These slow cooker candied sweet potatoes are easy to make and definitely have that Wow! factor.
You can use a more traditional marshmallow topping or get a little fancier like I did and top them with golden swirls of meringue and they will be the prettiest thing on the table!
Something truly magical happens when you slow cook these candied sweet potatoes in your slow cooker, they taste like they were oven-roasted and you don't have to take up oven space. This really comes in handy when making a holiday meal. The best thing about this recipe is it isn't over-the-top sweet, even with the brown sugar glaze. These simple ingredients come together in an easy slow cooker side dish that is perfectly balanced and unbelievably delicious.
This recipe uses sweet potato slices, but if you are looking for a sweet potato casserole that uses mashed sweet potatoes, then you will love this sweet potato recipe: Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping
Suggested Kitchen Tools for Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes
- Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker & Air Crisper or Slow Cooker
- 8x8 Casserole Dish for Serving
- Vegetable Peeler
- Sharp Knife
- Cutting Board
- Stand Mixer or Hand Mixer for Meringue Topping
Ingredients & Substitutions
The sweet potatoes are the star of the show in this dish and you definitely want to use fresh sweet potatoes and not the canned sweet potatoes. You also don't want to use yams. Although candied yams and candied sweet potatoes are terms that people use interchangeably in the United States, they are not the same thing. Yams are actually white or purple-fleshed with a hard bark-like exterior and sweet potatoes can come in different colors, but they have smoother skin and a completely different texture.
For this recipe, you want to get orange sweet potatoes. Now, if you see something that looks like an orange sweet potato and it's labeled Yams in the grocery store, they are still sweet potatoes because true yams are not orange.
You want 3 pounds of sweet potatoes for this recipe and I recommend getting the smaller ones rather than the larger ones. Sometimes they are in a bag in grocery stores and labeled premium sweet potatoes. Ordinarily, I don't worry about small or big, premium or not, but in this case, I found the small sweet potatoes to cook more evenly and all around just had a better texture and flavor.
I have tested the recipe with the bigger sweet potatoes and they turned out fine, but just not quite as delicious. So, for tender sweet potatoes, go premium!
The syrup is made from water, brown sugar, and butter. I use light brown sugar, but dark brown sugar is fine as well. I don't recommend using a sugar substitute in this recipe because it won't thicken into syrup. The syrup in this recipe (and the spice blend) is what sets this recipe apart from so many others on the internet. Most recipes tell you to add the water, brown sugar, butter, and sweet potatoes to the slow cooker and turn it on. I tried that and ended up with a liquidy mixture and sweet potatoes that were cooked, but lacking in flavor. This is because that technique is essentially boiling the sweet potatoes in sugar water and when the water is released from the sweet potatoes it is really diluted and thin. Some people will thicken it up at the end and that is fine to do, but you won't get that roasted sweet potato flavor and, trust me, it's worth making the syrup for that!
I have not tested the recipe with something like maple syrup, but you can substitute that if you want. I think the sauce will be thinner, though.
You can use salted or unsalted butter. I used salted.
The combination of seasonings is a pretty basic combination of all those warm spices that are similar to a pumpkin pie spice like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, allspice, and even a touch of vanilla. This blend pairs perfectly with the sweet glaze over the tender sweet potatoes, but you can certainly use different spices if you prefer.
It is also perfectly fine to leave out one or several of the spices if you do not have them or don't like them.
Instead of the marshmallows on top of the sweet potatoes, I went for a meringue topping which has a lot of the same characteristics of gooey marshmallows, but not as sweet and so beautiful! The meringue topping gives this sweet potato casserole a slightly fancier look and it makes the perfect Thanksgiving side dish!
If you haven't made meringue before, don't worry, it's super easy to do! You only need egg whites and some white sugar. A stand mixer does come in handy, but it can be done with a hand-held electric mixer as well.
Some other toppings that would be great on this classic side dish are:
- large or mini marshmallows baked golden brown
- streusel or crumb topping
- toasted pecans
How to Make Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes
Mise En Place (Prep)
There isn't any! Well, except for gathering the ingredients and mixing the spices in a small bowl.
