The turkey may be the centerpiece, but for me, the sides are the best part of a Thanksgiving feast. Each family member has that one side dish that is their favorite. For some, the entire holiday is in danger of ruin if the sweet potatoes are topped with something other than toasty brown marshmallows or the squash casserole is missing from the table.

I learned the hard way that side dishes can be added, but nothing can be removed from the menu. As a chef and unofficial person in charge of the Thanksgiving meal, I’ve tried to branch out a bit. This doesn’t mean I’ve been successful. An attempt to put panko breadcrumbs on the squash casserole deemed me an enemy of the state but this bourbon sweet potato dish is one that I’ll never change.—Virginia Willis

Bourbon Sweet Potatoes FAQs

What kind of sweet potatoes should I use for this recipe?

Tan or purple-skinned sweet potatoes are known as the “dry” varieties and aren’t recommended for this dish. We suggest that you stick with orange or red-skinned sweet potatoes, such as Red Garnet or Jewel. These are known as “moist” varieties and have a sweeter taste and a creamier texture.

Do I have to use alcohol in bourbon sweet potatoes?

If you’re alcohol-adverse, this might not be the recipe for you. With half a cup going into the syrup, the bourbon makes up a large part of the recipe and you’d have to replace it with something else. If you just don’t like bourbon, you can replace it with another alcohol like a different type of whiskey (or whisky. We see you, Canada), Scotch, or rum.

Bourbon sweet potatoes in a white oval baking dish, sitting on a white and blue tea towel.

Bourbon Sweet Potatoes

4.81 / 36 votes
Only a Southerner, inheritor of the infamous Southern sweet tooth, would add massive quantities of butter and sugar to sweet potatoes and still regard it as a vegetable. Add a shot of bourbon? No problem.
David Leite
Servings4 to 6 servings
Calories501 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Total Time1 hour


  • 4 to 6 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch (12-mm) thick rounds
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons sorghum or maple syrup


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Butter an ovenproof gratin or casserole dish.
  • Arrange the sweet potato slices in the prepared baking dish and season generously with salt and pepper.
  • In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, bourbon, and syrup, and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as the sauce begins to boil, pour it over the sweet potatoes.
  • Bake the casserole, turning the sweet potatoes and spooning the liquid over the top occasionally, until the sweet potatoes are tender, 45 to 60 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.
Bon Appetit, Y'All by Virginia Willis

Adapted From

Bon Appétit, Y’All

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Serving: 1 servingCalories: 501 kcalCarbohydrates: 79 gProtein: 4 gFat: 12 gSaturated Fat: 8 gMonounsaturated Fat: 3 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 32 mgSodium: 145 mgFiber: 7 gSugar: 42 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2008 Virginia Willis. Photo © 2008 Ellen Silverman. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Bourbon! Sweet potatoes! Need I say more? I’ve been pleased with all of Virginia Willis’s recipes from this great cookbook, but this one really turned heads…and noses. The smell of sweet potatoes baking in the bourbon mixture was delightful. This was a great side dish for a curry-spiced chicken and okra dish we made for some friends this weekend. This comment should tell you a lot: one of our friends who came over for dinner doesn’t even usually like sweet potatoes, but he practically rushed back over to the oven for seconds of these!

In terms of the recipe itself, I made this dish in a casserole dish to try and keep the potatoes in one layer. That made it easier to baste and rotate the potatoes throughout the cooking time. My potatoes were cooked at the 45-minute mark instead of the 60-minute mark. I loved this easy recipe and would love to try it again with some pecans or walnuts sprinkled on top.

Sweet potato yummy heaven! Make this for Thanksgiving, Superbowl Sunday, and every other fall/winter special occasion.

Anyone that makes this will tell you it was a treat just to open up the oven and smell this baking. Its wonderful goodness reaches you even before you take that first bite. The flavor that takes this to the top is the bourbon. It brings this dish together. All I can say is that any extras you may want to add will be an added bonus. I was tempted to add pecans.

These are pretty sweet, so they will be perfect for Thanksgiving, This is the second recipe I tested by Virginia Willis from her cookbook Bon Appetit Y’All. And that’s definitely a favorite saying down here in Louisiana. I’ll use her cookbook a lot more and am happy to own it.

If you like to justify what you eat, this could be called a vegetable side dish. However, this could just as easily be called dessert. The sweet potatoes come out tender, while the sauce becomes a rich, buttery glaze. It is so simple to make, it really doesn’t matter whether you eat it for dinner, dessert, or even breakfast (my husband said it reminded him of French toast). I’ll be making it again.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I’m back, I’m cooking these for tomorrow dinner, cooked some three weeks ago just because my husband requested we really like this recipe. Thanks again, have a great Thanksgiving.