13 Easy Ways to Perfectly Cook Sweet Potatoes
12 Easy Ways to Perfectly Cook Sweet Potatoes
How to Cook Sweet Potatoes
From baked sweet potatoes to roasted sweet potatoes to sweet potato noodles, there are plenty of healthy ways to enjoy the lovable, orange-fleshed tuber. Not only do sweet potatoes pack a delicious and naturally sweet flavor, but they’re also nutritional powerhouses. Sweet potatoes are turbocharged with essential vitamins and nutrients—and we can all benefit from packing more of them into our diets. Below, learn 12 easy ways to cook sweet potatoes, then make our healthy sweet potato recipes.
How to Buy Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are available year-round at most grocery stores—but you’ll probably see them at the farmers market during their peak season, October through December. Sweet potatoes come in all shapes and sizes, and what you buy should ultimately depend on the sweet potato recipe you’re making. For baked or microwaved sweet potatoes, look for thinner potatoes and avoid unevenly-shaped ones. For recipes that call for diced sweet potatoes, you can use any shape or size.
How to Prep Sweet Potatoes
Before you start cooking, rinse and scrub the potatoes under cool water to remove any dirt or impurities from the skin. Whole sweet potatoes can be tough to saw through, so make sure your knife is sharp first. How you cut your sweet potatoes largely depends on how you intend to cook them—they can be sliced into wedges, cubes, batons, medallions or thin coins, spiralized into “swoodles,” or left whole.
There’s no need to peel the skin, unless you’re making mashed sweet potatoes, sweet potato casserole, sweet potato soup, or sweet potato pie. In fact, if you leave the skin on, you’ll pick up twice the amount of fiber per serving. Sweet potato skin is an excellent source of insoluble fiber, and the fleshy interior is a good source of soluble fiber.
Baked Sweet Potatoes
A baked sweet potato is the perfect easy side to roast chicken or pork, but it can also stand alone as a vegetarian main. Buy long and thin sweet potatoes, as this shape will cook through faster and more evenly. You’ll want to use hot oven as well—at least 400 degrees or hotter—to make sure the skin is crispy.
Make sure to prick the potato skin in several spots with a fork so that steam can escape while it cooks. Simply brush with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until the skin crisps and the insider is tender. Depending on your oven and the size of your potato, this takes about 45 minutes to an hour.
Once your sweet potatoes are baked, you can stuff them with all kinds of tasty toppings. Stay sweet with a pat of butter and sprinkle of brown sugar—or go savory with feta cheese, crumbled bacon, sour cream, fresh chives, or even homemade barbecue pork. Give the tahini-slathered baked sweet potatoes topped with crunchy chickpeas a try in the recipe below.
Watch a basic method for baking a sweet potato here.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Roasted sweet potatoes make a delicious side alongside other roasted mains, like whole chicken or pork tenderloin. They’d also work well as the star of any vegetarian meal. Sweet potatoes roast best when cut into wedges, medallions, or cubes.
If you’re roasting sweet potato cubes or wedges, try this prep trick—toss your potatoes with olive oil and other flavorings in a large bowl with your hands or a pair of tongs before placing them on a baking sheet (watch a demo here). Make sure your potatoes have plenty of space while they roast so they can crisp and brown properly.
Cubed roasted sweet potatoes work well when tossed into green or grain salads, mixed with eggs for a hearty breakfast hash, or stuffed into tacos and quesadillas. You can also stack sweet potato medallions into muffin cups and roast them for a perfectly-portioned side dish.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Yes, they’re a Thanksgiving staple, but mashed sweet potatoes are also an easy, crowd-pleasing side that’s perfect for weeknights. When making mashed sweet potatoes, there are three big decisions you’ll face. First—should you peel the skins or leave them on? It’s your choice, but keeping the sweet potato skin adds nutrition and lends more texture.
Second—do you like a smooth or creamy consistency? Again, it’s entirely up to you. After the potatoes have boiled until tender (about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size), drain the water and start mashing. You can do this with a potato masher or a large fork directly in the pot. Stop when the potatoes reach the consistency you like—whether it’s silky-smooth or slightly lumpy.
And lastly—sweet or savory? While classic mashed sweet potato recipes often rely on butter and sugar for flavor, why not give savory mashed sweet potatoes a try? Fresh herbs like sage or thyme, parmesan cheese, tahini, garlic, and ginger can add brightness and balance to your mash.
Grilled Sweet Potatoes
Grilled sweet potatoes pair well with summer cookout staples like BBQ chicken and grilled pork chops, as well as a medley of other grilled vegetables. Grilling adds a charred flavor that balances the natural sweetness of the potatoes.
