Sweet potatoes are a versatile vegetable that can be eaten as is, mashed, roasted, or made into fries. They are an excellent choice for those following a vegan or vegetarian diet, as they are high in fiber and low in calories. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin A and potassium.
- Sweet potato vs. yams
- Sweet potato variations
- How to plant sweet potato
- How to plant sweet potatoes in containers
- Sweet potato nutrition
- Sweet potato recipes
Sweet potato vs. yams
Sweet potatoes are often confused with yams, but they are two different vegetables. Sweet potatoes are typically shorter and have smooth skin, while yams generally are longer and have rougher skin. Sweet potatoes are also lighter in color, while yams are darker.
The most notable difference between sweet potatoes and yams is their flavor. Sweet potatoes have a sweet flavor, while yams have a more earthy flavor. Sweet potatoes are also higher in fiber and vitamin A than yams.
You can use sweet potatoes and yams interchangeably in most recipes. Still, there are a few dishes that are made explicitly with yams. If you’re unsure which vegetable to use, just ask your grocer or check the packaging label.
Sweet potato variations
Scientifically known as Ipomoea batatas, these fleshy roots are members of the Convolvulaceae or morning glory family. There are wide varieties than just the typical red-skinned ones piled up next to the russets at the grocery store.
The most common sweet potato is available in supermarkets. In the US, it is the gold-standard potato. The meat is the sweetest orange variety and has reddish skin and vivid orange flesh. It holds its shape when roasted into fries and could be mashed into a puree for pies or casseroles because of its slightly stringy, soft, and moist texture.
The malty sweetness of the orange peel with dark brown dots is distinct. It has a juicy and creamy texture, a popular variety in the South for making casseroles and pastries and for slicing and roasting.
Deep purple meat can be seen beneath the light purple skin of this sweet potato. It tastes slightly sweet, has floral undertones, and has a firmer, dryer texture. Compatible with steaming, boiling, and baking.
How to plant sweet potato
When you plant sweet potatoes, you plant the tubers, not the vines. You will need to wait until the weather is warm and all danger of frost has passed before planting your tubers. Sweet potatoes are like a sunny spot in the garden and well-drained soil.
Dig a hole about 8 inches deep and place the tuber in the hole with the sprout facing up. Cover with soil and water well. Space your plants about 18 inches apart. For best results, add some organic matter to your ground before planting.
Sweet potatoes require regular watering, especially during hot weather. Mulching around the plants will help retain moisture in the soil. Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer once a month.
In late fall, harvest your sweet potatoes by carefully digging around the plant and pulling them out of the ground after the leaves have died.
How to plant sweet potatoes in containers
Finding the appropriate container—including the suitable material and size—is the first step in producing sweet potatoes. You should then use the best soil to ensure that you have strong sweet potato vines that bear palatable sweet potatoes.
Size & material
Sweet potatoes need an enormous container to spread their vines and develop large tubers. Twenty gallons or more are the ideal container sizes (though bigger is ultimately better in this case). Depending on your room, you can use different types of containers. For a small garden plot, raised beds are possible, or you can use grow bags on a deck or small patio with a capacity of 20 to 30 gallons. In a 20-gallon container, 4-6 sweet potato slips can be cultivated.
The most flexible option is a grow bag, allowing for expansion, airflow, and appropriate water drainage. But other common choices include clay, wood, and plastic. Ensure the container has four or more holes on the bottom to allow extra water to drain out. Place your container on a shallow dish to catch any water that may leak from the drainage holes if it is on a deck or patio. All you need to do is add drainage holes to a half wine or whiskey barrel to create the perfect container.
Metal is not a good option unless you are planting in a raised bed. Make sure the bed is at least 8 inches in height to give the potatoes plenty of depth. Small metal cans are rigid and frequently rust before the potatoes are fully developed.
