A Thanksgiving side dish on a lot of families’ tables is sweet potatoes or yams, especially candied yams. Different recipes for Candied Yams have been around since the late 1800s. Both Fannie Farmer and Texas Farm and Ranch had recipes for glazed sweet potatoes at this time. Eventually, marshmallows were added to the recipe, giving the sweet potato and even sweeter taste! Well, I didn’t add any marshmallows to this recipe and they were plenty sweet. I loved the flavor that the pumpkin pie spice added. These take some patience in cooking time, but they are easy to put together, and I will let you know how to prepare the potatoes ahead of time! I think you will want to make these many times a year, not just at Thanksgiving. Make them as a side for Macaroni and Cheese or Country Fried Pork. Of course, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, people will be expecting these Candied Yams to go with my Bacon Wrapped Turkey and Skins On Mashed Potatoes!
Candied Yams vs. Sweet Potatoes
Are they yams or are they sweet potatoes? What is the difference, really? I am calling this a Candied Yam because that is how the grocery store labels it. I always want to be providing you accurate recipes so I want to disclose right out of the gate that these are technically a sweet potato. When you are shopping for yams you will probably see sweet potatoes.
Yams are actually very different than you might imagine. They have rough dark skin and the flesh is starchy and white, not sweet at all! If fact, a true yam tastes more like a white russet potato than a sweet potato. However, in the 1960s a sweet potato grower started to label their sweet potatoes as yams and the name has stuck since.
When I am buying sweet potatoes, or yams, at the grocery store, I am looking for the orange inside. For all practical purposes, the terms are interchangeable in many traditional American recipes.
So just to be clear, a TRUE yam might taste different in this recipe!
Candied Yams Recipe
George Washington Carver came up with over 100 products using sweet potatoes, including a variety of foods as well as dyes and wood fillers! Well, I only have one use for now, and that is this Candied Yams Recipe. You may notice I use pumpkin pie spice for this recipe, and I encourage you to make your own pumpkin pie spice! If you do use store-bought pumpkin pie spice, use half a teaspoon for this recipe. Homemade spices have a lot more flavor and spice, so cut the amounts in half for future recipes. I love having my own stash of spices because you can make as much as you want and usually they are made with spices you have on hand. With just a few ingredients, you will have a sweet side dish in about an hour.
- Unsalted butter
- Yams (or sweet potatoes)
- Brown sugar
- Pumpkin pie spice
- Kosher salt
How to Make Candied Yams
The hardest part (if you consider peeling potatoes hard) is the peeling and slicing of the yams. But, I will give you some tips on that later. Once you have peeled the potatoes, slice them into 1/3 inch pieces. In a skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter and add the potato slices. Make sure you get all the pieces coated in the butter. Then, stir in the brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla. Mix everything together, cover the skillet, and let the potatoes cook for about an hour. Stir the potatoes occasionally within that hour. After they have cooked, add some salt and serve. I loved how they turned out so soft, and the sweetness is all the candy you will need for the day…well, maybe.
How to Peel and Slice Yams/Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes generally have tougher skin than other potatoes, especially depending on the specific yam or sweet potato you are using. But, do not let that stop you from making Candied Yams! There are a few tricks you can do to help make the process a little easier…
- Wash the potatoes in warm water. The warm water will help to soften the skin a bit, but not as much as you would like. If you really scrub while cleaning the potatoes, that will also help thin the skin.
- Cut off any rough or ‘woody’ ends of the potato.
- Use a serrated peeler (preferably) or regular peeler to peel from root to tip. Generally, the tapering point is the bottom and the blunt end is the top, but sometimes it is hard to tell. Just make sure you are peeling top to bottom or bottom to top😊.
- Once peeled, slice the potatoes as evenly as you can. This will help them cook more evenly.
Can I Peel and Cut Them Ahead of Time?
Yes! If you are making these Candied Yams for Thanksgiving, you may want to prepare as many recipes as you can ahead of time. It’s nice to know that you can peel the potatoes a day before you use them. Just keep the peeled sweet potatoes in a bowl of cold water. Be sure to dry off the potatoes with a paper towel before slicing and cooking them to reduce any bacteria.
You can find that Bacon Turkey here!
Looking for More Thanksgiving Sides?
Here are some popular side dishes for Thanksgiving, or any time you need a dish to pair with a meal.
The Ultimate Bacon Turkey Gravy Recipe
Candied Yams are a Thanksgiving staple with a perfect blend of sweet and spice that are always a hit during the holidays!
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 6 yams (3.5 pounds), peeled and sliced 1/3 inch thick
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter.
Add yams and stir to completely coat each piece.
Stir in brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla. Mix together until sugar dissolves.
Cover the dish and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Add salt and serve.