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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.

candied sweet potatoes

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.

candied sweet potatoes in a baking dish

How to Make Candied Sweet Potatoes

Let me quickly break down the steps before leaving you with the recipe.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. Pour over sweet potatoes. Pour sauce over potatoes and toss everything together so the sauce evenly coats all the slices.
  5. Bake for 1 hour. Stop and stir the sweet potatoes every 20 minutes to ensure the sauce caramelizes on each potato.

2 images of peeled sweet potatoes and ingredients for candied sweet potatoes in a saucepan

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:

  1. Butter: Butter is the base of the sauce. (And, honestly, why it’s so good!)
  2. Water: A few Tablespoons of water help liquify the sauce– it’s too thick without it.
  3. Brown Sugar: Name a better ingredient suited for sweet potatoes!
  4. 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.
  5. Cinnamon, Nutmeg, & Ginger: This dish includes the season’s favorite warming spices. The ginger adds a bright burst of flavor.
  6. 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! 😉

pouring brown sugar maple sauce on sweet potatoes and mixing the sauce into the sweet potatoes

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:

candied sweet potatoes

More Favorite Thanksgiving Side Dishes:

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candied sweet potatoes

Candied Sweet Potatoes

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
  • Yield: serves 8-10 1x
  • 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.


  • 56 medium sweet potatoes (34 lbs)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick; 115g) unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons (30ml) 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


  1. 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.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°F (191°C).
  3. 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.)
  4. Pour sauce over potatoes and toss to coat.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.


  1. 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 Questions and Reviews

  1. This recipe was delicious. My sauce though didn’t thicken. Any suggestions? I was also going to ask about slow cooker but read your previous comment. It would be great to free up the oven.

    1. Hi Christy, if you ever try the recipe again, reducing the water down to 1 Tbsp should help the sauce thicken.

      1. Maybe this was mentioned – I didn’t read all 118 comments – but a thought – perhaps you used yams instead of sweet potatoes? I have tried making candied yams but the sauce didn’t thicken. Yams seem to contain more water than real sweet potatoes. Many people think they are interchangeable but I don’t think so. I like yams for just baking – you need less butter! But for candied sweets, I find that the result is much better if I use genuine sweet potatoes . BTW – I love this website!

  2. This recipe looks amazing, as all of yours always do! I’m making it for Thanksgiving. Question on the baking time-I have other dishes that have to go in at 350. Can I cook this at 350 and if so, how much cooking time should I allow? Thank you! Love your site!

    1. Hi Deb, That would likely work but we are unsure exactly how much longer they would take. You can also make this recipe ahead of time and simply reheat before serving (see recipe notes for details).

  3. So delicious and sweet. Made these last week and placed in the freezer to warm for Thanksgiving. I did leave the water out based on several other reviews, but I dont think it would have been runny with the addition of the water . Loved the flavor, and the sweetness was just right to eat along side the savory turkey, gravy and dressing.

  4. Truly awesome recipe! I made this tonight and it turned out really good. I didn’t have any maple syrup on hand but I’ll be sure to pick some up for the next time I make this dish. It’s so simple to make and turned out absolutely delicious! This is a definitely a keeper recipe.

  5. I usually make them using no pulp orange juice, dark brown sugar and honey. I precook the potatoes in the microwave and take out when the sensor states 2 minutes remaining as they are easier to slice. I bake with sauce ahead of time and just need to reheat while the turkey or ham is resting. I have never added any of the other ingredients but will give it a try. They are good just the way I make them but maybe better by adding the rest.

  6. I just made the sauce but accidentally added the vanilla extract with the spices and boiled it for two minutes. Should I add extra vanilla?

  7. My family likes marshmellows. Could I add this to the receipe without doing any damage to the overall flavor??

    1. Hi Barbara, These are very sweet as written and I think adding marshmallow on top would be a little too much. If you want to try it, I would slightly reduce the sugar in the sauce.
      We have not tried adding marshmallows to this sweet potato casserole recipe, although some people do toast marshmallows on top of this recipe instead of the pecan crumble.

  8. From your comment replies, it sounds like these are very sweet. I don’t mind sweet but don’t want them to be overly so. Have you tried other sugar proportions? Do you think reducing the brown sugar to maybe 2/3 of a cup (plus still including maple syrup and all other ingredients at stated volumes) would still work? Or what amount would you recommend?

      1. These candied sweet potatoes are plenty sweet, but that’s why I LOVE them. I added mini marshmellows and pecan pieces, too, although the recipe did not call for them. I will always do that. I Made my first batch for TG, and one week later I’m making another batch for myself and a neighbor. That’s how in love with this recipe I am! Not having to boil the potatoes in advance, and roasting all ingredients in one big casserole made me especially happy. Highly recommended for sweet tooths.

    1. You could also try coconut sugar instead of the brown sugar. It’s a 1:1 sub for brown sugar. I sub most of my recipes with coconut sugar and the carmel flavor is still intact but the glucose is reduced.

    2. Tried this for our Thanksgiving dinner today with one change and it was a hit! I didn’t have pure maple syrup , but raised in Texas, I’ve never been a big fan anyway. I substituted locally produced honey instesd and it tasted great! I also did the orange zest , yum! We will definitely have this again!!!