Sweet potatoes prefer loam and sand-balanced, well-drained soil. This enables the dirt to stay damp without becoming too so. Sweet potatoes in pots will grow well in high-quality potting soil with sand and compost added to keep the soil light and airy. As a result, the potato tubers can develop to their appropriate size. The soil mixture won’t get too dry or moist if a suitable container is used. The same rule applies to raised beds: fill them with loam-sandy soil and modify them with compost.
A minimum of one inch of water per week is needed for sweet potatoes. If you planted them in a clay pot or grow bag, change because the soil will dry up faster. Your potatoes remain content and healthy in moist soil. Water the plant’s roots to stop fungus from growing on the vines. Additionally, as needed, water throughout the week to prevent the ground from drying out.
Pruning is essential only when the sweet potato vines and leaves get too big for the container. You can also remove any leaves that don’t seem to be in good shape. For sweet potatoes grown in pots, you have the option of training and trimming the vines to climb a trellis.
Once the vines start to turn brown, and after the first frost, you’ll know it’s time to harvest sweet potatoes. Because the containers cannot prevent the potato tuber from freezing, don’t wait until it is too cold.
Use your hands to carefully dig up each tuber rather than a garden fork to avoid damaging the tender skin. Do not wash them yet; simply brush off the excess dirt. Allow the sweet potatoes to cure for ten days in a warm place (around 80 Fahrenheit). After they have dried, put them in a box with airflow and keep them somewhere cold and dry.
Sweet potato nutrition
The nutrition facts for 3.5 ounces or 100 grams of raw sweet potatoes are:
Sweet potato carbs
A medium-sized sweet potato has 27 grams of carbohydrates in just one boiling, skinless serving. Starches, which account for 53% of the total carbohydrates, are the primary ingredients.
Simple sugars, including glucose, fructose, sucrose, and maltose, make up 32% of the total amount of carbohydrates.
With a range of 44–96, sweet potatoes have a medium to the high glycemic index (GI). The GI gauges how quickly your blood sugar levels increase following a meal (6).
Large servings of sweet potatoes in a single meal might not be ideal for those with type 2 diabetes due to their relatively high GI. Especially noteworthy is that boiling appears to be linked to lower GI values than baking, frying, or roasting
Sweet potato benefits
Because they contain so many nutrients, sweet potatoes have earned the title “superfood.” According to studies, they could help with:
- Cancer. Sweet potato carotenoids may reduce your risk of developing cancer. Another natural substance called anthocyanin, abundant in purple sweet potatoes, might reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
- Diabetes. Sweet potato compounds may aid with blood sugar regulation. Sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index (GI) when boiled, which means they won’t spike your blood sugar as quickly as meals with a high GI.
- Heart illness. According to research, sweet potatoes can lower your LDL “bad” cholesterol, reducing your risk of developing heart issues.
- Macular degeneration. Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene and vitamin A, which helps reduce your risk of glaucoma, the most common cause of visual loss.
- Obesity. Purple sweet potatoes may help you lose weight by reducing inflammation in your body and preventing the growth of fat cells.
Sweet potatoes contain a lot of carbs. Some cooking techniques, including baking, roasting, and frying, will increase their glycemic index and result in a surge in blood sugar. Consult your physician or a nutritionist for advice on adequately including this vegetable in your meals if you have type 2 diabetes.
Some people develop a severe allergy to sweet potatoes, which is relatively uncommon.
Sweet potato recipes
The sweet potato has been a popular food for generations. Still, yellow, white, and red potatoes sometimes outnumber them in popularity. That comes to an end here. These sweet potato dishes show that this super spud deserves the spotlight, from flavorful, crispy fries to creamy soup.
Sweet potato casserole
The mashed sweet potatoes in this sweet potato casserole are creamy and mushy, in contrast to its topping dusted with a nutty crumb mixture.
