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.
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.
- 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
How to Make Candied Yams
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Bake the yams: I bake these uncovered until the sauce and sugar reduce and caramelize
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:
- Roasted Chicken Legs (Air Fryer)
- Honey Lemon Pepper Wings
- BBQ Hennessy Wings Recipe
- Fried Turkey
- Holiday Ham
- Baked Pork Chops
Southern Style Candied Yams
- 3 lbs sweet potatoes or yams
- 1 ½ cup sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 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