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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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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20 Comments

  1. 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 http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=64 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. Kevin E.

    I was wondering how to reheat these potatoes after they are refrigerated. I have a Thanksgiving function at work in about two weeks. It would be very easy to make this recipe the day before and bring the next day. However, would you simply microwave it until fully heated? Would you stir in a bit of water, milk, or something else to rejuvenate the moistness of the potatoes?

    Note from Elise: I would just reheat them in the microwave, and then stir in a little water if needed.

  6. Jeanette

    I make something very similar to this and always make the day before. The next day, I just bring the dish to room temperature and then microwave. I find that this way it heats quicker and you never have to use any extra water etc.

  7. Pamela

    I have been making these sweet potatoes for years…but instead of the lemon juice and orange peel I use about a 1/4 of Triple Sec. My family loves them and requests them every year.

  8. Mercedes

    How are red-skinned sweet potatoes different from other sweet potatoes? My family considers Jewel sweet potatoes the ne-plus-ultra of all varities, and we always make sure to seek them out for the holidays.

  9. Sacha Brady

    Could the sweet potatoes be cut into chunks and boiled until soft instead of the bake-and-scoop method of getting their tender flesh? I am tempted to try this because, after draining the water, I could mash them in the same pot (plus they’d cook more quickly). I’m not sure if baking gives them a fuller flavor, though…?

  10. D. Jain

    This looks delicious! I love your blog.

    My husband does a variation of this based on the Delhi street food he grew up with: mashed sweet potatoes with a little butter, lime juice to taste, and chaat masala. We serve it on Thanksgiving day to add an Indian twist to our typical Thanksgiving fare.

  11. BETH

    I made for thanksgiving, thinking they would be quick. I made them the night before, they were quick, but also fantastic. Nice fresh flavor not too sweet. Thanks

  12. Vikki

    Hello Elise,

    After making ahead, could you put these in a crock pot the day of to warm up and keep buffet style?

    Great idea, I don’t see why not. It’s almost impossible to overcook these. ~Elise

  13. Leisureguy

    As more exotic foods appear in local markets, perhaps the tropical yam will make its appearance, giving a new impetus to using “yam” only for the tropical vegetable.

    Our own family loves a recipe for bourbon sweet potatoes.

  14. Sadie

    I would love to try this with garam masala :)

  15. Louisiana Lillianne

    The Louisiana yam is an exceptional type of sweet potato bred to have a soft, moist flesh, to be sweet and flavorful and very high in beta-carotene or vitamin A value. The successful golden yams are the product of extensive research programs conducted by Experiment Station scientists of the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center.
    Yams have been part of the landscape of Louisiana for more than 200 years, but it was not until 1937 that they began to be marketed nationally.
    Much of the creation of the Louisiana yam industry can be credited to an outstanding scientist, the late Dr. Julian C. Miller, and his colleagues in the horticulture department of Louisiana State University. They chose to call this moist-flesh sweet potato the Louisiana yam to distinguish it from the many other sweet potato varieties grown
    elsewhere at that time.

    Thought I would throw in my two cents’ worth.

  16. Liliana

    Hello and thanks for posting all these amazing recipes. Sorry, last year I didn’t leave a comment, but today I will. Last year I made this recipe and everyone loved it, I’m going to repeat it again because it is totally worth it.
    Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  17. Autumn

    This is by far the best sweet potatoes I’ve ever had. I was just going to by the stuff that comes in the container and stick in the oven… then I saw this recipe and thought it sounded really good. With Sweet potatoes only 18c a pound, I was sold. This was so easy to make, the scraping from the skin was a little messy, but I got it done all right. I will be making this for every holiday and even just to go with a regular meal. Thank-you so much! I will never go with store bought ever again!!

  18. ~M

    This recipe sounds great; I love those spices and zest and garnet sweet potatoes!

    In my experience, you only need to pierce sweet potatoes (or regular ones) when microwaving; not when baking/roasting or crockpotting. I usually wash, let dry on paper towel, wrap in foil, and cook in the crockpot on 6 or so hours on high. No water is needed and they turn out super sweet and moist…almost creamy.

  19. ~M

    Yikes, I just found out that I have to make this dairy-free. Any ideas for subs for the butter? Leave it out? Coconut milk or coconut oil? Thanks!

  20. Stephanie

    Made these tonight with dinner. Great recipes! I’m truly loving this site!

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