- 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for buttering the baking dish
- 3 to 4 large sweet potatoes (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled and cubed
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup chopped pecans
- Add 1 3/4 pounds of sweet potatoes peeled and cut into cubes to a big saucepan of salted water for the sweet potatoes. High heat to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are incredibly soft. Cool and drain. Then mash them.
- Set the oven to 350° F for the filling. A 2-quart baking pan should be buttery.
- In a sizable mixing bowl, combine the butter, mashed sweet potatoes, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, and eggs. Place in the baking pan that has been prepared.
- To make the topping, stir the flour, brown sugar, butter, and salt in a medium bowl until the ingredients are moistened and the mixture clumps. Add the pecans and stir. Evenly layer the mixture over the top of the sweet potatoes. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the top is brown and the center is mostly set. Serve warm.
Sweet potato fries
The tips and suggestions in this recipe make it much simpler for you to treat yourself to sweet potato fries of restaurant quality.
- 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 large or 3 medium)
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 cup water, cold
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Kosher salt, flaky sea salt, seasoned salt, or cinnamon-sugar blend
- Put ice and water in a large basin and set it aside.
- Peel the sweet potatoes before being sliced into 3 to 4-inch-long 1/4-inch sticks.
- The sweet potatoes should sit in the ice water for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Cornstarch and cold water should be combined in a sizable container or bag and stirred until smooth. It will be a very thin mixture.
- Place the cornstarch and water mixture with the potato strips. Make sure the potatoes are thoroughly coated if using a bag; if using a bowl, stir to combine.
- To a depth of about 2 inches, pour the vegetable oil into a big, heavy pan or Dutch oven. Oil is heated to 325° F.
- Utilizing a slotted spoon and working in small batches, remove the potatoes from the bag or basin and carefully transfer them to the hot oil. Discard the cornstarch mixture. Fry them for about 1-2 minutes. To prevent them from sticking together, give them a couple of stirs. The fries should be soft but not browned when finished.
- Lift the potatoes onto paper towels or brown paper to drain using a metal slotted spoon.
- Increase the oil’s temperature to 350° once all of the potatoes have been fried once. Fry the sweet potato sticks for about a minute, working in tiny batches. (Before frying each batch, let the oil regain its temperature.)
- Remove the fries to paper towels or brown paper to continue to drain once they have reached a golden brown color.
- Add kosher or season salt to the sweet potato fries, or lightly sprinkle with a cinnamon-sugar mixture.
Sweet potato fries air fryer
Make excellent air fryer sweet potato fries at home to up your fry game. With this simple 20-minute recipe, you don’t need to go to a restaurant to get crispy sweet potato fries.
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon ground sweet paprika
- Set the air fryer to 400° Fahrenheit (200° C).
- Frying sweet potatoes in half-width pieces. Toss to coat in a bowl with the canola oil. Mix the seasonings—salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder—until all the fries are coated.
- Put a uniform layer of fries in the air fryer basket, working in batches if required.
- Cook for 10 minutes or until golden in the air fryer that has been preheated. Cook the remaining fries by repeating.
Sweet potato soup
With leeks, onions, garlic, and other savory ingredients like nutmeg and cinnamon, sweet potato soup strikes a balance between the sweet and delicious.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, sliced (see How to Clean Leeks)
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped (1 teaspoon)
- 1 1/2 pounds (about 2 large) orange-flesh sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 5 cups)
- 4 cups chicken stock, store-bought or homemade (use vegetable broth for vegetarian option)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
- In a big, thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter. After 3 to 4 minutes, add the chopped onions, celery, leeks, and sauté for an additional 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Cook for another minute after adding the garlic.
- Add the chicken stock, nutmeg, cinnamon stick, and sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil on a high heat setting. Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
- Cut the cinnamon stick off. To puree the soup, either use an immersion blender or a standing blender to do it in batches.
- Add milk and cream to the soup. The soup should be heated all the way through on medium. To taste, add salt and pepper.
- To serve, top the soup with additional water-thinned sour cream or plain yogurt and extra black pepper.