Recipe: Sweet Potatoes in Coconut Caramel Sauce

I love necklaces. The bright stones add a splash of color and fun to my generally plain-Jane outfits. Seeing as I don’t general have time to put on makeup, necklaces are the one and only way to brighten up my look. To make it look like I tried.

Well, today, we’re getting a taste of how the islanders in Tonga dress up dinner. In short? Sweet potatoes meet coconut caramel sauce – a vivid display of orange, white, and golden brown.

Beach on Vava'u, Tonga. Photo by Jansan.

Beach on Vava’u, Tonga. Photo by Jansan.

Sweet potatoes and coconut grow easily in the Pacific, making this dish ubiquitous in Tonga. In fact, from what I read, this coconut caramel sauce is on everything in Tonga, from dumplings to taro.


The caramel is just sugar and coconut milk (yay, for an accidentally vegan caramel sauce!). The coconut milk gives the caramel a depth of flavor butter can’t touch. It’s just so tropical. So dressed up.

TIP: You can substitute boiled taro, or even boiled dumplings, for the sweet potato in this recipe.


2 lbs sweet potatoes (about 2-3)

For the sauce:

2 cups sugar
1, 15 ounce can coconut milk (1 3/4 cup)


Coconut flakes


Peel and cube the sweet potatoes. Steam until tender, 10-15 minutes for 1 inch pieces.

Meanwhile, heat up the sugar in a saucepan over medium-low until it begins to turn golden brown (about 4-7 minutes). Stir frequently. Once it melts, things move fast and it can quickly go from golden to burnt (and from sweet to bitter), so watch closely.

TIP: Have the can of coconut milk open and ready to pour on. Watch out, since the liquid will splatter as it hits the hot sugar.

Pour on the coconut milk. Stir the mixture together and cook for about 15 minutes, until thick.

Pour over the sweet potatoes, garnish with coconut, and serve immediately.

So what do you think? Would you make this instead of regular candied sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving?  Why or why not?

P.S. Save any extra caramel sauce for ice cream. You’ll be glad you did!

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  1. Oh, do I ever wish that this were the traditional sweet potato recipe for American Thanksgiving instead of the typical dish of syrupy marshmallow gack. Maybe I will just go ahead and make it traditional at my house… :) And now I’m also wondering how it would work mashed as a pie filling!

  2. aunty eileen says:

    Could I use less sugar with the whole can of coconut milk? And, brown sugar?

  3. …speaking of necklaces….just wait and see what love the birthday fairy brings…

  4. Oooh, those red jewel yams are the best sweet potatoes! Looks like the dish could be used as a dessert.

  5. Lovely work! Would you be happy to link it in to the current Food on Friday which is all about sauces? This is the link . I do hope to see you there. There are already quite a lot of links for you to check out. Cheers

  6. Made this along with the Banana Fritters from Tuvalu – the Caramel sauce was perfect for those as well.


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