How to Make Candied Yams
We're sweet on these tubers.
Candied yams are as sweet as dessert, but on Thanksgiving they become a featured side dish during the main meal. The traditional version makes sweet potatoes even sweeter and adds in the fall spices we love. It's easy to make on the stovetop, freeing up much-needed space in the oven on a holiday when we are often starving for it! Read on for a classic version, a lighter version and a fun adaptation you'll find in the Food Network Kitchen app.
The classic version
The classic version takes less than an hour to whip up and should serve 8. You'll start with 4 pounds of sweet potatoes (that's about 8 medium potatoes), peeled. You'll cut the sweet potatoes crosswise so they're about 1 inch thick. Halve or quarter any extra-large pieces so they'll all be similar in size and cook more evenly. Set the sweet potatoes aside. Next, melt butter over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. While the butter is melting, combine dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, pumpkin pie spice and salt in a small bowl. Add the sugar mixture to the melted butter in the Dutch oven, whisking until it becomes a paste. Then, add in the sweet potatoes, stirring well and spooning the mixture over the potatoes so that they are evenly coated.
Next, put the lid on the Dutch oven and cook the sweet potatoes, stirring occasionally but taking care to not break up the potatoes. You'll know they're ready when the potatoes are just tender (pierce them with the top of a knife) and the sauce has turned to a thin syrup. It should take around 25 to 30 minutes.
While the potatoes are cooking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread pecans on a baking sheet and toast until dark brown (looking for that delicious warm-nut smell) for about 8 minutes. Season the pecans with some salt while warm. Once they are cooled completely, coarsely chop them.
Transfer the sweet potatoes and sauce to a serving dish, top with pecans and serve.
A healthier version
We all know that with the deliciousness of the candied yams come a few extra calories. This version lightens them up in a big way. It's a detour from the classic but still offers that great sweet potato flavor plus sweetness and spice. You'll boil these sweet potatoes. While they're boiling, you'll mix together some Greek yogurt and maple syrup. You'll then put the cooked and drained potatoes in a food processor with most of the maple syrup-yogurt mixture, plus brown sugar, butter and cinnamon, and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and top with the rest of the maple-yogurt mixture.
Put your own twist on it
The great thing about Thanksgiving traditions is that there is no right or wrong way to observe them. Over the years different families and chefs have put their own twists on the traditional sweet potato dish. For instance, this version skips the pecans and instead adds a gingersnap crunch on top.
Chef Tim Hollingsworth of Otium in Los Angeles cooks his sweet potatoes like baked potatoes but first peels the skin, slices them open and adds brown sugar before baking. Once they're baked he adds candied pecans or brown-butter pecans with marshmallows and blowtorches the topping for caramelization. Chef David Nayfeld, chef-owner of Che Fico and Che Fico Alimentari in San Francisco, makes a few swaps to tweak the traditional version. Instead of brown or granulated sugar, he uses honey, and adds hazelnuts and a gremolata of fresh herbs, lemon zest and garlic.
On the Food Network Kitchen app, legendary Chicago chef Paul Kahan makes Caramelized Garnet Yams with Garam Masala (pictured), a dish he says you could call twice-baked yams, with the bonus of warming spices. You can find Paul's 11-minute recipe in an on-demand class on the all-new Food Network Kitchen app. Sign up and right now you'll get a 90-day free trial. You’ll be able to drop in to classes and learn some fun new dishes for your Thanksgiving dinner.