Alexander Smalls’ Lemon Candied Yams

published Nov 4, 2021
Lemon Candied Yams Recipe

Lemon gives classic candied yams a fresh, tangy makeover.


Prep15 minutes

Cook35 minutes to 40 minutes

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Lemon gives this dish an unexpected freshness, like a slice of lemon in an iced tea. I like chunky yams and I cook them on a high heat so they crisp and caramelize, but still soften inside. I take the spices and brown sugar and add those into the melted butter so everything is creamy. Lemon adds zest and spice and tartness. I also put a little cayenne or red pepper flakes. There’s nothing like sweet, citrus, and hot.

Lemon Candied Yams Recipe

Lemon gives classic candied yams a fresh, tangy makeover.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes to 40 minutes

Serves 6

Nutritional Info


  • 2 1/2 pounds

    yams (about 4 large)

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1/2 cup

    packed light brown sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground nutmeg

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    cracked black pepper


  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Meanwhile, peel and cut 2 1/2 pounds yams into 1-inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon into the bowl. Halve the zested lemon and set aside for later.

  2. Melt 1 stick unsalted butter in the microwave or on the stovetop, then pour over the yams. Add 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper. Toss until evenly coated. Transfer the yams to a rimmed baking sheet and spread into a single layer.

  3. Roast until tender and lightly caramelized, tossing halfway through, about 35 minutes total. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Immediately squeeze the juice from the lemon halves all over the yams and toss. Serve hot.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Tip: Don’t be afraid of the high oven heat used in this dish — you need high temps to give the yams that glorious steaklike sear.

From Meals, Music, and Muses by Alexander Smalls. Copyright © 2020 by the author and reprinted by permission of Flatiron Books.