Sweet potatoes can be your saving grace when you’ve forgotten to plan ahead for dinner. They expertly straddle the line between starch and vegetable, giving you a balanced meal with one fewer pot to clean. They’re naturally delicious and don’t require excessive amounts of sugar or fat to make them enjoyable, making sweet potatoes the rare trifecta of healthy, easy and delicious food.
When buying sweet potatoes, look for smaller ones that are at or around baking potato size — the larger they grow, the blander and starchier they become. The skins should be smoothed, evenly colored, and, you know, potato looking. If you’re examining a potato and thinking “well, that doesn’t look right,” you’re not going to want to eat it. Instead of refrigerating, keep them in a nice bowl on the counter to help them maintain their ideal temperature and remind you to cook them.
Preheat your oven to 450. Scrub the potatoes clean, then use a fork to poke a few holes on each side to let the steam vent. Throw them directly on the oven rack to roast, placing a piece of aluminum foil directly underneath to catch any errant drips. Baking time depends on the size of the sweet potato, but usually takes at least 30 minutes.
You'll know sweet potatoes are done baking when you can easily slide a knife into them like butter.
It seems a bit wasteful to turn on the oven for a single potato though, doesn’t it? Seize the opportunity to use that hot oven to bake multiple potatoes at one time, so you’ll always have a delicious baked sweet potato on hand for the days where you seriously just cannot with anything. Just let them cool completely, place in a heavy duty zip-top bag, and stick them in the freezer where they’ll keep for up to a month.
Sometimes you just don’t have the patience to wait 30-plus minutes to dig into a tasty sweet potato. Luckily you can get the same results in the microwave in just over five minutes. Just follow the same procedure as baking them: Give a good scrub and poke them all over. Place on a microwave-safe plate, then cook for five minutes before doing the knife test. If the knife doesn’t slide through cleanly, zap the potatoes again for another minute, then keep repeating until you’ve reached creamy perfection.
The key to a good roasted sweet potato is high heat and plenty of attention. You can cut your potatoes in any shape you’d like — cubes, fries, planks — but make sure they’re of relatively even thickness, so they cook thoroughly. Toss well in olive or canola oil with a hefty pinch of salt and pepper, then place on a foil lined baking sheet.
Slide the sheet into an oven that’s been preheated to at least 450 — if you can take the heat, pump it up even higher. Roast for 15 minutes, then use a spatula to flip the potatoes over and roast for another five. Your exact cooking time will depend on how big you cut your potatoes, so keep roasting checking every five minutes until they’re fork tender.
After you've cooked your sweet potatoes for about 15 minutes, put the baking sheet directly on the floor of the oven for another three minutes for a golden brown color. Check for brownness and flip when ready. Once they’re the right shade, move them back to an oven rack and keep roasting until they’re fully cooked through.
Just like with baking, it’s worth it to make a few extra roasted sweet potatoes to keep in the fridge to add to salads or other quick dishes through the week. You can keep them in a tightly covered container for up to five days. If you need them to last a bit longer, just pop them in the freezer.
Sometimes a big bowl of mashed sweet potatoes is as good as dessert. If you decide to overdo it on the butter and brown sugar, you can almost think of this tasty treat like a crustless pie. Peel your sweet potatoes and cut into small chunks — the smaller they are, the faster they will cook. Grab a pot at least twice as big as the amount of potatoes you’re cooking and fill it ⅔ of the way with generously salted water, then bring to a boil. Add your potatoes and boil, uncovered, until tender. Drain well, put back into the pot, then add a few splashes of milk (non-dairy is fine!) and mash to your heart’s content. For creamier potatoes, add a pat of butter and use a hand mixer on medium to whip until smooth.