Holiday Spiced Sweet Potatoes (Yams)

Mashed sweet potatoes or garnet yams can always be found on our holiday or Thanksgiving table. Most often we make a double or triple recipe because everyone wants the leftovers! Usually we just bake them, scrape out the insides, and mash with some butter and brown sugar.

Here’s the thing with sweet potatoes, they pair beautifully with oranges and holiday spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. My father first came upon this idea in an old issue of Bon Appetit. The recipe includes grated orange peel, lemon juice, and the spices you would normally find in hot mulled cider.

The spices give the yams a wonderfully festive holiday accent.

Holiday Spiced Sweet Potatoes (Yams) Recipe

  • Prep time: 2 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings.

You can easily make this recipe a day or two ahead and reheat right before serving.

If you don't have a fresh orange for the rind, you can stir in a little orange juice instead.



  • 3 pounds (about 6 medium sized) red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg


1 Preheat oven to 400°F. Pierce the sweet potatoes all over with the tines of a fork (this is to help release pressure as the potato cooks). Put the potatoes in a roasting pan or thick, rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the sweet potatoes are completely tender, about 50 minutes to an hour or more. Remove from oven and let sit until cool enough to touch.

2 Cut the sweet potatoes lengthwise and scoop out the insides into a large bowl. Stir in the brown sugar, butter, lemon juice, orange peel, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Use an electric mixer (or by hand with strong arms) to beat until the sweet potatoes are completely smooth.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Showing 4 of 22 Comments

  • Tara

    Hi Elise,

    I just LOVE your blog! Thanks for being so dedicated to it and keeping it fresh!

    Since you often talk about the history of a food, or lesser known facts about recipes and ingredients, I thought you may be interested in this site about sweet potatoes and how they are often mistakenly called yams. In fact, “yams” are very seldom ever seen in North America.

    Here is an excerpt from this site…

    “The moist-fleshed, orange-colored root vegetable that is often thought of as a “yam” is actually a sweet potato. It was given this name after this variety of sweet potato was introduced into the United States in the mid-20th century in order to distinguish it from the white-fleshed sweet potato to which most people were accustomed. The name “yam” was adopted from “nyami”, the African word for the root of the Dioscoreae genus of plants that are considered true yams. While there are attempts to distinguish between the two, such as the mandatory labeling by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that the moist-fleshed, orange-colored sweet potatoes that are labeled as “yams” also be accompanied by the label “sweet potato,” when most people hear the term “yam” they usually think of the orange-colored sweet potato as opposed to the true yam, the traditional Dioscoreae family root vegetable.”

    How’s that for a tid-bit?

    Thanks for doing what you do, Elise!

  • Elise

    Hi Tara – yes, I do remember reading that when I was researching yams last year. Given how that the two names – Yams and Sweet Potatoes – have become almost interchangeable in popular use, I suspect that someday it will become officially okay to use both names for the same tuber, regardless of the true origin of the Yam.

  • Lydia

    Tried the sweet potatoes today and everyone loved them. Thanks! I can always count on you for a recipe when needed… Someone else was going to make the sweet potatoes and when they didn’t, I needed an easy GOOD recipe. This was perfect.

  • Dee

    This sounds great and I plan on having 13 for dinner over the holidays. When you say ‘can be prepared a day ahead’ how do you suggest the best way to reheat them is? In the microwave?

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