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.
- 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
This is very similar to my own recipe that I’ve been using for years except I always add canned pineapple cubes in water that I drain first and then mix a bit of the liquid with a little orange juice instead of the orange zest to add to the other ingredients along with a handful of raisins. I also use a small amount of honey and molasses for the sauce and don’t slice my sweet potatoes, it’s less messy to just cut them in half and pour everything on top before I put them in the oven. I make them a day ahead for Thanksgiving so they have a chance to mellow plus it saves time, I do this with my stuffing too and find that I don’t have to juggle things so much between cooking the turkey, mashed potatoes and veggies!
Do I cover them the whole time while they are baking?
Hi Nikki! See step 5 – bake for 20 minutes uncovered, then add foil to prevent too much browning.
Sally, I was wondering if I could bake these in an elctric frying pan (the one with the temperature control know)? Oven space on Thanksgiving is a premium and I need a different way to cook the sweet poratoes. Thank you
Hi Susan, we haven’t tested this recipe that way, but you can certainly give it a go. You might lose the slight caramelization of the potatoes. Let us know if you give it a try!
If I make this dish at 325 degrees do you think it will still be successful? If yes, then how much more time should I allow for cooking it?
Absolutely, it will just take longer. I’m unsure of the exact time since I bake it at a higher temperature. I would say at least 1 hour, 20 minutes.
I’ve made this recipe for 3 years in a row and it hits every time!! So delicious and the only way i’ll have sweet potatoes during Thanksgiving.
Note: I have made these vegan before by replacing the butter with Miyoko’s Vegan Butter (Unsalted) and it also works just as well!! People can’t believe that it’s vegan 🙂
Making the sauce with real ginger. How much should I use?
Hi Stephanie, I would add 1/2 teaspoon grated or finely minced fresh ginger. It has such a sharp flavor, so start with that. Taste the sauce, and then add more if desired.
Have you ever doubled this recipe?
I haven’t, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work.
Can these sweet potatoes be made in a crock pot and if so, for his long? Thank you.
Hi Vanessa, We haven’t tried these in a crock pot so we are unsure of the result. It shouldn’t be a problem with the crock pot set on low. You will lose that slight caramelized texture though.
Is there a way I can use an electric fry pan? All ovens will be full! I was thinking of making the sauce in electric fry pan, eliminate water, then add sliced sweet potatoes.
Hi Karen, we haven’t tested this recipe that way, however it is a great dish to make ahead! See recipe Notes for details.
Sally… just wondering…
Buns in my Oven has the exact recipe…same person? Relation? Who’s recipe is it? I obviously pinned both not knowing till I was choosing which one to make!
Hi Michele! I’m unsure, but this recipe is from my mother! (Who is not Karly from Buns in my Oven!) Hers looks very slightly different. I hope you enjoy the recipe if you try it!
If you do it right there will not be any leftovers. Your guests will lick the dish clean. During the final twenty minutes in the oven I add some pre-cooked ham. It works for me. Ham and candied sweets, Yum Yum, good for me.
Question – would I be able to cook this at 350 degrees for a longer time? I want to cook this for thanksgiving and want to maximize my time and cook it at the same time as my corn pudding. Thanks!
That shouldn’t be a problem! Other readers have even reported success cooking these sweet potatoes in a slow cooker.
Can I use regular syrup
Hi Lagene, avoid breakfast syrup for this recipe. It is much thinner and the flavor won’t be quite the same without the richness of pure maple syrup.
I’m worried the syrup will be too thin. I like them thick. I’m going to try making them without the water and hope the syrup thickens.
I made these last night and they were in incredible! I followed the recipe exactly; I didn’t add the optional orange zest. My husband and I both loved them! I plan to make them again for our Thanksgiving get together. Thanks for sharing!
I added a little bourbon with the Vanilla. I grow two bushels of sweet potatoes every year, give half away, and it is April and I’ve still got a lot. Making your recipe tonight, thank you.
Skip the water, sugar is hydroscopic and draws plenty water from the potatoes. For an even thicker sauce, because even without the added water it’s kind of thin, I pull the potatoes out and cook the sauce to syrup stage (a bit below soft ball) then redress the potatoes with the syrup.
