Whew, these Southern Candied Yams are so good, y’all! Sweet potatoes are cooked until they’re fork-tender in a warmly spiced, buttery, extra saucy + sweet, caramelized glaze. This side dish can be served for a proper Southern dinner and around the holidays like Thanksgiving and more. You’ll love this soul food staple!

southern candied yams in small white bowl with gold fork on the side

Hello there (said in my most best Tabitha Brown voice) …and I’m talking to these candied yams btw, ha. Just kidding, talking to you, too. Friends, I am quite beside myself to share this recipe with you. We’re keeping the Thanksgiving series (wait, series? idk that just came to me) rolling with another must-make stunner for your holiday shenanigans. The coveted, beloved candied yam.

Damn Good Southern Candied Yams 😍

That’s right, I even had to cuss a little, ha! Real talk, ain’t nothing like these beauties. You will love them! Candied yams are sweet potatoes cooked down until meltingly-tender in a delightful sugar syrup that candies them. In this recipe, that sweet syrup is spiced with warm notes like cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger. It’s so fragrant and downright delicious, my goodness.

Peep these other recipes: chicken and waffles, my smothered turkey wings, cozy gnocchi bolognese, this pumpkin alfredo pasta, if you love sp like me, give this sweet potato coffee cake or my sweet potato cinnamon rolls– yasss.

southern candied yams in stainless steel pot

Ingredients Needed For This Recipe

(Note: the full ingredients list, including measurements, is provided in the recipe card directly below.)

  • Sweet potatoes: You’ll need a good amount of sweet potatoes for this recipe. More specifically, I almost exclusively use garnet yams. I also recommend thin, long sweet potatoes as well, but we’ll chat more on that later.
  • Orange juice: Love how a touch of orange juice compliments the flavors and adds a bit of freshness + brightness to the candied yam syrup.
  • Maple syrup: You just gotta have that maple flavor for some extra oomph.
  • Vanilla extract: To compliment the warm flavors and add some fragrance.
  • Cozy spices: Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger= chef’s kiss.
  • Brown sugar: That deep, molasses-laden suga is a must here.
  • Granulated sugar: To provide some balance in our sugary goodness.
  • Butter: Our good ole friend, butter, makes every recipe better! 🧈

⇢ I LOVE how with just a handful of ingredients (plenty of which you likely already have), they transform into these bomb southern candied yams!

ingredients for southern candied yams laid out on beige surface

How To Make Candied Yams (via the stovetop!)

(Note: please see the recipe card directly below for the complete written instructions.)

  1. Prep the yams. Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to peel the skin off the sweet potatoes. Afterwards, grab a sharp knife to slice the sweet potatoes into 1/2-inch-thick rounds and set aside.
  2. Bring ingredients together. In a deep pot over medium heat, add the sweet potatoes, orange juice, maple syrup, vanilla extract, cozy spices, packed brown sugar, granulated sugar, and the cubed butter. Stir the ingredients together until the potatoes are coated well in the mixture.
  3. Slow simmer. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let the yams simmer for 45-50 minutes; or until the yams are fork-tender.
  4. Finish the yams. Increase the heat to medium. Let the syrup come to a boil until the liquid reduces some and the yams are nicely coated and “candied.”
  5. Serve these candied yams immediately while nice and hot. Enjoy!

⇢ Peeps, this recipe is so incredibly easy and super straightforward with a mostly hands-off approach that you will appreciate…and under 1 hour. The *aroma* that will flood your kitchen while these yams are cooking, whew 🙌🏾

Are Yams & Sweet Potatoes The Same Thing?

It’s widely known that the two are often used interchangeably, especially as it relates to this very specific recipe. And so, because words mean things and to give you a bit more context, let’s dive just a little deeper 🤓:

For starters, ⇢ a true yam is not a sweet potato and vice versa. Yup, they are completely different root vegetables and come from different families. Yams (bumpy, brown skin that resembles a tree bark) are starchier, not very sweet, and have a more russet potato-like characteristic. Meanwhile, sweet potatoes (smooth, reddish-brown skin) are, well, sweeter with bright orange flesh.

I know, so confusing. To further complicate things, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires labels with the term “yam” to be accompanied by the term “sweet potato.” Additionally, true yams are a staple of both Caribbean and West African food traditions. Yams are native to the motherland in Africa. The word yam came about because Africans call yams “nyami.” Yams, in African context, have huge cultural and religious significance with it being highly regarded.

Sweet potatoes were referred to as yams (during the trans-Atlantic slave trade) by enslaved Africans because they resembled the tuber that grew in West Africa. Due to these roots’ mix-up and interchangeable association, despite having different identities, that is how candied yams came to be. In both African American and Southern culture, they have always been referred to as such.

