In all the world of Thanksgiving sweet potato recipes, I’ve never come across anyone who makes their sweet potatoes this way. Maybe that’s saying something, but I’m going to choose to believe it makes us unique and special in the good way. My mom grew up with my grandma making these Thanksgiving sweet potatoes and we’ve been eating the holiday classic side dish in this form my whole life. I am now the official Sweet Potato Maker in my family and stand by the awesomeness of this recipe!
Last year we did Thanksgiving with my husband’s family, who fall into the sweet potato and marshmallow casserole camp. When I told them I would make an extra side of my family’s sweet potatoes recipe (because I’m a nostalgic tradition freak and I WILL HAVE my sweet potatoes), there was some who-would-eat-those-weird-new-sweet-potatoes-when-we-have-our-family’s-sweet-potato-marshmallow-casserole muttering, because nothing says Thanksgiving like getting defensive about how every aspect of a meal should be prepared. I just smiled through my wine glass(es) and went about my sweet potato cooking business. At the end of the day, guess whose sweet potatoes were all gobbled up? MINE. MINEEEEEEE.
I stand by the opinion that there’s a lot of mushy food on Thanksgiving. Preparing your sweet potatoes this way creates a difference in texture and is one food that can be plated in pieces rather than scoops/dollops/spoonfuls.
A word of caution: what would Thanksgiving be without the risk of a house fire? If you don’t deep fry your turkey, then my sweet potato recipe will take place as the cooking method that threatens to set off smoke alarms. This is 100% NOT a recipe you can just kind of casually pay attention to and do other things at the same time. Unless you want a visit from some sexy firemen, in which case be my guest. There’s a fine line between a hot enough pan to caramelize the sugar and so hot a pan that the butter will smoke and then ignite. Use a really good pan, cast iron is preferable, and watch your burner temperature as you go (I’ve absolutely lit my pan on fire – last year – when cooking on an electric stove vs a gas range).
The basic method for recipe is to roast whole sweet potatoes until they’re soft, peel and slice into rounds, sprinkle the rounds with sugar, and caramelize them in a delicious butter bath of a hot pan. The exterior will be crispy and sweet and the interior will be soft and creamy.
Make ahead tip: you can roast the sweet potatoes ahead of time, allowing them to fully cool and then wrapping them air tight with plastic wrap or in a container. Peel and slice them just when you’re ready to cook. Another alternative is to used canned sweet potatoes, which is how my grandma used to make them.
Candied Sweet Potatoes
- 4 sweet potatoes
- 6 TBS butter
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 425
Prick sweet potatoes with a fork all over, then place on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 50 minutes.
Allow the sweet potatoes to fully cool. If making ahead, at this step wrap or place the sweet potatoes in an airtight container until ready to cook.
Peel the sweet potatoes and slice them into 1/2 inch rounds and spread them out on a cookie sheet, cutting board, etc.
Heat a heavy pan over medium high heat, melting 1-2 TBS butter to start.
Sprinkle each sweet potato side facing up with sugar, and then place in hot pan sugar side down.
Cook until crispy, a few minutes per side.
Before flipping, sprinkle the up-facing sides with sugar, add a tablespoon of butter to the pan, and then flip to cook the other side.
To keep warm before serving, place the cooked sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and keep in the oven on a low temperature.
Most people at our Thanksgiving tend to eat about 3-4 slices per person. Two sweet potatoes will yield approximately 20 slices, or 4-5 servings using this math. Watch the pan temp - if the burner is too hot, the butter can burn and ignite, rather than just caramelizing the sweet potatoes. I know this from a LOT of personal experience!