You can cut the sweet potatoes ahead of time or as the syrup is cooking. However, if you aren't quick at peeling and slicing raw sweet potatoes, then do about half of them before you start the syrup so you don't accidentally let it cook too long and burn it. I almost had that happen on the recipe video and while everything worked out fine, I had very stiff syrup/candy at first.
Cutting the Sweet Potatoes
Usually, I will start the syrup just before I peel and slice the sweet potatoes, but if you are making this recipe for the first time you may want to cut the sweet potatoes before you make the syrup so you can pay close attention to the syrup and avoid burning it.
Peel and slice the sweet potatoes into ½" thick slices. While they all don't have to be exactly the same size, try to get them as close as possible so they cook evenly.
You don't want to make them too much thicker or they might not cook all the way on low slow cook. If they are too thin, they may break apart too much.
Place the cut sweet potatoes into a bowl until you are ready for them. You don't have to soak them in water, but you do want to either place them in a sealed bag or a covered container if you aren't going to use them right away.
Sweet potatoes don't brown as fast as white potatoes do, but they can discolor if left exposed to the air for long periods of time.
If you are moving right on to making the syrup and slow-cooking the sweet potatoes, they are fine in the bowl.
Making the Syrup
If you are using the Ninja Foodi, Ninja Speedi, or another appliance that has the capability of sautéing, you can make the syrup right in the inner pot that you will cook your sweet potatoes in.
If your slow cooker doesn't have a sauté function, then you will want to make the syrup in a heavy-bottomed pot on the stove. I would use medium to medium-high heat.
Turn the Ninja Foodi on high sear/sauté and add the packed brown sugar and water. Stir to combine them. When a recipe calls for packed brown sugar it means that you press the brown sugar into the measuring cup to pack it down for an accurate measurement.
Bring the brown sugar and the water to a boil and then add the lemon juice. Continue to stir every few minutes until the mixture reduces and becomes thicker. I don't take a temperature; instead, I go by looks.
Take a wooden spoon or silicone spatula and scrape across the bottom of the pot and when the mixture stays separated for 2-3 seconds, you are done.
If at any time you smell burning sugar, turn the heat off and remove the pot immediately. This can happen quickly, so don't walk away when making the syrup.
If you want to measure the temperature of the syrup to judge doneness, it should be around 230°-240℉/110°-171℃
If you think you may have burned the syrup, place a few drops into cold water and taste it. If it tastes like burnt sugar you will want to make a new batch of the syrup.
Add the butter and vanilla extract or vanilla paste to the syrup and stir to combine. If your syrup is hot, you may see some bubbling when you add the vanilla, this is normal and it will stop after you stir it in.
The syrup will be thick and adding the butter will loosen it up some. If you haven't already turned off the Ninja Foodi or stove, make sure to do that now so you don't burn the syrup while you layer the sweet potatoes and seasonings.
If you are making the syrup on the stove, you can either pour it into your slow cooker now or after you layer the sweet potatoes. If you used a slow cooker with a sauté function, just leave the syrup in the bottom and it will get mixed in later.
Layering the Sweet Potatoes
This may seem like a waste of time, but I've tried just throwing the spices into the syrup and then tossing the sweet potatoes around in the pot and it just didn't come out as well as when I took the time to layer the sweet potatoes and the seasonings before mixing everything together.
I know, it's strange, but the sweet potatoes hold on to the spices better this way and it just tastes better!
Mix the seasoning blend together if you haven't already and place one layer of sweet potatoes in the bottom of your slow cooker. The amount you can fit and the number of layers will depend on your slow cooker.
Sprinkle over some of the seasoning blend and repeat this layering process for all of the sweet potatoes. It is okay if you have about ½ teaspoon of seasoning left over, I usually do. Just save it to see if it needs the rest after the potatoes slow cook.
Slow Cooking the Sweet Potatoes
This is where you might scratch your head and say, "Why did I layer them if I'm going to stir them now?" I know, it seems so weird, but it works!
