I don't think sweet potatoes get enough credit. They are a Thanksgiving favorite but go relatively unrecognized the remainder of the year. These sweet, starchy and ultra-nutritious root vegetables should be embraced and enjoyed all winter long.
Like the white potato, sweet potatoes can be prepared in a variety of ways: baked whole, mashed, pureed into a soup, roasted, etc. This is also one of those rare cases where the sweeter version is actually notably more nutritious than the savory white variety. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, protein, dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates. Not only that, but they are an undisputed champion when it comes to beta-carotene sources. Beta-carotene is good for us in many ways. It helps to rev up our immune system, slow down the molecules that cause aging and keep our reproductive system working properly.
Here we have ourselves a starchy, delicious food that is actually really, really good for us. Let's not waste time. Here's what you need to know to enjoy this fabulous vegetable to the fullest:
What to look for in sweet potatoes
You want to look for sweet potatoes that are on the smaller side -- around half a pound each is ideal. Mammoth sweet potatoes tend to be dryer and less sweet. If you are roasting the sweet potatoes whole, choose potatoes that are roughly the same size and weight so that they have a similar cooking time. Look for spuds that are firm and feel heavy for their size. Avoid those that have cracks or soft spots. It also a good idea to avoid buying sweet potatoes that are displayed in a refrigerator case, as the cold negatively affects the taste and texture.
How to store sweet potatoes
Store your sweet potatoes out of the refrigerator in a cool dry place that does not get any direct sunlight. It is best to store them loose, but if you want to store them in a bag, use a paper bag with holes punched in it. Just be sure to never keep them in plastic bags, as it will cause them to spoil faster. If stored properly, these guys will keep for up to two weeks.
How to use sweet potatoes
- Baked whole: Simply pierce the potatoes a few times with a fork, place on a lined baking dish and bake at 400 degrees F until softened. This should take about an hour depending on size. Slit them open and top with a little butter, chopped pecans and cinnamon.
- Salads: Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes. Roast at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes or until tender and caramelized. Try tossing the roasted cubes with farro and mushrooms for a hearty, warm entrée salad or try this savory and sweet spinach, goat cheese and candied nuts salad.
- Puree: Blend roasted sweet potato with milk, butter, salt and pepper to create a velvety puree that is a fantastic accompaniment to roasted meats.
- Soup: Get a soup base started by sautéing diced onions, celery and garlic in olive oil; then add in your roasted sweet potato and stock. Puree with an immersion blender, or in your regular blender, and season with cinnamon, nutmeg and a pinch of cayenne.
- Fries: Cut into long pieces and bake until crispy and caramelized. Sweet potato fries are a delicious and super nutritious alternative to traditional french fries. My absolute favorite way to enjoy them is seasoned with cumin and dunked into a subtly spicy chipotle mayo (full recipe below).
Cumin spiced baked sweet potato fries with chipotle mayo recipe
If you're using organic sweet potatoes, I'd suggest keeping the skin on. Clean them with a damp paper towel and make sure to dry them well before slicing and roasting (any dampness will cause the fries to become soggy). If only conventional sweet potatoes are available, I would peel the potatoes as the skins often contain waxes and dyes.
Serves 4 as a side
- 4 medium sweet potatoes (about 2-1/2 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 canned chipotle pepper, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Halve sweet potatoes lengthwise. Slice into 1/2-inch thick pieces (your fries should be a few inches long, 1/2-inch wide and 1/2-inch thick). Place on a baking dish and toss with olive oil, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper.
- Spread fries out evenly in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes, flipping once midway through.
- While they are baking, make the dipping sauce by combining the minced chipotle pepper with the mayonnaise and lime juice.
- Serve hot with the dipping sauce on the side.
More delicious sweet potato recipes
Sweet potato and caramelized onion quiche
Quinoa and sweet potato salad
Sweet potato soup