Candied Sweet Potatoes 大学芋

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Candied Sweet Potatoes (Daigaku Imo) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Fall is here and it’s my favorite season of the year.  I love how leaves turn into beautiful colors and make joyful crackling sounds as you step on them.  And I love these Candied Sweet Potatoes (Daigaku Imo, 大学芋) during this season.

Candied Sweet Potatoes (Daigaku Imo) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

I deeply miss Japan’s beautiful autumn and the freshly harvested rice and crops available during this season. We say, “Fall is a season for big appetites”.  And it’s true.  After brutally hot summer days, our appetite is back and ready to enjoy freshly harvested treats from the fields.

When I was in kindergarten, I remember I went to harvest sweet potatoes with class as part of a school excursion.  We brought home freshly harvested sweet potatoes and my mom made these candied sweet potatoes.

The sweet potatoes were deep fried till crispy, glazed in a sweet sugary syrup and finished with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds.  My dad and I love all kinds of potatoes and we would be quiet for the next few minutes while we devoured them.

Candied Sweet Potatoes (Daigaku Imo) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

In Japanese, these candied sweet potatoes are called Daigaku Imo (大学芋), literally meaning “University Potatoes”.  There are a few theories regarding the origin of name (according to Japanese Wikipedia) but basically this dish was a popular snack at universities in Tokyo during early 1900’s.

This snack is still popular today and can be found at many food stands and school festivals during the fall season.  However, as I live outside of Japan, only way to enjoy this snack is to make my own at home.

Candied Sweet Potatoes (Daigaku Imo) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

I’ve been deep frying the sweet potatoes just like how it’s traditionally made until this year.  Then my friend suggested this new method: a combination of steaming and very shallow frying.

To be honest, I was skeptical.  There’s no way the candied sweet potatoes can taste better than old-fashion deep fried method.  Right?

Well, I gave it a shot.  And I was blown away.  This candied sweet potatoes recipe is pretty close to deep fried version and I’ve been making this dish more frequently than ever because it’s super easy to make and delicious!

The sweet potatoes are crispy outside and inside is cooked till the right soft texture.  The sticky sugary outer layer makes this a wonderful dessert or afternoon snack.

I hope you enjoy this sweet and slightly savory daigaku imo this fall.  Thank you so much for reading!

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Candied Sweet Potatoes
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 2
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. We don’t peel the skin of sweet potato so wash carefully.
  2. Cut diagonally while rotating the sweet potato a quarter between cuts. This Japanese cutting technique is called “Rangiri”.
  3. Soak in water for 15 minutes to remove starch. Change the water a few times.
  4. Wrap the frying pan’s lid with kitchen cloth. This is to prevent condensation on the lid dripping into sweet potatoes while cooking.
  5. Do not heat the frying pan yet. Add sugar, oil, soy sauce and rice vinegar in the pan and combine all together.
  6. Dry the sweet potatoes completely with paper towel and place in the pan.
  7. Cover with the lid and turn on the heat to medium.
  8. When you hear bubbling sound from the pan, turn the heat to low to medium-low, and set timer for 2 minutes. Open the lid and flip the sweet potatoes every 2-3 minute so that all sides will have nice golden brown color and get flavored.
  9. Depends on the size of sweet potatoes, the cooking time varies, cook for 8-10 minutes or until an inserted skewer goes through smoothly (I personally prefer it a bit tougher than completely soft texture). Now transfer to the serving plate/bowl and sprinkle black sesame seeds.
Notes
* Vinegar helps the sugar from hardening when it cools down.

Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.

 

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  1. Oh Nami – I LOVE sweet potatoes and particularly, Japaneses sweet potatoes. I’m really lucky that a nearby Asian market carries them. I buy my stock every week and I love one with lunch or dinner. It’s so good! I roast them and they are just amazing plain. I’ve never heard of eating them this way and I’m sure I would love it. (Nami, do you like chestnuts also? That’s another one of my favorites and I remember enjoying them in Japan years ago and buying some on the streets and they gave us the most ingenious picks that would cut the chestnut and allow you to use it as a scoop as well. If you have any good chestnut tips/recipes, I would love that!)

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  2. This looks like a very unique cooking method but I’m sure the results are worth the effort. It probably wouldn’t be a weeknight meal but great for the weekend when I have a bit more time.

