Sweet potatoes have the same hearty texture as regular potatoes, but they’re so much more flavorful, with a slightly sweet, earthy taste that only intensifies during cooking. Here are are top tips for choosing and working with sweet potatoes, plus some new ways to use them in the kitchen.
Sweet Potatoes: Everything You Need to Know
What to Look For
Sweet potatoes are available year-round, but their true seasons are fall and winter. Choose firm, unblemished sweet potatoes without any breaks in their thin skin.
The typical sweet potato typically has either yellow-brown skin and yellow flesh, or dark reddish or purplish skin and dark orange flesh. Specialty varieties include white-fleshed, beige-skinned Japanese Sweet; Louisiana’s famous copper colored Beauregard; the deep red-orange Jewel; the red-purple Carolina Ruby; and the long, narrow, batata originally from the Caribbean.
To bake whole sweet potatoes, scrub them well first and prick their skins in a few places with a fork. Place them on a baking sheet to catch their juices, and bake in a preheated 400°F oven until they are tender when pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes. They can then be peeled and sliced or cut into chunks for glazing, or pureed. You can also peel uncooked sweet potatoes and cook them in salted boiling water until tender before glazing or pureeing.
Sweet potatoes do not keep well, so store them in a cool, dark place, but plan to use them within a week.
Your Sweet Potato Toolkit
- Spiralizer, to create noodle shapes from sweet potatoes for pastas and other dishes
- Deep Fryer, for making perfectly crispy chips
- Adjustable Slicer, for slicing sweet potatoes into even rounds
- Food Processor, to puree cooked sweet potatoes for soups, desserts and more
Sweet potatoes are a staple of Southern and tropical cooking. They are delicious cubed and roasted with other root vegetables or added to stews and soups. They can be substituted for regular potatoes in many recipes, where roasting, baking, frying, stewing or steaming highlight their rich flavor and firm texture. They will contribute more moisture than regular potatoes, so expect a slightly different texture in the finished dish.
Sweet Potato Chips: Using a mandoline, slice sweet potatoes very thinly. Rinse and dry well with paper towels. In a Dutch oven, heat 2 to 3 inches vegetable oil to 325°F. In batches, fry sweet potatoes until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes. Drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with kosher salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Sweet Potato Hummus: Prick whole sweet potatoes with a fork and roast at 400°F until tender. When cool enough to handle, peel. Let cool to room temperature. In a food processor, puree sweet potatoes with tahini, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt and olive oil until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with pita wedges.
Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili: Saute diced onions in oil. Add minced garlic, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper. Cook 1 minute. Add 1 can rinsed and drained black beans, 2 diced sweet potatoes, 1 can diced tomatoes and 1 cup stock. Simmer until sweet potatoes are tender, about 1 hour. Top with shredded Monterey jack cheese, cilantro and sliced avocado.
Sweet Potato Hash with Fried Egg: Boil 2 cubed peeled sweet potatoes until just tender; drain. Saute 1 diced onion in a nonstick pan. Add sweet potatoes and sliced green onions; season with salt and pepper. Press in an even layer with a spatula. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sweet potatoes are brown and crisp. Transfer to serving plates and top with a fried egg.
Sweet Potato Pie: Toast 2 sweet potatoes until tender. Let cool, peel and puree. In a food processor, blend 2 cups puree, 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, a pinch salt, 3 eggs and 1 cup heavy cream until smooth. Pour into a prebaked deep-dish piecrust. Bake at 325°F until the filling is set, about 1 hour. Let cool completely before serving.
Chile-Lime Roasted Sweet Potatoes: Cut unpeeled sweet potatoes into wedges. In a bowl, toss with oil, chili powder, cayenne and salt. Roast at 400°F until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together Greek yogurt with harissa paste and salt to taste. To serve, squeeze lime juice on warm potato wedges and drizzle with the yogurt sauce.
Anyone who likes classic French fries is guaranteed to like these cheese-and-herb-dusted sweet potato fries. They are roasted rather than deep-fried, which makes them healthier without sacrificing flavor.
Tangy cheese lends a wonderful contrast to the sweet potatoes and garlic in this dish. Bake and serve the potatoes in individual ramekins, or prepare in a baking dish and present buffet style. (These are perfect for a Thanksgiving dinner!)
A mix of root vegetables, including sweet potatoes and parsnips, makes this vegetarian taco dish hearty and original.
This play on the traditional sweet potato-marshmallow holiday dish was created by Chefs Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman of the Memphis restaurant Hog & Hominy. It combines brown sugar, pie spices, butter, toasted pecans and a homemade marshmallow topping.