Holiday Brown Sugar Sweet Potatoes

This is a recipe from Ellen’s mom that Ellen makes every year for Thanksgiving. The recipe as written is called “Sweet Potatoes,” continuing the long confusion in America between the yam and the sweet potato, which are often used interchangeably, but in fact are completely different things! Yams are what we, and most Americans use, the dark orange, sweet tuber shown above. Sweet potatoes are more yellow, and while somewhat sweet, are more like regular potatoes in texture and flavor. So I say, let’s call a yam what a yam (to quote Popeye).

Edit: after reading more here, I now realize what we in America call yams are, in fact, called sweet potatoes by most of the world, and are not technically yams at all. So, I’m revising this recipe to reflect that, changing “yam” to “sweet potato.” There’s still confusion on the subject, but in most American markets, the dark orange tuber is what you’ll find being called “yam,” and that’s the one used here.


6 medium-large sweet potatoes (yams in many U.S. markets)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup water

Boil sweet potatoes with skins on approximately 30 minutes, until just penetrable with a sharp knife. Do not overcook. Cool in cold water, skin, and cut into quarters. Place in large baking pan greased with butter.

In a saucepan mix remaining ingredients and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until it becomes a syrup, bubbly and smooth in texture. Remove from heat to cool a few minutes, then pour over yams. You can cover and refrigerate at this point to finish later.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, basting with syrup occasionally.

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