Did you know that sweet potatoes are not actually potatoes? It’s true; sweet potatoes are technically tubers. Sweet potatoes are also not the same food as yams, though yams are also tubers. Now that you know what sweet potatoes are not, let’s talk about what they are. Sweet potatoes come in pale-skinned and dark-skinned varieties. The pale-skinned sweet potato has pale yellow flesh and is actually not sweet at all. Its texture is similar to white baking potatoes. The darker-skinned sweet potato is the one usually mistaken for a yam and has bright orange flesh that is moist and sweet.
Sweet potatoes are nutritious and are a main source of beta-carotene. They are high in potassium and Vitamin A. Of course, sweet potatoes are also delicious and should definitely be included in your menus. They can be used anywhere you would use white potatoes and in places you may have never thought of, such as desserts. Here are some amazing ways to use these terrific tubers in your cooking.
Who says we can’t start with dessert? Sweet potatoes can function in several ways when making desserts. ¼ cup of mashed sweet potatoes can replace 1 egg or ½ cup of oil or butter in baking. The sweetness also allows you to use less sugar. Try using sweet potatoes in your desserts or try making these: Chocolate Sweet Potato Spice Cake, S’mores Sweet Potato Brownies, Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate “Buttercream” Icing, Sweet Potato Maple Mousse Pie, Pancake Cake with Sweet Potato Chocolate Frosting, and Mint Carob Walnut Brownies. Sweet potatoes are not just for baking. They can be used in other desserts such as this Nearly Fat-Free Vegan Chocolate Pudding, these Spiked Sweet Potato Truffles, and this Sweet Potato Apple Pie Ice Cream.
2. Breakfast and Brunch
Just as most people don’t think about sweet potatoes for dessert, they don’t usually come to mind as a breakfast food. However, bananas are not the only way to get your morning dose of potassium. Oatmeal is good for a warm, healthy breakfast but it needs more flavor. I often add pumpkin to my oatmeal, but sweet potatoes are also a delicious and healthy choice. To make Sweet Potato Oatmeal: in a medium-sized saucepan, combine 2 cups rolled oats, 3 cups water or non-dairy milk, 1 cup sweet potato puree, ¼ cup pure maple syrup, 2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground nutmeg, and ¼ tsp. ground cloves. Stir together and cook over medium heat. Stir every now and then until you have the consistency you want, about 10 minutes. Transfer the oatmeal to serving bowls.
For other amazing breakfast and brunch dishes with sweet potatoes, make these Sweet Potato Waffles, Sweet Potato Pancakes with Cinnamon Maple Sage Butter and this Savory Sweet Potato Quiche. Drink up all your vitamins with this Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie.
Sweet potatoes are hearty enough to keep their shape in soups while adding a touch of sweetness. My Curried Ginger Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup is spicy but balanced with the sweetness of both the sweet potatoes and the carrots. Saute 1 diced medium onion in a soup pot for 4 minutes or until translucent. Add 4 minced garlic cloves, 1 Tbs. fresh grated ginger, and 1 Tbs. curry powder and mix to combine. Add 1 large peeled and diced sweet potato and 6 large chopped carrots. Stir to combine and cook for 6 minutes until the veggies begin to soften. Add 4-6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, ½ tsp. kosher salt and ¼ tsp. black pepper. Let the soup come to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Transfer the soup in batches to a blender or use an immersion blender to blend the soup until it is silky smooth. If you want to add a creamy flavor, add 1 cup coconut milk and mix to combine. Heat the soup until it is warmed through. Taste for any seasoning adjustments and serve hot.
4. Burgers, Sandwiches and Pizza
When you want to indulge in the comfort foods of burgers, sandwiches and pizza, give them a boost of nutrition with sweet potatoes. Add superfoods like kale to make these Sweet Potato and Kale Patties. Try these White Bean and Sweet Potato Burgers and these Maple Sweet Potato Pecan Burgers. Salsa-infused mashed beans with grilled sweet potatoes and vegan jalapeño garlic Havarti come together in perfect balance in this Southwestern Vegan Grilled Cheese Sandwich. The next time it’s pizza night, make this Sweet Potato Tofu Pizza, which has a tofu scramble topping that makes it perfect for breakfast leftovers.
Potato salads don’t have to be made with white potatoes. You can make an autumn potato salad by using sweet potatoes, spinach and warm spices. To make Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Spinach: peel 1 ½ lbs. sweet potato and cut them into 1-inch cubes. Cut 2 large onions into large pieces and toss them with the potatoes and 2 crushed garlic cloves in olive oil. Arrange the veggies on a baking sheet and season with 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. ground coriander, a pinch of nutmeg and kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Roast the veggies in a 400 degree oven to 40-50 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and browned. Let the veggies cool and then toss them with 4-6 cups fresh baby spinach. For dressings, try this Spicy Chipotle Salad Dressing or this Sherry Maple Vinaigrette. Garnish with Coconut or Shiitake Bacon.
6. Fries and Wedges
If you are a follower of my articles, you know I try to make fries out of everything – eggplant, chickpeas, and butternut squash – so of course, I have to make them out of sweet potatoes. To make Spicy Sweet Potato Fries: slice 2 large sweet potatoes (you don’t have to peel them) into halves and then cut each half into 5 slices to make fries. Toss the potatoes with olive oil, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, 2 tsp. smoked paprika, 1 tsp. ground cumin, ½ tsp. kosher salt. Arrange the potatoes on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, flip the potatoes and rotate the baking sheet, and then bake for another 20 minutes or until they are browned on the outside and tender inside. Serve with cumin-spiked ketchup.
