Top 5 Ways to Use Sweet Potatoes

Sharon Palmer

Despite their name, these orange-fleshed tubers—which may also be white, yellow, or purple—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 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.

These gems are packed with health potential, thanks in large part to their cache of beta-carotene, 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.

Peak season for sweet potatoes is October through December, but they are available all year. 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). Store in a cool, dark, well ventilated place, but never refrigerate them. Sweet or savory, these taters will not disappoint.

Smoky Chili 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

Top baked sweet potatoes with this cashew cream.

1. Baked 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.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Bake

2. Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges. 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. Baked Goods. You can substitute cooked sweet potatoes for pumpkin in just about any baked recipe, like pancakes, muffins, and cookies. Check out my Sweet Potato Pie in Plant-Powered for Life, or this Sweet Potato Bread.

Wild Blueberry Purple Power Smoothie

4. 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 potato (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 .

Get to know more about how to use plant foods in the following guides:

Top 5 Ways to Use Pomegranates
Top 5 Ways to Use Quinoa
Top 5 Ways to Use Brown Rice

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