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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: 1 Tablespoon of water helps 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 810 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 56 medium sweet potatoes (34 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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

  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. 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!

    1. 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).

  2. 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.

    1. Great recipe! So glad there’s NO marhmellows!! Love the spices. Thanks.

  3. Great recipe! So glad there’s NO marhmellows!! Love the spices. Thanks.

  4. 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. 🙂

  5. Made these for Thanksgiving and my inlaws LOVED them! They even asked for the recipe.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Hi, is there any substitutes I can use for the maple syrup ?
    Just more sugar or condensed milk ?

    1. 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.

  11. I found this recipe at the last minute. It was a huge hit! Definitely will make it again.

  12. Perfect. I omitted the water and they caramelized beautifully. Not too much sauce.

  13. 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

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