Garlic Thyme-Roasted Sweet Potatoes – You Might Never Eat a Candied Yam Again [recipe]

Thyme Roasted Sweet Potatoes or Yams
You might never eat a candied yam again.

And it’s not because 95% of what we think are “yams” are not even yams to begin with.

They’re sweet potatoes.

Yams and sweet potatoes are often confused for each other, kind of the way Angelina Jolie and I mistaken for each other because we look and, for the most part, taste the same. However, though we could be twins separated at birth, Angie and I aren’t even the same ethnicity, which is the case for yams and sweet potatoes. Yams are tubers whereas sweet potatoes are some other type of plant that makes them scientifically unrelated.

There’s controversy that comes up this time every year surrounding these two vegetables. Is that orange, naturally sweet, starchy, potato-like vegetable you’re serving truly a yam? Is it actually a sweet potato? What’s the difference, if there is, indeed a difference? Are they, in fact, all sweet potatoes, but the orange-colored ones are called “yams?”

Which one is authentic?

Which one is better?


Sweet potatoes?!

I never understood these silly questions because the real question — that is, the real question after “Who the hell cares?!” — is “Whatever they are, yams or sweet potatoes, who thought it would be a delicious idea not only to glaze already-sweet starch bombs with more sugar, but to top them off with marshmallows?!”

Probably the same person who invented green bean casserole.

(I actually do know the answers to all these questions and am not as hateful as I seem re: green bean casserole. I’m just making a point.)

I realize that there is a huge faction of people out there who love candied whatever-you-call-thems and wouldn’t dream of their autumn dinner tables without them. My family, too, served some version of candied yams every Thanksgiving. And every Thanksgiving, we’d end up with a virtually untouched Corningware casserole dish of candied yams that would (left)overstay their welcome on the one shelf in the fridge that had enough space for an entire baking dish because what’s worse than sickeningly icky sticky sweet candied yams is sickeningly icky cold and slimy candied yams. Yet, at no point did it occur to any of us to just not serve candied yams. Candied yams are part of the traditional Thanksgiving table, and far be it from us, a Korean family, to not follow an American tradition.

Until I stumbled across a recipe for Thyme-Roasted Sweet Potatoes.

The rest is will be candied yam history.

Garlic Thyme Roasted Sweet Potatoes

based on a recipe from


4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1½-inch-thick rounds (we cut ours 1″ thick, then quartered them to make them easier to eat)
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, minced (we doubled the amount of garlic)
1/3 cup fresh thyme leaves, plus 6 thyme sprigs for garnish
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (we left this out for no good reason other than “we forgot”)


Preheat oven to 450°F.

In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and toss. Arrange sweet potatoes in single layer on heavyweight rimmed baking sheet or in 13×9-inch baking dish. Place on top rack of oven and roast until tender and slightly browned, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with fresh thyme sprigs.

** TasteSpotting’s note ** If, by some off chance, you have leftover sweet potatoes, they are awesome sauteed with onions and more garlic to make a hash. Throw a couple of poached eggs on top and it’s the perfect brunch the morning after.

by Sarah J. Gim on November 26, 2010 · 8 comments

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

expatrecipe December 3, 2010 at 7:46 am

I love Sweet Potatoes and the picture is so tempting.


rochford July 12, 2013 at 9:14 am

i don’t have an oven. can i achieve the same results heating this in a saucepan?


Delores January 22, 2015 at 10:57 am

love the TasteSpottings Note! I’m going to try it! Thanks!


Delores January 22, 2015 at 10:58 am

Great Tip! ** TasteSpotting’s note ** If, by some off chance, you have leftover sweet potatoes, they are awesome sauteed with onions and more garlic to make a hash. Throw a couple of poached eggs on top and it’s the perfect brunch the morning after.


Reynaldo Hernandez January 5, 2016 at 9:09 pm

It would be nice if you included directions for substituting dried thyme for fresh. I had to look it up.


Jenni May 7, 2016 at 5:51 pm

I hate candied yams and have always hated sweet potatoes, until I had sweet potato fries and discovered that I don’t mind them when they’re cooked with savory ingredients instead of sweet. I made these tonight though I left the skins, cut them into bite size pieces, and didn’t have fresh thyme so used dry. They were so good! My son wasn’t a fan, but they were good, nonetheless


E August 16, 2016 at 3:42 pm

I have always liked sweet potatoes! I like them with (vegan) marshmallows on top, but warm, not cold! I like them roasted with salt and rosemary, too. I haven’t tried them with thyme…this is interesting.


Robin Stalcup December 17, 2017 at 12:43 pm

My husband and I really enjoyed your comments (we hate green bean casserole). I am doing a “yam bar” for office holiday dinner and will add this taste combination to the toppings offered (besides candied pecans, marshmallows, brown sugar, chili-lime, and maybe some Indian curry/masala yet to be determined). I will use roasted garlic and fresh thyme and blend in food processor.
At home we scale up Rachael Ray’s recipe for mojito yams for holiday gatherings (and leave out butter to make it vegan), but can’t do rum at the office. We eat plant-based and love all kinds of sweet potatoes. We will definitely make this at home.


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