Take a wooden spoon or silicone spatula and bring some of the syrup from the bottom of the pot and mix it in with the layered sweet potatoes. This will move around the layers of sweet potatoes, but the seasoning is still equally disbursed and that is why we do the layering in the first place.
You can skip this step if you made the syrup on the stove and simply pour the syrup over the layers if you want.
Set the Ninja Foodi to low slow cook for 8 hours.
If you are using a different slow cooker that cooks a little faster, you may want to check the doneness after 6 hours.
You can slow cook in the Foodi or other slow cooker on high for 3-4 hours and the potatoes will be done, but the sauce may be thinner.
If you are able to, stir the sweet potatoes every 1-2 hours while they slow cook. If you aren't home, don't worry about it, it will be fine. I just like to move everything around ever so often to ensure even cooking.
This is what they look like after two hours on low. I know they don't even look like they are cooking at all, but they are. Give a stir and keep on slow cooking.
After 8 hours on low slow cook or before if you think they are done, pierce a few with a fork. They are done when the potatoes are fork tender and a lot of the liquid from the sweet potatoes has evaporated. The potatoes will look oven-roasted.
When the sweet potatoes are done, transfer to an oven-safe serving dish, if you plan on making the meringue topping or putting marshmallows on top.
Making the Meringue Topping
Make sure your egg whites are room temperature (they whip easier that way) and preheat the oven to 375℉/190℃
The easiest way to make the meringue is in a stand mixer, but you can use a handheld electric mixer. You can even do it by hand, but it will take a bit of work.
The important thing to remember is that your mixing bowl, whisk attachment and any utensils you use must be clean and free from any oil or fat residue or the egg whites won't whip up correctly.
So, if you just made a batch of cookies or bread with oil, make sure the mixing bowl is super clean and dry.
You also want to make sure no yolk gets into the egg whites when you separate the eggs.
Separate each egg into a small bowl before adding to the mixing bowl just in case you get some yolk into one. You can easily use that egg for something else without having to start over.
Put the room-temperature egg whites into your mixing bowl and whisk until they become foamy.
With the mixer running on medium-high speed, pour in the sugar and continue to whisk.
After about 2-3 minutes of whisking, the egg whites will start to stiffen. I like to whisk until they are just a little past soft peaks; which means when you lift the whisk up, the very tip of the egg whites will bend slightly but not fall off the whisk.
You can take the egg whites all the way to stiff peaks, but sometimes that makes them harder to spread or pipe on top of your sweet potatoes.
You can also tell if the egg whites are done by the amount of egg whites that stay on the whisk. If most fall back into the bowl when you lift the whisk, they are not done yet.
You can spread the meringue over the entire top of the sweet potatoes if you like and I do that in my banana pudding recipe and it's beautiful. See photo below.
Or you can pipe them on top using a large star close tip and a piping bag like I did for this recipe video.
Once the meringue is on top, place the baking dish on the middle rack in a preheated oven and bake at 375℉/190℃ for 7-10 minutes or until the top of the meringue is golden brown.
Serve & Enjoy!
Differences in Slow Cookers
I want to take a minute to talk about slow cookers and how different models and brands will cook differently so you can avoid the pitfalls of your dish not turning out like in the recipe.
There is a common belief that Crock Pots are different from Slow Cookers, but they really aren't. Crock Pot is a brand name, just like Shark Ninja or Hamilton Beach are brand names.
The main difference in how slow cookers cook is the construction of the slow cooker and the material of the outside and inside pot. I have heard that Crock Pot brands have heating coils that wrap up the sides of the outer casing and heat food from the bottom and sides. While this may be true on some models, I have not found anything to confirm this.
Many people say the Instant Pot and the Ninja Foodi don't work as a slow cooker because it takes so long to heat up. I full-heartedly disagree, at least in my experience with using the slow cooker function on the Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker & Air Crisper.
While I agree that it does take longer to heat up, my experiments have proven that the same cooking temperatures are reached in both a Ninja Foodi on the slow cook setting and my Hamilton Beach slow cooker.
