Let me show you how to make my favorite easy Thanksgiving side: candied sweet potatoes! They’re soft, buttery, extra saucy, caramelized, and sweet. I especially love this Thanksgiving side dish because you can prepare the elements of this recipe ahead of time AND purchase the ingredients in advance, too.
Forever my favorite Thanksgiving side dish, these classic candied sweet potatoes make an appearance on our holiday table every year. (I’m surprised I haven’t shared the recipe with you before– these are the best!) In fact, we love them so much that we don’t limit this recipe to only once per year. I love these for Christmas, Easter, or a random Sunday night throughout the year. They’re full of flavor and as far as Thanksgiving side dishes go, they’re REALLY easy.
These Candied Sweet Potatoes Are:
- Soft & buttery
- Caramelized on the edges
- Absolutely packed with flavor: vanilla, brown sugar, maple, cinnamon, & ginger
- Even better with orange zest, rosemary, & sea salt
- Your new favorite Thanksgiving side dish too
I also appreciate that you don’t have to pre-cook the sweet potatoes. Unlike sweet potato casserole where you boil and mash the potatoes, this candied sweet potatoes recipe simply needs thick slices of peeled potatoes. Easy enough, right?
And the best part of all? You can purchase all of the ingredients NOW so you aren’t rushing around Thanksgiving week.
How to Make Candied Sweet Potatoes
Let me quickly break down the steps before leaving you with the recipe.
- Pick up your sweet potatoes. You need 3-4 pounds, about 5 or 6 medium sweet potatoes. Look for sweet potatoes with a reddish/copper skin that’s smooth and firm. Store in a cool, dry place until ready to use. Sweet potatoes are commonly sold as “yams” but it’s unlikely they’re actually yams.
- Peel & slice sweet potatoes. When you’re ready to make this dish, peel the potatoes and slice into 1/2 inch slices. The thickness of the slices is important because (1) any smaller and the slices will over-cook and (2) any larger and the slices will under-cook. Place potato slices in a large casserole dish and toss with salt.
- Make the sauce. Put all the sauce ingredients into a pot, boil 2 minutes, then stir in vanilla extract. Vanilla extract is a recent (and welcome) addition to our family recipe because it adds SO much flavor. Just wait until you smell the sauce when you stir in that vanilla– you’ll already know you’re making something delicious!
- Pour over sweet potatoes. Pour sauce over potatoes and toss everything together so the sauce evenly coats all the slices.
- Bake for 1 hour. Stop and stir the sweet potatoes every 20 minutes to ensure the sauce caramelizes on each potato.
Buttery Brown Sugar Maple Sauce
These sweet potatoes would be nothing without the magical sauce. A recipe that we’ve been tweaking and perfecting over the years, the combination of ingredients is perfection.
Here are the ingredients you need:
- Butter: Butter is the base of the sauce. (And, honestly, why it’s so good!)
- Water: A few Tablespoons of water help liquify the sauce– it’s too thick without it.
- Brown Sugar: Name a better ingredient suited for sweet potatoes!
- Maple Syrup: Pure maple syrup adds incomparable flavor to this Thanksgiving side dish. The recipe is good without it, but even better with its addition. Skip “breakfast syrup” and reach for pure maple.
- Cinnamon, Nutmeg, & Ginger: This dish includes the season’s favorite warming spices. The ginger adds a bright burst of flavor.
- Vanilla Extract: Again, vanilla extract is a welcome addition. Stir it into the sauce after you remove the pot from heat.
The sauce thins out as it bakes due to the water content in the potatoes, but quickly thickens as it cools. Thick or thin, you’ll want to slurp up this sauce with a straw. Plus, it tastes fantastic with those other Thanksgiving dishes on your plate too! 😉
Finishing Touches for Candied Sweet Potatoes
When I made these candied sweet potatoes earlier this month, I added orange zest to the sauce. This is totally optional, but it added an element of FRESH to the entire dish. Likewise, adding chopped fresh or dried rosemary after the dish bakes is equally refreshing. And to balance out the sweet, I love a sprinkle of sea salt all over the top.
This dish has it all: sweet, salty, fresh, buttery, saucy, soft, and caramelized. It doesn’t get much better than this:
More Favorite Thanksgiving Side Dishes:
- Green Bean Casserole (from scratch)
- Favorite Cranberry Sauce
- Sausage & Apple Stuffing
- Sweet Potato Casserole (crunchy pecan topping!)
- Dinner Rolls
- Cornbread Stuffing
These perfect candied sweet potatoes are soft, buttery, extra saucy, caramelized, and sweet. I especially love this Thanksgiving side dish because you can prepare the elements of this recipe ahead of time AND purchase the ingredients in advance, too.
- 5–6 medium sweet potatoes (3–4 lbs)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick; 115g) unsalted butter
- 3 Tablespoons (45ml) water
- 1/4 cup (60ml) pure maple syrup
- 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- optional: 2 teaspoons orange zest
- optional for garnish: chopped fresh or dried rosemary, sea salt
- Peel then slice the sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch thick slices. Place in a greased 9×13 inch or other 3 quart baking dish. Sprinkle salt on top and toss to coat. I just use nonstick spray to grease.
- Preheat oven to 375°F (191°C).
- Make the sauce: Cut stick of butter in half. (Helps it melt easier.) Combine all the butter, water, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir until the butter has melted. Stop stirring and bring to a gentle boil. Boil for 2 minutes without stirring. Remove sauce from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. (And orange zest, if using.)
- Pour sauce over potatoes and toss to coat.
- Bake for 1 hour, stopping and stirring the sweet potatoes every 20 minutes. After the first 20 minutes, I cover the dish with aluminum foil so the potatoes bake evenly.
- Remove from the oven, sprinkle with rosemary and sea salt (if using), then cool uncovered for 10 minutes before serving. The sauce is thin right out of the oven but thickens as it cools.
- Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Sauce will be thick after refrigeration, but thins out as you warm the leftovers up. Simply warm in the microwave.
- Make ahead tip: You can peel & slice the sweet potatoes 1 day ahead of time. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight. You can prepare the sauce on the stove (step 3) 1-2 days ahead of time. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Reheat on the stove or in the microwave until thin and liquid-y, then continue with step 4. Dish can be frozen up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, then cover with aluminum foil and warm in a 350°F (177°C) oven for 25 minutes or until warm throughout.
Keywords: sweet potato, thanksgiving, side dish