Spiced Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Mashed sweet potatoes (or yams, if that's what you call them) with butter, brown sugar, and holiday spices. A perfect side dish recipe for Thanksgiving!

Holiday Spiced Sweet Potatoes recipe

Simply Recipes / Elise Bauer

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.

Holiday Spiced Sweet Potatoes with cinnamon and nutmeg

Simply Recipes / Elise Bauer

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. We've reduced the sugar from the original recipe, and added some salt and pepper.

The spices give the yams a wonderfully festive holiday accent!

The Difference Between Sweet Potatoes and Yams

Sweet potatoes and yams are not the same root vegetable and are not interchangeable in recipes. Real yams aren't often found in U.S. supermarkets, but sweet potatoes abound.

Why do we call sweet potatoes yams?

Somewhere around the 1930s, Louisiana sweet potato growers began marketing their sweet potatoes as yams to make them stand out from other sweet potatoes. Growers probably chose the name because the two tubers were already confused. Yams are an important food in Africa, and slave traders used sweet potatoes as food for their captives. Enslaved Africans called them yams since they looked similar to the food they knew. People interchanged the terms for centuries before growers marketed sweet potatoes as yams.

More Classic Thanksgiving Side Dishes

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Spiced Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Prep Time 8 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Total Time 58 mins
Servings 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 zest, you can stir in a little orange juice instead.


  • 3 to 4 pounds red-fleshed sweet potatoes (yams)

  • 1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar

  • 4 tablespoons butter

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 2 teaspoons orange zest

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven:

    Preheat oven to 400°F.

  2. Bake the sweet potatoes:

    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 on a foil-lined 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.

    Piercing sweet potatoes to bake for mashed sweet potatoes

    Simply Recipes / Elise Bauer

    cooked sweet potatoes peeled and added to a bowl

    Simply Recipes / Elise Bauer

  3. Remove the cooked sweet potato flesh from the skins:

    Cut the sweet potatoes lengthwise and scoop out the insides into a large bowl.

  4. Mix with brown sugar, butter, lemon juice, orange zest, spices:

    Stir in the brown sugar, butter, lemon juice, orange peel, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.

    Use an electric mixer (or by hand with strong arms) to beat the sweet potatoes until they are completely smooth.

    Sprinkle with a little ground black pepper to taste. Then taste! (But don't eat them all, even though you will be tempted.)

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
280 Calories
6g Fat
53g Carbs
5g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 280
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 8%
Saturated Fat 4g 19%
Cholesterol 15mg 5%
Sodium 208mg 9%
Total Carbohydrate 53g 19%
Dietary Fiber 8g 28%
Total Sugars 20g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 45mg 227%
Calcium 98mg 8%
Iron 2mg 9%
Potassium 1096mg 23%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.