Baked Candied Yams

By Jeri Mobley-Arias
November 20, 2023 | Updated on November 23, 2023

The best candied yams are smothered in a brown sugar glaze and then baked until perfectly tender. This classic holiday side dish is Southern-inspired and a soul food staple so grab a bowl while it’s hot!

Looking for more holiday side dish recipes? Check out my recipe for the Best Mashed Potatoes, Baked Mac and Cheese, and Cornbread with Honey Butter.

close up view on a bowl of candy yams

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Baked candied yams are one of my favorite Thanksgiving sides. Leave the canned candied yams on the grocery store shelf because homemade tastes so much better!

A passed down from my dad, this candied yams recipe from scratch results in fork-tender sweet potatoes glazed in sticky, sweet sauce. They are rich, sweet, and made with a dash of vanilla so they nearly taste like dessert. It’s decadent enough for the holidays but easy enough that you’ll want to make it year-round!

Why This Recipe Works

  • Easy Prep With less than 15 minutes of prep work, it couldn’t be easier to make candied yams in the oven. Slice sweet potatoes, whip up your glaze, and bake for about 45 minutes.
  • Ultimate Holiday Side – Although I love candy yams for Thanksgiving, enjoy them during Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, summer cookouts, and more!
  • Absolutely Delicious – Sweet potatoes are coated in a caramelized glaze. The natural sweetness of the root vegetable, the warm spices in the glaze, and the brown sugar all combine to create a mouthwatering medley of flavor no one can resist.
close up view of candied sweet potatoes

What are Candied Yams?

Candied yams, also known as candy yams, are slow-cooked chunks of sweet potatoes coated in brown sugar glaze. This dish is a staple in Southern cuisine. However, they aren’t actually made with yams but sweet potatoes.

Why are Candied Yams Made with Sweet Potatoes?

Yams are not readily available in the United States (they are native to Africa and Asia) so most yams recipes are made with sweet potatoes. Don’t believe me? Read the label on a can of yams and you’ll see that the main ingredient is sweet potatoes.

So when someone refers to candied yams (and they live in the States) they are most likely referring to candied sweet potatoes.

Yams vs Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are often used as a substitute for yams because they are both root vegetables that can be prepared similarly. However, yams are dry and starchy with white flesh, while the most common varieties of sweet potatoes are soft, and sweet, with bright orange flesh.

a bowl of candied yams

Tools You’ll Need

Candied Yams Ingredients

If you want to eat well on a budget, sweet potatoes are an affordable side to bring to a Friendsgiving or potluck. The ingredients list is full of pantry staples and sweet potatoes themselves are cheap and easy to find.

  • Sweet potato – Smaller sweet potatoes work best for this recipe. They take less time to peel and slice. Large sweet potatoes tend to be tougher and not as sweet. Cut them into ½-inch thick pieces.
  • Brown sugar – This is a must when baking candy yams. The rich, caramel-like taste it imparts is the main flavor component in this recipe.
  • Salted butter – This enriches the glaze and gives it that buttery quality.
  • Maple syrup – This gives the sauce a sticky consistency and adds natural sweetness and more depth.
  • Ground Spices – Use cinnamon and nutmeg for a warm, cozy quality.
  • Kosher salt – Use some Diamond Crystal to balance the sweetness.
  • Whole cloves – Cloves are sweet and savory with a subtle bitterness. They give the flavor of the dish more dimension. A little goes a long way.
  • Pure vanilla extract – This complements the sweet ingredients. I use Nielson Massey.
sliced raw sweet potato wedges in a baking dish

How To Make Candied Yams

This candied yam recipe comes together in 4 simple steps.

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a small saucepan add brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, maple syrup. Cook over medium heat until butter melts and the mixture comes together. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
ingredients for candied yams glaze

3. Place sweet potatoes in a prepared 8×11 baking dish (it’s okay if some sweet potatoes overlap). Pour the butter and sugar mixture over the sweet potatoes, using a spatula to spread the mixture over the yams.

4. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and baste the sauce over the yams. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until deeply orange and tender when pierced with a fork, basting again after the 5-minute mark. Serve and enjoy. Sauce will thicken as it cools.

Tips and Tricks

  • Slice the sweet potatoes uniformly so they cook at an even rate.
  • Keep the sweet potatoes covered for the first 25 minutes of cooking. This prevents the dish from browning too fast. Remove the foil during the last 20 minutes so the liquid can reduce and the sauce can caramelize.
  • Do not overcook the sweet potatoes. You want them to easily be able to insert a fork into them but they shouldn’t be mushy. We aren’t making mashed sweet potatoes.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat individual servings in the microwave. If you are reheating larger servings (or the whole dish) warm them up in the oven at 350°F for about 20 minutes.
candied sweet potatoes just in a dish just before baking

Variations

  • Marshmallows – When you remove the foil, you can top the partially cooked sweet potatoes with mini marshmallows. Set it to broil for 1-2 minutes at the very end for a browned top. If you add marshmallows, serve this dish straight out of the oven for the best results.
  • Nuts – Try adding chopped pecans or walnuts.
close up view of baked candied yams

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between candied yams and sweet potatoes?

Although the two terms are used interchangeably, they are two different kinds of root vegetables. True yams are starchy tubers with rough, scaly skin and white or purple flesh, while sweet potatoes have thinner skin and come in various colors, including orange, purple, and white. Yams have more calories and aren’t nearly as sweet.

Can I use canned sweet potatoes to make candied yams?

You can but fresh sweet potatoes provide the best flavor and texture.

Should I boil my yams before baking?

You do not need to boil yams before baking them. With this candied yams recipe, the sweet potatoes get perfectly tender without that extra step.

How long does it take to bake sweet potatoes at 350?

It takes about 50-60 minutes to bake sweet potatoes at 350°F.

Can you make candied yams ahead of time?

Yes. Simply go through steps 2 and 3, cover with foil and place in the refrigerator. The next day, remove the yams from the refrigerator 45 minutes before baking. Bake and enjoy.

candied yams in a baking dish

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close up view on a bowl of candy yams

Baked Candied Yams

5 from 2 votes
The best candied yams are smothered in a brown sugar glaze and then baked until perfectly tender. This classic holiday side dish is Southern-inspired and a soul food staple so grab a bowl while it's hot!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Jeri Mobley-Arias
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American

Equipment

  • Small saucepan
  • 8×11 baking dish,
  • Aluminum Foil

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds sweet potato, cut into ½-inch thick pieces
  • cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • tablepsoons maple syrup
  • teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, Diamond Crystal
  • 6 whole cloves
  • teaspoons pure vanilla extract, I use Nielson Massey

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a small saucepan add brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, maple syrup. Cook over medium heat until butter melts and the mixture comes together. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
  • Place sweet potatoes in a prepared 8×11 baking dish (it's okay if some sweet potatoes overlap). Pour the butter and sugar mixture over the sweet potatoes, using a spatula to spread the mixture over the yams.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and baste the sauce over the yams. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until deeply orange and tender when pierced with a fork, basting again after the 5-minute mark. Serve and enjoy. Sauce will thicken as it cools.
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close up view on a bowl of candy yams

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4 Comments

  1. Tresha says...

    5 stars
    I made this recipe minus the cloves. I’ve been looking for the perfect candied yam recipe and this is it! I couldn’t resist adding marshmallows on top at the end.

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jeri-mobley

Hey, I'm Jeri!

At Whisper of Yum, we explore ALL cuisines - comfort foods, classics, elevated originals. If you love food like me, I invite you to settle in to this place, where swoon-worthy food is attainable + inspo for your next meal awaits.

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