Holiday cooking adventures: Decadent candied sweet potatoes


Warning: This is not a healthy recipe.  Don’t fool yourself because it has sweet potatoes in it, because they are embellished with butter, brown sugar and maple syrup. Yes, you can use butter and brown sugar substitutes and sugar free maple syrup. But I chose not to.

Several weeks ago, I posted a recipe for candied sweet potatoes. It was not bad. It was low in fat, lower in sugar than must recipes like this one, and it fits into a healthy diet.

But just for Christmas, I wanted the real thing. My sister, Linda, (Hi, Linda!) makes the best candied sweet potatoes and she learned them from our mother.  A light crust. Sweet but not too sweet. A little tart. The tartness come from an ingredient that I don’t see in a lot of candied sweet potato recipes: lemon juice.

I’ve tried this recipe lots of times and couldn’t get it right.  After getting some tips from Linda, I think I finally hit the mark. There’s no real recipe, so I’ll just outline the steps I took.  These make a great side dish for a holiday.  One warning: To really get these right, they take about 2 hours to candy. Yes, two hours, sometimes a little longer. So plan for it. Remember the race to the oven with ham, turkey, standing rib roast, rolls, or whatever you’re cooking. Usually the sweet potatoes are almost the last thing we cook. Rolls come next and then dinner is ready.

I used about 8-10 medium sweet potatoes (about one per person). You need about a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of butter. You can use your favorite butter substitute to save some fat and calories here. Some REAL maple syrup.  Brown sugar — doesn’t matter of it’s light or dark, but I think dark brown sugar has more flavor.  1-3 lemons for the juice.  I used 1-1/2 lemons.

First roast the whole potatoes until just done. That’s right. You don’t have to peel them till after they bake (much easier).  I cook mine on 400-450 degrees, and start testing them with a knife after about 45 minutes. When I can push the knife through to the center, they are done. Let them cool.  Allow plenty of time for this, because now you have to peel and slice them, which you can’t do if they’re too hot. Also, don’t overcook them or they will fall apart when you slice them.

IMG_2655Gather up your ingredients and a large baking dish (or small if you’re only cooking a few potatoes. Use your judgment). Spray the baking dish lightly with cooking spray.  Peel the potatoes. Then slice 2-3 potatoes, enough to cover the bottom of the dish in one layer with some overlap of slices.  Dot the layer with butter.  Sprinkle with 2-4 tablespoons of brown sugar.  Drizzle 2-4 tablespoons of maple syrup.  Squeeze on some lemon juice. Then slice another layer of potatoes and do the same — more butter, maple syrup, brown syrup and lemon juice. Layer it  again, and one more time if necessary (usually I find three to be enough), till you’ve finished all the potatoes. Be sure to top the last layer of potatoes with the goodies, then put the whole thing in a 375-degree pre-heated oven. After half an hour of baking, I baste every 20 minutes or so.  Let it cook for several hours, until the syrup is mostly candied and the potatoes have crisped up a little. You don’t have to be a slave to the basting, but I found it helps the texture and flavor.

If the potatoes seem to be browning too soon, you can turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Serve.

Sorry this recipe isn’t more precise. My mother used to make these and I never really got the recipe from her like I should have.  Thanks to help from Linda, I feel like I finally figured these out. Much of it though, is to taste. If you like to try new things, you should try these.

Merry Christmas! I’ll be back with Sunday cooking adventures after the first of the year.


3 responses to “Holiday cooking adventures: Decadent candied sweet potatoes”

  1. Linda Green says:

    Sounds like you got it right Julie!

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