By Tami Weiser
Few foods have it all but sweet potatoes are here to prove otherwise. Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamins and minerals, easy to find, cheap to purchase, store well, and have a glycemic index number that suits most diets. Did we mention they’re absolutely delicious? Loved by all, from babies and picky toddler to bodybuilders and the elderly, sweet potatoes are a smart option year round. They are a terrific option for time constrained meal planners and healthy eating fans alike.
Let’s talk about the nutritional basics of sweet potatoes, some tips on what to look for at the market and the best ways to roast them — whether that’s in chunky pieces in the oven or as fries you make in the air fryer. Here’s what you need to know to help you incorporate one of nature’s tastiest and healthiest foods into your everyday diet.
The Nutritional Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
As a nutrition focused chef and mom, I’m not new to the healthy sweet potato loving world. Sweet potatoes were a vital part of the nutritional plan for one of my highly food allergic baby and child. Sweets have protein (great for vegans), calcium (without dairy) and fiber (great for GI issues) which balance the natural sugars. Sweets roasted and warm, are more than healthy though, they are so darn delicious that I haven’t stopped cooking them often ever since.
Nutrition snapshot: Coming in at a low 114 calories per cup, sweet potatoes are great for those watching their weight, but there is so much more to these special spuds.
- Power packed with well over 100% of the RDA for both vitamin A and Beta Carotene, 25% of vitamin C, almost 20% of both B5 and B6, 5% of vitamin E and has some hard to find vitamin K.
- The mineral content is high for a plant, with 12 % of the RDA for potassium and 20% of manganese.
- Some elements like zinc, clocks in at 4% of the RDA for iron and even 3% calcium make sweet potatoes a must in any plant forward diet.
Buying Sweet Potatoes
There are quite a few varieties of sweet potatoes, many of which are widely available. When you head to the store or order online, expect a wide variety of squiggly shapes, vivid colors, and an assortment of sizes all of which are great choices.
Look for firm and taut skin and no squishiness, and make sure to avoid any raw and broken fragments with white dots or streaks — those sweet potatoes are past their prime.
Store sweet potatoes in a dry cool place, not the fridge, and rotate the potatoes (an open or mesh bowl is the best option) every few days to make sure air is hitting them all.
How to Make Roasted Sweet Potato Cubes & Rounds
The simplest way to cook sweet potatoes quickly is to make the pieces smaller and cut them as evenly as possible. For most roasting recipes and leftover sweet potato recipes, that usually means peeled, and cubed, diced or sliced into round and cooked in a hot oven until burnished and delicious, crispy and lightly browned on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside.
To peel or not to peel? Peeling these spuds is up to you since it works well both with and without skin, but if you’re aiming to make every bite as nutritious as possible, scrub the skin well, but leave the skin on for the healthiest cooking and eating.
Read more: For a great primer on how to prep sweet potatoes, check out the guide from our friends at The Kitchn
Meal prep tip! Cooked sweet potato cubes are handy to have on hand, easily added to salads and handy to have cooked and ready for meal prep and planning.
Recipes to Try
This recipe is a wonderful basic. Rosemary is a classic addition but you can use different herbs (be careful that they don’t burn) or no herbs at all if you wish. EVOO is generally what’s used but avocado oil is a great option too.
With only 4 ingredients, a sharp knife (or mandoline if you are feeling fancy) and a muffin tin, you are ready to cook and enjoy this charming take on sliced hasselback-style potatoes. It’s a great accompaniment for many entrees and proteins, especially poultry.
How to Make Roasted Sweet Potato (Whole)
Whole roasted sweet potatoes are simplicity at its best. When roasted without foil the skin gets crispy, crackly and the interior takes on a creamy texture. If you have enormous sweet potatoes to bake, consider wrapping each individually in foil and placing them on a sheet pan, since they will need to cook for a longer time which may lead to the sweet tacky, liquid dripping out a bit. This technique leaves you with softer potato skins. If you want the crisp-skin version with confidence, make sure to get potatoes that are similar in size or weight that aren’t the size of a pumpkin. Both methods work, so the choice is yours!
Recipes to Try
The Air Fryer Method: Air Fryer Baked Whole Sweet Potatoes by alicensetogrill.com
Air fryers may not be the first kitchen tool you think of to make a whole baked sweet potato, but it works like a dream and produces a soft inside and crispy outside that’s hard to beat. This recipe explains how to do it with ease.
This creative take on stuffed sweet potatoes is a high protein wonder, with Greek yogurt, chickpeas, a parsley tomato topping and a garlic herb dressing that will satisfy your tastebuds and keep you on track.
How to Make Roasted Sweet Potato Fries
Remember when out of nowhere sweet potato fries ended up on every restaurant menu? That’s because they’re sweet, crispy, and so easy to make. While most restaurants deep fry the sweet potatoes to achieve the crispy crunchy texture, you can get that same effect with a hot oven or air fryer and a few smart techniques. Next to a simple protein and a green veggie side, sweet potato fries help round out a nutritious, family-friendly meal.
Recipes to Try
The Classic Oven Method: Crispy Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries by cookieandkate.com
Baked sweet potato fries need just a bit of priming before baking in a searingly hot oven to achieve the uniquely salty crispy outside and fluffy inside that defines fries. This recipe works exceptionally well and has plenty of smart tips. If you don’t want to use the small amount of cornstarch in this recipe, you can substitute it, spoon for spoon with plain rice starch or fine rice flour, tapioca starch and even kuzu starch.
The Air Fryer Method: Air fryer Sweet Potato Fries by feelgoodfoodie.com
If an airfryer could only handle a single task, it would still be worth buying and using to make these crispy-as-all-get-out sweet potato fries. Yes, it’s that good. This recipe has plenty of tips for air fryer newbies as well.
Sometimes a bold and spicy twist in a dish just happens to be easy and healthy too. These baked steak-style fries are emboldened with zippy chili peppers and tart lime for a delicious take sure to please palates everywhere. Great served with yogurt mixed with cilantro for a little protein dairy boost, but it’s great for vegans alongside your favorite hummus.