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The Sweet Potato: 5 Ways to Spice up This Sweet Spud

Sweet potatoes are anything but a boring vegetable. See more vegetable pictures.
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If you're looking for a food that's almost as old as time, look no further than the sweet potato. Peruvians were known to eat them as far back as 750 B.C., and when Columbus arrived to the New World, Native Americans were already chowing down on them. The orange color and sweet taste are hallmarks of this member of the Morning Glory family, and it's nutritious to boot. Aside from being fat free, they're high in fiber, vitamins A, B6 and C, and they're low in sodium and cholesterol. This makes sweet potatoes a good substitute for their white potato cousins. Here are five tips to make your sweet potatoes sing on your plate.

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Despite the fact that they aren't exactly nutritious, who doesn't love French fries? Next time, try switching out those white spuds for something from the orange family. Many restaurants have added French fried sweet potatoes to their menu as a healthier option to go with that sandwich or burger. Of course, deep frying anything isn't great, but the nutritional value in a sweet potato can't be denied. For an even healthier alternative, try oven-baked sweet potato fries. Sprinkle them with olive oil to add a little crisp.

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Keep it simple in the oven.
Keep it simple in the oven.
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The traditional baked potato is a common side dish for steak, chicken and pork from the grill. If you want to add some sweet tang (plus a lot of fiber) to your plate, then swap out that baker for a sweet potato. Treat the sweet version just like you would a regular potato, baking it bare or wrapped in foil at about 375 degrees until it's soft all the way through. From there, the toppings are up to you. A little light butter is always a good option, while others stick with the sweet by adding a dash of cinnamon.

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If you're Southern by birth, then you've probably run across a sweet potato pie on more than one occasion. While packed with nutritional value, this vegetable is so sweet that it makes a great fit for a dessert pie. Of course you'll need to add some sugar -- it is a pie, after all. Traditionally, sweet potato pie is spiced with cinnamon, ginger and brown sugar. Some cooks throw in some bourbon for an extra kick of flavor. Serve with or without meringue, chef's choice. Adding a sprinkle of cinnamon on top before you serve it adds an aesthetic and flavorful touch, as well.

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The marshmallows will add a sweet touch to this savory dish.
The marshmallows will add a sweet touch to this savory dish.
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This sturdy Thanksgiving staple isn't wholly different from a sweet potato pie, except that it's served hot and there's one common distinguishing ingredient -- a marshmallow topper. Ginger, sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon are all added to the side dish for maximum sweetness, and the marshmallows, either large or small, are baked to a golden brown on top for a s'more-like crunch. Also known as sweet potato soufflé, you can add bourbon, brandy and candied pecans or other nuts.

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There are a couple of different ways to make sweet potato pancakes. The traditional way is to make them from shredded potato, like a latke. These can be served at any time of day and usually include diced onion, salt and pepper. Another way you can go is to mix whipped sweet potato into a traditional pancake batter and cook them up on the griddle for breakfast. Maple syrup and butter are a must for the breakfast version, and try adding a sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon for extra yum.

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Sources

  • "Sweet Potato Facts." Sweetpotatoplant.com. (May 26, 2011). http://www.sweetpotatoplant.com/sweetpotatofacts.html
  • "Sweet Potatoes." Foodreference.com. (May 26, 2011). http://www.foodreference.com/html/fsweetpotatoes.html
  • "What is the difference between a sweet potato and a yam?" Plantanswers.com. (May 26, 2011). http://www.plantanswers.com/vegetables/sweetpotato.html

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