These Kicked-Up Sweet Potatoes Are Just What Thanksgiving Needs

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These sweet potatoes are sweet. They’re spicy. They’re easy to make and they’re beautiful. What else could you ask for in a Thanksgiving side dish? But seriously, we all want at least one showstopping dish at Thanksgiving that impresses our guests and has them oohing and aahing.

There are a lot of traditionalists out there when it comes to Thanksgiving menus, and I’m one of them. Don’t mess with my mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie and try to get all fancy. There’s a reason they’re called the classics. That said, I think sweet potatoes are one of the side dishes you can have fun with without feeling like you have to stick to traditional pairings or flavors.

This year I’ll be making these maple harissa sweet potatoes. Harissa is a North African condiment that packs a fiery, spicy punch. I mix it with butter and a little maple syrup to tone down the heat level. I then brush that mixture over the sliced potatoes and cook everything in the oven until they’re crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. Basting the sweet potatoes every 15 minutes or so is key to making sure all those delicious flavors evenly distribute in every nook and cranny.

Homemade candied pecans

Homemade candied pecans

I like to garnish these bad boys with homemade candied pecans that come together with three simple ingredients ― maple syrup, pecans and cinnamon. They’re tastier than any prepackaged kind you’d find and free of refined sugar. You basically boil the syrup until it’s bubbling and thick, add the pecans and then cook for a few minutes. When they cool, the maple syrup turns into a shiny hard coating.

This dish might look and sound fancy, but it comes together with a few simple ingredients. With the exception of the harissa (which can be found at Trader’s Joes), most of which you probably already have in your pantry.

Don’t be afraid to think outside your comfort zone this Thanksgiving and try something on the fiery side.

Maple Harissa Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Candied Pecans

  • 1 1/2 cups pecans

  • 1 1/2 cups maple syrup, divided

  • 8 sweet potatoes

  • 1 stick salted butter, softened

  • 4 tablespoons harissa paste

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • kosher salt

  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Add pecans to a sheet tray and toast in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until browned and fragrant.

3. Heat 1 cup of maple syrup in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. Cook until it’s rapidly bubbling and reduced by half. Don’t let it burn.

4. Add toasted pecans, tossing to coat in maple syrup, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until maple syrup is coating each pecan.

5. Transfer to a parchment-lined sheet tray, spread in an even layer and let cool. Then coarsely chop and set aside.

6. Working one at a time, cut each sweet potato into crosswise slits, about 1/8-inch apart, stopping about 1/4 inch from the bottom. Repeat with remaining potatoes and add to a parchment paper-lined sheet tray.

7. In a small bowl, mix together butter, harissa and 1/2 cup maple syrup. Generously brush over each sweet potato, getting in between each of the cuts. Season with salt.

8. Place in the oven and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until potatoes are tender on the inside. Baste every 15 minutes with the remaining maple harissa butter.

9. Remove from the oven and baste one more time with maple harissa butter.

10. Season with salt and then garnish with parsley and chopped nuts. Serve immediately.

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