What you need to know when following a slow cooker recipe is how your slow cooker cooks. When you are following a slow cooker recipe, do you find you have to increase or decrease your timing or not make any changes?
How to adjust this recipe for your Slow Cooker
I used the Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker & Air Crisper on the low slow cook function and it took 8 hours for the sweet potatoes to become tender and have that oven-roasted look and flavor. You can speed up the cooking time by going from low to high slow cook and it takes about 4 hours, but the sauce is a little thinner and the potatoes aren't quite as roasted.
If you are using a crock pot or a slow cooker that cooks hotter and faster, then you definitely want to stay on low and check the sweet potatoes 4 hours into the cook time and they will probably take around 6 hours. There is also a little more evaporation when using slow cookers that tend to cook hotter and faster, so I recommend adding an additional ¼ cup of water after you make your syrup just to make sure you don't burn the syrup before the sweet potatoes reduce their liquid.
I originally tested this recipe in the Ninja Possible Pro Cooker on slow cook and went on high heat. The sweet potatoes were done in an hour, but they weren't evenly cooked and that wasn't enough time to reduce the sauce and get that roasted flavor. If you want to use the Possible Pro Cooker, use slow cook on low.
I have not tested the recipe in the Ninja Speedi or the Ninja Combi, but I would follow the instructions in the recipe and check for doneness at around the 6-hour mark.
Storage & Reheating Instructions
Make Ahead Instructions
You can absolutely make this recipe a few days ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator or even the freezer until you want to use it.
I recommend not adding any topping until the day you serve it for the best results. See the reheating instructions below for the best way to reheat before putting on the topping.
Once the slow cooker sweet potatoes are done, transfer them into the casserole dish you plan on serving them in and cover with plastic wrap. You want them to be cool before covering.
You can refrigerate the sweet potatoes for up to 4 days. This is for make-ahead or leftovers.
Before freezing it is very important that the sweet potatoes have cooled completely. I recommend refrigerating the leftovers overnight before freezing them.
If the food is warm when packaged for freezing, steam can be produced inside the container or freezer bag, resulting in ice crystals forming.
Air is another issue when freezing food, so make sure you choose a container that is the proper size for the amount of leftovers. You don't want a 3-cup container for 1 cup of sweet potatoes or there will be too much air trapped in the container which can lead to decreased quality of the food.
My preferred method for freezing is using a vacuum sealer which eliminates this issue; however, that can be a little tricky when you have liquid in the bag. So, the easiest way to freeze these sweet potatoes in the syrup is to use a freezer bag or freezer container.
You can store them in the freezer for 6 months. After that the quality may decline.
How to Reheat Candied Sweet Potatoes
I recommend reheating the sweet potatoes in a casserole dish covered in the oven on 325℉/160℃ for about 30 minutes or until they are heated through. You can add some water to them to thin out the syrup a bit and this will also create steam which will warm them up faster.
If you are reheating and then adding the topping, you will follow the same instructions, then uncover and add the meringue topping and bake as directed in the recipe.
If your sweet potatoes are frozen, you will want to thaw them before reheating.
If your leftovers have a meringue or marshmallow topping on them, remove it before reheating and then you can put it back on top after the potatoes are warmed through and warm the topping back up.
You can reheat them on the stove in a pan, but make sure to add some water or you can even make a little more syrup and heat the sweet potatoes in that for more sauce!
I would heat them over medium heat until they are warmed through and then transfer them to a serving dish or baking dish if you want to put a topping on them.
If the sweet potatoes are left over and you have topping on them of any kind, I recommend removing the topping before reheating.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, absolutely! I recommend only making the slow cooker candied sweet potatoes ahead of time, then reheating and adding the topping just before serving for the best results. You can make this dish up to 3 days ahead of time when stored in the fridge and months ahead of time if stored in the freezer. See the section above for details.
You can cut the recipe in half for a smaller quantity by cutting the ingredients in half and keeping the cooking time the same.
I'm not sure how this recipe will do if you double it, but it should work as long as you stir the potatoes every few hours to make sure they all evenly cook.
