One of my favorite Thanksgiving side dishes is a classic. Yams are cooked in a sweet brown sugar glaze until they become dark and soak up the reduced sugar butter mixture. This dish is Candied Yams and I'm sure it will soon be on your table this upcoming holiday season.
What makes this candied?
While you aren't making true candy, this recipe will both sweeten and enhance the flavors in the yams. While cooking, yams will naturally become sweeter as they break down in the cooking process. In this recipe, the addition of sugar and butter will create a glaze on the yams and reduce down to a sweetened syrup at the bottom of the dish. This is where the term candied comes from for this dish.
What is the difference between yams and sweet potatoes?
Yams and sweet potatoes are two completely different vegetables. Though they are used almost interchangeably in american cooking, sweet potatoes are distinguished by their orange color while yams in america are usually white. The skin of a sweet potato is generally smooth and thin, while the skin of yams is thick and hairy. This article from Taste of Home does a good job at explaining the differences as well as the historical context of calling sweet potatoes yams.
"Back in pre-Civil War America, grocers typically only sold white-fleshed sweet potatoes. When the orange variety was introduced into the market, sellers wanted to distinguish the new species from the old. Instead of explaining how the two sweet potatoes were actually varieties of the same plant, producers and shippers began calling the orange ones “yams,” after the African word nyami meaning “to eat.” - Taste of Home
When to serve candied yams
This dish is typically served as a side dish during the holiday season, usually during Thanksgiving or Christmas. This recipe can be served any time of year, though is probably not an ideal weeknight dish due to its longer cook time.
- ½ Cup Dark Brown Sugar
- ½ Cup Orange Juice
- 3 Tbsp Butter
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- ¼ Tsp Ground Nutmeg
- ¼ Tsp Salt
- 3 Pounds Sweet Potatoes peeled and sliced
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a medium sized baking dish and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, orange juice, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes or until sauce has slightly thickened. Discard cinnamon stick.
- Layer sweet potatoes in a baking dish. Pour sauce over the potatoes. Cover with aluminum foil and cook covered for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook for 50 minutes, basting the sauce over the sweet potatoes every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool before serving. Serve and enjoy!