How to Use Sweet Potatoes

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Wondering all about how to use sweet potatoes in the kitchen? We’re answering your top questions, including how to cook sweet potatoes in the air fryer, how to make grilled sweet potatoes, and boiling sweet potatoes, as well as the nutrition benefits of sweet potatoes, in this guide.

What are sweet potatoes? Despite their name, these orange-fleshed tubers—which may also be found in white, yellow, or purple varieties—are not related to the potato, nor the yam, a name they’re often mistakenly called. The actual yam is a rough and starchy root vegetable usually imported from the Caribbean and is nothing like the sweet potato, which traces back 10,000 years in South America. There are about 400 varieties of sweet potatoes in different skin and flesh colors, some shaped like a potato, others long and slender with tapered ends. Common varieties like Garnet or Japanese Purple will have different textures (firm and dry or soft and moist) and degrees of sweetness.

A variety of sweet potatoes at a California market.

Sweet Potato Nutrition Benefits

Sweet potatoes are packed with health potential, thanks in large part to their cache of beta-carotene (found in orange-fleshed sweet potatoes), which is a precursor to vitamin A in the body. One medium sweet potato packs a whopping 438% of the recommended daily value of vitamin A! Sweet potatoes are also packed with vitamin C, manganese, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, biotin, potassium, fiber, vitamins B3, B1, B2, and phosphorus. Whew! All from a humble little root. Bring purple sweet potatoes to the table for a burst of anthocyanins—the same phytochemicals found in blueberries—which are powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds linked with disease protection.

Smoky Chili with Sweet Potatoes

Growing Sweet Potatoes

When to harvest sweet potatoes? Peak season is October through December, but they are available all year in most supermarkets. Select small and medium sweet potatoes for a sweeter, moister flesh. Choose those with smooth, firm, and blemish-free skin. The deeper the color of the skin, the richer it likely is in beta-carotene (or anthocyanins for purple varieties). How long do sweet potatoes last? Store in a cool, dark, well ventilated place, but never refrigerate them for best results—you should get 3-5 weeks shelf-life.

Cooking with Sweet Potatoes

One of my favorite things about sweet potatoes is how delicious and easy they are to cook with. So, what are you waiting for? Watch my helpful video on how to use sweet potatoes here and check out my Top 5 Ways to Use Sweet Potatoes below.

Top 5 Ways to Use Sweet Potatoes

Loaded Sweet Potatoes with Spicy KAMUT® Wheat Berries and Black Beans

1. Bake Sweet Potatoes

Just drizzle a little olive oil over the potato, rub it in, and pop it in the oven and bake until tender (soft to the touch). Then just split those babies open and dive in! They are so good just the way they are, or with a topping, such as cashew cream, nuts, or a drizzle of maple syrup. Check out this recipe to experience the ultimate baked sweet potato recipe.

Classic Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges

2. Grilled Sweet Potatoes or Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Simply slice sweet potatoes into wedges, spread on a baking dish, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with your favorite seasonings—try smoked paprika, garlic powder, or cayenne—and bake them on the top rack of the oven at 375 until golden and tender. You can also use roasted sweet potatoes in casseroles, like this Sweet Potato Black Bean Bake.

Sweet Potato Bread

3. Sweet Potatoes in Baked Goods

Try to include sweet potatoes in breads, muffins, cookies, bars, cakes, pies, and beyond! You can substitute cooked sweet potatoes for pumpkin in just about any baked recipe, like pancakes, muffins, and cookies, too. Check out my Sweet Potato Pie in my book Plant-Powered for Life, or this Sweet Potato Bread.

Add cooked sweet potatoes to a smoothie, such as this recipe for Sunny Peach Pumpkin Smoothie

4. Sweet Potato Smoothies

Toss in ½ cup of cooked sweet potatoes (purple or orange) into your smoothie blender, along with your favorite veggies, fruits, nut and plant-based milk, and you have the substance for a high-octane smoothie!

Southwest Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

5. Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Just cook your sweet potatoes (it only takes about 5 minutes in the microwave!) and mash it as a fabulous side dish. Mix in green onions, almond slivers or pine nuts, and turmeric or cumin if you want to go savory, or add maple syrup, cinnamon, and walnuts for a sweeter option. It’s also a wonderful topping for a Shepherd’s Pie or filling for Potato Pancakes.

Check out some of my favorite sweet potatoes recipes here:

Spicy Sorghum Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers
Sweet Potato Corn Salad with Chili Lime Vinaigrette
Sweet Potato Black Bean Bake
Sweet Potato Zucchini Home Fries
Black-Eyed Pea Sweet Potato Chili

Learn more about how to use plants in these guides here:

How to Cook Kohlrabi
Persimmons 101: Health Benefits, Recipes, and More
How to Use Cherimoya
Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
How to Cook All Greens

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