What goes well with sweet potatoes? Learn the best ingredient pairings, meal ideas, popular flavor combinations, and other helpful tips.
What Are Sweet Potatoes?
Sweet potatoes are root vegetables in the morning glory plant family. There are nearly four hundred varieties that range in color, texture, and flavor. Sweet potato flesh can be white, yellow, orange, or purple and the thin skin can be cream, tan, orange, red, or purple.
They come in a variety of sizes and shapes - some short and stubby with rounded ends while others are longer with tapered ends.
All sweet potatoes fall under two main categories though:
- firm, dry, and mealy - typical for the white, yellow, and purple flesh sweet potato varieties.
- soft and moist - typical for the orange flesh sweet potato varieties.
Sweet Potatoes vs Yams: What's The Difference?
In the early 1900s when sweet potatoes came to the United States, producers wanted a way to distinguish the orange flesh sweet potatoes from the white flesh sweet potatoes, so they adopted the word 'yam' from the African word nyami. This continues to cause serious confusion between these two very different vegetables.
That's right, yams and sweet potatoes are not the same thing. Yams are completely different than sweet potatoes.
Real yams aren't widely available in the U.S. but can be found in Asian and African markets. They're long and cylindrical in shape with rough, scaly skin and very starchy flesh. Their colors vary depending on the variety, but overall the taste is more earthy than a sweet potato and minimally sweet, if at all.
Popular Sweet Potato Varieties
Even though there are nearly 400 sweet potato varieties, the most popular (and commonly found) varieties in the United States are:
- Beauregard - brownish-red skin with orange flesh (the sweetest and most popular variety)
- Jewel - light orange-coppery skin with orange flesh (less sweet than Beauregard)
- Garnet - dark orange-red skin with bright orange flesh (has more moisture than Jewel & Beauregard)
- Hannah - tan skin with white flesh (dry, starchy, dense, and firm)
- Okinawa - dusty purple skin with vibrant purple flesh (mildly sweet, dry, starchy)
- Japanese (satsuma-imo) - dark purple skin with pale yellow flesh (low moisture, very starchy, subtly sweet)
When to Buy
The peak season for sweet potatoes is fall and winter. Peep the seasonal produce guide to see what's in season right now.
What to Look For
Look for sweet potatoes that are firm to the touch and display the characteristics of their variety. Avoid wilted, leathery, or discolored sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes need to be stored in a cool, dark, well-ventilated space. Store them loose, away from sunlight and warm temperatures, ideally in a pantry or cabinet. When stored well, they can last for almost 2 weeks.
Store cooked sweet potatoes in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
How To Prepare
Sweet potatoes can be baked, boiled, broiled, fried, grilled, roasted, sauteed, or steamed.
What Ingredients Go Well With Sweet Potatoes?
Bell peppers (esp. green, red), bitter greens, chile peppers, garlic, ginger, kale, leeks, mushrooms, onions (esp. red), potatoes, and pumpkin.
Apples, bananas, coconut, cranberries, dates, figs, lemon (juice, zest), lime (juice), orange (juice, zest), pears, persimmons, pineapple, and tomatoes.
Basil, bay leaf, chives, cilantro, dill, parsley (flat-leaf), rosemary, tarragon, and thyme.
Allspice, anise, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, nutmeg, paprika (smoked), pepper (black & white), red pepper flakes, sage, salt (kosher), and star anise.
Nuts & Seeds
Chestnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and walnuts.
Bacon, duck, ham, pork, poultry (esp. roasted), prosciutto, and sausage.
Alcohol: bourbon, brandy, rum, whiskey, sweet wine, apple juice, beans, chocolate (white), honey, ketchup, maple syrup, molasses, mustard (esp. Dijon), oatmeal, oil (olive and sesame), raisins, stock (esp. chicken), sugar (brown), vanilla, vinegar: balsamic, apple cider, and Worcestershire sauce.
Popular Food Pairings
- allspice + cinnamon + ginger
- apples + sage
- bacon + onion + rosemary
- chile peppers + lemon zest
- chorizo sausage + orange
- cilantro + lime juice
- kale + prosciutto
- maple syrup + pecans
What to Make With Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a common ingredient in Asian and Latin American cuisines and can be used in both savory and sweet dishes alike. Try out these sweet potato recipes:
- Dairy-Free Mexican Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- Spanish Tortilla With Sweet Potato fries & Herbs
- Dragon Bowls
- Healthy Breakfast Hash (No Recipe Needed)
- Sweet Potato Toast