Southern Candied Yams have been a favorite in our home for years. There’s something heartwarming about a classic dish that brings smiles to the family table
I vividly remember introducing this dish to my children last year, and the joy it brought was immeasurable.
It’s not just a recipe; it’s a vessel of family memories. My son was so obsessed with this sweet, comforting side dish that he requested it for his youth group’s Friendsgiving.
And my daughter? She’s always eager to help in the kitchen, especially when these candied yams are on the menu.
This sweet potato casserole is perfect for any special occasion, be it Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner, or a just a nice Sunday dinner.
What Makes This Recipe a Southern Recipe?
Southern candied sweet potatoes are a Southern staple because they showcase the kind of hearty, sweet dishes that are loved in the region.
This particular recipe gets its Southern character from the sweet potatoes, which thrive in the South’s warm climate, and from a traditional cooking style that brings out their natural sweetness.
Southern candied yams are big on taste and has been a fixture at Southern tables, especially during holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Yams vs Sweet Potatoes?
For sweet potato recipes, and in many Southern kitchens, ‘yams’ actually refers to a type of sweet potato with soft, orange flesh.
True yams are quite different and not commonly used in the United States. This dish uses sweet potatoes because they’re sweet and creamy, just perfect for a dish that’s meant to be a comforting and indulgent side.
Sweet Potato Varieties for the best southern candied yams
Picking the right sweet potato for this classic holiday side dish can be a game-changer. Each type has its own flair, and hey, isn’t part of the fun in cooking trying out new twists?
Here’s a run down of all things sweet potatoes to make you sound really nerdy at the holiday table.
You’ll find these bad boys in most grocery stores. They’re the all-stars of the sweet potato world – reliable, sweet, and perfect for a classic candied yam.
When I use Beauregards, I know I’m getting that traditional sweet, creamy bite every time.
Where to Find: Commonly available at supermarkets and farmer’s markets.
These are the show-offs with their flashy red skin and vibrant orange insides.
They bring the moisture, making your yams juicier and sweeter. If you’re after a candied yam that might steal the spotlight at your dinner table, Garnet yams are your go-to.
Where to Find: Look for these in well-stocked grocery stores, especially those with a good produce section.
The middle-grounders. Not too sweet, not too bland – just right for when you want your spices to do the talking. Jewels blend in nicely, offering a balance that lets all the flavors in your dish shine through.
Where to Find: Jewel sweet potatoes are widely available in most grocery stores.
Japanese Sweet Potato
Want to mix it up? These guys come with a purple outfit and a surprise inside – white flesh with a nutty twist. Less sweet, but hey, sometimes it’s cool to shake things up and go for a different kind of delicious.
Where to Find: Asian markets and specialty grocery stores are your best bet.
Hannah Sweet Potato
The underdogs of the sweet potato world. They’re more on the starchy side, with a subtle sweetness that doesn’t overpower. I like to use Hannahs when I want the spices and that glorious brown sugar glaze to really pop.
Where to Find: Check out organic markets or stores with a diverse range of produce.
By knowing where to look for these different varieties, you can experiment with each one and find your personal favorite for that perfect candied yam dish.
Here’s everything you’ll need to make southern candied yams.
- Sweet Potatoes: Choose ones that are firm and free from blemishes. Sweet potatoes are not just a healthier alternative to a true yam, but are key in creating that perfect sweet and tender bite. Look for
- Unsalted Butter: Use unsalted to fine-tune the seasoning. Melted butter not only enriches the dish but also helps to bind the sugar and spices to the potatoes.
- Brown Sugar: Opt for dark brown sugar if you prefer a deeper molasses flavor. It creates the syrupy glaze that candied yams are famous for.
- Vanilla Extract: Look for pure vanilla extract for its robust flavor, which can enhance the overall taste of the yams significantly.
- Ground Cinnamon & Ground Nutmeg: Freshly ground spices will offer a more potent and aromatic flavor compared to pre-ground options.
- Kosher Salt: Its coarse grains distribute evenly, providing a balanced contrast to the sweetness.
- Mini Marshmallows: Try different sizes or even flavored marshmallows to personalize the dish’s topping with a unique twist. My kids are fond of the jumbo size, so that’s always an option too!
Casserole Dish: The right dish makes all the difference. A heavy-duty casserole dish that’s at least 2 inches deep is best.
It should comfortably fit your sweet potatoes in one layer, allowing the heat to wrap around each piece, ensuring they all cook at the same rate.
A glass or ceramic dish is often preferred for even heat distribution.
Aluminum Foil: Heavy-duty foil is a better choice for covering your baking dish.
It’s less likely to tear and does a great job of locking in steam, which helps cook the sweet potatoes thoroughly without drying them out.
Mixing Bowl and Utensils: Go for a sturdy, large mixing bowl that gives you plenty of room to toss the sweet potatoes with the glaze.
The larger the bowl, the less chance you’ll have sweet potatoes and sugar flying out as you mix.
Silicone utensils are great for mixing; they’re flexible, non-stick, and can scrape down the sides of the bowl easily.
- Preheat and Prepare: Start by preheating your oven to 375°F. While it’s warming up, peel your sweet potatoes and cut them into evenly sized cubes. This ensures they cook uniformly.
- Make the Glaze: In your large mixing bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch of kosher salt. Stir it until it forms a smooth, rich mixture. This glaze is what gives the yams their signature sweet coating.
- Coat the Potatoes: Pour the sweet sugar mixture over your sweet potato cubes. Toss them gently, making sure each piece is thoroughly coated. This step is crucial for that all-around candied effect.
