Candied Yams

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Please welcome Hank Shaw as he shares his mom’s favorite way of preparing garnet sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. ~Elise

Candied yams have always been something of a mystery to me. Growing up, we only ever ate them on Thanksgiving, which was strange because they are such a perfect kid food: sweet, rich and tangy from the orange juice. And even on Thanksgiving, its sweetness was befuddling.

Candied yams are like a little preview of dessert, a treat for the sweet tooth before the serious business of pies and ice creams begin in earnest.

As an adult, I now realize that candied yams properly occupy the middle position between the mashed potatoes and the cranberry sauce. Potatoes are starchy and rich with butter and cream, while the cranberry sauce is sweet and intensely tart. The yams borrow from each and by so doing bind the traditional Thanksgiving plate together.

Know that with a dish so classic as candied yams, there are as many ways to make it as there are cooks. This is how we made them at our house when I was growing up.

Candied Yams Recipe

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  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6-8 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds garnet or ruby sweet potatoes (yams), peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Salt
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1-1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 Tbsp butter

Method

1 Place the cut sweet potatoes in a pot and cover with a couple inches of cold water. Bring to a boil and add a generous pinch of salt.

candied-yams-method-1

Boil the sweet potatoes for 5-10 minutes, or until you can just pierce them with the tines of a fork, but not fully cooked (you will continue to cook in the next step). Drain and set aside.

2 Mix the remaining ingredients (orange juice, brown sugar, ground ginger, cinnamon, butter) in a shallow, wide sauté pan and bring to a boil on high heat. Add the sweet potatoes and coat well with the sauce.

candied-yams-method-2 candied-yams-method-3

Boil on high heat until the sauce reduces to a syrup, about 10 minutes. Serve hot.

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Hank Shaw

A former restaurant cook and journalist, Hank Shaw is the author of three wild game cookbooks as well as the James Beard Award-winning wild foods website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. His latest cookbook is Buck, Buck, Moose, a guide to working with venison. He hunts, fishes, forages and cooks near Sacramento, CA.

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Candied Yams

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Showing 4 of 30 Comments

  • old school cook

    Traditionally we use carnation milk as the liquid instead of O.J. the juice has a more citrus taste to the potatoes when you want more of a sweet creamy

  • Mark

    All you really need is butter and brown sugar. If you want, the “eggnog spices” work well with this…allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon. With the ginger and orange juice, it’s starting to sound like General Tsao’s sweet potatoes. I can see the ginger but I would not have thought to try orange juice. I might try a touch of peanut butter but like I said, butter and brown sugar is all you need. You could also do orange zest instead of the juice.

  • trevor

    I would cut the orange juice by a cup and maybe add a cup of water or apple juice.

  • Susie

    I make a similar version of this recipe!!!!!! I bake the sweet potatoes instead of boiling them, and i use orange juice frozen concentrate to make it more syrupy (no water) and a little butter, and pour it over the potatoes, sprinkle some chunky pecan pieces on top and bake it for about 15 minutes! BUT the point is the orange juice flavor really makes this recipe regardless of the how its made!!!!! i will be saving your recipe and continue peruse your site!! p.s. i came to your site for the Pozole recipe which I will trying soon!

  • Julian

    There are two types of brown sugar, the recipe should articulate which was used.

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