Southern Candied Yams

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These Southern Candied Yams are cooked to perfection, yielding a sweet potato that’s fork tender and swimming in a rich, sweet, buttery maple sauce.

Southern Candied Yams

Growing up, I remember always having a strategy for eating candied yams; they had to be right next to my peas and cornbread dressing so I could have the perfect bite. Sweet, savory, and creamy with some texture from the meat in the dressing.

Did you just drool a little bit too?

I didn’t grow up in a household where my grandmother was the queen of yams. When she said the candied yams were ready, there would be a traffic jam in the kitchen and people arguing about who was taking too much.

I’m grateful that didn’t stop me from falling in love with this classic soul food/southern recipe that always leaves the house with the smell of family, fall, and food memories.

This is my take on candied yams; I hope you love it!

candied yams in a pot

Why are they called Candied Yams?

Candied yams, aka candied sweet potatoes, are a sweet potato dish commonly eaten in the Southern region of the United States. They are a big deal during the holidays in African-American households, but they can be enjoyed all year round.

The dish is made by boiling sweet potatoes in brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg until they are soft. Coating the sweet potatoes in a sweet and delicious sauce.

Depending on your family tradition, you can use orange juice, vanilla extract, or maple syrup. You can top them off with miniature marshmallows or not.

Some families make baked candied yams and add other ingredients that are family traditions. 

Key Ingredients

Here’s a list of the ingredients that make southern candied sweet potatoes an ongoing thanksgiving dinner tradition.

Sweet Potatoes

Even though yams and sweet potatoes are two different root vegetables, more on that later. Louisiana produces the best sweet potatoes in the country.

Sugar

I like to use two different sugars in my yams, dark brown and white sugar, and the dark brown sugar creates a maple syrup flavor.

Butter

Unsalted butter is all you need, and the butter is going to make the sauce silky smooth.

Warm Spices

It’s not soul food candied sweet potatoes without ground cinnamon and nutmeg, but most people overlook the importance of salt. Using salt allows you to use less sugar because it will bring out the sweetness in the dish.

Candied Yams close up

How to Make the Best Candied Yams Recipe

Making candied yams is really easy; the most challenging part is peeling the sweet potatoes. After that, it’s smooth sailing.

Step 1: Pick a large pot; my go-to is a 5-quart pot. Add the sweet potatoes, water, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, bring to a boil over a medium-high heat, and cover slightly so the steam can release and the sauce can thicken.

Step 2: Reduce your heat to medium-low and simmer for 25 minutes.

Step 3: Stir to coat sweet potatoes with syrup, boil the mixture, and cook for 8 minutes uncovered until the syrup thickens and the potatoes are fork tender. Cool for 10 minutes before serving hot. 

Step 4: Stir to rotate the sweet potatoes from top to bottom and coat them with the syrup. Be gentle while stirring to make sure you don’t break up the sweet potatoes. Bring it back to a boil, and cook until the syrup thickens and a fork easily pierces the potatoes (This is where you would add marshmallows; the hot sweet potatoes will melt them.) Transfer to a casserole dish and serve immediately.

Candied Yams on a serving spoon

Pro Recipe Tips & Tricks

Here are some things to remember while making these southern candied sweet potatoes.

  • When buying sweet potatoes, never buy old sweet potatoes. Older sweet potatoes have strings hanging from them.
  • The thicker you slice your yams, the longer they’ll take to cook. The thinner you cut them, the faster they will become tender.
  • Swap out ½ cup of water for orange juice for a great flavor.
  • Measuring a ½ inch is the middle spot of your index finger from the first knuckle.
  • Feel free to use light brown sugar as a swap for dark brown sugar.
  • Add ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger and clove for a warmer flavor profile.
  • If you use salted butter, omit the salt from your recipe.
  • Make sure to pick a large pot that can fit all of your sweet potatoes. So they can cook evenly and get covered in the syrup.
  • Stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract right before serving.
  • If you do not eat pork, use vegan miniature marshmallows. 
  • Double the recipe to feed a larger crowd.
  • I do not recommend using canned sweet potatoes for this recipe. They’re pre-cooked and will turn into mush by the time the buttery syrup is ready.
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Candied Yams on a plate

FAQs

Here are the top questions readers have about making candied yams.

Are Southern yams the same as sweet potatoes?

Yes, in the South, we call sweet potatoes yams. Everywhere else, it’s more common to call them sweet potatoes.

Are yams and sweet potatoes the same thing?

No. Sweet potatoes and yams are two totally different root vegetables. Fresh yams have rough, scaly dark brown skin and are white or yellow inside. They grow in Africa, Asia, and South America. They can grow up to 5 ft. long and weigh up to 100 pounds.
 
Sweet potatoes have smooth reddish-brown skin that can be any color, from white, yellow, red, and brown to purple. They’re related to the morning glory plant, and they originated in Central and South America.

Why do we sometimes call sweet potatoes yams?

