Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ways to Cook Sweet Potatoes ... Baked and More!

Some of my favorite ways to cook sweet potatoes ... baked, twice-backed, microwave, french fried, roasted, grilled, skillet hash, mashed and pureed.
Some of my favorite ways to cook sweet potatoes ... baked, twice-backed, microwave, french fried, roasted, grilled, skillet hash, mashed and pureed.

Ways to Cook Sweet Potatoes

I realize that folks all over the U.S. eat sweet potatoes, and I also realize that they are grown in a lot of states {and even overseas}, but sweet potatoes sure speak southern to me.

Did you know that over 235 million pounds of them are produced annually right here in our fine state of Mississippi? Vardaman, Mississippi, located in the northern part of our state, is only one of the top five Mississippi sweet potato producers. Every year in the first week of November they host a National Sweet Potato Festival, and Vardaman, in fact, lays claim to the title of "The Sweet Potato Capitol of the World." In truth, North Carolina is the biggest producer in the U.S., followed by close competitors Louisiana, California and Mississippi. Even still, China is the largest producer of sweet potatoes - about 80% of the world's supply.

Sweet potatoes are at peak during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season, but are really available year round, and make a great addition to just about any meal, any time of the year. Nothing could be easier than baking sweet potatoes either, and they are so delicious and good for you. An excellent source of Vitamin A and a very good source of Vitamin C, sweet potatoes have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Sweet potatoes also contain potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and Vitamin B6, have 3.9 grams of fiber and only about 141 calories for an average, plain, medium sweet potato.

Make sure that the potatoes you select for baking are all roughly the same size so they will cook in the same amount of time. Some folks like to coat them with olive oil before they go in the oven, but I only do that when roasting wedges.  I like my cooked, baked sweet potato with just a bit of salt, pepper and butter, but The Cajun likes his with butter and just a touch of sweet cinnamon sugar.

Refrigeration affects the texture of uncooked sweet potatoes, so store them unwashed in a cool spot in the pantry or in a basket in an obscure dark and cool corner of your kitchen, but never in the refrigerator. Once cooked they can be refrigerated or frozen. To freeze whole, bake, and let them cool. Leaving the skin on, wrap each sweet potato individually in foil, then place them into a labeled zipper freezer bag.

By the way, at least down here in The South, the terms "sweet potatoes" and "yams" are used synonymously, as one and the same. While there really are true yams, they are a tuberous root from West Africa, and nowhere near what we think of as a sweet potatoes. It is rumored that Louisiana sweet potato growers started called their sweet potatoes yams, in order to distinguish them from what they felt were far less superior northern sweet potatoes.  Most often, when a recipe calls for "yams" they are referring to canned sweet potatoes, but if you check the cans, somewhere in small type on the label, usually under the word "yams," you'll see the words "sweet potatoes" also.

Recipe: Baked Sweet Potatoes

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 5 min |Cook time: 40 min | Yield: As may as you like!

  • 1 sweet potato per person
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper, optional
  • Cinnamon sugar, brown sugar or other seasonings (see below), optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse and scrub the sweet potatoes well with a vegetable brush, dry off and carefully prick several times with a knife. Place on a foil covered pan (to catch any sticky juices that escape) on the middle rack of the oven and bake at 375 degrees for about 35 to 40 minutes, depending on their size, until tender, testing with a knife inserted into the center.

Cut a slit into the top and using pot holders, press in on the ends to open up the sweet potato. Add butter and, if desired, sprinkle with salt, pepper, brown sugar, cinnamon sugar or other seasonings.

Can also be baked at a lower temperature for a longer time if you are also baking other dishes. Just continue checking periodically for degree of doneness. If the sweet potatoes finish before the rest of the meal, simply wrap them individually in aluminum foil, then place into a large bowl and cover to keep warm.

Cook's Notes: Serve these with my whipped honey butter, with cinnamon mixed in. Other seasonings that go well with plain sweet potatoes, include, chili pepper, cayenne pepper, curry, cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Garnish with chopped nuts and/or marshmallows, running them quickly under the broiler to brown.

Sweet Potato Math

Other Basic Preparations:

Always use a stainless or ceramic knife to cut sweet potatoes to avoid turning the edges black.

Crockpot Baked Sweet Potatoes:: Add 1/2 cup of apple cider or water to the bottom of your crockpot and use a rack in the bottom, or add balled up aluminum foil in one layer. Rinse and scrub 4 to 6 average sized sweet potatoes and place into slow cooker. Make two small punctures in the top of each. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. Total time will depend on the size of the sweet potatoes; test with the tip of a sharp knife for tenderness. For twice baked, return the stuffed potatoes to the slow cooker for about an hour, or until completely warmed through.

Instant Pot/Electric Pressure Cooker: Add 1/2 cup of apple cider or water to the bottom of cooker and use a trivet or rack in the bottom, or add balled up aluminum foil in one layer. Rinse and scrub 4 to 6 average sized sweet potatoes, make two small punctures in the top of each and place into cooker. Seal and set for 15 minutes. Let pressure release naturally. Total time will depend on the size of the sweet potatoes; test with the tip of a sharp knife for tenderness.

