Candied Yams

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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! If you have a favorite way to make candied yams, please let us know about it in the comments.

Candied Yams Recipe

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  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 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 Boil the sweet potatoes 5 to 10 min: 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.

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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 Simmer remaining ingredients: 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.

3 Add sweet potatoes, cook until sauce reduces to a syrup: Add the sweet potatoes and coat well with the sauce. 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.

More from Hank

Candied Yams

Showing 4 of 32 Comments

  • Karen

    I made these last year and followed the receipt to a T, and to be honest, 2 cups of OJ was way too much and they tasted more like orange juice than candied yams. Everyone complained, lol, and said what did you do to the candied yams this year? I would try this again with 1 cup of OJ and a bit more brown sugar perhaps.

  • Kate

    Bless you for including orange juice and not adding marshmallows. This is how candied yams should be made!

  • 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.

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