Thanksgiving Yams

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What foods are traditionally eaten at Thanksgiving?

Turkeydressingcollard greensThanksgiving sweet potato pie, and Southern soul food Thanksgiving yams. 

All are essential to a soulful Thanksgiving menu

But while many people know the turkey to be the star of the Thanksgiving table, this time, I’m bringing attention to one of the supporting-character sides. The Thanksgiving yams.

Thanksgiving Candied Yams

First, what are candied yams?

What exactly are candied yams?

Candied yams are a buttery mix of seasonings, soul food spices, and cut sweet potatoes cooked in a light brown sugar glaze. 

Then the dish is topped with melted mini marshmallows for sweet Southern divine perfection!

I mean, who doesn’t love marshmallows?!

Thanksgiving Yams Recipe

Can yams be eaten at Thanksgiving?

Is this even a real question?!

soul food Thanksgiving menu or a fantastic Christmas dinner feast isn’t authentic without a side of Thanksgiving candied yams on the table.

And bonus – Thanksgiving yams are easy to make! 

The potato flavor of candied yams rivals any other Thanksgiving potato recipe. 

Hallelujah! Your days of Thanksgiving yams roulade are over! 

Proven so because this festive recipe has always been the supporting cast star of the holiday table!

What is the difference between a sweet potato and a yam?

Now that we’ve discussed what candied yams are, the next logical question is, 

“Are sweet potatoes and yams the same?”

One of the most significant differences between sweet potatoes and yams is their appearance. 

Thanksgiving Southern Candied Yams - How do you tell a sweet potato from a yam?

Thanksgiving candied sweet potatoes cut lengthwise.

So how do you tell a sweet potato from a yam?

Asked another way, “What is the difference between a sweet potato and a Southern yam?” Or, “Are candied yams and candied sweet potatoes the same thing?”

Yams and sweet potatoes are not the same.

Sweet potatoes are Southern vegetables that grow in the ground and are smaller than yams. They’re closely related to the potato but have a smooth reddish-orange skin, softer flesh when cooked, and a much sweeter flavor than yams.

On the other hand, yams are starchy vegetables with a more rigid texture, often compared to tree bark, and their flesh is drier and more starchy than sweet potatoes.

What do Africans call sweet potatoes? And what do you call yams in America?

Yams are a vegetable similar to sweet potatoes. However, true yams come from the motherland in Africa. 

Americans use the word ‘yam’ because Africans call yams’ nyami.’

Why are they called Southern candied yams?

Although the Southern-rooted vegetable used in most candied yams recipes in the US is often a sweet potato, African Americans still call this dish candied yams. 

Netflix’s soul food docu-series High on The Hog illustrates how enslaved Africans recognized sweet potatoes in the Southern US as similar to the West African true yam.

What is America's favorite side dish for Thanksgiving?

What is America’s favorite side dish for Thanksgiving?

Arguably, the turkey’s favorite companion is a turkey and dressing recipe.

But the country’s favorite is the runner-up to an old-fashioned Southern cornbread dressing recipe, especially in the Black community – Thanksgiving yams!

How do you make candied yams?

Follow the easy recipe instructions below!

Pro tip: An Instant Pot pressure cooks Thanksgiving yams just right! 

So fork-tender, sweet, and citrusy with buttery caramel toffee flavor – yum!

In a fraction of the time (only 5 minutes!), you can return to all those other side dishes on your Thanksgiving recipes list. 

How do you make candied yams?

Kitchen equipment for Thanksgiving yams

Shop my kitchenware HERE!

What Ingredients Do You Need For Thanksgiving Yams?

Ingredients for Thanksgiving yams

  • 3 -3 ½ pounds of sweet potatoes
  • 6 cups of cool water
  • ½ cup of water
  • ½ cup of unsalted butter (or vegan butter)
  • ½ cup of brown sugar (light or dark brown sugar)
  • ½ cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger (or minced)
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups of miniature marshmallows for topping (optional)
Thanksgiving Candied Sweet Potatoes Recipe

