How to Cook Sweet Potatoes

Publish Date October 6, 2023 3 Minute Read

How to Cook Sweet Potatoes

As the seasons change, many of us are shifting our focus from refreshing summer dishes to warm comfort foods, with hearty root vegetables taking center stage. Perhaps one of the most loved and well-known winter vegetables is the sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are a versatile, delicious option packed with nutrients, and they make the perfect addition to salads, bowls or sides. While treating them like any other spud is certainly an option, you’ll want to learn how to cook sweet potatoes to enhance their unique, earthy flavor. And don’t let their sweet flavor fool you – these vegetables can be the star of both sweet and savory dishes.

The Difference Between Sweet Potatoes and Yams

Though yams and sweet potatoes are often confused, they don’t have much in common. Yams are native to tropical climates and grow primarily in South America, Africa and the Caribbean. They’re mild and starchy with an almost neutral flavor and a rough skin.

On the other hand, sweet potatoes are native to North America. They’re sweet and fluffy with a thinner skin than yams. Packed with nutrients, including beta carotene and vitamin A, these terrific tubers reach their peak season in the winter. You can enjoy this hearty winter vegetable mashed, fried or as a tasty addition to your salad.

How to Bake Sweet Potatoes

Baking sweet potatoes is one of the best ways to enhance their natural sweetness, giving them a rich, caramel-like flavor. Often, sweet potatoes are paired with sugar and cinnamon, like in sweet potato casserole, but their flavors work well with warm, savory spices like cumin, paprika and even chili powder.

Baked sweet potatoes are a great addition to a fall or winter salad, a grain bowl or as a simple side. There are a few ways to bake your sweet potatoes:

Jacket Potato

You can bake a sweet potato the same way you would a russet potato using the jacket method. Simply wrap a layer of foil around your sweet potato to trap moisture and encourage caramelization. To bake your sweet potato this way, first give it a generous coat of oil, salt and pepper. Then, wrap it in the foil and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until tender.

Unlike russets, sweet potatoes tend to leak a bit when baked. For easy cleanup, line your baking sheet with foil before baking. Try this method to make sweet potato skins.

Sliced Sweet Potatoes

Slicing your sweet potatoes into rounds or cubes is another great way to prep them for baking. Once cut, toss your sweet slices in olive oil and add a generous amount of your preferred spices. Then, spread your sweet potatoes evenly on a baking sheet and bake for roughly 30 minutes at 400°F, or until tender. This is a great way to prepare your sweet potatoes to add to salads or grain bowls. Try these these sweet potatoes with hot honey butter in a salad or as a side.

How to Cook Sweet Potatoes in the Microwave

In a hurry? In roughly 6 minutes, you can have a completely cooked sweet potato using only a microwave. Pierce your potato with a fork to allow steam to release before wrapping it in a damp paper towel. The towel will help your potato retain moisture while cooking. Microwave for 6 minutes before checking, and continue cooking until your sweet potato is fork tender.

Once your sweet potato is cooked, you can top it with butter and sour cream or serve it sweet with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup and brown sugar. Try this recipe for Thai sweet potato with peanut sauce to spice up your microwaved sweet potatoes.

Air Fryer Sweet Potatoes

If you’re craving crispy, crunchy sweet potatoes, air frying is the method for you. To air fry a whole potato, first season the skin and poke a few holes in the potato using a fork. This will allow the skin to become crispy while giving the moisture inside the potato a way to escape, creating a fluffy and moist interior texture. Air fry for about 45 minutes, depending on the size of the potato.

You can also cut sweet potatoes into fries, cubes or slices before air frying. For the crispiest results, soak your cut sweet potatoes in water for 30 minutes before patting them dry and tossing them in the oil of your choice. Soaking potatoes in water helps to remove some of the starch and leaves you with a shatteringly crisp potato.

Sweet potatoes are so much more than the marshmallow-topped side you find on potluck tables. Savory, sweet or spicy, they can add flavor and depth to many seasonal dishes. Whether you bake them, fry them or toss them in the microwave, these sweet spuds are a great way to add some seasonal flavor to any dish.

Looking for more recipe ideas, tips and tricks? Visit our blog for more seasonal inspiration, like timesaving fall recipes, cozy winter dinner ideas, meal planning and more.

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