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How To Cook Sweet Potatoes – The Three Secret Tricks!

How to cook sweet potatoes that will yield the absolute BEST sweet potatoes you’ve ever tried in your life: 

how to bake sweet potatoes
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Hot, caramelized baked sweet potatoes

These 3 easy tricks will revolutionize the way you think of sweet potatoes – If you’re anything like me, prepare to become completely obsessed.

And if you think there’s no way you could love sweet potatoes more than you already do, just wait.

It’s highly likely you’ll suddenly find yourself craving sweet potatoes at every single meal and dreaming about them between meals as well. If you think I’m exaggerating… this is something you just have to try in order to believe the shocking difference in results.

Instead of only slightly sweet or unevenly cooked sweet potatoes, these three small changes in how to cook sweet potatoes will yield sweet, sticky, wonderfully caramelized sweet potatoes that taste almost like candy.

Sweet, sticky, gooey, candy-like sweet potatoes…

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how to cook sweet potatoes

Okay, so if I’ve caught your attention, here are the 3 tricks!

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Trick One:

Choose thinner sweet potatoes.

I know this sounds counter-intuitive, and conventional wisdom will tell you to go for the fattest, juiciest-looking sweet potatoes at the store, ignoring the picked-over, anemic, and shriveled ones. But that would be a mistake, and here’s why:

While baking, the heat will evenly cook even the very center of the thinner potatoes, getting them all hot and caramelized; whereas with the fat potatoes, the outsides will be done well before the centers have a chance to cook through.

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sweet potatoes

(That middle sweet potato is the perfect size and shape.)

Trick Two:

Don’t just poke a few holes with a fork; use a large knife to slash about a third of the way into the potato 8-10 times on both sides.

Why this works: It helps the heat get all the way into the centers of the potatoes, once again ensuring they will cook evenly.

It also allows moisture to escape so you don’t end up steaming the potato and getting stuck with a watered-down result.

baked sweet potatoes

Trick Three:

Cook longer and hotter.

Just like with my tutorial on How To Cook Spaghetti Squash, you want to forget the tutorials that tell you to bake at 350. Go big or go home.

How big?

I’m talking 450 F – a full hundred degrees more. And start the potatoes in a non-preheated oven, which will cook them more evenly while also saving energy.

Baking at a higher temperature will really caramelize the natural sugars in the sweet potatoes.

sweet potatoes tahini

Sweet Potato Recipes:

sweet potato brownies

Sweet Potato Brownies

kathy patalsky

Sweet Potato Burgers

sweet potato salad

Sweet Potato Salad

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My all-time favorite way to enjoy the baked, caramelized sweet potatoes is slathered in tahini.

Please please please try it this way, at least once in your lifetime!

Seriously, you will not regret it!!!

sweet potatoes

One of the best things about sweet potatoes is that they can be frozen and then thawed quickly any time you haven’t made a meal and come home hungry.

I’m pretty sure there are at least seven pyrex containers of roasted sweet potatoes in my freezer right now, and I don’t expect the containers to be there for long!

Leftover roasted sweet potato? Use it up in my favorite Veggie Burger Recipe!

How To Cook Sweet Potatoes The Best Recipe
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How To Cook Sweet Potatoes

How to cook sweet potatoes in the oven, the best way.
5/5 (76)
Total Time 1 hour
Yield 1 recipe

Ingredients

  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Large Knife
  • Parchment Paper
  • Toppings of choice

Instructions

  • Be sure to use parchment paper to line the pan. As they caramelize, the sweet potatoes release their natural sugars, which can be a pain to clean if you don’t line the pan. With parchment, you can just throw the paper away, making cleanup super easy.
    Line a baking pan with parchment paper, and set aside. Start with thin, evenly shaped sweet potatoes. Slice the knife into each sweet potato 8-10 times per potato, going about a third of the way down with each cut. Place potatoes in the pan, then place the pan on the oven center rack. Now turn the oven on to 450 F. Bake 30 minutes, then turn (unless they are very small, they’re probably not done yet) and continue to bake until sweet potatoes are soft and you can see that some of the natural sugars have spread onto the parchment paper (see photo). This means the potatoes are starting to caramelize. Sweet potatoes can be served immediately, or you can refrigerate or even freeze for a later date. Serving suggestions are listed in the post – my favorite way to eat roasted sweet potatoes is covered with tahini.
    *Instant Pot Version: Place the steamer rack in the Instant Pot and add 1 cup of water. Place 3 medium sweet potatoes onto the rack, and cook on high manual for 20 minutes. Finally, do a natural pressure release. Thanks to reader Jamie for creating this version and letting us know how to cook sweet potatoes in an instant pot!
    View Nutrition Facts

