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Southern Candied Sweet Potatoes

Southern Candied Sweet Potatoes (or Candied Yams), like collard greens, fried cabbage and baked macaroni and cheese is a staple Southern Black side dish. Even though they aren’t dessert, they are sweet, sticky and covered in warm spices. Make this for a tried and tested recipe passed down through generations of Black women.

southern style candied yams in a baking dish

Why Make This

  • Tired and tested over time: this recipe is a family favorite that has been tried, tweaked for the better and tested over time.
  • Simple and easy: if you’re just learning how to make soul food, this is a foolproof way to start.

Ingredients Needed

  • Sweet Potatoes or Yams: though called, Candied Yams, this dish is made with either sweet potatoes or yams. They are similar in color, texture, and taste
  • Sugar: helps to ”candy” the yams. It’s typically made with regular sugar, but you can substitute brown sugar or your favorite 1:1 sugar substitute.
  • Butter: This is essential for caramelizing the sugar.
  • Cinnamon and Nutmeg: these warm spices bring out the flavor in the yams as well as my peach cobbler egg rolls
  • Orange Juice: you can use any pulp-free orange juice. It gives a hint of citrus flavor. Don’t be afraid to be creative with this. Over the years, I’ve used Pineapple and Mango orange juice combos.
  • Vanilla Extract
sweet potatoes, vanilla, sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange juice on a cutting board

How to Make Candied Yams

  1. Prepare the potatoes: I boil these until they are fork tender and the skins can be removed easily with my a butter knife or my hand.
  2. Layer the potatoes with sweetener and spices: place the potatoes on an even layer in a baking dish, top with sweetener, cinnamon and nutmeg. You’ll basically cover the sweet potatoes with these.
  3. Top with the baking liquid: after layering the yams with sugar and warm spices, help them become ”candied” by topping them with the buttery sauce that combines with the sweetener to create a sticky result
  4. Bake the yams: I bake these uncovered until the sauce and sugar reduce and caramelize
collage of sweet potatoes, potatoes in a baking dish, sweet potatoes covered in sugar and spices, and covered in butter and orange juice

Top Cooking Tips & FAQs

  • Use the sweetener of choice: traditionally, this dish includes sugar. You can substitute regular sugar for brown sugar (it has added molasses so it gives it a richer caramel-like flavor). But, I’ve tried and loved this recipe with a 1:1 sugar substitute.
  • Cover the sweet potatoes in sweetener: my mother, who doesn’t measure, basically taught me to make this by telling me to completely cover the sweet potatoes under the sweetener. This sounds like a lot, but it’s key to making them sticky. If you opt to lower the sweetener, I wouldn’t use less than 1 cup.
  • Skip the boiling with a pressure cooker: preparing the potatoes so that they are soft cuts down on the time required to bake southern candied sweet potatoes in the oven. If you want to use a gadget, feel free to soften your sweet potatoes in a pressure cooker.

Recipes to Enjoy this with

Some main dishes to enjoy this recipe with are:

southern style candied yams in a baking dish
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4.83 from 17 votes

Southern Style Candied Yams

Make Southern Candied Sweet Potatoes (or Candied Yams) with this tried & tested Black family recipe. Uses less than 10 ingredients and easy.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 16
Calories 201kcal


  • 3 lbs sweet potatoes or yams
  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg

Baking Liquid

  • ½ cup butter salted
  • ½ cup orange juice pulp free
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


Prepare the potatoes

  • Add the sweet potatoes (whole with the skin on) to a pot large enough to fully submerge them in water
  • Fill the pot with water, cover it, and bring to a boil
  • Boil the sweet potatoes until they can be easily pierced with a fork
  • Submerge the tender sweet potatoes in cold water to cool them off quickly/save time

Make the candied yams

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Use a butter knife to cut the rough top and bottom part of the sweet potatoes off
  • Gently scrape the potatoes to remove the skin.
  • Slice the potatoes into ½ inch discs
  • Lay the discs in a flat layer in a 9×13 baking dish
  • Add the baking liquid ingredients to a small saucepan. Heat until the butter is melted. Stir the liquid.
  • Top the sweet potatoes with sugar, then cinnamon and nutmeg (this should be as evenly distributed as possible)
  • Pour the melted baking liquid over the sweet potatoes
  • Bake on 350 for 45 minutes uncovered


Calories: 201kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 93mg | Potassium: 305mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 23g | Vitamin A: 12259IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 30mg | Iron: 1mg
Recipe Rating


Friday 5th of May 2023

Can you boil the yams without the skin? Easier to already have them off already when boiled. Thank you.

Davinah Cenou Montezuma

Wednesday 28th of June 2023

Hi Kim,

I find it easier to leave the skin on before boiling because the skin peels back and comes off in one large piece with minimal effort. The alternative to use a peeler to remove the skin while the potatoes are hard, which actually takes more time. Leaving the skin on also serves as a barrier of sorts: keeping too much water from getting into the potatoes and retaining more of the nutrients of the potato.

Hope that helps.

Thanks, Davinah

Dolly crawford

Friday 27th of January 2023

Will try this recipe


Friday 24th of February 2023

@Davinah Cenou Montezuma,

Davinah Cenou Montezuma

Saturday 28th of January 2023

Please let me know how you liked it when you do! :)

Tyler Kane

Sunday 20th of November 2022

Can I skip the boiling of the potatoes and just peel them, layer them in the baking dish and let them bake?

Brandi Crawford

Sunday 27th of November 2022

That will alter the bake time. Keep a close eye.


Sunday 30th of October 2022

I have a question. These look so delicious and I'm wondering if they can be made ahead. If so, at what stage - meaning, cook fully then re-heat? stop at a certain point and refrigerate over night? Thank you.

Davinah Cenou Montezuma

Sunday 6th of November 2022

Hi Beth,

Great question. I've made this ahead before. To make it ahead, I simply layer the sweet potatoes in the pan with all the layers except the baking liquid. Then, I cover it and store it in the refrigerator overnight. On the day of, I add the liquid to the top and bake it. You usually need 5-10 more minutes on the cook time since the potatoes are starting off cold. This recipe is super forgiving though, so feel free to stop where you wish and continue the next day.

Hope that helps!

Jodi T

Monday 10th of October 2022

First time trying this recipe and it was spot on !!! Will be recommending and using again