Instructions for Thanksgiving candied yams

  1. Wash the sweet potatoes. (I like to use this vegetable scrubber HERE.)
  2. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into thick round wedges.
  3. Then set them aside to soak in a bowl of cool water to prevent browning while preparing the candied yams syrup.
  4. Melt the butter in a medium-sized bowl in the microwave.
  5. Add the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup, ginger, ground clove, and vanilla extract to the melted butter. 
  6. Mix the ingredients well to create the syrup glaze for the candied yams.
  7. Next, Drain the sweet potato rounds in a colander.
  8. Open the Instant Pot lid and add ½ a cup of water and the sweet potato rounds to the stainless-steel inner pot.
  9. Pour the syrup glaze over the sweet potatoes.
  10. Close the Instant Pot lid (ensure the valve is up – in the position for sealing) and pressure cook on high for 5 minutes.
  11. When the cook time is finished, allow a natural pressure release for at least 5 minutes.
  12. To open the Instant Pot lid, move the valve to ‘venting’ and manually release any remaining pressure, if applicable.
  13. Optional – Open the Instant Pot lid and sprinkle the miniature marshmallows over the cooked, candied yams. 
  14. With the lid placed not entirely on the Instant Pot (in a resting position, so it doesn’t lock back into position on the pot) continue with the setting on ‘keep warm.’
  15. After about 5 minutes, check to see if the marshmallows have melted. 
  16. Once the marshmallows are melted, turn off the Instant Pot and transfer your Black folks’ Southern candied yams recipe to a serving dish.
  17. Serve Thanksgiving yams right away, and enjoy!
  18. Optionally, garnish with chopped pecans or walnuts, like a candied sweet potato casserole recipe.

The recipe for Southern baked candied yams is HERE.

🎙 Listen to The Soul Food Pod episode: Black Folks Southern Candied Yams

What is America's favorite side dish for Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving Yams

What pairs well with candied yams?

You can’t have Thanksgiving candied yams without a perfect accompanying Thanksgiving side dish!

How many sides should a Thanksgiving dinner have?

If you’re asking Black folks, the answer is as many as will fit on the Thanksgiving table!

The Best Soul Food Thanksgiving Side Dishes
The Best Soul Food Thanksgiving Side Dishes
What do you serve on a soul food Thanksgiving menu? Perfectly seasoned flavors using this authentic soul food Thanksgiving side dishes list!
Check out this recipe!

Black folks will serve Thanksgiving yams with a whole soul food Thanksgiving menu of delicious entrées and side dishes, including:

Black Folks Sweet Potato Pie Recipe
Black Folks Sweet Potato Pie Recipe
A Black folks’ sweet potato pie recipe is a delightful Thanksgiving and Christmas dessert packed with flavorful seasonings and spices in the tradition of Black folks’ soul food cooking. 
Check out this recipe!

And I must point out that It’d be sacrilegious to serve a Black folks’ Southern candied yams recipe without soul food collard greens.

Oh no! Don’t do dat.

Black Folks Soul Food Collard Greens Recipe
Black Folks Soul Food Collard Greens Recipe
What is a soul food collard greens recipe?
A Black folks collard greens recipe is the quintessential dish of any Southern soul food dinner.
Check out this recipe!
Are candied yams a Black thing?

Thanksgiving yams FAQs

Are candied yams a Black thing?

Yams are a vegetable similar to sweet potatoes but come from the motherland in Africa. 

Africans were used to cooking with yams. So when they were brought to the American South as enslaved persons, the next best thing available was a sweet potato, which they called yams.

True to Black folks’ nature, out of necessity, taking something from nothing and elevating sweet potato to the soul food delicacy so many people love and crave today. 

The Best Soul Food Sweet Potato Recipes
The Best Soul Food Sweet Potato Recipes
A collection of soul food sweet potato recipes to get you inspired! From Black folks sweet potato pie, Southern soul food candied yams, & more
Check out this recipe!

Why do we eat sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving?

Sweet potatoes are an African American choice from an African tradition of cooking yams. 

Sweet potatoes are seasoned to perfection and used in Black people’s recipes, especially during the holidays, instead of bland pumpkin.

What are the three most popular side dishes for Thanksgiving?

What sides can you make the day before Thanksgiving?

Many soul food sides can be prepped ahead, including soul food cabbagehomemade cornbreadmashed potato, and Thanksgiving yams.

Do you use yams or sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving?

Do you use yams or sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving?

In the US, you are likely to use sweet potatoes because yams are native to Africa.

However, the words’ yams’ and ‘sweet potatoes’ are interchangeable regarding Thanksgiving.

Can you use canned sweet potatoes instead?

Candied yams can be made with canned sweet potato or canned yams. However, fresh ones are preferred for the best candied yams.

These thanksgiving yams recipe instructions call for fresh sweet potatoes.

Can you make candied yams ahead of time?

Can you make candied yams ahead of time?

Yes, with some planning.

  1. To prevent browning, the best way is to peel and cut the sweet potatoes and refrigerate them in an air-tight container with water. 
  2. Then prepare the cinnamon-sugar syrup, and refrigerate it in a separate container. 
  3. When you’re ready to pressure cook or bake, drain the sweet potatoes, and combine the ingredients.