You can, but your sauce is going to be thinner because artificial sweeteners don't have the same thickening qualities as sugar. I recommend using a corn starch slurry at the end to thicken. You will have to bring the sauce to a boil to activate the corn starch and your sauce will thicken nicely.
What to serve with Candied Sweet Potatoes
Candied Sweet Potatoes are great served with Roasted Turkey, Honey Ham, and even Prime Rib!
Sweet potatoes are a very versatile side dish and can be paired with so many different things. If you are planning a nice Sunday dinner or perhaps Thanksgiving dinner then here are the side dishes that would be perfect!
Candied Sweet Potatoes Recipe
- Slow Cooker
- 1 teaspoon fine grind sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes
- 3 pounds sweet potatoes I recommend looking for premium sweet potatoes
- 1 cup brown sugar packed
- ¾ cup water
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 3 Tablespoons butter salted or unsalted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
- 3 large egg whites room temperature
- 3 Tablespoons white sugar
Candied Sweet Potatoes
- Mix the seasonings in a small bowl.1 teaspoon fine grind sea salt or kosher salt, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon ground cloves, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon ground allspice, ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Peel and slice the sweet potatoes into ½" rounds and place them in a bowl until after you make the syrup.3 pounds sweet potatoes
- If you are using the Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot, you can make the syrup right in the inner pot using sear/sauté. If your slow cooker does not have a sauté function then make it on the stove.1 cup brown sugar, ¾ cup water
- Combine the water and the brown sugar and set the Ninja Food on high sear/sauté and bring the mixture to a boil. If you are using a stainless steel inner pot, reduce the sear/sauté to medium high. On the stove, use a heavy bottomed pot and medium high heat.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and add in the lemon juice. Stir every few minutes until the mixture reduces and thickens into a nice syrup about the consistency of honey. This will take about 12 minutes or so.1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Turn the heat off and add in the butter and vanilla extract or paste. Stir to combine. Leave the syrup in the pot and you can layer the potatoes on top. Or if you made it on the stove, you can pour the syrup over the sweet potatoes after layering them.3 Tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
- Place one layer of sweet potatoes in the slow cooker and sprinke some of the seasoning blend on top. Place another layer of potatoes followed by more seasoning and repeat this until you have all the sweet potatoes in the pot. You can either use all of the seasoning now or reserve ½ teaspoon (which is what I do) and see if it needs it at the end.
- Stir the sweet potatoes and syrup together or pour the syrup over the sweet potatoes if you made it on the stove.
- Set the slow cooker on low and the time for 8 hours. You can set it on high and cook for 4 hours, but the sauce won't reduce as much in my experience and the potatoes don't get that roasted flavor. Different slow cookers cook differently so the times may vary. I recommend checking on the sweet potatoes and stirring them every 2 hours until they are fork tender and the sauce has reduced to nicely coat the sweet potatoes.
- Taste for seasonings and add more if needed. Transfer the sweet potatoes into an 8x8 oven safe casserole dish.
- Preheat the oven to 375℉/190℃.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld electric mixer, whip the egg whites on medium speed until they become frothy.3 large egg whites, 3 Tablespoons white sugar
- Turn the mixer up to medium high speed and stream in the sugar with the mixer running. Once all the sugar is incorporated, turn the mixer to high speed and whisk until the egg whites stiffen to soft peaks. This means that when you stop the mixer and lift the whisk attachment, the egg whites remain on the whisk and where there is a peak at the very end it may bend, but won't fall back into the bowl.
- You can either spread the meringue over the top of the sweet potatoes and then make some peaks and valleys with the back of a spoon or put it into a piping bag and make dollops with a large open star tip like I did. Bake in the preheated oven at 375℉/190℃ for 7-10 minutes. The egg whites will set and cook and the tops will become golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and let them sit for about 5 minutes. Serve and Enjoy!
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
She published her first cookbook in the Fall of 2018 and is very interested in writing several more.
Louise is also the creator of an online Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooking Course with over 100 instructional step-by-step videos. People absolutely rave about the course and all the value they have received from it.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can. Get more Information about Louise & contact information
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