This are AMAZING over marshmallow flavoured ice cream.
I made this in a crockpot and added 1/4 c. Orange juice. It turned out great!
How long in the crockpot and at what setting, please?
I made this once and loved it. Now I want to know how to do it in a crockpot. 🙂
Made this for Sunday dinner. Super easy and so good. It’s a keeper.
Our favorite sweet potato recipe! Adding rosemary, orange zest, and even some fresh orange juice, are a must!!!!
The sauce is great. I’m definitely going to keep this recipe.
I have made these sweet potatoes before and oh my goodness this is by far my favorite. I will be making these tomorrow for Christmas. Thanks for this amazing recipe I will never go back to making them the way I use to for sure!
I know right.
The texture of these sweet potatoes is so perfect – the butter in the sauce makes them very moist! I like how the slices are thick and the sauce is thin, so it’s a sweet coating but not overbearing the flavor of the potatoes.
I make sweet potatoes every year and they are good, but these are amazing. So much so that I made them 3 nights in a row. Everyone wanted the leftovers to take. Thanks for a great recipe. This one is a keeper.
Excellent recipe, thank you! Some family members really enjoy these with holiday meals and I was asked to make them along with the standard mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving this year so I did. They aren’t used to vanilla on candied potatoes and I thought it would taste too much like dessert so I left it out and they were a huge hit. What they didn’t know while they were eating them is that I substituted 2/3 cup of Swerve Brown Sugar for the regular since some of us have health issues and expressed concern about so much sugar consumption of other foods on the holiday table (cranberry sauce and desserts). I told everyone after the meal and they were grateful (and surprised). Swerve Brown Sugar is really an amazing product; it’s all natural and has no weird aftertaste or digestive upset. I also used Swerve Powdered Sugar in the cranberry sauce and it was also a hit. So nice to be able to enjoy the sweet things even when life throws you health challenges. Next time I might try adding a little thyme or rosemary, which may not go over because there are several who do not like specific herbs/spices but I love them all.
Thanks for sharing this recipe, everyone loved it. I’ve made it several times now. I don’t put the rosemary because some don’t like it. I do add pecans though.
Making for Thanksgiving. Do I cover potatoes when baking? Thank you and have a happy, happy Thanksgiving!
I usually do. After the first 20 minutes, I cover the dish with aluminum foil so the potatoes bake evenly.
I really enjoyed this. The orange zest & vanilla are a “must”. Next time I would try less water.
This is easy to make. I like it that the sauce can be made ahead of time. I liked the freezing information.
Thank you for the recipe, Sally. I will be adding this to my regular Thanksgiving dinner.
Easy and super tasty! First time making candied sweet potatoes. My only note is that when taking the dish out to stir it, it felt really awkward due to the large sliced pieces, and it was difficult not splashing boiling hot sugar liquid on myself. I wished I had cut them into smaller pieces.
My family always 1/8 wedges out of the potatoes rather than the slices, I plan to continue that with the same recipe. Really easy to fit into a 9×13 and really good for texture and plating.
Was eager to make this but was very disappointed. I followed it exactly and ended up by adding orange juice and a lot more sugar and butter and I still found it lacking. Will not make again
Everyone loved this recipe, I was a little scared that no one would eat them! They loved them!
Thanks Sally for the awesome recipe! It’s the first year I didn’t add molasses to sweet potatoes and WOW they were great!
Everyone enjoyed this recipe. Even ones that don’t eat sweet potatoes loved them. Yummy!
“Wow, great job auntie”.
Best sweet potatoes ever tasted by everyone at the table!
Wondering if I can make this sweet potato recipe a week ahead and freeze it. Also how would you reheat it.
Hi Roberta, yes, you can make this recipe ahead of time and freeze it. See recipe Notes for thawing and reheating directions. Enjoy!
Wondering if I could add canned sliced peaches drained during baking
Hi Carole, we haven’t tested it ourselves, but you could try. If possible, we’d recommend using fresh peaches, as canned peaches tend to have added sugars that could change the overall taste of the recipe.