as is, but you’re welcome to sprinkle marshmallows over top in the last 2 to 3 minutes of baking. You’re looking for the marshmallows to turn golden. 
  • Add bacon. Sprinkle the finished Candied Yams recipe with cooked and crumbled bacon. Or, add candied bacon on top. 
  • Make it orange-forward. For even more orange flavor, add additional orange zest to the sauce. 
  • Adjust to taste. Make the yams sweeter, more buttery, tangier, add additional herbs, etc.

Candied Sweet Potatoes pair well with any ham, chicken, or pork dish on a regular weeknight and of course pair well with any holiday sides or mains. They’d be especially perfect for your Thanksgiving or Christmas feast! 

up close of serving candied yams recipe (candied sweet potatoes) garnished with pecans
top view of candied yams recipe (candied sweet potato recipe) in a bowl garnished with pecans and herbs

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YAMS

  • 3 ½ lbs garnet yams (sweet potatoes), peeled

ADD LAST

  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans (optional, recommended)
  • chopped fresh rosemary for garnish
  • Preheatoven to 375°F.  Grease a 9×13 baking dish (or 3 quart dish) lightly with cooking spray.

  • Square the ends of the potatoes (discard very tapered ends) and slice the potatoes into ½-inch-thick rounds; transfer to the prepared baking dish.

  • Whisk the cornstarch and orange juice together in a small bowl until completely dissolved.  Add to a small saucepan followed by all of the syrup ingredients (up to the “Add Later”). 

  • Cook over medium heat until the butter is melted, then bring to a simmer for 1 minute, stirring often.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract and orange zest.

  • Pour sauce over the potatoes and stir until evenly coated.  Arrange the potatoes in two even layers.

  • Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes. Uncover, stir and continue to cook uncovered for 30 minutes or until fork tender.  Sprinkle with pecans and bake an additional 10 minutes, uncovered, or until extremely tender. 

  • Let cool for 10 minutes; the sauce will thicken a bit as it cools.  Optional: If you would like a thicker sauce, transfer just the sauce to a saucepan and simmer for a couple minutes to thicken (a turkey baster easily removes the sauce).

  • Sprinkle with fresh rosemary and serve warm.

  • Use similar sized yams:  Look for medium sweet potatoes of a similar width. Avoid sweet potatoes that are very wide or your slices will be large and won’t bake as evenly. 
  • Apricot preserves: This ingredient makes the dish, please don’t skip! It adds a refreshing multi-dimensional sweetness, otherwise the sauce is too one note molasses tasting.  If you can’t find apricot, try apricot-pineapple!
  • Prep ahead:  This recipe is best fresh from the oven. However, you can save time by preparing all of the ingredients beforehand. Slice the potatoes and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. You can also chop the rosemary ahead of time, zest and juice the orange, and measure out the spices if desired. You can go one step further and make the syrup, refrigerate, then reheat until pourable before using.  
  • Storage:  Cover and store leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days.  They are delicious in salads!

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