A yam is a root tuber that grows on the vine of the tropical plant Dioscorea batatas. Yams are often confused with another type of tuber, the sweet potato, and used interchangeably in recipes; however, although the texture is similar, yams may not be as sweet and may require additional sugar for sweet dishes. One of the most widely used sweet dishes for the tuber is candied yams, in which yams are cooked with a syrup base.
If fresh yams are used to make candied yams, they may require some prep prior to being used in the dish. Yams have a tough outer skin that most cooks prefer to peel off before cooking. Although the size and shape may vary depending on personal preferences, recipes often call for the yams to be cut into bite size cubes. If using canned yams, no other preparation is usually recommended.
Once the yams are prepared, they are generally covered in a sweet sauce that will thicken as it cooks to form syrup which adheres to the yams. Common candied yams recipes often use sugar, corn or maple syrup, and a variety of spices like ground nutmeg or cinnamon. Other flavoring ingredients for the sauce include citrus zest and juice, or vanilla extract. The sweetness of the dish will typically widely range depending on personal preference, with some recipes recommending higher amounts of sugar and other sweeteners than others.
The process of making candied yams tends to be considered relatively basic. The peeled yam pieces are usually placed in a baking dish and then covered with the sauce. If the sauce has a high amount of sugar, it may be recommended to partially cook the yams before combining with the sauce because the sugar may burn before raw yams are fully cooked. It may be recommended to periodically take the dish out of the oven and stir the yams to ensure they are evenly coated with the syrup.
Candied yams are generally served warm soon after they are done cooking. Depending on the amount of sweeteners used in the recipe, the yams may be either served as a side dish or as a dessert. The dish tends to pair well with pork or poultry, as well as other root vegetables, such as potatoes or carrots.