A sweeter way to make roasted sweet potatoes is to cut them into wedges and season them with herbs. To make Rosemary Sweet Potato Wedges: Cut 4 medium sweet potatoes lengthwise into wedges. Toss them with olive oil, 1 tsp. crushed dried rosemary and kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Arrange the wedges on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. Flip the potatoes, rotate the pan and bake for another 20 minutes or until they are browned and tender. This makes the perfect side dish for burgers or even to replace the usual home fries at breakfast.
7. Potato Chips and Spreads
If I have any weaknesses when it comes to food, it is definitely potato chips. For me, there is no eating “just a few.” Hand me a bag of chips and I will hand you back an empty bag. That’s why I learned to make my own baked potato chips. Sweet potatoes also make delicious chips. Since they are sweet, they taste best with warm, hot spices. To make Spicy Sweet Potato Chips: use a mandoline to cut sweet potatoes into very thin slices. Arrange them in a single layer on baking sheets and spray them with cooking spray. Bake the potatoes at 375 degrees for 8 minutes or until they begin to brown. Flip them and bake another 8 to 10 minutes or until they are browned. While they are baking, make a spice blend of ground cumin, chile powder, smoked paprika, and kosher salt. Transfer the potato chips into a bowl and toss them with the spice mix. Serve them with this Vegan French Onion Dip and try to each “just a few.” Don’t feel bad if you can’t, I can’t either. For other dips and spreads, try making hummus with sweet potatoes as in this Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus.
8. Side Dishes
You don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to have amazing side dishes with sweet potatoes. Enjoy these orange tubers all year round with these recipes: Maple and Tarragon Sweet Potatoes, Moroccan Sweet Potatoes and Chickpeas, Spicy Indian Sweet Potatoes, Yam Banana Mash and Cakes, and Sweet Potato Latkes with Chutney Sour Cream and Curried Onion Apple White Bean Topping.
9. The Perfect Baked Sweet Potato
My favorite way to enjoy sweet potatoes is probably the simplest as well. I love making baked sweet potatoes where the skin gets crunchy and the flesh is sweet and tender. To make the Perfect Baked Sweet Potato: scrub a large sweet potato under running water and dry it very well because we want that skin to get crispy. With a fork, poke some holes in the potato. Place the sweet potato directly on the oven rack. If you are worried about making a mess, line the bottom of the oven with foil. Bake the potato at 450 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, or until fork-tender. If you want the skin to get extra crispy, you can spray the potato with cooking oil for the last 10 minutes of baking. Cut the potato open and top with vegan butter, maple syrup or whatever you like. Try this Baked Stuffed Sweet Potato with Sriracha Cashew Cheese Sauce for another baked potato that is more an entrée than a side.
Sweet potatoes are perfect ingredients for main dishes. They add heartiness, sweetness and depending on the recipe, creamy or chewy texture. Since they will hold up when cooked for a long time at high temperatures, sweet potatoes are great for casseroles like this Sweet Potato “Rice” Casserole. You can stuff dough with sweet potatoes and other veggies to make these Pinto Bean, Green Olive and Sweet Potato Turnovers. Make a decadent pasta dish by using sweet potato to make these Sweet Potato Gnocchi. Sweet potatoes are a nutritious way to make stews and chilis hearty and filling. Try this Sweet Potato and Quinoa Chili and this Chipotle Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili. For a healthy and colorful dish, make this Sweet Potato, Red Cabbage and Kelp Noodle Bowl with Rich Miso Dressing.
I make a Tofu and Sweet Potato Curry that is sweet, spicy and delicious. To make the tofu: Cut 1 block of extra-firm tofu that has been pressed and drained into cubes. Put them in a large bowl and toss them in 2 Tbs. chickpea flour that is seasoned with 2 tsp. curry powder and 1 tsp. kosher salt. In a large skillet or saucepan, heat 1 or 2 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat. Cook the tofu until browned and crisp on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the tofu to a plate and set aside. Try not to eat too many cubes. To make the curry: in the same skillet where you cooked the tofu, add more oil and heat it over medium-high heat. Add 1 large chopped onion, 4 minced garlic cloves and 1-inch grated ginger to the pan and cook them for 4 minutes or until the onion has softened. Add 1 large peeled sweet potato cut into small cubes and ½ lb. green beans cut into 1-inch pieces to the pan. Toss to coat in the aromatics. Sprinkle 2 Tbs. chickpea flour and 1 ½ Tbs. curry powder over the vegetables and toss to coat. Pour in 1 cup canned coconut milk and 1 cup vegetable broth. Mix in 2 tsp. brown sugar and stir so that everything is well-combined. Bring the sauce to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Let everything simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. If the sauce needs more liquid, add more broth. Taste the sauce to see if it needs any seasoning adjustments. Return the tofu to the pan and toss to coat in the curry. Serve the tofu and sweet potato curry in bowls over brown rice.
You can see how sweet potatoes are the perfect food. They can be eaten as a side dish, the main entrée or even used in desserts. It’s versatility, nutrition and deliciousness all packed into one amazing vegetable.
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