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. And if you have extras, try these cinnamon sugar sweet potato fries next!
- 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: 1 Tablespoon of water helps 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 (or try these Brown Butter Sage Dinner Rolls)
- Cornbread Stuffing
- Cranberry Brie Puff Pastry Tarts
Candied Sweet Potatoes
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
- Yield: serves 8-10
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
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
- 1 Tablespoon (15ml) 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
Reader Comments & Reviews
We love a sweet and spicy combo, so I mix some chili oil into the sauce before baking. Yummy!
Reading the reviews and want to try. Can you add marshmallows on top near the end of baking?
Hi Donna, You could but keep in mind that these are very sweet as written and adding marshmallow on top might be a little too much. If you want to try it, we would slightly reduce the sugar in the sauce. Let us know how it goes!
My entire family loves this recipe and I make it often. However, I find slicing the potatoes first and then peeling the rounds is much easier than peeling then slicing. This recipe has just the right amount of sweet, buttery flavor; great recipe!!
The recipe was great! A big hit for my dinner party!
Making this (I hope) for a large group. But there is a dairy allergy. Can I substitute coconut oil?
Hi Lori, we haven’t tested that substitution but it should work just fine. You may lose a bit of flavor. Let us know if you give it a try!
I wanted to use this recipe but didn’t have room in my oven. I had to make version on the stove top. However, I will try this recipe sometime in the future.
This is now my go to recipe. Instead of water, I add 3 tsp/tblsp of good dark rum. I have had no complaints
If I make this the night before, can I bake and it and just simply reheat it the next day or do I have to keep the potatoes and sauce separate until the day of?
Hi Matthew, you can reheat it the next day — see recipe notes for make ahead instructions.
I have a question, I made this and am taking it to a church dinner tomorrow. I noticed the sauce solidifies after it cools. Is this normal or did I do something wrong. will it come back to normal when reheated. Thank You.
Hi Donna, yes, the sauce will be thick after refrigeration, but thins out as you warm it up.
Made for TG. Used dark agave nectar instead of maple syrup and orange juice instead of water and skipped the zest to save a last minute run to the store. Very tasty to all. Really loved baking instead of stovetop to save burner space. Had to bake 1.5 hrs probably because I had two other sides in the oven together. Gonna make for NYE to go with black eyes and cabbage. Its a keeper!
FANTASTIC! Look no further, this is your new recipe for all generations to come. I skipped the water, only used half the sugar (and it was plenty sweet), cut my potato rounds in quarters for easy stirring in the dish. The orange is a must! I didn’t use rosemary. I probably stirred a little more frequently than called for to make sure they all took a dip in the pool of tastiness. It was actually really easy. Thanks again, Sally!
Can you use store bought frozen yam patties instead of fresh cut?
Hi can this be made in the crockpot? I made this recipe and it is absolutely delicious. But now I’m hosting an event at my house and I want to make them again for too many things in the oven lol.
Hi Jenn, we haven’t tried these in a slow cooker so we’re not sure of the result. It shouldn’t be a problem with the slow cooker set on low. You will lose that slight caramelized texture though. Let us know what you try!
I made these for Thanksgiving. I followed the recipe exactly and they were just perfect!
Just like Gramma used to make❤️Thank you for another fabulous recipe!
This was one of the best dishes I’ve ever made this Thanskgiving. This and the Easy Cranberry Sauce. The orange zest is the difference maker. Thanks Sally
Perfect. I omitted the water and they caramelized beautifully. Not too much sauce.
I found this recipe at the last minute. It was a huge hit! Definitely will make it again.
Hi, is there any substitutes I can use for the maple syrup ?
Just more sugar or condensed milk ?
Hi Bets, You can replace with light corn syrup, brown sugar (use 1 and 1/4 cups of brown sugar total), or simply leave it out. The potatoes are pretty sweet as is. You’ll just lose that maple flavor.
I have made these two years in a row for Thanksgiving. I have never ever eaten the sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving, and then was given the task of bringing them when another family member couldn’t. These are by far a family favorite, and there were not leftovers yesterday. Looks like I’m not the “forever sweet potato bringer” from here on out.
I had 4 lbs of sweet potatoes but thought a cup of brown sugar was too much. I halved everything & poured it on. We loved it. My son asked if he could take all the remainder.
Made these for Thanksgiving today! They were absolutely a hit. Only thing I didn’t add was the orange zest but it definitely didn’t need it in my opinion. Loved this recipe and can definitely see me making this for Thanksgivings to come.
I made this for Thanksgiving dinner today in my 6 quart crockpot. I sprinkled the potatoes with 1 Tbs cornstarch and stirred before adding the sauce, cooked on high for 3 hours stirring halfway and it was excellent! Potatoes nice and soft, not mushy. And a perfect coating of glaze, not runny. Thank you, this is a keeper!
Made these for Thanksgiving and my inlaws LOVED them! They even asked for the recipe.
Absolutely delicious!! Will be our new go-to for holiday sweet potatoes. Especially excited because I do not like pumpkin yet love the smell of the pies every Thanksgiving. The spices here satisfy that craving:-) Had everything except fresh rosemary – used a bit of dry and is a nice savory balance but will make sure to get rosemary next time. Even without the fresh rosemary, a winning dish. The orange zest is a must in my opinion, too. 🙂
Great recipe! So glad there’s NO marhmellows!! Love the spices. Thanks.
I halved the recipe and it turned out great. My toddler said, “I eat all of it? Sweet potato?” 🙂 so I’d say they were a hit! Thank you.
Great recipe! So glad there’s NO marhmellows!! Love the spices. Thanks.
Made this for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. The flavor was incredible! I would not change a thing in this recipe and it will be my go-to recipe for all holiday dinners in the future.
Made this for an early thanksgiving dinner and it was a huge hit. Followed recipe exactly but skipped the rosemary garnish. I believe the orange zest helped it stand out. Will make again!
Made this for Thanksgiving dinner 2022. Was a hit! Leftovers enthusiastically eaten and family saying they’ve never had better. Recipe and cooking time perfect as far as I could tell. A little awkward to stir this amount in a 9×13 dish but doable if using that standard size (which I was).
Can I peel and freeze without cooking sweet potatoes ?