The Library of Congress reports that the difference between yams and sweet potatoes started when softer varieties of sweet potato were first brought to America: 
 
“In the United States, firm varieties of sweet potatoes were produced before soft varieties. When soft varieties were first grown commercially, there was a need to differentiate between the two. African slaves had already been calling the ‘soft’ sweet potatoes’ yams’ because they resembled the yams in Africa. Thus, ‘soft’ sweet potatoes were referred to as ‘yams’ to distinguish them from the ‘firm’ varieties.”

Are candied yams and candied sweet potatoes the same thing?

Yes. Candied yams and candied sweet potatoes are made with whole sweet potatoes that are peeled, sliced, and cooked in syrup made of sugar, water, and spices.

Is it better to peel sweet potatoes before boiling?

No, it’s not necessary to peel sweet potatoes before boiling them. By keeping the skin on the sweet potatoes, you’re adding more fiber to your diet. If you’re going to skip the step of peeling, make sure to wash the skin.
glazed candied yams

Are candied yams a dessert or a side dish?

Candied yams are a side dish that has the sweetness of a dessert. They are most commonly served as part of a soul food meal.

Are Southern candied sweet potatoes healthy?

No, candied yams are not intended to be healthy; they are designed to be delicious and loaded with flavor. However, if you want to make a healthier version, substitute half the dark brown sugar for brown sugar made by Truvia or Swerve.

How to store Candied Yams?

Candied yams are best 2 days after but will remain fresh, covered in an airtight container for 7 days in the fridge. 
 
I wouldn’t recommend freezing them because the syrup will crystalize when frozen and turn into a watery mess when thawed.
 
Reheat them in a medium pot over medium heat, covered for 6-8 minutes or until hot.

sauce being poured over candied yams

More Southern Recipes

We have the candied yams cooking and ready to go. Here are some of my favorite Sunday dinner side dishes.

Latest Recipe Video:

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Before You Begin

Here are the steps to take to get organized before you begin cooking.

Step 1: Get all ingredients for the southern candied yams on the counter.

Step 2: Wash your sweet potatoes under cold running water.

Step 3: Measure everything out into one bowl except the water.

Step 4: Start following the recipe and get ready for the best soul food candied yams you’ve ever made.

I’m ecstatic about how these candied yams turned out! They are ideal for your thanksgiving meal, potluck, or family gathering since they’re a perfect addition to any dinner. I hope you enjoy them as much as my family does. If you make them, please leave a comment and star rating below. I would love to hear from you!

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Candied Yams1

Southern Candied Yams

Kenneth Temple
These Southern Candied Yams are cooked to perfection, yielding a sweet potato that’s fork tender and swimming in a rich, sweet, buttery maple sauce.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Soul Food, Southern
Servings 8 persons
Calories 554 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 5 lbs. medium sweet potatoes peeled, sliced ½ inch thick
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg

Instructions
 

  • Add all ingredients to a 5-quart pot. Bring mixture to a boil, cover ajar and simmer for 25 minutes. Stir to coat sweet potatoes with syrup, bring mixture to a boil and cook for 8 minutes uncovered, until syrup thickens and potatoes easily pierce with a fork. Cool for 10 minutes before serving hot.

Notes

Pro Recipe Tips & Tricks
Here are some things to remember while making these southern candied sweet potatoes. 
  • When buying sweet potatoes, never buy old sweet potatoes. Older sweet potatoes have strings hanging from them.
  • The thicker you slice your yams, the longer they’ll take to cook. The thinner you cut them, the faster they will become tender.
  • Swap out ½ cup of water for orange juice for a great flavor.
  • Measuring a ½ inch is the middle spot of your index finger from the first knuckle.
  • Feel free to use light brown sugar as a swap for dark brown sugar.
  • Add ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger and clove for a warmer flavor profile.
  • If you use salted butter, omit the salt from your recipe.
  • Make sure to pick a large pot that can fit all of your sweet potatoes. So they can cook evenly and get covered in the syrup.
  • Stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract right before serving.
  • If you do not eat pork, use vegan miniature marshmallows. 
  • Double the recipe to feed a larger crowd.
  • I do not recommend using canned sweet potatoes for this recipe. They’re pre-cooked and will turn into mush by the time the buttery syrup is ready.
Storage: 
Candied yams are best 2 days after but will remain fresh, covered in an airtight container for 7 days in the fridge. 
I wouldn’t recommend freezing them because the syrup will crystalize when frozen and turn into a watery mess when thawed.
Reheat them in a medium pot over medium heat, covered for 6-8 minutes or until hot.

Nutrition

Calories: 554kcalCarbohydrates: 124gProtein: 5gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 319mgPotassium: 1034mgFiber: 9gSugar: 78gVitamin A: 40396IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 139mgIron: 2mg
Keyword Southern candied yams, soul food candied yams, candied sweet potatoes, candied yams recipe,
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To pin this recipe and save it for later, you can use the Pin button on the recipe card, the sharing buttons above or below this post, or on any of the photos above. 

Tag me @kennethtemple_ on Instagram to share your remakes with me, and don’t forget to leave a star rating and comment below. 

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