10 Ways to Cook a Sweet Potato

sweet potatoes and pecans
Healthy and delicious come together when you cook with sweet potatoes. See more pictures of vegetables.

In the United States, sweet potatoes are typically associated with Thanksgiving, though these days you can buy them year-round in grocery stores. They're not only tasty, they're also one of the healthiest foods you can add to your diet. Eating them is believed to help in the fights against heart disease and cancer. They're fairly low in calories, with a medium-sized selection containing about 105. These root veggies are also fat-free, so you can indulge with no fear, as long as you prepare them in a low-cal method. We'll cover 10 delicious ways to cook sweet potatoes, some a little lighter than others.


10: Baked

Sweet potatoes, like the favorite Idaho potato, can be baked in the oven with little to no prep time required. There a couple of methods you can use when oven baking. Both require a temperature of 450 degrees Fahrenheit and about 30 to 45 minutes in the oven, depending on the size of the potato. For the simplest -- and healthiest -- simply scrub the potatoes clean and put them directly in the oven on the middle rack. The skin will develop a delicious light crunch as the sweet potato cooks.

If you want to treat yourself, coat the veggie in a bit of butter and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over it. Then, wrap the potato in foil to hold in the juices and soften the skin. Once cooked, cut it open and add whatever seasonings you prefer. Salt and paprika are good balances to the sweet exterior.


9: Au Gratin

sweet potatoes au gratin
Creamy goodness awaits under the cheesy, crunchy crust.

The French phrase au gratin literally means "with the burnt scrapings from the pan," though in practice it means to top a food with breadcrumbs and cheese. Sweet potatoes au gratin is delicious and simple to make; this recipe is a lighter alternative to traditional recipes that call for whole milk or heavy cream, though you could certainly use them in place of the broth in the dish. And to make the prep work on yourself a bit easier, forgo peeling the potatoes. The skins are perfectly edible and contain a lot of nutrients; plus, the peels add a bit of visual interest. After a short time in the oven, this bubbly, gooey dish is ready to be spooned out and eaten up!


8: French-fried

sweet potatoes fries
Sweet potato fries don't have to go through the deep fryer to be yummy.

There are also two ways you can go when french-frying your sweet potato. If you're trying to keep it light, after cutting your potato into strips, spread them onto a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. You can add salt and pepper or spice things up with some cajun seasoning. Bake the fries at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes, flipping them halfway through the time. You can check with a fork to ensure their tenderness.

If you don't mind adding a few more calories and you really want a nice, crispy product, try frying them. After you cut your fries, soak the potatoes in ice water for about 15 minutes (the removes some starch from the potato, which helps to make it crunchy) and heat up about an inch of peanut oil in a pan. Dry the potatoes well and slowly add them to the oil when it reaches 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Fry for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown, then sprinkle with your favorite salty or sweet spices.


7: Hash Browns

Potatoes are eaten for breakfast all the time, so why not try sweet potatoes instead? Hash browns are a hearty complement to eggs dishes, and the sweet potatoes will add a nice pop of color to your plate. To make hash browns, grate a few sweet potatoes into shreds and sauté them with a diced onion in a few tablespoons of olive oil until everything is brown and crispy. Season with whatever herbs and spices you like, and serve the dish right away.


6: Grilled

When summertime hits and the cover comes off the grill, don't forget to add sweet potatoes to the rotation as a delicious and healthful side dish. Grilling your sweet potatoes is a lot like baking them, but you get a rich, smoky flavor. Cut your potato into round slices and brush with olive oil before adding to a hot grill. Turn them after about 5 minutes and repeat on the other side. Check the tenderness; the cooking time depends on how thick you prefer your rounds. For additional flavor, add apple wood or mesquite wood chips to the charcoal. If you want to soften your potatoes, cube them and wrap them in foil with some butter and place it directly on the grill for about 20 minutes.


5: Mashed

mashed sweet potatoes
Mashed sweet potatoes are a treat for all ages.