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  3. Nami, every time I visit your blog I find a taste treasure! Your version of sweet potatoes would be a neat “international” component to our traditional Thanksgiving dinner. (I like the color of the Japanese potato skins, too, and hope they’ll “translate” well with the regular ol’ orange-skinned variety here.) Rice vinegar sounds like the perfect counterpoint to the inherent sweetness of this dish, too. By the way, I never question your recipe “tweaks” because they’re so well-researched and tested! Quick question… if I can’t find black sesame seeds, do you think toasted “regular” seeds would work?

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    • Hi Kim! Thank you so much for your kind words. :) The black sesame and white sesame tastes different. It’s similar but white sesame has stronger flavor. So if you were going to use white sesame seeds, sprinkle a little bit. You don’t want to overwhelm the sweet potato flavor with sesame. Hope that helps. :)

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  4. Karin

    Hi Nami. Thanks for the tip on the vinegar. I tried making this before without the vinegar and the sugar coating became so hard. Now I know the secret.

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    • Hi Karin! You’re welcome! Me too, I didn’t add the rice vinegar before – although I love the harden crispy part, it’s too much to handle. After adding the vinegar, it’s so easy to handle! Even after cool down, it won’t become like rock hard. Hope you like this recipe! :)

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  5. Yum, I love any sweet potato dishes and this sweet and savory dish sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing the great tip to avoid deep frying – can’t wait to try :) Pinning.

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  6. This looks like such a terrific recipe! Sweet potatoes make a great dessert, and this way of making them is new to me (quite different from the candied sweet potatoes that appear on many Thanksgiving tables). Really fun recipe – thanks so much.

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  7. Nami-san, Fall is my favorite season in Japan as well. It is a very magical time of the year. I love the colorful trees, especially the ginko trees. Your recipe just brought all of the memories flooding back. I can’t wait to give your recipe a go as it sounds so easy but happy to hear that you still get that hard crispy exterior and smooth soft interior. Great after school snack for the kids. I bet this will be a highly requested item in their bento boxes for school. Ja Mata, BAM

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  8. Yes!! Thanks for posting this recipe! This was one of my favorite snacks in Japan when I last visited and the colder weather is perfect for it. So good in bento! I never think to actually make them myself so thanks for the motivation and instructions.
    – Kate from liquidyolk.com

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  9. This is fantastic. We also have a sweet potato in the Philippines and combined with glazed sugar makes a similar snack like yours. Only difference is we don’t put black sesame seeds or the vinegar and soy sauce. But now you’ve made me curious and I want to try your version. Great video! Thanks for sharing, Nami. Enjoy the week.

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  10. Dear Nami, this is the first time I heard about Japanese sweet potatoes, I do not think that I have seen them in stores around here or at my favorite Asian market but your pictures are so amazingly mouth-watering, I will ask for them and try to hunt them down so that I can make these for my family. This recipe certainly sounds too good not to try it out!

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  11. For the first time this year I had a white sweet potato. It wasn’t calledJapanese but from the looks of yours I wonder if that’s what it actually was. I know it was very tasty. Your recipe sounds great and I like the method of wrapping the lid with a towel. I will have to try that. Thanks for sharing.

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    • nancy

      This recipe is not as easy as it looks – perhaps it is easy but mine was a disaster!!! Every thing was matching your pictures then all of the sudden my potatoes started turning very dark and the syrup (I call it) turned into a rock hard mess. It carmelized and it was awful. Where did I go wrong? It looked really good in the beginning then wham!! I will try it again after I hear from you with your opinion (I hope) Thank you
      Nancy

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      • Hi Nancy,

        Thank you for your feedback. I’m sorry yours didn’t turn out well. I want to check with you a few things that are important here.

        * size of pan – was yours bigger? Maybe not enough oil to cover while cooking?
        * heat – Maybe it was too strong? Please adjust to your gas/electric stove.
        * oil – Did you use vegetable oil? For example, olive oil is not appropriate for frying in this case.
        * rice vinegar – this is the key ingredient for not crystallizing the sugar.
        * sweet potatoes – Did you use Japanese ones? If not, the texture may be slightly different and you need to adjust the cook time. Also, make sure the sweet potato pieces were the same size and weren’t overlapping to maintain the same cooking time for all pieces.
        * the lid – Were you able to block the condensation from dripping to the pan from the lid? It’s important trick to keep make it crispy.

        You see how I cook through the video and step by step pictures so there is no secret. I’ve been making this for many times this year (we really love this recipe). I hope you can succeed next time. As I wasn’t in your kitchen, it’s very hard for me to pin point the reason(s) why it went wrong. But I REALLY hope to help you.