  9. Just put these in the oven, and ohmygosh that sauce itself is to die for. I can already tell I’m going to sneak a couple bites before Thanksgiving. I didn’t have nutmeg (added an extra 1/4 tsp cinnamon) or brown sugar (used a cup of regular sugar and a tablespoon of molasses). My plan is to just heat them up again in the oven tomorrow so I’m not crunched in time with everything else. Thanks for sharing such a great recipe!

  10. I have cinnamon and nutmeg but no ginger. Can I sub pumpkin pie spice for the ginger? Do I reduce the amount of the other 2 spices? (Not a practiced cook)

    1. Hi Diane, You can either just leave the ginger out or you can try to replace both the ginger and the nutmeg the pumpkin pie spice. Enjoy!

  11. What if i do not have vanilla extract? Can I leave that out of the recipe and use everything else?

    1. Hi Ashley, you can leave it out. The dish is tasty with the vanilla extract, but there’s a lot of other flavors too. It’s fine without it.

  12. Just getting ready to make these…looks wonderful! Do I need to peel the sweet potatoes? I love the nutrition in the skins and would like to keep the skins on…anyone try them without peeling? Appreciate your thougths! thanks

  13. I followed the recipe exactly and served a lovely southern style Thanksgiving side. I lived in Georgia for 8 years and I know authentic when I taste it. No need for extra sugar, marshmallows, oats, crunchy this and sweet that–this recipe allows the sweet potato to shine through with delicate enhancement. My family LOVES this recipe.

  14. Hi, this sounds delicious but I don’t have the maple syrup. I do have Karo or pancake syrup, which would you suggest? Thank you

    1. Hui Mary, 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.

  15. So I just popped these into the oven but noticed that the sauce poured a bit thick and ultimately clumped before I put the potatoes in the oven. There’s a couple of places I could have gone wrong (first time making candied sweet potatoes!) I had to use salted butter since that’s all we had. I did use less salt when sprinkling the potatoes though. I also added the ingredients to the bowl while the pot was on a medium temp, not sure if I should have added the ingredients and then heated the pot…so the mixture was probably hot for 5 minutes before bringing it to a broil. And finally, I accidentally added the vanilla extract before bringing to a boil instead of after. Do you think any of these are the reason why the sauce came out so thick? Also, is there any way to thin it out at this point? My boyfriend suggested adding water but I’m hesitant. Wondering if the sauce will melt more as it’s in the oven.

    1. Hi Nyki, my apologies– I’m just seeing your question/comment now. Mixing in some warm water will definitely help thin it out. (1-2 Tablespoons.) I can’t say exactly what went wrong, but try following the recipe exactly– following each step/instruction precisely– if you try it again.

      1. Hi Sally,

        Thanks! Despite my missteps, they came out delicious! Got compliments all the way around. The sauce thinned out fine after 20 min in the oven. I took them out after 20 minutes, stirred them in the pan to make sure all the potatoes were coated in sauce, covered with aluminum foil and let them bake another 40 minutes. Texture and taste were perfect! Thanks so much fir sharing the recipe!

    1. Hi Jasmine, 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.

  16. These sweet potatoes were outstanding. Sweet and savory with a 1/2 tsp or so of Kosher salt at the end. Great recipe Sally. Delicious!!!

  17. I just made this for Thanksgiving dinner and it came out so good. Everyone is literally asking for more! I will definitely use this recipe again!!

  18. Just made this for first time and it’s amazing!! Way better than the old marshmallow brown sugar staple we used to have!

    If you close your eyes, it’s like biting into the most perfect and warm piece of pumpkin pie ever!

    This is our new mandatory holiday side dish.

  19. Followed recipe exactly but forgot the ginger. Also, as I added the fresh rosemary my wife added a dash of Dead Rabbit Irish whiskey. This was one of the best sides at our thanksgiving dinner, imo. Damn good! Thanks for the recipe! Try the whiskey; about a half ounce.

  20. I made this for Thanksgiving this year as I was looking for a new candied sweet potato recipe. This was a hit with everyone! Some candied sweet potato recipes are very sweet but this one was the perfect balance of a sweet with just a hint of salt. The maple syrup and vanilla make this recipe a stand-out.

    This recipe is a keeper and it will become part of my Thanksgiving all star team. Thanks!

  21. The sweet potatoes were a hit and the best dish on the table. You have the best recipes, always delicious, never fail. Thank you!

  22. I subbed Grand Marnier for water and added some cardamom, and everyone went crazy for it.

  23. Needs much longer to cook then specified in the recipe. Everything ready for dinner except the sweet potatoes. I would precook or soften the sweet potatoes done how before if I ever made again.

  24. I made this recipe for Thanksgiving and my husband and I thought it was perfect. It was easy to prepare and I loved it. I am making it again with meatloaf tonight. I am so excited and again it was easy to prepare. Thank you very much for sharing your recipe.

  25. How would you change the recipe to make a smaller serving size, say for 4 instead of 8-10? Just use about half the amount of everything listed?

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