Mashed sweet potatoes are a great way to get your kids to eat some healthy vegetables. To skin or not to skin, that is the question. Sweet potato skin has about three times the antioxidant levels as the rest of the vegetable. If you enjoy the taste of skin-on mashers, you're doing yourself a favor. But if you decide on no skin, you'll still be getting a good dose of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Cut three large sweet potatoes into about 2-inch chunks (the smaller the chunk, the faster they'll cook) and drop them in boiling water. Cook until completely tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the water from the potatoes, and mash with milk, butter and a pinch of salt and pepper until reaching your desired consistency.


4: Chips

sweet potato chips
Give warm sweet potato chips a zesty zing with a sprinkling of chili powder or cayenne pepper.

Homemade sweet potato chips are a much healthier alternative to bagged chips, which are typically deep-fried and high in sodium, calories and fat. By making your own, you control the flavor of the chips, as well as the salt content and how much -- and the type of -- oil to fry or bake them with (baking substantially cuts down on oil use). For baked chips, preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the potatoes as thin as you like, then toss them with olive oil and any seasonings you want. Spread them out on a large sheet pan and cook them until crispy, about 25 minutes. Flip the slices once during the baking time to make sure they brown evenly. For a savory, indulgent treat, sprinkle the chips with parmesan cheese while they're hot out of the oven.

If you want to fry your chips, you can follow the method we described previously for making sweet potato fries.


3: Roasted

roasted sweet potato chunks
Got leftover roasted veggies? Purée them with hot chicken stock, and you've got instant vegetable soup.

Roasted vegetables are a hearty vitamin- and mineral-rich side dish for chicken, beef and pork, and a satisfying vegetarian main dish. Veggies that pair well with sweet potatoes include butternut squash, onions, parsnips, carrots, Yukon Gold potatoes and beets. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit with a large baking sheet in the oven -- if you have a lot of vegetables, use two baking sheets. Cut all the veggies into about 2-inch chunks and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Herbs such as rosemary and thyme, as well as whole garlic cloves, will give the food a rich, hearty fragrance and flavor. Once the oven is hot, add the vegetables to the hot pans; roast 30 to 45 minutes, or until they're tender but not mushy. Give the veggies an occasional flip so they brown evenly and don't stick to the pan.


2. Soup

Soups are easy to prepare and perfect to freeze to have on hand as last-minute dinners. Sweet potatoes are a great root vegetable to make soup from because they're hearty and their flavor pares well with so many other ingredients. This filling stew is great for warming you up on chilly days, and it requires little prep work and hands-on time because it's made in a slow cooker. For a more exotic taste, try this recipe, which features curry powder and a dash of red pepper. Sweet potatoes easily adapt to other flavors, so keep experimenting with spices and ingredients until you find a dish that you and your family really enjoy.


1: Soufflé

If you want to impress your friends, you can convert your sweet potatoes into a delicious soufflé with just a few turns of the mixer. Soufflés rely on beaten egg whites for their characteristic fluffy lift that's so pretty to present at the table, and we have two recipes for you to try. Both start with a base of precooked, mashed sweet potatoes; this version has a shorter prep time, and it lets the natural flavor of the sweet potato really shine through. The other recipe includes brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and sherry, making it a great addition to your Thanksgiving dinner menu. Regardless of which variation you make, sweet potato soufflé is guaranteed to impress the eyes and the taste buds.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Calories Etc. "Calories in Sweet Potato." 2009. (Dec. 15, 2011) http://www.caloriesetc.com/calories-in-sweet-potato/
  • How Stuff Works. "Sweet Potatoes." (Dec. 15, 2011) https://home.howstuffworks.com/sweet-potatoes.htm
  • Library of Congress. "What is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?" (Dec. 15, 2011)
  • http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/sweetpotato.html
  • Merriam-Webster. "Au Gratin." (Dec. 19, 2011) http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gratin
  • World's Healthiest Foods. "Sweet potatoes." 2009. (Dec. 10, 2011) http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=64