Twice Baked & garnished with chopped pecans and syrup.
Twice-Baked: Prepare 4 medium sized potatoes for baking as above. Let cool, slice in half lengthwise, then scoop out the pulp, leaving a sturdy border approximately 1/4-inch in thickness. Cream together the sweet potato pulp along with 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, 2 tablespoons of light brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg), 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon of Cajun/Creole seasoning or black pepper, and enough milk or cream to moisten the potatoes without making it soupy, about 1/3 cup, more or less.

Fill shells with mixture and bake on a foil lined baking sheet, in a preheated 400 degree F oven, for about 12 minutes, or until mixture is completely warmed through. Before serving, garnish with a drizzle of cane syrup, sorghum or light molasses and a sprinkle of finely chopped pecans. May substitute softened cream cheese, sour cream or Greek yogurt for the butter. If you love marshmallow topping on your sweet potato casserole like I do, drop a few mini marshmallows in the bottom of each shell before filling.
The microwave is a sweet potato's best friend!
Microwave: Rinse and scrub the sweet potatoes well with a vegetable brush, dry off and carefully prick several times with a knife. Microwave on a plate or paper towel, on high - for one sweet potato, about 4 to 6 minutes, for two about 6 to 8 minutes, three 8 to 12 and four for about 12 to 16 minutes. Turn or rearrange the sweet potatoes halfway through.  Test doneness with a fork or knife.  Note: Microwave ovens, like regular ovens, vary in their cooking times. Your time may differ.

Microwave Chips: Scrub and thinly slice 2 small sweet potatoes. Toss in a bowl or bag with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Arrange in a circular pattern on a microwave safe plate and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on high. Remove and sprinkle with kosher salt and/or other seasonings. Allow to completely dry.

Sweet Potato Fries!

French Fried: Use fresh canola or peanut oil. Cut sweet potatoes into frying strips and soak in ice water for 30 minutes. Drain well and pat dry. Deep fry at 360 degrees for 2 minutes, lift basket and let drain while oil comes back up to temperature. Drop and fry again, until golden brown and crisp on the outside. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and additional seasonings (garlic powder, Cajun/Creole seasoning, etc.) as desired.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Rosemary

Roasted: Cut unpeeled sweet potatoes into 6 to 8 wedges, thin french fry strips, or thick rounds and toss with a mixture of 1 tablespoon each of melted butter and olive oil. Reserve any leftover. Place wedges on a rack inside a baking pan. Sprinkle one side with kosher salt, fresh cracked black or red pepper and additional herbs, if desired. Rosemary, thyme and oregano are all good, or, instead of the herbs, mix 1 teaspoon of sugar with 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and sprinkle half over the salt and pepper. Roast at 450 degrees until tender, about 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through and seasoning the second side. Check them at 15 minutes first to make sure they are not over-browning or smoking. Plate and finish with a generous drizzle of honey. I sometimes like to add a little paprika, chili powder and/or cumin to the cinnamon sugar mixture as well.

Roasted Sweet Wedges with Spicy Chili Powder Cinnamon Sugar and drizzled with Honey. 

Grilled: Cut unpeeled sweet potatoes into thick wedges and cook over a hot grill for about 4-5 minutes per side. Test for doneness with a fork.  Remove and brush with butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or brown sugar if desired. Can also be cooked directly in the hot coals. Coat the wedges with melted butter and double wrap loosely in foil. Place into the coals and cook for about 45 minutes. Move to the edge of the top of the grill to keep warm.

Skillet Hash Cook 3 slices of bacon in a cast iron skillet until crisp; remove and set aside. To the bacon fat, add a mixture of green and red peppers and chopped onion; add a bit of olive oil if needed. Add 2-3 cups of diced raw sweet potatoes (about 3 sweet potatoes) and some minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Saute, stirring frequently, until soft and browned. Crumble bacon and add; stir in 1/4 teaspoon of dried thyme. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with two over easy fried eggs on top.

Mashed/Pureed: Bake the potatoes as above, allow to cool, then scoop out and mash. Otherwise, peel and cut sweet potatoes into chunks. Boil for about 30 minutes.  Mash with butter.  Can also add cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar or orange juice.  The plain puree can also be used as a filling in place of pumpkin in some baked goods, in sweet potato based casseroles and added to other foods. Try sneaking pureed sweet potatoes into pancakes, taco or sloppy joe meat and other hearty casseroles. For these ideas and others, see the cookbooks Deceptively Delicious or The Sneaky Chef. Great way to sneak this healthy root veggie into your kid's diet!

Other flavors that enhance sweet potatoes in baked goods and casseroles include orange, pineapple, apples, lemon and lime. Pecans are a perfect accent! (Some of us southerners even like them topped with melted marshmallows!)

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©Deep South Dish
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A little lagniappe: More recipes with Sweet Potatoes. Ever tried sweet potatoes in soup? They are delicious!

Check These Recipes Out Too Y'all!

Praline Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Casserole
Traditional Southern Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet Potato Pie

Posted by on March 18, 2010
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