Can you freeze candied sweet potatoes?

Yes, you can freeze these yummy delights for subsequent cravings! 

Ensure the yams have cooled down before placing them into a freezer-safe bag or air-tight container.

What can you do with leftover candied yams?

What can you do with leftover candied yams?

Make this delicious turkey and candied yam recipe!

You’ll need favorite leftovers like turkeyyams (turned into mashed sweet potato), cranberry sauce, and cornbread dressing.

Instant Pot Leftover Pulled Turkey Recipe
Instant Pot Leftover Pulled Turkey Recipe
What can you make with leftover turkey after Thanksgiving?
Make a pulled turkey meal with holiday leftover turkey in your Instant Pot!
Check out this recipe!

Did you enjoy this Thanksgiving candied yams recipe?

Have you had it?

Would you make it? 

Comment below and lemme know. 

Then subscribe HERE for all the soul food!

The Ultimate Soul Food Recipes Guide
The Ultimate Soul Food Recipes Guide
What is soul food? Soul food recipes are African-American recipes full of flavor! A legacy of Southern cooking the Black way. Check out this collection of the best soul food recipes!
Check out this recipe!
Thanksgiving Candied Yams

Thanksgiving Yams

You probably recognize the turkey as the star of the Thanksgiving dinner. However, I'm bringing attention to the Thanksgiving yams, a buttery-rich brown sugar mix of sweet potatoes with soul food spices.
Is it even an authentic Thanksgiving meal without candied yams on the table?
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Pressure Release Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Soul Food, Southern Food
Keyword: Black Folks Southern Candied Yams, candied yams with marshmallows, candy yams recipe, Instant Pot Thanksgiving, soul food Thanksgiving, soul food Thanksgiving menu, soul food Thanksgiving side dishes, soul food Thanksgiving sides, Southern candied yams, Southern candied yams recipe, Thanksgiving menu, Thanksgiving yams, vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 8
Calories: 321kcal

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes 3 -3 ½ pounds
  • 6 cups water cool water
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup butter unsalted butter, or vegan butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup sugar granulated
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon of ground
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger ground or minced
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves ground
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups marshmallows *Optional – miniature marshmallows for topping

Instructions

  • Wash the sweet potatoes. (I like to use this vegetable scrubber HERE.)
  • Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into thick round wedges.
  • Then set them aside to soak in a bowl of cool water to prevent browning while preparing the candied yams syrup.
  • Melt the butter in a medium-sized bowl in the microwave.
  • Add the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup, ginger, ground clove, and vanilla extract to the melted butter.
  • Mix the ingredients well to create the syrup glaze for the candied yams.
  • Next, Drain the sweet potato rounds in a colander.
  • Open the Instant Pot lid and add ½ a cup of water and the sweet potato rounds to the stainless-steel inner pot.
  • Pour the syrup glaze over the sweet potatoes.
  • Close the Instant Pot lid (ensure the valve is up – in the position for sealing) and pressure cook on high for 5 minutes.
  • When the cook time is finished, allow a natural pressure release for at least 5 minutes.
  • To open the Instant Pot lid, move the valve to ‘venting’ and manually release any remaining pressure, if applicable.
  • Optional – Open the Instant Pot lid and sprinkle the miniature marshmallows over the cooked, candied yams.
  • With the lid placed not entirely on the Instant Pot (in a resting position, so it doesn’t lock back into position on the pot) continue with the setting on ‘keep warm.’
  • After about 5 minutes, check to see if the marshmallows have melted.
  • Once the marshmallows are melted, turn off the Instant Pot and transfer your Black folks’ Southern candied yams recipe to a serving dish.
  • Serve Thanksgiving yams right away, and enjoy!
  • Optionally, garnish with chopped pecans or walnuts, like a candied sweet potato casserole recipe.

Video

Notes

An Instant Pot pressure cooker cooks Thanksgiving yams just right! 
So fork-tender, sweet, and citrusy with buttery caramel toffee flavor – yum!
In a fraction of the time (only 5 minutes!), you can return to all those other side dishes on your Thanksgiving recipes list. 

Nutrition

Calories: 321kcal | Carbohydrates: 76g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 2mg | Sodium: 135mg | Potassium: 630mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 45g | Vitamin A: 24158IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 97mg | Iron: 1mg
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One Comment

  1. Kristina Harrison says:

    5 stars
    Maybe I missed it but I don’t see if using the oven. What temperature and for how long? The recipe looks yummy and I can’t wait to make this for Thanksgiving this year. Thank!!