        Hope that helps. :)

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        • nancy

          thank you for your quick reply – the pan I used was a good size so no potato overlapped each other. I did do the lid cover with towel, used Japanese potatoes (my favorite) and while reading your reply I was thinking perhaps I did not turn the heat (electric) down enough. Perhaps I overcooked the potatoes and all of the sudden it turned very dark. Thanks for you reply and I will try again because I love those potatoes. You said since I am not in your kitchen – you can top over any time you want – haha! I will try again and let you know how it turns out.
          Nancy

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          • Hi Nancy! Okay, try cooking on lower heat and make sure to turn every 2-3 minutes (if you know inside is already cooked, you can turn up a little bit to make it crispy). I wish I could be in your kitchen and we can cook together! But we’ll be fighting over these when they are done. 😀 Haha Good luck!!!

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  12. Patricia Brown

    Hello Nami,

    Your recipe for Candied Sweet Potatoes looks fantastic! I am always looking for new Thanksgiving dinner ideas and I think these potatoes will be a step up from the usual sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. Thank you.

    Patti

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    • Hi Patricia! Hope you will enjoy this recipe as much as we do. I’ve never tried sweet potato casserole with marshmallows….. I bet my son (who loves marshmallows) will love it!

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  13. I love sweet potatoes and this I know I will enjoy
    Thks for sharing Nami
    I’ve been visiting your blog often lately for your inspiring Japanese dishes
    I made a few and I enjoyed all of them :)

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  14. Cristina

    Looking forward to trying these sweet potatoes. I’ve only ever roasted or baked them. This is a tasty alternative and method (going to have to make this for my Mom, she’ll luv it!). :)

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  15. Hello dear Nami, I am so happy to see you new video, looks very professional! Your husband and you are doing an amazing job. I wish my husband can be more involved in my blog-))

    The recipe itself is very unique!

    Have a lovely day,

    Hugs,

    Yelena

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  16. I’m going to look for japanese sweet potatoes at the asian market near me. I really like that these are shallow fried and not deep fried. I’m scared of all the hot oil involved when deep frying, so this method looks easier (and healthier)!

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  17. Hi,
    I love the fall season too and it is my favorite season too! Very nice recipe, I never heard about candied sweet potatoes but it sounds very interesting and I would like to try. In Sweden potatoes are very popular and I can easily find sweet potatoes too… Let’s see if I will manage to try this next week, now that I am in maternity leave I have time to experiment new recipe… until the baby comes.
    V
    Ciao

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  18. I watched your video last night and enjoyed it. Love how you made these sweet potatoes, I can already imagine the taste and texture. It must me delicious! Instead of me pouring maple syrup or honey I can now make these. Awesome! Yummy Pics and great post, Nami!

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  19. This is well timed. I bought some jujubes this week. Lost for what to do with them I candied them in sugar syrup on the stove until they were like dates. They were so tasty I decided to use them as a garnish on a pudding. Some unusual and unexpected like pumpkin or (wait for it) sweet potatoes. Only I wanted my sweet potato pudding to be flavored just as unexpectedly. No cinnamon and spice for me… but sweet soy and sesame may just work. Thanks. GREG

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  20. nancy

    I love the videos!! I liked the way you showed how you cut the potato in a special way. Japanese sweet potatoes are the absolute best tasting of all the sweet potatoes. I have gotten my daughter hooked on your website and she couldn’t believe how easy you make your recipes with the pictures. Thanks again for great recipes and your videos!!

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    • Thanks so much for introducing my blog to your daughter and I’m really glad to hear she thinks pictures are helpful. It takes extra time and I thought of giving up many many times… but feedback like this kept me going. :) Thank you once again!

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  21. I love candied sweet pototatoes!!! But it’s quite hard to find here in Australia and I didn’t know that it was actually quite easy to make I just need to find some japanese style sweet potatoes and try making them :)

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  22. What a great video! Short, sweet, great instructions, and visually pleasing! Definitely need to be watching more. :) After seeing how these are made and the result, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to fry them. These potatoes look perfect so how could you beat perfection! I discovered the Japanese Sweet potato last year and fell in love, so I look forward to making these.

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  23. Ohhh this is my mother’s fav way to eat her sweet potatoes! I hope I will get to try more when I visit Japan soon :)

    Oh, and that’s so awesome for kindergarden excursion to go harvest sweet potatoes!

