At the Table

Eatymology: Sweet Potato Candy

By: The Local Palate

Sweet Potato Candy

[swēt pəˈtādō ˈkandē]

n: A holiday pantry staple made from sweet potatoes, powdered sugar, and peanut butter

In the South, where sweetness is a way of life (does unsweet tea even exist?), confections are the preferred way to bid good tidings to all. Even in lean times, we’ve always had something up our sleeves. Sweet potato candy is one such treat. When the larder was scarce, but the sweet tooth still called, the no-bake confection fit the bill. Also called potato candy, it was said to have originated in the Depression era, although some place its origins with the arrival of Irish settlers to the region. The recipe called for just a few ingredients: potatoes (white or sweet), powdered sugar, vanilla, and peanut butter. But don’t mistake the potato as a prominent flavor. It serves mostly as a binding agent, drowned out by pounds of powdered sugar.

For an updated version, we solicited the baking wisdom of Ashley Capps, chef and founder of New Stock (formerly of Buxton Hall Barbecue) in Asheville, North Carolina, who is known for her vintage-inspired creations. Capps incorporates purple sweet potatoes for their fun, vibrant color and takes liberties to roast the potatoes, which makes for a richer flavor with less water content. She also turns to spices to bolster the overall profile of the sweet potatoes and adds cream cheese to cut the richness of the peanut butter filling. If you ask us, it’s an instant classic. Write it down or clip it out, and place it in your recipe box for holidays to come.

Sweet Potato Candy

 Pastry chef Ashley Capps’ take on this simple Southern candy is just right for gifting. 

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