Notes

Try serving the sweet potatoes with this homemade Coconut Curry Recipe.
 

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Published on November 22, 2016

Meet Katie

Chocolate Covered Katie is one of the top 25 food websites in America, and Katie has been 
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ABC's 5 O’Clock News. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating dessert every single day!

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93 Comments

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  1. Pixie @ Cheerfully Vegan says

    Ah, perfect! Today I was going to bake a 10-lb bag’s worth that I got at Costco (so much for selecting skinny ones), so perfect timing. I usually bake them at 400, so I guess I’ll ramp up the temp this time. Cutting into them sounds like a perfect plan. When done like this, do they not bubble out all of the sweet juices that puddle under them and turn to rock afterwards? I really bake them a long time until the centers are soft, so they make a mess on my foil-covered pans.

    • Katy says

      I wouldn’t ramp up the temp I burnt all mine at 450. checked after 30 minutes turned temp down I might have to start over

      • Julie Dove says

        Did you start at 450 or preheat it? It should not be a problem if you start it at 0 and then turn the oven on when the sweet potatoes go in. I’ve made them this way and have never had an issue, even with tiny potatoes. Even asparagus wouldn’t burn that quickly if the oven is not preheated.

      • charlotte says

        Some ovens use both the top element (broiler) and the bottom element while preheating. This may be why your potatoes burned.

  2. Geoffrey Levens says

    Tip #4:
    http://www.thekitchn.com/this-one-tip-helps-you-cook-the-sweetest-sweet-potatoes-101646
    “Raw sweet potatoes are mostly starchy fibers, but they also contain an enzyme that will break down the starch into sugar at certain temperatures. According to food scientist Harold McGee, this enzyme happens to work best when the sweet potato is between 135°F and 170°F.”

    So first bake at the above temp until starting to get soft (by then the enzymes are likely exhausted) you will maximize the sugar content. THEN crank it up to 11 (see Spinal Tap)

  3. Deanne says

    Absolte wow! I tried this straight away for Lunch and used 2 sweet potatoes as my husband was due home for lunch ( I did brush with olive oil and DRIZZLE a little raw honey over the top slits) … I thought it would be a boring lunch on its own but ymmy plus… slightly crunchy skins and caramelised juices .. my husband was LATe coming home so poor thing.. there was none left .. I ATE THEM BOTH they were so good LOL – that’ll teach him to be late .. But he made me promise to cook more tomorrow so he can try . A simply , delicious and healthy lunch.. and I was full ( no wonder eating 2 )
    Thanks Katie.. awesome stuff!

  4. CAROL J SHOOK says

    I USUALLY BAKE MY SWEET POTATOES ON TOP OF THE STOVE . I HAVE WATERLESS COOKWARE AND THEY COOK BEAUTIFULLY. I LIVE ALONE AND IT SAVES FROM TURNING ON THE BIG OVEN. BUT YOUR IDEAS SOUND REALLY LIKE GOOD ONES IF COOKING FOR MORE THAN ONE PERSON. THANKS FOR THE TIPS. BY THE WAY MY POTATOES GET DONE ARE VERY SWEET. THE SUGAR OOZES OUT INTO MY SAUCE PAN & BURN ON THE BOTTOM. BUT OH SO GOOD

  5. Bing says

    You were not kidding! I made these last night and the sweet potatoes did caramelize so well that they were perfect as is and I did not actually put anything on them. My sweet potatoes were double the size of what you showed above so it took about 1.5 to 2 hrs, I think. The leftovers, I put in the refrigerator and they are going fast. Again, no toppings what so ever and eating them cold. Perfect, healthy dessert for me!
    HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

  6. Ariel says

    great tips! I’m a big fan of your recipes
    I’ve heard about quinoa brownies a couple times, do you have a recipe? If so, please share!
    Have a great Thanksgiving, I will definitely try this recipe!