Thus, in this post, we’ll refer to candied sweet potatoes as candied yams ♡

closeup of candied yams in small white bowl

FAQs, Tips + Tricks, & More Information:

You may have additional questions about this southern candied yams recipe. Like other BBR recipes, I always recommend sticking to the recipe as it is written in the recipe card, below. However, here’s some extra info:

  • Types of sweet potatoes: I really love garnet yams (and even jewel yams) for nearly any sweet potato-forward recipe. Garnet yams are velvety and have a deeper orange flesh than a standard sweet potato. I usually grab mine from Whole Foods! However, use any sweet potato variety accessible to you.
  • Sweet potato size: For the best candied yams, aim for grabbing sweet potatoes that are thin and long and not thick/fat. That way the yams are easier to peel/cut, they’re more uniform in size, and cook better.
  • Handle with care: Once the yams are tender and done simmering, it’s always best practice to handle them with care. This means avoid overly stirring/handling them because they’ll break apart. If this does happen though, it’s not a big worry as they’ll still be delicious- just a heads up!
  • Make-ahead candied yams?: If you want to make this recipe ahead of time, it can be done. I recommend making these candied yams up to 1 day in advance. Make the recipe as written, let cool completely, and then transfer into an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator. Reheat on the stovetop over low heat until warmed through or in the oven if you’d like.

Can I Make Candied Yams In The Oven?

For that true “candied” vibe, I highly recommend making candied yams on the stovetop, y’all. You can keep a better eye on things, adjust flavors as you’d like, and have an overall better result. ⇢ If you do prefer, you can bring the sauce (everything minus the yams) to a simmer on the stovetop, first. Then arrange the yams in a greased, large baking dish, pour the sauce over them, and toss to coat. Bake at 375°F for about 1 hour or until the yams are fork-tender and nicely coated. If you try baking, I’d love to hear your feedback! 👍🏾

candied yams in stainless steel pot

Mmm, these Southern Candied Yams are almost too scrumptious, y’all. Such a staple side for holiday meals and more. Be sure to tag @butterbeready in your BBR recipe creations, I sure love to see it when you do. Until next time! 🤟🏾

More southern-inspired recipes you might enjoy:

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southern candied yams in small white bowl with gold fork on the side

Damn Good Southern Candied Yams (Stovetop!)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 3 reviews
  • Author: Quin Liburd
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: Side Dishes
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Southern
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Description

Whew, these Southern Candied Yams are so good, y’all! Sweet potatoes are cooked until they’re fork-tender in a warmly spiced, buttery, extra saucy + sweet, caramelized glaze. This side dish can be served for a proper Southern dinner and around the holidays like Thanksgiving and more. You’ll love this soul food staple!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 1/24 lbs sweet potatoes, garnet yams preferred– peeled & then sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds- see notes
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger, optional
  • 1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, cut into cubes

Instructions

  1. Prep the yams. Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to peel the skin off the sweet potatoes. Then use a sharp knife to slice the potatoes into 1/2-inch thick rounds and set aside.
  2. Bring ingredients together. In a deep, medium-sized skillet or pot over medium heat, add the sweet potatoes, orange juice, maple syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger (if using), packed brown sugar, granulated sugar, and half of the cubed butter. Stir the ingredients together until the potatoes are coated well in the mixture. Then add the remaining cubed butter on top and let those pieces nestle into the mixture.
  3. Slow simmer. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let the yams simmer for 45-50 minutes; or until the yams are fork-tender.
  4. Finish the yams. Remove the lid and increase the heat to medium. At this point, when checking on the yams, handle/stir them as little as possible, they will be very tender. I like to use the handle of the skillet/pot to swish them around in the syrup as opposed to stirring to avoid breaking. Let the syrup come to a boil, carefully stirring/swishing every so often, until the liquid reduces some, about 7-10 minutes or until the yams are nicely coated and “candied” to perfection.
  5. Serve these candied yams immediately while nice and hot, they’re best this way. Otherwise, you can transfer the yams into a preheated oven set to 200-250°F to keep warm until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. Sweet potatoes: For the best candied yams, aim for grabbing sweet potatoes that are *thin and long* and not thick/fat. That way the yams are more uniform in size and cook better.
  2. Adjusting syrup sauce: If you find your sauce too thick, you can add water to thin, as needed. Alternatively, to help thicken, you can add a cornstarch slurry (1 tbsp cornstarch + 1 tbsp water, mixed together) while simmering.
  3. For best recipe success, please read the blog post & notes in its entirety with video tutorial before beginning.