- Arrange in Dish: Transfer the glazed potatoes into your casserole dish. Spread them out in a single layer for even cooking. If you have too many potatoes piled on top of each other, they won’t cook through evenly.
- Cover and Bake: Cover the dish with aluminum foil. The foil helps the potatoes cook evenly and retain moisture, ensuring they don’t dry out. Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes until fork tender.
- Add Marshmallows: After 40 minutes, check if the potatoes are tender with a fork. If they are, remove the foil and sprinkle the mini marshmallows over the top. This step adds a delightful, gooey topping that’s a hit, especially with kids.
- Final Bake: Put the dish back in the oven, uncovered, for another 10-15 minutes. The marshmallows should turn golden brown and slightly crispy on top.
- Serve and Enjoy: Once done, let the dish cool for a few minutes before serving. The yams should be tender, glazed with a sweet syrup, and topped with a golden marshmallow layer, ready to be the star of your meal.
Absolutely, candied yams are a perfect make-ahead dish. Just bake, cool, and refrigerate, then reheat in the oven when you’re ready to serve, ensuring they stay delicious and flavorful.
Yes, you can replace brown sugar with white sugar in candied yams. While brown sugar provides a deeper, molasses-like flavor, white sugar will still offer the necessary sweetness. However, keep in mind that using white sugar may slightly alter the dish’s traditional flavor and color.
Can I Make a Healthier Version of This Dish?
For a lighter version, consider reducing the sugar or using alternatives like honey or maple syrup. You can also opt for less butter or a plant-based alternative.
Experiment with different spices like ginger or a pinch of cayenne pepper for a unique twist. Adding orange zest can also give a refreshing flavor.
Can This Dish Be Made Ahead of Time?
Yes, you can prepare the dish a day in advance and reheat it before serving. This can be a real time-saver during busy holidays.
What Are Some Creative Toppings for Candied Yams?
Apart from marshmallows, try toppings like toasted coconut, candied pecans, or a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon for extra crunch and flavor.
While fresh yams are ideal for texture and flavor, canned yams can be used but might result in a slightly different texture.
Peeling is recommended to achieve the classic texture and flavor of the dish, but you can leave the skin on for a more rustic feel and added nutrients.
What’s the Best Way to Store leftover candied yams?
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They typically keep well for up to three days.
Yes, for a slow cooker, layer the ingredients and cook on low for 4-5 hours. In an Instant Pot, use the manual setting and cook for about 15 minutes, then quick-release the pressure.
Everyone loves a classic southern candied yams recipe. But if you want to really make this recipe your own, here’s some suggestions to inspire you:
- Orange Juice Twist: Incorporate a splash of orange juice into the butter mixture. This adds a fresh, citrusy note that complements the sweetness of the yams, bringing a delightful brightness to the dish.
- Maple Syrup Replacement: Swap out brown sugar for maple syrup. This substitution infuses a distinct, rich maple flavor, adding depth and a hint of autumnal warmth to your candied yams.
- Spicy Kick: For those who enjoy a bit of heat, a pinch of cayenne pepper or a sprinkle of chili powder can offer an unexpected but pleasant spicy contrast to the sweetness.
- Toasted Pecan Crunch: Scatter a handful of chopped pecans over the yams before the final bake. As they toast, the pecans add a nutty crunch that pairs beautifully with the soft, sweet yams.
- Herbal Infusion: Try adding fresh thyme or rosemary to the glaze. These herbs bring an aromatic earthiness, creating a savory-sweet balance that’s both unique and comforting.
- Brown Butter Bliss: Brown the butter before adding it to the sugar mixture. This adds a nutty, caramelized flavor to the yams, elevating the dish with a gourmet touch.
- Root Vegetable Medley: Elevate your candied yams by adding different root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, and beets, cut to similar sizes for a vibrant and flavorful twist on the classic dish.
- Honey Glaze: Replace some of the sugar with honey for a naturally sweet, floral twist. Honey’s smooth texture blends seamlessly, creating a luscious glaze.
- Ginger Zest: Grate some fresh ginger into the glaze for a zingy, spicy kick. Ginger adds a refreshing sharpness that wakes up the palate.
- Coconutty Delight: With family from the islands on one side, we through coconut in everything. Try sprinkling shredded coconut over the yams before adding marshmallows. It toasts up to a sweet, crispy topping that’s irresistibly good.
Baked Southern Candied Yams (Sweet Potatoes) Recipe
- Casserole Dish
- Aluminum Foil
- Mixing Bowl and Utensils
- 4 cups sweet potatoes peeled and cubed (about 6 medium-sized sweet potatoes)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter melted (1 stick)
- 1 cup brown sugar packed
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups mini marshmallows (optional for topping)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Peel and cube sweet potatoes into even pieces.
- In a mixing bowl, blend melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt to create the glaze.
- Toss sweet potatoes in the glaze until well-coated.
- Arrange potatoes in a single layer in the casserole dish.
- Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes until they are fork tender.
- Remove foil, top with marshmallows, and bake for another 10-15 minutes until marshmallows are golden.
- Serve warm and enjoy!
Can I replace brown sugar with white sugar? Yes, but it will alter the flavor slightly.
Can I add other ingredients? Feel free to add nuts, spices, or other root vegetables as desired.
Variations: Orange Juice Twist: Add orange juice for a citrusy note.
Maple Syrup Replacement: Use maple syrup for a unique flavor.
Spicy Kick: Add cayenne pepper for heat.
Root Vegetable Medley: Include carrots, parsnips, and beets for added flavor and color.