And the candy of the stage: perfectly soft wedges of sweet potato with a buttery, caramelized glaze of sweetness. Sweet potatoes for purists; compelling enough to convert skeptics.
This is the last of my can’t-live-without Thanksgiving side dishes. I would have shared it earlier, but it’s so easy we never use a recipe. In its basic form all you need is sweet potatoes brushed with butter and maple syrup. But for you guys I tested a few tweaks, and my happy tasters found that a little brown sugar in the mix makes the greatest Thanksgiving sweet potatoes even a bit better.
Thanksgiving can be as easy or elaborate as you like. I always choose easy. I’ve tried more elaborate sides that I have absolutely loved – cornbread stuffing with sausage, apples, cranberries and nuts, or deep fried brussels sprouts – but they end up being too many flavors, or too filling, or just too time consuming.
The magic of Thanksgiving is in the mix of sides on the plate. Potatoes provide a cushion for gravy. Stuffing is the match for cranberry sauce’s sweet. Greens provide a light crunch to lighten the heavy. Every side does its job.
To me, the Thanksgiving mix is most harmonious when each side is its simplest best. And everyone at the Thanksgiving table gets to customize their own perfect mix plate.
My mom fell in love with these sweet potatoes when my Auntie Melissa used to bring them to Thanksgiving, and though we’ve tweaked the formula over the years, subbing in maple for corn syrup, the dish has been an unchanging staple at our family Thanksgiving for decades.
We normally do the butter and syrup separately. But really it’s easier just to put it all in one. Equal parts butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, briefly heated in the microwave or on the stovetop to melt the butter and dissolve the sugar.
Brush glaze on the sweet potato wedges. Flip and brush the second side too.
I use my sheet pans for most everything, but you can use a large baking dish as well. Just don’t use a flat baking sheet, or you might end up with syrup drips burning on your oven floor.
Bake until wedges are soft. Flip them over so the syrupy side is up.
Broil a minute or two to thicken glaze and brown the edges. This brief extra step caramelizes the sugar, concentrates the flavor and creates the delectable contrast between crisp edges and soft flesh. Best to keep your eyes on the sweet potatoes as they broil – sugar burns fast, so seconds count.
These are equally wonderful warm or room temperature. My mom always makes the sweet potatoes a couple days ahead, and on Thanksgiving we pop them into the oven to reheat with whatever else is cooking.
Thanksgiving recipes from the archives
- Cranberry tea [post] [printable]
- Alice Waters’s carrot soup [post] [printable]
- Spinach dip (without the mix) [post] [printable]
- Three-ingredient artichoke dip [post] [printable]
- Thanksgiving turkey, dry brined
- Thanksgiving turkey, split and roasted
- Creamy chicken and rice soup (for leftover turkey) [post] [printable]
- Macho salad (for turkey leftovers) [post] [printable]
- Balsamic vinaigrette [post] [printable]
- Quinoa arugula salad [post] [printable]
- Arugula, pear and parmesan salad [post] [printable]
- Fennel, orange and avocado salad [post] [printable]
- Candied walnuts (or pecans) [post] [printable]
- Kale salad with honey-mustard peanut dressing [post] [printable]
- Shredded kale and brussels sprout salad [post] [printable]
- Kale salad with cranberries and toasted walnuts [post] [printable]
- Wild rice confetti salad [post] [printable]
- Bread stuffing for a crowd [post] [printable]
- Brussels sprouts Gjelina [post] [printable]
- Buttermilk cornbread [post] [printable]
- Easy cranberry sauce [post] [printable]
- Foolproof mashed potatoes [post] [printable]
- Green beans with feta and balsamic vinegar [post] [printable]
- Quinoa with sweet potatoes, red pepper and feta [post] [printable]
- Roasted brussels sprouts salad [post] [printable]
- Roasted butternut squash [post] [printable]
- Roasted cauliflower Gjelina [post] [printable]
- Roasted cauliflower with parmesan and olives [post] [printable]
- Roasted fennel with parmesan [post] [printable]
- Apple pie with crumb topping [post] [printable]
- Apple snacking cake [post] [printable]
- Cinnamony apple crisp [post] [printable]
- Gingerbread cake [post] [printable]
- Pear torte [post] [printable]
- Pecan pie (no corn syrup) [post] [printable]
- Persimmon bread [post] [printable]
- Pumpkin applesauce cake [post] [printable]
- Pumpkin bread with chocolate [post] [printable]
- Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies [post] [printable]
- Soft ginger cookies [post] [printable]
- Derby pie [post] [printable]
- Caramel dip for apples [post] [printable]
Maple Glazed Sweet Potatoes
The candy of the Thanksgiving stage: perfectly soft wedges of sweet potato with a buttery, caramelized glaze of sweetness. Sweet potatoes for purists; compelling enough to convert skeptics.
- 4 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 1/4 pounds)
- 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt (only if butter is unsalted)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a sheet pan or large baking dish with butter or nonstick spray.
- Peel sweet potatoes with a vegetable peeler. Using a sharp knife on a cutting board, cut each sweet potato lengthwise into wedges (first cut in half lengthwise, then put each half cut-side down and cut slices lengthwise about 1/2-inch thick, to make long wedges). Place wedges in a single layer on the greased baking dish.
- In bowl or measuring cup, add maple syrup, butter and brown sugar (plus a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter). Warm in microwave until butter is melted. Stir to mix and use a pastry brush to glaze each sweet potato wedge. Flip the wedges and brush the other side as well.
- Bake sweet potatoes for 35-40 minutes, until easily pierced by a fork. Use a spatula (the pancake turner kind, not the scraper kind) to flip the sweet potatoes. Broil the sweet potatoes in the oven for just a minute or two, watching carefully, until edges brown and glaze thickens.
- If you like, add a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg to the glaze.
- If you don’t have a pastry brush, just use a spoon to spread a thin layer of glaze on each wedge.
- This is a great Thanksgiving dish for making a day or two ahead. Refrigerate the sweet potatoes until Thanksgiving Day, and then you can reheat for 10-15 minutes in a hot oven before serving (temperature not important – just pop it in with whatever else is cooking). Alternatively, you can bake the glazed sweet potatoes ahead and leave the broiling step until just before serving, which will also reheat the sweet potatoes at the same time (this approach is just a bit riskier – broiling requires your full attention, and Thanksgiving has a lot of distractions).
Here’s the link to a printable version.