  7. Bites for Foodies says

    I’ve heard of (and used) most of the tricks, and they work! They only one I haven’t tried is not placing them in a preheated oven. Side note, roasted caramelized sweet potatoes (and cauliflower!) are to die for!!

  8. Leslie Felton says

    When you say “bake 30 minutes, then turn”, what exactly do you mean? Rotate the pan 180 degrees? Turn the potatoes upside down?
    Thanks!

  9. Ashley says

    I did this just today! I took advantage of the prices ($.88/lb.) on sweet potatoes and baked up a whole bunch of them this afternoon. This week my lunches will be especially good 🙂

  10. bethany says

    Hi Katie. this is unrelated to the post but helping you (or anyone else!) can help me out. I want to buy your new cookbook for my mom for Christmas but she’s a grain free vegan and i’m not sure how many, if any, of your recipes in that book are grain free. So if you could let me know (ASAP please!) how many recipes that she could even use i’d greatly appreciate it….I don’t want to get her a book that she wont be able to use ’cause that would be a terrible waste =( Thanks bunches!

    • Julie Dove says

      Hi, definitely there are some grain free recipes in there, including a whole chapter on shakes and smoothies! But it is an ebook, just wanted to clarify, and some of the recipes such as the oatmeal chapter and baked good chapter, do have flour, so maybe it wouldn’t be the best fit for her 🙁

  11. Cheryl says

    Tried this today and Katie’s advice is right on- will be baking them this way all the time! Delicious plain!!! Now where can I buy affordable tahini??

  12. Cassie Tran says

    Peanut butter and cinnamon are the BEST with sweet potatoes! No wait, chocolate is! No, granola is! Heck, ANYTHING with sweet potatoes are the best. Now I’m getting SO hungry!

    • Elizabeth says

      So funny, I have an old glass bottle that, in the 1950s held Skippy peanut butter. It has a recipe for sweet potatoes with peanut butter, which I always thought sounded like a gross idea some marketing person had come up with to try to sell peanut butter before it got popular. But reading that a modern person thinks sweet potatoes and PB are a good idea – maybe I’l try that 60+ year old recipe after all!

  13. Kathryn says

    This is a really good method! I would always roast at 400, or even 425, but never at 450- it makes a delicious difference!

  14. SP says

    Oh! I can’t believe I’ve never thought to cook SPs like this (I cook pretty much all veggies at 450, haha). I normally make SPs in the slow cooker, but this sounds even better!

    I love putting peanut butter and sesame seeds on them — yet I’ve never thought to try tahini. Great tip!

  15. Cynthia M. says

    Thanks for the tips. Never thought of freezing portions… as I live alone that might be great.
    I like to slice them in half long-wise, rub the cut surface with oil… and bake at a high temp… Then I get carmelized goodness on the whole surface, and I only usually eat half anyway.

    Never thought of Tahini…mmmmm…will have to try.

  16. Diana says

    I just baked a sweet potato using your tips and it came out amazing! I was skeptical that tahini would taste good but I took your advice and tried it, wow what a great flavor combination! Thank you!

  17. Krithika says

    I’m trying out the GM diet and was looking for a good way to cook up a potato or sweet potato. Saw this and and knew I had to try. I baked one up yesterday night so I could bring it for breakfast this morning. I wish I could have eaten it right out of the oven, smelled so good! Chomped down the whole thing with a touch of tahini and lemon juice on top. So good!! I will be trying this again!

  18. Geoffrey Levens says

    I have found that starting with a long, long temp bake first, to convert the starches to sugars and THEN go hot/big to caramelize works even better! 250 or even 200 for a couple hours, until fork soft then crank it up for a little while…. There’s an enzyme in them that activates with heat and does the conversion but as soon as it gets too hot, the conversion of starches to sugars stops! So low and slow then hot and fierce.

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