I was never a big fan of the candied yams that are almost always on the Thanksgiving table. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I thought I hated sweet potatoes until well into my twenties because of them. The large chunks of sickly sweet orange “yams” and then the bizarre marshmallow topping? What is that about? Don’t get me wrong. I love marshmallows, like, a lot. I just found the whole thing to be weird and I wasn’t a big fan.
By the way, did you know that the “yams” sold in American supermarkets are actually just sweet potatoes? True yams are starchy tubers from the Caribbean. So orange, white or purple, pretty much everything we see in the grocery store in the U.S. are sweet potatoes, even if they are labeled as “yams”.
I’m not sure when this dish replaced the marshmallow yams for my family, but it was after I was already an adult. My mom learned how to make this from some friends of hers and she started making it for our Thanksgiving dinners. It didn’t take long for me to start thinking of it as a “must have” on the Thanksgiving day table. The first year I had Thanksgiving without her, I had to call her for the recipe.
I love that it is a slightly different take on the traditional, and in my opinion it tastes much better. Since the sweetness only comes from maple syrup and the apples, it doesn’t have that overwhelmingly sweet quality. It took me a few tries to get the recipe pinned down to exactly as good as my mom makes it, but it seems like my last attempt was the winner.
I made a smaller serving size of this dish because, well, I made it three times and there are only two of us here. So this recipe is only to serve four, but feel free to double or triple the recipe depending on how many people you are serving. I tried this two ways. One was to drizzle the maple syrup and then sprinkle the spices on each layer, but I found that the spices did not get evenly distributed that way. I preferred to mix the spices, maple syrup and butter together and then spread each layer with the syrup mix. That made the texture better and allowed the spices to be more even. You will notice that on some of my photos the spices are sprinkled on, but the recipe will have my preferred method detailed.
The other thing is that the sweet potatoes need to be par cooked before going into the oven with the apples, because the apples cook much faster than sweet potatoes. We just microwave them for a few minutes, which also makes them easier to cut! And last of all, you can actually sub butternut squash for the sweet potato and it tastes almost the same.
Sweet Potato Apple Casserole
- 2 apples cored and thinly sliced (1/4 inch thick)
- 2 small sweet potatoes or 1 large
- 2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 teaspoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- Peel the sweet potato and poke a few holes in it. Microwave for about 3 minutes or bake for 20 minutes, so that it is starting to get soft but not cooked.
- Slice the sweet potato into thin slices, about 1/4 inch thick.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the maple syrup, spices and salt. Whisk together until smooth.
- In a baking dish, lay the sweet potatoes in a single layer.
- Brush with some of the butter/syrup mixture.
- On top of that, place a layer of apple slices. Brush the apples with more syrup.
- Continue with another layer of sweet potatoes, then syrup, then apples and then the last of the syrup. Use a brush to ensure that everything is coated with the syrup.
- Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the apples and sweet potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife.
What are the must have dishes for your Thanksgiving table? Do you love candied yams?