    Btw, I just noticed your new profile photo! Nami you’re so pretty! :)

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  24. Oh those look just so divine, Nami. I adore sweet potato, but we mainly get the orange ones here – not nearly as nice – too squidgy! But our local store gets them now, so I’ll definitely try this.

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  25. We are definitely at the same wave lenght, Nami :)
    Just mentioned in my last post that fall is my favorite season.
    I can imagine how beautiful fall must be in Japan.
    My husband is a huge sweet potato fan and will be delighted with this recipe.

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  26. I love candied sweet potatoes or Daigaku Imo! They look so pretty with the black sesame seeds. Thank you for taking the time to post step-by-step photos, I really appreciate it!

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  27. Oh my goodness I can’t wait to try this method. Sweet Potatoes are my favorite veggie and I can eat them just microwaved and plain. However, after seeing these I want this to be my new favorite way of cooking them. This is the first time I’ve seen a Japanese sweet potato and I hope I can find them at our teeny tiny Asian market.

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  28. Ah! These look and sound so good! We love sweet potatoes around here…they also remind me of fall…but I’ve never had them like this before. Can’t wait to try (as always when I visit here!)

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  29. I love sweet potatoes and I say we live to learn new things! Socrates a very big Greek philosopher said, I grow old and i always learn. I love your potatoes Nami!

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  30. What an original snack (or dessert?). The photographs are particularly beautiful and the video so impressive! How do you manage to produce such time consuming posts in such short intervals! I guess I will never know… You are amazing!

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  31. We used to to cooked the sweetg potato in melted palm sugar over here in Indonesia Nami,
    but never try the carmel/candied version…..
    btw, i love the color of your unpeeled sweet potato, the skin add some fibers intake too!

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  32. Yan

    Is there any other name for the Japanese sweet potatoes you used? The Asian store I go to have all these kinds of different sweet potatoes and they all look very similar…

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  33. Hey Nami we have something similar in the Philippines its called Kamote Cue, same concept but we dont use soy sauce just brown sugar then we serve them on skewers

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  34. Mm, this looks really nice! I wonder, do you think Korea has a similar recipe? I had something which seemed really familiar to this in a Korean restaurant one time and loved it!

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  35. What a unique way to eat sweet potatoes, I’m sure they are yummy with that sweet syrup. We eat them in the “french fry” form but I never thought to try them in larger chunks. I love Fall too and the foods that accompany it

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  36. Tina Driz

    I am making them now Nami I got all the ingredients well without the black sesame seeds forgot that one next time lol. Wish me luck it looks good from the video experimenting them for Thanksgiving! ty

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  37. The color of these potatoes is beautiful! And these sound delicious. I like your method of covering the lid with a dish towel to prevent steam from spattering in the oil. Will have to try sometime!

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  38. Candice

    Hi Nami,

    Can the candied sweet potatoes be eaten cold? I have a Thanksgiving dinner w/ friends and wanted to make this dish, but wasn’t sure if it’s good to eat cold.

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    • Hi Candice! This is totally up to preference. I (as a huge sweet potato fan) can eat this hot, warm, at room temperature, cool, and cold. It’s more like savory snack, than food/side dish so eating at room temperature is okay to me. Compared to the times I deep fried to make this, the sugar syrup never become super rock hard, so I think it should be okay to bring for Thanksgiving dinner. :)

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  39. Khadija

    Hi Nami…I just made these today and they were amazing!! Wish I had taken a pic to put on instagram and tag you but I just ate them all in one go. they were that yummy!! I’ll take a pic next time :) Also, I used olive oil (light) and they turned out fine…I read later in one of the comments you said not to use olive oil (oops!) but no problem!

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  40. Barbara

    Hi Nami,
    I’m slowly working through all your recipes and this seems like a super simple and wonderful snack to make! Can I substitute the Japanese sweet potato with a regular orange sweet potato? I live in Australia and I don’t have easy access to that particular sweet potato unfortunately :(
    Also, is rice vinegar the same as sushi seasoning or are they slightly different?

    Thanks so much!

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    • Hi Barbara! Thank you for checking and trying my recipes! Although I haven’t tried this recipe with orange sweet potatoes, you can definitely substitute. They are not as sweet as Japanese sweet potatoes, so please adjust the sugar amount. And rice vinegar and sushi vinegar is different. Sushi vinegar includes rice vinegar, sugar, salt (and more ingredients for a bottled sushi vinegar). :)

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