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How to Cook Sweet Potatoes

how to cook sweet potatoes
Mashed, roasted, grilled or even microwaved, there’s no wrong way to make sweet potatoes. We’ll show you how and share our best recipes along the way!

Introduction

Sweet potatoes play a starring role in some of our favorite side dishes—both for special holiday meals and easy everyday eats. Whether baked plain, mashed, or made candied or cheesy, sweet potatoes are a good-for-you starch that’s full of culinary possibility.

There are several easy ways to cook sweet potatoes, including baking, mashing, sautéing, grilling, and even slow-cooking. We’ll walk you through each method and provide helpful hints on how to make sweet potatoes your family will love. For any given method, you’ll only need a few simple cooking utensils, such as a baking dish, stockpot, or slow-cooker.

How Healthy Are Sweet Potatoes?

For all the cheese or added ingredients we may throw on them, sweet potatoes by themselves are incredibly nutritious. A simple baked sweet potato with a little salt is a wonderful source of dietary fiber and potassium, as well as Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C—all essential vitamins for our health. In fact, sweet potatoes are one of the best natural sources of beta-carotene. The human body transforms beta-carotene to vitamin A, which is essential for healthy immune systems, eyes, and skin.

Types of Sweet Potatoes

gluten free caramelized onion and sweet potato skillet

You may not know this, but there are actually many different types of sweet potatoes, ranging in flavor and color. Here are some common ones you may find at your local grocery store:

Beauregard: Red-skinned Beauregards are the most commonly grown commercial variety of sweet potatoes, and have an ideal texture for just about any method of cooking.

Covington: A favorite of the South, Covingtons have an orange-colored flesh that becomes malty sweet when baked. This is an ideal sweet potato to use in side dishes or desserts.

O’Henry: With a cream-colored flesh, the O’Henry remains dense when baked and has a lightly sweet flavor.

Jewel: Jewels have a deeper orange-colored flesh that becomes ultra-tender when cooked. For this reason, Jewels are ideal for casseroles or side dishes.

Are Sweet Potatoes Different Than Yams?

One common misconception about sweet potatoes is that they are the same as yams. Sweet potatoes and yams are both tuberous root vegetables, but they are not related. Most yams come from Africa and Asia, and have a blackish or brown skin with purple, white, or red flesh. Yams are drier and contain more starch than sweet potatoes, and aren’t even carried in most local grocery stores. How could this be?

To start with, there are two main types of sweet potatoes: soft and firm. When sweet potatoes were first introduced in the United States, only firm sweet potatoes were sold. Once soft varieties began making their way to the U.S., grocers needed a way to differentiate between the two varieties. The began to frequently label soft sweet potatoes as “yams.”

So ironically, when you want a classic baked sweet potato with orange flesh for Thanksgiving, what you actually should look for at the grocery store is a grocery-store-labeled “yam.” How’s that for confusing? If you were as surprised as we were, try to simply differentiate the sweet potatoes sold at the store by looking at the color of the skin and the flesh if possible. Use the main types we outlined above to buy the right sweet potato for your specific cooking needs.

How to Store Sweet Potatoes

Before you cook your sweet potatoes, you can keep them stored at room temperature. It’s not recommended to refrigerate your sweet potatoes before cooking, as this has the potential to alter their final taste. Instead, cover them loosely in a bag or keep them in a fruit bowl for 5 to 7 days.

How to Cook Sweet Potatoes

As we mentioned, there are several easy ways to cook a sweet potato! Find the method that you like best and use it to make creative sweet potato recipes—everything from Sweet Potato Risotto to a Roasted Sweet Potato Pie.

Baked

make-ahead baked sweet potatoes

Baked sweet potatoes are about as easy as it gets! Simply grab a fork and a baking dish—not forgetting a little aluminum foil—and they’re ready to go in the oven! You can season with your favorite herbs or spices and add plenty of butter when they’re still hot.

  • Use a fork to pierce the sweet potato skin 5-6 times
  • Place potatoes on a baking sheet or in a baking dish—either one, line with foil first
  • Bake at 400° F for about 45 minutes or until tender.

Sauteed

curried butternut squash saute

Make flavorful sweet potatoes on your stovetop in two simple steps! This approach is elegant enough for holiday dinners but also easy enough for simple weeknight meals.

  • Slice sweet potato into 1 ½ inch-thick slices
  • Toss in pan with a bit of olive oil and sauté for 10 minutes

Mashed

whipped maple sweet potatoes

Why should regular potatoes get all the love? Our five-star Whipped Maple Sweet Potatoes are too good to pass up! For mashed sweet potatoes, all it takes are a few simple steps:

  • Bring a pot of salted water to boil
  • Add potatoes (sliced into 1 ½ inch thickness) to pot
  • Cook about 25 minutes or until tender
  • Blend potatoes with electric mixer (on low), adding milk according to recipe

Microwaved
When you’re short on time but still filled with a sweet potato craving, your microwave can be your best friend! All you’ll need is a fork and a microwave-safe plate:

  • Use a fork to pierce the sweet potato skin 5-6 times
  • Place potato on microwave-safe plate; microwave for 5-8 minutes, rotating halfway through
  • Potato will be done when the skin is crisp and the flesh is tender

Slow-Cooked

slow cooker sweet potatoes with applesauce

Slow-cooked sweet potatoes are tender and ultra-flavorful; and all they require is a crockpot and a few minutes of prep! There are tons of slow-cooked sweet potato recipes that have our hearts, but our Slow-Cooker Sweet Potatoes with Applesauce is our favorite. In general, most recipes will require you to take these three simple steps in order to slow-cook sweet potatoes:

  • Peel and dice sweet potatoes and put on bottom of slow-cooker
  • Turn slow-cooker to low; let cook for 6-7 hours
  • Top with butter or other herbs

Grilled

grilled sweet potatoes with orange ginger butter

Grilled sweet potatoes play nicely with a huge assortment of yummy flavors, from orange glaze to rosemary and thyme. Fire up your grill and break out a few seasonings to make these simple yet sumptuous grilled sweet potatoes:

  • Peel potatoes and cut in half, lengthwise
  • Season with salt or other seasonings
  • Grill 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender

How to Serve Sweet Potatoes

Now that you’ve cooked your sweet potatoes to perfection, it’s time to top them with your favorite ingredients! Here are some of our favorite ways to top sweet potatoes:

  • Butter
  • Sour cream
  • Cheese
  • Bacon bits
  • Seasonings
  • Chives

Looking for more inspiration? Betty has all the best-ever sweet potato recipes you need, from sweet potato fries to sweet potato pies!



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