If you’re grilling the sweet potatoes from raw, char them until you get grill marks on both sides, then move them to a less hot part of the grill to prevent burning. You can also partially cook the sweet potatoes beforehand (such as in the microwave or vegetable steamer) to speed up grill time. To add even more flavor, toss grilled sweet potatoes with fresh lemon or lime juice, a tangy vinaigrette, or fruity salsa. (We also love dipping them in homemade tzatziki sauce!)
Sweet Potato Fries
Sweet potato fries are always a hit, whether you make them for a summer cookout, Super Bowl party, or weeknight dinner. This satisfyingly crunchy side or snack is easy to make—simply slice the sweet potatoes into thin, even batons, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then bake until crispy in a super hot (we like 450 degrees) oven. Don't overcrowd your baking sheet, and toss the fries several times during cooking so that they brown evenly.
Like thicker fries? Make sweet potato wedges. You can also make air fryer sweet potato fries for an even healthier snack. Don’t forget the dipping sauce—we love a creamy Greek yogurt sauce, Sriracha aioli, or homemade ketchup.
Sweet Potato Chips
Crispy sweet potato chips make a craveworthy snack or side, but they’re often deep-fried and not-so-healthy. Cooking Light’s Assistant Nutrition Editor Jamie Vespa achieves the same crunch factor for much less fat with this clever trick. First, Jamie dehydrates the chips in a 200 degree oven, then she cranks up the heat to make them crispy. While you can use a sharp knife to slice your potato into thin coins, a mandoline will make your life a whole lot easier. (Jamie leaves the skin on for an extra fiber boost.)
Sweet Potato Noodles
Also called swoodles, sweet potato noodles make for a nutritious, gluten-free pasta alternative. All you need is a spiralizer, a handy kitchen tool that transforms any veggie or fruit into tasty noodles. Don’t own a spiralizer? You can also use the julienne blade on a mandoline. Make sure to peel your sweet potatoes before “noodling” them. They cook up quickly in a skillet, and they pair well with a zippy sauce, such as the nutty, coconut-curry sauce in the recipe below.
Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes
Slow cookers and sweet potatoes are a match made in heaven. Slow-simmering sweet potatoes in soups, stews, curries, and chillies elevates their mild sweetness. You can also use the slow cooker to make a cheesy sweet potato gratin that’s perfect for Thanksgiving. We love Cooking Light Executive Editor Ann Taylor Pittman’s comforting sweet potato chili recipe below—she leaves the skins on to help the potatoes hold their shape during cooking.
Sweet Potato Soup
Transform boiled or microwaved sweet potatoes into a warming, comforting soup by pureeing them in a blender. Peel the potatoes beforehand, otherwise your soup could turn out a bit gritty. Cook the potatoes first (you can boil or microwave them), then puree them with chicken or vegetable stock, plus flavor-packed ingredients like onions, carrots, apples, or fresh ginger. Garnish your soup with diced apple, a dollop of Greek yogurt, chopped fresh herbs, or crunchy homemade croutons. The healthy sweet potato soup recipe below also uses white beans for an extra boost of fiber and protein.
Microwave Sweet Potatoes
The microwave is a handy tool for cooking sweet potatoes if you’re short on time. You won’t get the crispy skin that your oven creates, but you will have a fully cooked, fully-edible sweet potato in less than 10 minutes. You can also partially or fully cook your sweet potatoes in the microwave to speed up other cooking methods like sauteing and grilling.
To learn a foolproof method for cooking a sweet potato in the microwave, read this simple guide from our friends at Real Simple, then make the easy recipe below.
Sweet Potato Casserole
The classic holiday dish often packs a load of sugar, but there’s a much healthier way to make it. Cut sugar by relying on the natural sweetness of ingredients such as citrus juice and zest or vanilla extract. Ditch the traditional marshmallow topping, and make a crunchy streusel that’s full of whole grains instead. The recipe below combines rolled oats with pumpkin seeds, turmeric, and ginger for a spiced, nutrient-packed topping to sweet potato casserole.
Sweet Potato Pie
Sweet potato pie doesn’t seem like a healthy way to cook sweet potatoes, but a few simple ingredient swaps can slash calories and sugar from this much-loved Southern dessert. Classic recipes rely on heavy cream or sweetened condensed milk for the pie filling, but evaporated milk—which packs a rich flavor with less sat fat and sugar—is a much healthier swap. You can also experiment with whole grain crusts, such as a homemade quinoa crust. We also like Wholly Wholesome's Organic Whole Wheat Pie Dough or Shells (find them at Whole Foods).
Sweet Potato Pancakes
Sweet potato pancakes prove just how versatile this amazing tuber really is. Who says you can't enjoy sweet potatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? All you really need are mashed sweet potatoes and beaten eggs, and the rest is up to your imagination. The featured recipe keeps things traditional by mixing ground cinnamon and allspice into the pancake batter, but you could also go the savory route. Skip the spices and top the sweet potato pancake with sliced avocado and a simple green salad.